Quick Note: Moving, and Mode Choice

I am moving from New York to Providence today – at least, I’m moving most of my stuff. (I’m going to stay in New York for a few weeks longer.) And not only is it going to be by car, but also the car rental itinerary is such that as many trips as possible will be done by car and not by bus.

The reason, obviously, is not a personal preference for driving. It’s that, even in New York, many trips are more convenient by car than on transit, and the reason transit maintains a reasonable mode share is that the trips are still doable by transit, so people don’t get cars just for them. I’m not going to get a car just for airport travel, but if I already have a car for another reason, I’m going to use it for picking up a friend who’s arriving and helping me move. (In one direction only – she can drive, I can’t.)

The lesson here for transit planners is that they need to make it easy to live without a car, and not just to provide service for the few trips cars can’t do. Moving 300 kilometers by transit is possible, but too cumbersome and expensive. Within urban areas one can do better with taxis and car-sharing, which is why Cap’n Transit has been writing a series about good taxi service and why the Urbanophile has syndicated an article about taxis as public transportation.


  1. Nathanael

    I’ve done longer moves than this by using UPS. Gets expensive but it’s convenient. If you have a LOT of stuff, the only way to do it is ye olde moving truck. I also know people who have relatively little stuff who moved using Amtrak, which has very high checked luggage limits.

    • Alon Levy

      I ended up moving (nearly) half my things in a rental car with a friend who has a driver’s license, and the other (nearly) half in two Amtrak trips.

      • Nathanael

        Cool. The moving truck is when one has to move furniture. 😛 I didn’t used to own furniture… now I do, so if I ever move again it’s gonna be a matter of hiring movers.

        • Alon Levy

          We tried and couldn’t get any furniture in. It’s still collecting dust at my office, at the cubicle of another grad student. The only furniture I owned outright was a folding chair (now in my office) and a mattress (I tried to sell, but it didn’t go through and I found someone to give it away to). I’m not sure what I’ll do in a year when this job ends and the furniture I have in Providence has to go.

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