Diane Meyer, professor of photography, did what most Angelenos would consider unthinkable: she got rid of her car. And as a recipient of a 2008 California Stories Fund Grant from the California Council for the Humanities, she will photograph and collect stories of fellow Los Angeles residents who also live without an automobile.
“Southern California is the epitome of car culture. The city feels so isolated because of it and there isn’t much interaction between its residents,” Meyer said. “Since I’ve given up my car, I have developed such a closer relationship to the city. Plus, not having to deal with parking is a great perk.”
The project, “Without a Car in the World: Angelenos Tell Stories of Transportation Alternatives,” will ultimately be an exhibition of approximately 100 photographs and stories at the 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica. In addition to the exhibition, a public panel discussion addressing alternatives to automobile-centered lifestyles will be held in 2009 and a Web site will feature the photographs and the stories, as well as information and resources regarding public transportation.
“Given the escalating gas prices, a highway system that can no longer support the number of cars dependent on it and environmental concerns, my hope is that the project will encourage other Los Angeles residents to envision alternatives to car culture,” Meyer said.
Meyer has realized many benefits from going - carless, including saving approximately $900 a month on car expenses, becoming more healthy from walking and cycling more, and decreasing stress from not having to fight traffic. However, Meyer does not necessarily think that it is practical for everyone to go car-free because the city is not designed for it. Bike lanes end randomly, and the bus and metro system have limited service during late-night hours.
“Obviously, I don’t expect L.A. residents to give up their cars entirely, but even small changes – taking the bus once a week or riding a bike for nearby errands – could lead to dramatic changes,” Meyer said.
Meyer hopes to broaden her pool of participants to include people with medical conditions, the elderly and people with diverse socio-economic backgrounds.
“Another goal of the project is to create potential interactions amongst people in the community,” Meyer said. “Since they are defined as a community of individuals sharing a common experience, they do not necessarily know one another. However, a project like this would allow that interaction to occur.”
Lois Arkin: Founder of LA Eco-Village and executive director of the Cooperative Resources and Services Project, a resource center for ecological cooperative communities
Alex Thompson: Ph.D. candidate in UCLA Department of Math, active member of Santa Monica Bike-Ro-Wave and cycling advocate
Siel: Author of LA Green Girl Blog