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Owning a car in Massachusetts [04 Sep 2003|05:43pm]

I live in Massachusetts, in Boston. Boston is not a nice place to own a car. Everyone knows this, right? I thought I knew it, but I brought my car with me when I moved from Colorado anyway.

I didn't drive it much, so I wasn't worried about the traffic or the standard-yet-hazardous driving practices of your typical Bostonian. I knew the insurance would be expensive, particularly in my zip code, where stealing cars is a relatively common pastime.

I love public transportation. Having grown up under the hood of the Motor City, it's still a novelty to me. I actually enjoy riding the train to and from work every day. I even sort of like buses. I consider myself to be an environmentally conscious person, meaning that I try to keep my "footprint" small. Of course, in the United States, what seems small is still Bigfootesque—but I try. Using public transportation is a part of this effort. Fixing and maintaining possessions rather than throwing them out and replacing them is another.

So I have had my car for ten years. We've been in some accidents. It's a little dinged up, but not anywhere near laughter-inducing. People stil ride with me in it, quite willingly. It's still under 100k on the odometer.

As disagreeable as I am about our indidualized approach to transportation, having a car provides some feeling of security. I only regularly drive once a week to the grocery store—but if I needed to get away fast at any other time, I could. The car has sentimental value, since I've had it since my 16th birthday (thanks Grandma!) and have driven it all over the country. And for moving things around, like furniture and luggage, it's pretty unbeatable.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, however, is not car-friendly:

  • Getting my driver's license cost me $90. I already had a Colorado license—that was just to transfer it.
  • Excise tax. What is it? I don't know. But I paid it.
  • Insurance more than doubled from Colorado rates.
  • Safety and emissions inspections. Every year, one has to have one's vehicle inspected for various safety issues. Like whether there are any sharp corners on your car (like around a dent) that could injure a passing pedestrian. No, I'm not kidding.
  • If a neighbor calls City Hall and identifies your car as an abandoned vehicle, the city will come and put a green sticker on your windshield that says ABANDONED. Then they will come back and tow your car. Sometimes they just dispense with that whole sticker part.

Just this morning, I had to negotiate with a tow truck driver, and convince him that my car is not an abandoned vehicle. Someone in my neighborhood hates my car. Is it abandoned because I only drive it once a week, and I park on the street (this is where we park in Boston)? Apparently yes, according to Boston rules.

In a way, I support all of these crazy regulations. We shouldn't be owning or driving cars like we do. And I confess that I haven't read the actual codes and statutes—these are just impressions from a rat in the maze.

Maybe I'm just a loser with an old car. But it's no rustbucket. And this policy of acting on any old "abandonment tip" is outrageous. Next time you need a little revenge on someone, I've got this number you can call—Boston City Hall.

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