16 Comments

The Jeff Outhit Challenge


I have a challenge for Jeff Outhit.

Outhit, for those who do not regularly read the Waterloo Region Record, is its transportation reporter/columnist. Some people would suggest that the difference between a story and a column is whether the paper includes an “OPINION” subtitle. Another clue is that the columns normally appear on Saturday at the bottom of page B1.

In either case, Outhit demonstrates a bias in favour of our society’s car-centred culture. I have the perfect challenge for him.

Grand River Transit - iXpress bus

My challenge for Jeff Outhit

I challenge Jeff Outhit to live his life for 30 days without his car.

I think he is the perfect person to demonstrate how it is possible to live without a car. I anticipate that his eyes will open to possibilities that are currently not a part of his personal paradigm. With the Record’s offices situated in downtown Kitchener, Outhit’s life without a car has several built-in advantages since it is well served by transit, is close to several Grand River Carshare locations and has many stores, services and facilities within a short walk.

I’m sure the good folks at Grand River Carshare can set him up with a temporary membership. If not, I have a gift certificate for it that I will donate for this purpose. I’ll leave it up to him whether he pays for Grand River Transit per ride, by using bus tickets or getting a monthly pass. I trust that he will select the form that best suits his expected frequency of use.

Outhit’s transportation mix

He can use a mix of transportation choices roughly modeled on my own outlined in an earlier post. Naturally, he can adapt it to his own circumstances as long as he accepts these principles:

  • No use of his personal vehicle (unless in case of a life or death situation)
  • Walk if possible
  • Cycling is encouraged as long as it is on the road or a designated bike path though it is not a must.
  • Take the bus when it is too far or takes too long to walk.
  • He can use a car from Grand River Carshareor his spouse/partner (if applicable) when taking the bus is not the most efficient option such as when several connections are necessary or service is infrequent. Additional principles related to using a care are:
    • Borrowing cars from co-workers, neighbours or friends would be considered cheating. Though, I’d sport him a mulligan or two.
    • After arriving at work, I would expect if he needs a car before his work day ends that he uses Grand River Carshare.
    • Car-pooling is acceptable if it is not his car. In the spirit of the challenge though, it should not replace the need for public transit and/or carshare.
    • If his living arrangements include access to a second car, he can use that car on evenings, weekends and holidays BUT the car’s owner may NOT use Outhit’s car.
  • If he attends any event at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium, he must go in a vehicle with 3 or more people, use public transit or a shuttle.
I’d be open to negotiating these terms as long as the final terms are made public.

Conditions of the challenge

There are a few other conditions that I think are appropriate. Outhit needs to:

  • write a column to be published in the Record about the challenge before it begins and after it finishes
  • write a blog post at least five times a week that is found in the Record’s blog section (at least a short post) about his experience meeting the challenge
I would also love to see tweets from Outhit about the challenge but I wont make that a condition.

A suggestion for The Record

On a related note, if the Record is going to have a weekly column on transportation, let’s also have weekly columns on other topics that affect Waterloo Region such as:

  • health care
  • addressing the root causes of crime
  • poverty
  • development issues / intensification
  • etc.
I don’t see transportation issues requiring more attention than these and other critical to Waterloo Region.

Do you support the Jeff Outhit Challenge?

If you support my challenge for Jeff Outhit, please leave a comment below, send me an e-mail or a direct message on Twitter. The more support there is for the challenge, the better the chances are that it will be accepted.

If you happen to not be a fan of Jeff Outhit, please keep those thoughts to yourself. I am trying to create an opportunity that could change Outhit’s behaviour and opinions. Constructive criticism is fair game but personal slams are not and will be deleted.

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16 comments on “The Jeff Outhit Challenge

  1. Has Jeff seen this challange?? It’s a good one. I hope he accepts.

  2. I’m pretty sure that Bill Bean’s Take The Lane column already fulfills this need all too well. Bean is an unabashed cyclist fanboy. Do we really need more of this?

    • It’s not just about cycling Jonathan. It’s about rethinking transportation. We especially need people who are not fanboys to try something new and get out of their car-shaped boxes. :)

    • Yes, we do as long as Jeff Outhit is both the Record’s transportation reporter and columnist. You’re right that there is Bill Bean’s blog but it is not a column in the printed paper nor featured the way Outhit’s work is on the paper’s website. Besides, I’m looking for more than an unabashed cyclist’s perspective.

  3. Awesome James! I have been thinking about challenging Jeff in a similar way for awhile now. Thanks for taking action and putting teeth to a fair challenge. I hope he takes you up on it. Not only will his carbon footprint be reduced for a month, his and other minds might open to the reality that they don’t need a car, they need transportation and there are many ways to meet that need.

  4. Since I sold my car after demonstrating to myself that I could live without driving for 30 days (well, 28 in my case– but that’s because it was February, for extra winter difficulty factor), I think this is a great idea– and not just for Mr. Outhit.

  5. Might want to tighten up the carpooling requirements a bit, especially the parts pertaining to spouses, given that they both work at The Record.

    • If that is true, I would suggest looking at what is currently common practice and use that as a starting point to determine what would be appropriate in terms of the spirit of the challenge.

  6. “Cycling is encouraged as long as it is on the road or a designated bike path though it is not a must.”

    Meaning what, that it is OK to cycle on sidewalks even if doing so is illegal? Is that really the message you want to send?

    Regardless it seems to me that the purpose of this exercise should be to show Jeff just how difficult it can be for the car-less to use existing transportation infrastructure. Lack of bike lanes for cyclists, lack of sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians, overcrowding of buses at rush hours, etc. should figure prominently into his education.

    Also I would take car-sharing out of the picture. There are many people in the region who cannot drive, either because they’re too young or too old, have disabilities or simply cannot afford the high costs. Let Jeff walk a few miles in their shoes.

    • Thanks for your comments Bylo. I’m afraid you misunderstand me because I wasn’t clear enough. I oppose cycling on sidewalks. In my post on the subject is one of only 3 that have had more readers over the last year than my letter to Ms. Haddrall.
      I understand the reasons why you would like to modify the challenge. They are valid and Mr. Outhit may have some of that experience through my challenge. But primarily, I’m trying to show that it is possible to live without a car and not how difficult it is for some to live without a driver’s license. For Mr. Outhit that will be enough of a challenge apparently since he’s already declined to accept it.

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