Bob Jenkins doesn't have a car and he doesn't want one. "It's only when you're walking along the streets, when you're down at that level, that you're an intimate part of the city," he said.
Ira Stohlman agreed. He doesn't have a car either. "Cars tend to have the same impact on people as TV," he said. "People don't to out. People get isolated in their own little world."
Stohlman likes to take the bus because "there's all kinds of people - black, white folks. Chinese folks, all income levels. Sometimes I like to watch people's expressions and read the people. You can't get that in a car."
Both these young men earn good salaries as aides to the D.C. City Council. They live in the booming Adams-Morgan and Mount Pleasant section of Washington just a few miles northwest of the center of town, where bus service is good and shopping close at hand. Both are single.
They can afford not to have cars.
The latest census statistics show that in 1974 there were 159,000 households without cars in the Washington metropolitan area, or 16 per cent of all households. The census data show that 75,000 households, or 8 per cent, had trucks, but information on how many families without car had trucks was not available.
Most of the families without cars in the 1974 figures were in the central city, where a full 40 per cent (104,000 households) were apparently without personal transportation. Five thousand central city households, or 2 per cent, had trucks.
Outside the central city, 55,000 or 8 per cent of the households were without cars, and 70,000 or 10 per cent had trucks.
Carol Hill doesn't have a car and she wants one. "You're stuck without a car," she said. "In Southeast, it's terrible. It's like, you know, the Safeway isn't that far, but it seems you it's hundreds of miles away."
And Josephine Pleasant, who lives in the same public housing project as Hill, finds that life was six children and without a car is very demanding. She said she rides D.C. Transit buses every day, and there is no romance in it for her.
"My father has a Plymouth, and when I was growing up he had a Ford - a two-door Ford," she said. "Now I can't afford a car . . . When I was growing up I took it for granted.
Pleasant attends a school in downtown Washington in the mornings, so she hsas to leave home by 6:45 a.m. every day to ride the buses for an hour to reach her destination.
When she returns hom in the afternoon, she does her errands on foot, walking quite a distance to the grocery store or shops.
She is worried because one of her daughters, age 15, will be attending a school next year some distance away, and in this area of the city there is no school bus for the children, Pleasant said. She doesn't know why this is so.
The bus schedules are a pain. "Like in the morning it's good," she said, "but on the way home in the evening I have to wait half-an-hour for the bus."
Hill, who has three children, said taking the bus everywhere requires much advance planning and when she has to carry a load of groceries on the bus she's "in trouble."
She said that sometimes "you can get some neighbors or friends to take you, but then they're looking for gas money."
Even for Jenkins and Stohlman, the two young men who choose not to have cars, life is a bit more complicated that way then it might seem at first.
Stohlman said the "serious inconvenience with public transportation is you have to build so much extra time into your schedule."
He admitted that he has not mastered the bus schedules the way his friend Jenkins has. Jenkins pulled a box out of his closet. It was stuffed with bus schedules, and he said that whenever he goes to a distant part of the city by bus he takes the appropriate schedule with him.
He has learned the quirks of the schedules, even at the small hours of the morning, and the quirks of drivers. Jenkins is waiting for the subway system to expand, because he said the scope and simplicity of his own life-style will expand with it.
Next fall he is planning to begin night law studies at Catholic University across town to the east from where he lives, and he's thought carefully about his transportation arrangements.
He will be able, he figures, to take a 10-minute subway ride from the District Building where he works to Catholic University, then later take a 20-minute ride on a crosstown bus that will drop him nearly at his doorstep.
"The subway is going to revolutionize people's concepts," he said. "A lot of people who can't afford cars, and a lot who own them but don't use them to commute" will suddenly become more mobile, and "especially a lot of the elderly people who live in this area."
Jenkins and Stohlman rarely go to the suburbs because they have little need to and it would be difficult in any case. They are glad to be spared the expense of cars, the cost of insurance, and parking problems.
When they need to, they can often get rides from friends with cars. Sometimes they'll take a cab.
But there is something else. Deep down, Stohlman really does want a car.
He grew up poor in a tough part of Philadelphia. His family didn't own cars. "Whatever money we had went for food and clothing," he said. "That's why you see low-income people with families at the grocery store, because the kids are needed to carry those bags . . ."
Jenkins grew up in a small West Virginia town with plenty of family cars around, and has no such conflict.
Stohlman is fighting a constant battle with himself. Several times a year he goes to an automobile showroom just to look.
"I've thought of all these little sports cars, nice for zipping around in the park on a sunndy day," he said. "But I don't have a need for a car, and to make that kind of investment for recreation is assinine . . . There's just no clear need for me to have a car . . ."