Transport-in-a-Fine-Fix Series: The abominable ‘drive-through’

Those unspeakable transportation fixtures; you know, those devices, aspects, systems, etc., people abhor.

By mere mention of the fact there are – in the transport arena – conditions, items and situations (what I will call “attributes”) that can and do at times ire and/or frustrate, that right there should be a clue that maybe the world might be better off without such and suggests some serious rethinking is in order regarding the very existences of such.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen, heard of or read about motorists (emergency response personnel responding to an emergency included) getting frustrated or perturbed or both while waiting at intersections of road and railroad (railroad crossings) for trains to pass, many of whom were probably left wondering why there was not available a bridge over or an underpass under with which to allow uninterrupted passage to the other side of the tracks.

And it doesn’t end there. There is more to this discombobulating overpass/underpass-lacking story as is evident in “TIFFS: Railroad crossings in the crosshairs,” the second in line in this series, the purpose of which is to look at a part of transportation that is, quite frankly, objectionable from an air quality point of view.

More topics to be covered include the toll booth, left-turn-lane signalization and others, like today’s subject: the drive-through or in slightly more abbreviated form, the drive-thru.

And so begins TIFFS – the Transport-in-a-Fine-Fix Series.

Abominable drive-thrus

There is no other way to describe them, those abominable places where motorists in their vehicles drive onto a designated traveled way used for the purpose of getting to what are known as drive-up windows to drop off or pick up pharmacy prescriptions, buy food and/or beverages, take care of banking needs or deposit mail, to name four. So rare, it seems, is the occurrence when drive-throughs are occupied by just one car. Woe is the person who, through perhaps no fault of their own and not intentionally, of course, but, nevertheless, unnecessarily delays following motorists in their cars waiting their turns at the drive-up windows. I am thinking the whole point of drive-through services is to make conducting business at the places that offer them more convenient, though I would not say that doing such that way is any quicker.

In my mind’s eye, where the drive-thru has much to be desired is in motorists not turning off vehicle engines while waiting their turns to be served or while being served, even more so, I would think, during times when outside conditions are unfavorable to keeping car windows rolled down, heaters and/or defrosters (in cold and/or wet climes) or air conditioners (in warm climes) turned off, thereby necessitating that car engines be kept on.

What about the dose of noxious fumes those staffing the drive-up windows taking orders get? Admittedly, some drive-up windows are better than others at shielding drive-up-window personnel from the elements. But, still.

The bottom line here is that those in cars with motors running – if driving a gasoline-, diesel- or propane-powered vehicle – are allowing such vehicles to put additional pollution into the air, in my opinion, unnecessarily compared to the counterpart taking the time, energy and effort to park such, turn off the ignition, alight from said auto and go inside the business in question to conduct business.

I believe I have this one pegged.

An exemplary town

Nestled among tree- and shrub-studded mountains and located approximately midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the California coast on state highways 1 and 101, resides the quiet little community of San Luis Obispo. Known affectionately to locals as SLO Town or simply SLO, there, one is hard-pressed to find a single drive-through anywhere, and I suspect the reason behind this is a general distaste among town residents for “attributes” that have the potential to lead to increased urban air pollution. In this regard, San Luis Obispo has to be an anomaly. A good kind of anomaly in my opinion, because this is a really good example to mimic.

Much ado about nothing?

I will be the first to admit that not all drive-throughs should be eliminated. Those at border and weigh stations and checkpoints are fundamental to our well-being.

It’s the ones that aren’t essential, that is, that get my goat. Some may say I’m making much ado about nothing. But, viewed collectively, it all adds up.

By now it should be apparent it isn’t so much the drive-through or drive-thru that’s a bad idea – it’s not. Rather, it is the above-and-beyond air pollution generated from their use; pollution I know people could and should do without.

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