What the Hippies Are Driving These Days

23 12 2009

I figured that it would have been fun to do a little piece on the most common vehicle models in Tompkins County. Unfortunately, the statistics carried by the NYS Department of Transportation and the DMV only keep in track of the types of vehicle (basically, there are about 51,000 registered private vehicles in Tompkins County). Checking with the state department of finance didn’t reveal much, nor was there anything on the U.S. census data website (which is unusual, given that the census page usually has billions pf pieces of seemingly useless data). This is made even more frustrating when you consider that some states actually do bother to keep in track of this data, or that MSN had a “most popular vehicle by zip code” article that covered ten zip codes and then offered no means for anyone to check their own zipcodes. Lame.

It’s not like one can sit next to a window and keep track of the number of vehicles passing by. A green 2002 Honda Accord looks like any other green 2002 Honda Accord for the most part, so there’s little ability to distinguish whether two cars of the same make are genuinely unique or if it’s the same person driving by twice. Plus, most of the students driving around town aren’t registered through Ithaca zipcodes, they’re registered through their family’s permanent addresses (so, all those Audi A6s and BMW 3-series you see buzzing around campus are probably registered in Westchester, northern New Jersey or any token upscale suburb in the northeastern U.S.)

That being said, I’m willing to take a few somewhat educated guesses of the most commonly registered vehicles in Ithaca.  For one, the ubiquitous Volvos that can be found in the Ithaca area. If any particular models stand out, it’d probably be the 240 models from pre-1993, 800 series models from the mid 1990s and maybe some of the 900 series models of the later 1990s.  I’d be impressed if anyone travelling through the greater Ithaca area can go five minutes on the road without seeing the pride of Sweden in the next lane. Not to say that Volvos don’t have their attractions. They’re known for their safety and for great heating systems that prove useful for Ithaca’s long winters. Plus, in terms of cars defining people, Volvo tends to be one of those brands popular with the college faculty crowd, i.e. liberals with higher incomes.Volvos are so ingrained into the community culture that the Ithaca festival features a Volvo ballet, where they decorate the cars in “tutus” and perform on city streets.

Another brand of vehicles popular with the collegetown crowd would be Japanese automaker Subaru (fun fact of the day:  Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleaides star cluster. This becomes readily apparent once you consider the Subaru emblem). The most popular model by my guess would be the Outback wagon of the mid 2000s or the post-2000 Subaru Forester.  What makes Subaru popular is that it tends to attract the same New Age crowd that Ithaca tends to attract. To quote a Denver paper that noted they were the most popular car in college town Boulder:

“More hip than a mini-van. Very useful. Great in snow. It’s a cool station wagon. Minivans aren’t cool. We know that. The Outback has all of the safety that an SUV doesn’t have and all the utility that the Camry does have. So I see it as a common middle ground kind of ride. It’s kind of like pilates mom instead of soccer mom…”

Lastly, if you consider things from a county level, then somewhere in the top five there have to be at least one of two truck models. Ithaca town and city make up about half the county’s populations, and probably less than half of the registered vehicles once you consider those that walk, bike or use public transit. The surrounding towns are more rural areas where agriculture is king, and many of these residents use Ford F-150s or Chevy Silverados to get around. Case in point, look in Alpha Gamma Rho’s parking lot, and you’ll see twenty trucks, five SUVs and an old Chevy Cavalier.

Seeing as their are no readily available figures, I’d love to hear other opinions on this one. Priuses, Accords, Saabs maybe? Write in and let me know.



2 responses

29 12 2009

I’m from colorado and I have to say Ithaca and Bolder are pretty much the same place. I’ve seen a lot of the hybrid toyotas and volvos. but there are a bunch of unique cars. some smart cars and other wierd looking things with wheels.

29 12 2009
B. C.

Yeah, I’ve seen one or two Smart cars in Ithaca, not including the Domino’s Pizza Smart car. I hope no one takes those out into God’s country with all the full-size trucks.

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