Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A proliferation of Prii

An anniversary is looming.

October 8 will mark our first year owning (through Capital Synergies) Pretty, a 2009 Toyota Prius.

The name, besides being an obvious play on "Prius," (and preferable to "Priapus"), acknowledges a change of heart and mind. When I first became aware of the Prius, I thought it was the ugliest thing on God's earth. Then, a few years ago, a friend gave me a ride to an event in a 2007 Prius. It was my first time being inside one, and the surprising spaciousness of the interior made me say, "Hey, this isn't so bad!" Then the display of graphics made me say, "Hey, cool!"

And the Prius went on my list of candidates to replace our 1997 Honda Accord, which had been totaled in an accident after passing the 200,000-mile mark. But on at least two occasions, when I found a listing online for a Prius that I thought might be appropriate for us, the darn thing sold before we got a chance to look at it.

Last September, I came across a listing for a 2009 Prius, touring edition - i.e., with all the bells and whistles of the time: Bluetooth (my #1 requirement), garage door opener (we don't have a garage), etc. And the timing was right, and the price was right, and I drove it home, stopping along the way to take this pic:

Come to papa, Pretty!

Since becoming a Prius owner, it now seems that I see cars like mine everywhere. But then, that happens every time we get a car. I have always assumed that that was merely the demonstration of a principle like, "You see what you're looking for." Or at the very least, what you're paying attention to. Something like that.

But the number of Priuses - oops, excuse me, Toyota - the number of Prii that I see in and around Pittsburgh these days makes me wonder if there's something larger going on.

A couple of months ago, my friend +Shimira Williams and I co-presented a program at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's Northside branch. Afterward, I offered her a ride home, and between the library and Lincoln-Lemington, we counted at least a half-dozen Prii.

Tonight, my wife and I attended an event in Oakland. On the way there, I saw at least 7.5 Prii (the .5 is because I may have counted one of them twice).

This is normal now, and I have begun to suspect that the proliferation of Prii signifies something about Pittsburgh. This is just a feeling, but the feeling says that as little as five years ago, most Pittsburghers regarded the Prius as a car for people out on the Left Coast. It says that five years ago, I could not have taken this picture at random in an East Liberty parking lot:

A pride of Prii? 
My hypothesis? The growth of Pittsburgh's Prius population is a proxy for the greening of Pittsburgh, not by way of public policy initiatives, or campaigns by fine organizations like GTECH Strategies or Green Building Alliance, but by way of hundreds, then thousands of individuals making individual lifestyle choices. Such as, "My next car will be a hybrid." 

This delights me. What delights me even more is imagining two scenarios. The first is that as more used Prii are released into the market by people buying newer cars, they become affordable enough to show up more often in Homewood and neighborhoods like it, bringing the cost savings of a high-mpg vehicle to the people who need those savings the most.

The second is that Pittsburgh hosts To Go Before, the national convention for Prius owners. Just because I think that would be extremely cool. In fact, I think that would be so cool - and my selfish desire to attend such a convention without having to leave town is just strong enough - that I just might drop those guys a line. 
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