Friday, September 25, 2009

WIRED: The Villages Golf Carts Featured

The latest issue of WIRED Magazine features Tricked-Out Golf Carts Swarm Florida Communities, with special emphasis on The Villages, FL, where we live.

They make the point that golf carts might just be the future of energy-efficient and safe transpotation, at least for the growing numbers of senior citizens.

The photo to the left was taken by my wife, Vi, at a golf-cart parade here in The Villages. Yes, there is a golf cart somewhere under that Christmas tree!

There are several interesting photos in the linked story in WIRED.

The story makes it appear that most golf carts here are "tricked-out" and sell for $10,000 or more. The photos in the magazine show carts that look like classic cars or are illegally geared to go above the legal limit of 20 MPH. The truth is that most of us drive pretty-much "plain vanilla" golf carts. Ours for example, is a 2001 that served a year or two at a golf course and was rebuilt for us in 2003, with an added rear seat, and cost us about $4,500.

Here is a selection from the WIRED story:

It's 9 am in the Villages—practically midday for the chipper residents who often rise at four—as I drive my LC3 down to the Colony Cottage. I'm due for a quick primer in pickleball—sort of a Ping-Pong/tennis hybrid. I arrive to find dozens of fit retirees dashing around the courts, the ubiquitous row of shiny EVs [Electric Vehicles] parked outside.

There will be more carts fighting for space here soon. While the rest of the country wallows in the recession, homes are still being built and sold in the Villages at a rapid clip. The population of the community is expected to hit 100,000 by 2014.

The Villages embodies what environmentalists have been waiting decades for—a glossy future powered by electric vehicles. The slightly messy reality, though, is that it's not powered by pristine futuremobiles but by gaudy, overclocked golf carts.

But the lesson of the Villages isn't just about the vehicles we're driving—it's about where we're driving them. The future of transportation should be focused on the quick jaunts that make up most of our day-to-day driving.

The Villages is for people who've lived long enough to know that what they want now is a warm breeze in a quiet, open ride—going fast enough to hit both the golf course and the Walmart in the same afternoon but slow enough to take in the scenery along the way.

As my octogenarian opponent deftly whacks the pickleball past my reach, I look up to catch a glimpse of the future on the horizon. It's a gray-haired guy with a backward cap, cruising in his cart past a brand-new community center. A golden retriever stands on the passenger seat, tail wagging, and an American flag is displayed proudly right where the gas tank should be.

Ira Glickstein


JohnS said...

It’s nice to see an article that is favorable to the villages and its residents. I think an even better article could be written about the community of the future, The Villages. When we reach a population of 100,000 in 2014, our environment will be incomparably better than any other city of the same size. No major urban center with all of their problems instead several “down towns” providing entertainment and places to meet and socialize. Shopping is scattered throughout the community in several shopping centers within easy reach of all – no strip malls. Small shops mingle with major retailers successfully. No high rises, several storied buildings are the exception. Churches, professional offices abound. No long commutes on crowded super highways instead short pleasant trips in open green city cars, (golf carts). Sports facilities, golf, swimming, tennis and many others are spread throughout the community. Community centers are also available throughout providing a variety of activities. While The Villages is a senior community, it employs hundreds, from professionals to clerks to service providers. A charter school serves them. Through employing people and services from the surrounding area, The Villages benefits the surrounding towns and villages.

Patricia Hannigan said...

The Villages is model that urban planners the world over should be The Villages is a model of walkable urbanism that city planners and architects should be paying attention to.

As appealing as it seemed a decade ago, huge McMansions on 3 acre lots in the exburbs, don't represent a sustainable reality, and it's a shame we, as a people, didn't realize it and refuse it.

At this point there are so many of these monstrosities sitting empty, 2 hours away from a city and 20-30 minutes from the any shops or markets. There should be a moratorium on new construction of this nature, and there should be an incentive for builders to retrofit the closer suburbs to be like the Villages.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Patricia for your positive view of The Villages as a model for urbanism. At this stage in our lives, my wife and I would not live anywhere else.

However, I don't accept your idea of a "moratorium" on "hugh McMansions on 3 acre lots in the exburbs" or "an incentive for builders to retrofit the closer suburbs to be like the Villages." That implies government control of housing choices. I think, on average, the people can make better choices on how to spend their money.

We have never lived in a "McMansion" but, during our time in upstate NY, we raised our family in an old farmhouse on 88 acres and later a nice house on 5 acres.

Ira Glickstein

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