Living Without a Car
After living in Minneapolis for a year and a half, I finally bit the bullet and went to the DMV to replace my driver’s license. I had avoided making the trip because I was not driving regularly and was reminded of unpleasant experiences in the past during the license application process. I recently signed up for a local car sharing program which will enable me to get behind the wheel more often which became the primary impetus for a new license.
For the record, I have never owned a car. It seems to be a bit strange as I was raised in a suburb of the “Motor City” and my father worked at one of the “Big Three” American auto companies. In Michigan, this was a large inconvenience because public transportation was lacking and the suburbs had little to offer teenagers. However, after moving away for college and experiencing other cities, I realized that there were places where public transit was readily available.
If you live in an urban area with a solid public transportation network, I urge you to try going carless. Obviously there are places and situations in which having a car is a necessity but if you have two cars you can try reducing to one car, or reduce the amount of times you use your vehicle.
For many people that have grown up with access to a car, the thought of being without one seems like a major undertaking. My partner, Stewart, felt this way when he first moved out to Minneapolis. Ultimately we donated his vehicle because it broke down and he could not justify the cost of repairs and parking fees for the amount of times he used it. Now, a year later, he is singing the praises of living carless as he does not have to worry about car payments, insurance or gas. Here are the phases that we went through after dropping off the keys at a local charity.
The biggest adjustment to not having a car is the need to plan. Since you cannot hop in a vehicle and go anywhere you please, you will need to think ahead and research ways to get to your destination. This feeling of adjustment does not last long as people naturally adapt to changes in their environment within a short period of time.
If you are not ready to fully commit to going carless, you can find a place to keep your vehicle while you experiment. I would suggest that you choose a place that is far enough away that you will not be tempted to drive during the adjustment period.
As you begin to utilize public transportation, you will become more and more comfortable. Usually the easiest and most readily available form of public transit is a busing system. Use an online map provider such as Google or download bus schedules to figure out pickup times and locations. If it is a route that I will be taking regularly (i.e. to work), I try to go on a dry run to get familiar with the bus route.
Slowly you will learn other bus routes for weekly shopping or running errands.
I started out by taking buses to work, then the light rail to do shopping and finally moving over to a bike as my primary transportation. As I used more and more alternate forms of transportation I began building a map in my head so that I could use a combination of the three to get to almost any destination. This also resulted in more efficient paths to frequent destinations cutting down on my travel time.
Joining the car sharing program is the final step which will allow me to get to places that are too far away using public transit. The benefit is that I can use a car occasionally without car payments and other costs associated with driving.
There are a host of benefits to going carless. For most, the cost savings of not maintaining a vehicle is reason enough. People that rely on mass transit tend to be healthier because they walk more. If you use a bike to get to work, you can turn your daily commute into a workout, which is useful for those that can’t seem to find the time to go to the gym. If you are riding the bus you can read or relax during your commute instead of dealing with the daily stresses of traffic. Removing a car from the road improves the environment by reducing carbon emissions and street congestion. Living without a car also forces you to explore unfamiliar places in your local area and interact with people in your neighborhood from all walks of life.
Feel free to ask any questions about going carless or share anything from your personal experience concerning this topic below.
I’m almost a full-fledged winter warrior! Just got winter tires and Goretex mittens.