So. Something you may or may not know about me is that I like to bike. A lot. And between my husband and myself, our stable of bicycles currently has 7 trusty steeds in it (and yes, they ALL get ridden regularly!). We also just moved to a new place that is literally a two-minute walk from the nearest light rail station/bus hub, and a 30 minute walk from the next closest light rail station/bus hub.
It was kinda on purpose. You see, the assumption that I need a car is one that I’m not entirely convinced I believe. Sure, it makes late night Target runs darn convenient, and I do love me a good road trip to the fabric warehouse on the far side of the cities, but I don’t necessarily need to make those kinds of trips on a regular basis. And the kinds of trips I DO need to make on a regular basis can easily be accomplished via transit or bike. (Yes, even in crappy weather!) At least that’s my theory.
So when our ’01 Jetta crapped its little car pants earlier this month (and by that I mean, let’s just say that in the last 60 days, that car has had four new tires, a new starter motor, $200 worth of re-wiring, and a blown clutch and/or transmission that I refused to shell out yet another $1,500 to fix), I’d had it. We pushed the moneypit on wheels home from the shop (well, we had some awesome friends help, too!). And then John and I had the “do we really need a car anymore?” conversation. And while we agreed it is a convenient thing to have (when it’s not broken), we couldn’t really come up with any way that life would be absolutely awful if we didn’t have it.
We mulled it over for a few days, and came up with a cost-benefit comparison worksheet with some shocking numbers…the Jetta is costing us an average of $7,000 a year to run and maintain (not counting the $1,500 repair it currently “needs”). A new car (assuming a $200 monthly car payment) would be around $6,000 annually, if it were mechanically perfect. Unlimited transit passes plus a couple weekend car rentals and an HourCar membership would cost us $3,000 for a year. And that’s assuming that we take transit everywhere we go, and use HourCar a couple times a month, which probably isn’t an accurate assumption, since we enjoy biking and ride year round as it is. So we decided to test the assumption that we need a car.
For pretty much as long as we’ve been together, we have been a single-car family. My co-workers think we’re kind of looney, but I say the logical next stop from single-car-ownership is no-car-ownership! Maybe taking transit or biking for all your errands doesn’t sound super glamorous, and truth be told, I haven’t had to bike to Target in stupid hot weather or the cold rain yet, so my tune may change come adverse weather. But we’ve discovered (through a lot of Google Maps directions searches–love that app!) that we live within 20 minutes (biking distance OR transit!) of several grocery stores (including the always awesome Seward co-op!), our CSA delivery drop, Target, hardware/home improvement stores, etc. And our neighborhood has tons of great restaurants and shops, libraries (yes, plural!!), and post offices, so our basic needs are pretty well covered.
It turns out that we actually have several transit options for getting to work, too. That surprised me a bit, to be honest. The main difference between the options is the length of the trip (and Murphy’s law would have it that the shortest trips are also the earliest trips, but we still have several convenient possibilities!). And we also have lots of transit options for getting around the cities proper. The suburbs are a bit of a different story, as buses out there tend to run on the hour, and several routes don’t even run on the weekends. So a visit to my in-laws takes an extra bit of planning, but I think it’s still doable pretty easily.
I’m sure we’ll have an adjustment period, but our plan (so far!) is to try the car-free method through at least one solid month of winter commuting and see how we like it. That gives us the next 4-5 months to decide whether we need a car, and gives us 4-5 months blissfully free of sudden car repair costs! I also suspect it will be rather good for our health to be walking and/or pedaling around all summer! In any case, I’ll probably throw the odd update on here for funsies–my current conundrum is how to secure the sewing machine to my bike rack so I can still make it to social sewing events–any ideas? 🙂