Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living with only one car

[Editor's Note: While porting my old MySpace blog over to Blogger/Blogspot, I ran across this post I wrote in September 2006. Since it fits so well with the point of my current blog, I am copying it here, pretty much verbatim.]

186 ways to live with only one car.

Current mood: hopeful

I may change the title of this later; I only picked "186" out of the air; when I first posted this there were only two. My point is, so many people feel they have to have two, three, four, more cars in their possession. And for 12 or more years, my family of four in the middle to outer suburbs has lived with just one car.

The bone I wish to pick is that people bad-mouth public transportation, and would gladly fork over $5,000 a year or more, per car, to keep the additional car(s) on the road, while the cost of buying monthly passes (in Pittsburgh) runs well under $1,000 a year. I don't deny you need one car, especially in the suburbs, but if I can make do with only one, I don't see the necessity of having three or more. And I myself used to have four, for a three-year period, and three for over a decade.

So, here is a running list of methods I use to get along just fine with only one car. Note, the number an item has may change, as I add to or modify entries in the list; i.e., the numbering is automatic.

  1. Use the telephone. For example, rather than drive to the hardware store to buy a new mop head, first find out if the store actually has that style of mop head.

  2. Walk to the store. Sure, go to the store, but do so under your own power. Yes, even if it's a mile away. Every Point A (starting point) and Point B (ending point) is different, and not every A-B combination will work this way, but a lot would work better than you might think.

  3. Spouse taxi. You don't have to get *all* the way home. Call a family member just before you get on the bus & say "I'll be at Such & Such Plaza at 7:50. Can you meet me there?" Better still, set this up in advance (e.g., "I'm not sure when I'm leaving, but it'll be somewhere around 7 or 8. I'll call you, OK?").

  4. The shopping trip. Let's say Dad works, Mom has to make a grocery run, Dad takes the bus to work, Mom has the car, Mom doesn't have time to go shopping. Solution: Mom calls Dad at work, gives him the shopping list, Dad takes bus to grocery store, does the shopping, and Mom shows up with car and checkbook. It gives both some flexibility in travel time, and lets them both decompress a little in a neutral space.

  5. Half a taxi run. Junior needs to go to play practice or some such thing. Parent drives him there, to get him there on time. He takes a bus home since he doesn't know when he'll get done.

  6. Halfway home with friend. Let's say that where you're going to or coming from has virtually no bus service, but there's decent service near a friend's house. Take bus to or from the friend's house (esp. if friend is going to the same activity), and ride with friend in friend's car to/from the activity's location.

  7. The other half a taxi run. As above, Junior needs to go to play practice or some such thing. Parent is not available to drive him there, so he takes a bus. Parent has a pretty good idea when he'll get done, and is then available so can go to pick him up.

  8. Park & Ride. This one may seem obvious to some, since Park & Ride lots exist in many communities, but for those for whom this is an unknown term, it works like this: You drive from your home (presumably with poor transit service) to a parking lot nearer to your destination (presumably with good transit service), and use the public transit system the rest of the way to your destination.

  9. Get to know and like your neighbors. Not exactly a "duhhh", as a large number of my neighbors don't know a large number of the others nearby. But if you're going up and down the street on your way to/from a bus all the time, you get to be a familiar face. From time to time you strike up a conversation. You may even (I hope) get to know and like them, and they will do likewise.

  10. Reciprocal favors. Working from that, offer to run errands for them. They in turn may be able and willing to run errands for you.

  11. The dual-departure time problem. It's "open house" night at the kid's school, but one spouse has to leave the school at a different time. One can take a bus from school, the other one drives. Or the non-driving spouse catches a ride from another parent in the same neighborhood.

  12. Two commuters, one destination, two commute times. Granted, this one requires creativity. Spouses "A" and "B" work in the same place but different shifts. The short answer is that "A" buses to work and drives home, while "B" drives to work and buses home. Of course it's rarely that simple, and the specifics of each case make it maddeningly difficult to make any general suggestions useful, but you have to consider it try-able, and just make it work.

  13. Two commuters, one destination, slightly differing commute times. Again, spouses "A" and "B" work in the same place but their shifts overlap, so the previous suggestion is not workable. Absent other major factors (such as one having to get kids off to school), and dealing with just the commuter issues, the car's best use is to move the person where the transit service is the slowest or poorest, and let transit handle movement of the person where transit does the most general good due to parking costs or congestion delays. Probably this means some sort of mid-commute handoff.

  14. OK, that's thirteen. I will add to this as time goes on.

Of course, as a final item, it is not acceptable to use the thought "I don't know when the buses run or where to get on/off" as an excuse not to use the bus. Learn!

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. Useful. Here are two carfree people with lots of ideas.