Today we sold our family’s second car. Since taking a new job last year, my car mostly sat in the driveway. I can get to work really easy on the bus or on a bike (and the same for my wife, to a slightly lesser degree) and parking costs made me think twice when I considered driving to work.
The sale was an emotional experience. I loved driving the car, and I’ve always liked driving. I got my learners permit when I was fourteen (Iowa let ’em drive early) and as with most teenagers (at least back then) , the car signaled freedom to me. My feelings about driving have moderated some since, but I’ve retained much of the original nostalgia and excitement, especially when starting a road trip. I’ve learned a lot about the impacts on our cities and climate reliance on the car creates since that initial love affair, but in the end, the strongest reason we had to ditch the second car was cost. Hundreds of dollars a week is a strong motivator.
But this wasn’t a simple matter of deciding to ride the bus more. A large number of factors has to converge to make it possible for a family of three with two jobs outside the home to make do with one (private) vehicle.
- Working in the hub of a hub-and-spoke transit network. We have lots of bus routes that are fairly competitive with a car because my wife and I both work in or near downtown. This wouldn’t be the case if we worked in the suburbs, inner ring or outer.
- We found a great daycare nine blocks from our house. You can walk there easily in most weather from our house or take the bus/bike. The location and density of daycare centers should not be overlooked if your goal is to encourage alternative modes.
- Minneapolis is walkable and fairly bikeable. The city does a pretty good job making it feel safe and easy to walk and bike places. Destination density (stores, food, etc) is tolerably high in some neighborhoods, although it could definitely be better.
- New technologies. We feel better with one car knowing their is a car-sharing service that parks a car a few blocks from our house.
- We have the resources to rent a car when we need it. Even if we do this once a month for a week, we still save a lot versus owning.
We really depend on automobiles a lot. If we want to change that for whatever reason, or if we want to be sensitive to the needs of those who can’t afford a car, then it’s about way more than providing transit.