Monday, September 24, 2007

Going Carless: to Car or Not to Car, That is the Question

I got rid of my car this weekend. Well, not really, it's just visiting its grandparents because it has some issues that prevents it from being reinspected in DC. I'm hoping Dad and Philip, whizzes of mechanics that they are, can fix it. If not, I have some decisions to make.

I've considered going carless. Legions of people out there talk of how great it is--for the environment, for their lives, for budget. I've had a car since I was 21, which frankly, in America is a little late. I have my doubts about whether I could do it or not.

My parents think it's NUTS to even think about it. It's as if I suggested I was going to forego clothes or oxygen (though I might have to do the latter if everyone keeps driving like they do...). I think I *could* do it. I have fairly okay access to transit--via metro within a 15-20 minute walk and via the bus down the block. Joining a car share service would expand my options more. has a cool feature where you can now calculate driving directions and distances, by the way--check it out.

Walking distances from my home to:

  • Work--3 miles, 57 minutes

  • Union Station (metro, Amtrak)--1 mile, 20 minutes (that estimate was dead on by the way)

  • Gym--1.3 miles, 27 minutes

  • Safeway--0.9 miles, 17 minutes

Other shopping and services are within a 15-20 minute walk. I have a coffee shop, library, 7-11, and restaurant within a 5 minute walk or so and there is one mini mart with erratic hours a little closer than that.

I'd love to hear opinions from people out in cyberspace--is this something you've tried? Where do you live?


  1. See how you like it. Your 20-minute radius is pretty good, though you'll find yourself buying a lot of food at the nearest convenience store because it's... convenient.
    We didn't use a car within SF when we lived there. I taught at night in three different distant suburbs, so we owned a car -- otherwise I'd have been sleeping on classroom floors until morning bus service started! -- but trying to drive and park in the city was too awful to contemplate except for especially complicated trips.

  2. I am carless and thrilled! I live in a suburb of Manhattan; a very un-suburban suburb. I live steps away from two superb bakeries, a jazz club, a few antiques shops, clothing and shoe boutiques, a pub, a soccer dome, an animal shelter, my upholsterer, my dry cleaner, a few stellar restaurants, the train to Manhattan, and the site of the local farmers' market, among other things. I bike to work-- but don't get to do much pedaling as the ride is a mere 5-7 minutes. When I need to grocery shop, I hitch a ride from car-tethered friends (or my mom, who lives a few streets away), or buy in small quantities and take the 40 minute walk (roundtrip) to Whole Foods. When I get a basket and rack for my bike, I will bike to market. Can't wait.
    Was carless when I lived in DC, too-- about a 20 min walk from Union Station as well. I was no stranger to the G2 bus, which I used quite frequently to hit Whole Foods, or take a trip to Georgetown (Dean & Deluca). I lived on Seaton Place NW, just off of North Capitol, while I attended Howard. When I taught for a test prep company and had to lug boxes of textbooks to class sites, I rented a Zipcar for a few hours (also great for trips to IKEA).
    Being carless is great for the wallet, but it's positively amazing for both the body and the soul! Give it a shot!

  3. Wow, that's great...lucky you for living so close to everything and for having friends to tote you around when you need it! (I AM that friend at times!) Thanks for the input. I'm going to be without a car for a few more weeks, so I'll get to test the waters. I definitely already am going to need to rent a car one day next week for a doctor's appointment that isn't accessible by transit, but otherwise, so far, so good.


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