Three years ago today, I intentionally let go of a big piece of my mobility and independence. A tough decision but one that has been rewarding in surprising ways.
To tell the story I have to backtrack a bit. In August 2010, my employer reached an agreement with the local transit authority to provide free access for all employees on local buses. I have an ideological commitment to using less fossil fuel, and I really like free, so I decided to try taking the bus.
The first few trips were successful, and I gradually rode the bus more, leaving my car at home day after day. A few short months later, I drove to work for the very last time and soon thereafter I sold my car. It sat idle most of the time anyway and just insuring it cost us a bundle. My husband still needed a car to get to work so we went from a 2-car to a 1-car family.
For months after I sold the Subaru, I would see lookalikes on the street and feel sad. I missed the feeling of driving, of being in my very own car.
That feeling hasn’t gone away entirely. My mobility is diminished without the car, but I do pretty well between the bus and walking. I average a few miles of walking a week around the city, and I take all sorts of buses here and there.
I estimate I save a few hundred dollars a month by not owning a car – insurance, maintenance, gas, registration, etc. It’s made a difference in how much I can save for retirement and generally has freed up our household budget a bit.
But riding the bus for me has been about more than saving money and lightening my environmental footprint. I have found that just passing through neighborhoods as I walk to the bus stop has allowed me to meet other pedestrians and neighborhood residents whom I never would have met if I was driving in my own little bubble, zooming past them. I’ve also found a community of fellow bus-riders that surprised me. The people I ride with every day to and from work have become friends. We support each other in good times and bad. Last year when the mother of a fellow commuter succumbed to cancer after a long battle, there was a tremendous outpouring of support. When another of us retired, several people signed a card for her. You really do get to know the people you see on the bus every day!
There are moments, mostly on rainy days or during heat waves, when I wonder why I don’t just buy a car like everyone else, but those moments are few and far between. My bank account, the environment, my community, and my fitness level all benefit from this small decision I made to sell my car. It’s been three years, and I have no plans to return to car ownership.
If you have public transit where you live maybe you should check it out! Who knows, you may give up one of your cars, too!