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Four Years as a One-Car Family

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By Erin Sheehan | Mar 11, 2015

Four years ago I lost nearly 2,000 pounds. That is to say, I sold my car. It’s been so long it finally feels “normal” just to have one car.

In August 2010, the university where I work started providing free access on local bus routes to all employees. I wasn’t very familiar with the bus schedule so I spent some time figuring out how I could get to work and back without driving. After about a month of thinking it over, I took my inaugural bus trip. It went just fine, and I quickly started making a habit of riding the bus.

For the first few months I still drove in once or twice a week, relying on my car to run errands or make special trips before or after work. In December 2010, I drove my car to work for the last time and have relied on the bus ever since.

After three months of seeing my car sit in the garage day after day, I finally gave it a deep cleaning and put it up on Craigslist. In a few short weeks it sold and suddenly we were a one-car family.

I can’t deny that I missed the car at first. There were times when Jim and I had to go in opposite directions and both wanted to drive. Once I took seven bus rides in a single day. Another day I walked nearly the entire 3 1/2 miles home from work in pouring cold rain. But we have gradually worked out most of the kinks, and along the way I think Jim and I have gotten a lot better at sharing.

I find myself relying more and more on walking, biking and taking the bus to get around. My favorite non-car activity is going to garage sales. Summer weekends I map out a route, put on my backpack and hit as many sales as possible. It’s not unusual for me to ride 20 miles on a Saturday just going to yard sales. Naturally biking is quite self-limiting in terms of how much I can spend. When you are on your bike at a garage sale with 5 or 6 miles to ride home, believe me you weigh EVERY purchase! Which is good because we have enough stuff!

I’ve never added up how much money I save by not owning a car, but it has to be at least a few hundred dollars a month. I also don’t have the stress of unexpected repair costs, traffic jams and winter driving in snowy weather.

Walking to the bus stop has been a real boon for me as well. I do my best thinking while walking, and I’ve made friends both on the street and at the bus stop. I feel like fellow walkers and transit riders provide a loose support network for one another, and I’d hate to lose that because I was wedded to my car.

Urban planner Jeff Speck calls cars “gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic devices.” I’m not sure I entirely agree with him but his words do resonate with me. Try a week or even a day without your “prosthetic device” and see how it goes!

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