Car-Free for One Year (and counting . . .)


I sold my car on June 7, 2013. I can hardly believe it’s been a year. Some of what I’ve learned:

this. . . has changed into. . .

this. . . has changed into. . .

  • That I could really do this, that I could really live (and for a year!) in Los Angeles, California, without owning a car, and survive and thrive.
  • how stressful driving is; I didn’t really realize this before I got rid of the car, and it became clear to me because I felt so much calmer not having to worry about the car, about traffic or parking or road ragers or whatever it was.
  • That strangers speak to each other in public space, this is all lost when people are closed up in their cars– and we’re poorer for it.
. . . this

. . . this

The pros:

  • biggest one is saving money! My car cost approximately $400 a month to own and operate, and I had a relatively cheap one – a Scion XA 2005.
  • I stayed very lean and healthy with all the walking and biking I’ve done, and will continue to do.
  • I read on buses and trains – so I’ve gotten a lot more reading done. I have a Nook and the Kindle app – so I’ve joined the Dark Side, though I still love book-books.

There are cons, so what are they:

  • From where I live (Valley Village) it takes forever to get to the beach on public transport. I’m really looking forward to the finishing of the Expo Line to Santa Monica, though even that will take time. It’s a long way regardless. Not that I go there every day or even every month, but I want it to be easy, when it’s not. Even if you have a car.
  • There are crazy, insane people, and lots of them, on public transportation and there’s just no way around that. It’s messy. You learn to spot them and stay clear.
  • Los Angeles is so big, while there are always public transport options for almost anywhere you want to go, it could take you forever because of all the transfers you have to make. For instance, next week I have to go to Santa Monica for a business meeting. It will take 3 buses and nearly two hours to get there from where I live. I’ll make it a day trip and work/hang out there all day, coming back at night. Again, this isn’t a trip I make very often at all. This kind of trip might make more sense to Zipcar or Uber (notice how I’m using those words as verbs??)

Finally, I have to remember to acknowledge the middle class privilege part of the car-free equation: I’ve CHOSEN to do this, not need to financially: rediscovering the conveniences and problems of public transport is something poor people have no choice but to acquaint themselves with daily. Then again, it’s not “slumming” for a year, this is a permanent change (at least as long as I live where I do), for financial, health, environmental and just plain “keeping my sanity” reasons. Still, let’s not forget that half the people I see on the trains and buses would likely die and go to heaven to sit behind the wheel of their own nice car in gridlocked freeway traffic (with the AC on, of course).

Must go now – have to pack the saddlebag and get off to work.

Going car free? Check out Chris Balish’s How to Live Well Without Owning a Car