Tag Archives: Zipcar

The Six Things I Like Best About Being CarFree — A Six Month Update

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The Blogger, with chariot at night.

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

I’ve now been car free for six months – that’s right, car free in L.A., living without owning a car in Los Angeles. Here’s a status report, and my favorite things about this major lifestyle change.

  • Saving money! Absolutely, my favorite. My last car, the 2005 Scion Xa, cost just about $400 a month to own and operate over the period of time I owned it (almost exactly 8 years). So that’s $2,400.00 right there. I did have transportation expenses, though, so I must subtract those. Metro fares: $280. Car rental: $200. Bicycle expense (a new seat): $25. So let’s adjust: $2,400 – 505 = $1,895 I’ve saved so far. And, that doesn’t even account for the sale of my used vehicle, which was $6,000 (thank you, CarMax!). So I’m really ahead $7,895.00.
  • Keeping fit! I lost about 15 lbs. doing WeightWatchers earlier this year and have been able to keep that off since going CarFree with very little effort, which I attribute to all the walking and biking I do now. My default modes of transportation in preferred order are: foot, bicycle, train or bus, taxi, rental car or ZipCar or other car share service. I live in Southern California, so it’s quite rare that any particular day is not a good bike day.
  • Not Having to Find Parking! There was a time, when I first lived in L.A., probably the early eighties, when it was fairly easy to find street parking in almost any neighborhood and there were very few restrictions on parking. That world is gone! Parking had become very difficult and most often expensive (if you just succumbed to the valet or a garage) but now I’ve never had to pay to park my bike against a pole.
  • Never Having to Deal with Angry Drivers/Road Rage! There are a lot of angry drivers out there, sometimes they’re armed, sometimes they’re just fracking crazy and dangerous. I’ve yet to meet a raging urban walker or a raging bicyclist (though hey, it’s a crazy world, perhaps they exist. Yet they don’t have 2-ton weapons at their disposal).
  • Not Having to Remember Where I Parked My Car, or Worry About that (Insert Expensive Thing Here) I Left Inside It! There was always this nagging feeling that the apocalypse was there, just out of focus, that total disaster could happen at any moment and this Thing I depended on (the car) would be utterly destroyed or taken from me on a whim. To not have this object to worry about at all is a great freedom all its own.
  • Finally: Exposing the Myth that “You Need a Car to Live in L.A.!” No, you don’t. You don’t need to own a car to live in L.A. What the people who say that really mean is that THEY need a car to live in L.A., i.e., they’re not giving advice, they’re talking about themselves. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in the city who don’t own cars. If you step out of yours for a few moments, you might meet the real city.

A great resource for me has been Chris Balish’s book, “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.” It’s been my roadmap for much of this journey. Thank you, Chris!

C’mon, Share, Kids, You Know You Want To.

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photo thanks cleanairgardening

photo thanks cleanairgardening

Or even if you don’t, you can’t afford to not share anymore.

I wanted to share this NYT piece about sharing – even though it’s a couple of months old, I agree that the new sharing paradigm is important, and wanted to acknowledge Tina Rosenberg’s opinionator.

Access, rather than ownership, is what drives the future of commerce, according to this theory.

**ANOTHER UPDATE: Los Angeles Times ran a story today on Airbnb issues in Silver Lake. 

When I was a little kid, I never really understood why everyone on the block had to have their own lawnmower – mowing was such an odious task (I grew up before the explosion of the service economy, so dads and kids – and the occasional mom, to be sure – took care of the yard work). I hated cutting the grass. We tried to avoid it as long as possible. The truth was, though, the longer the grass got the harder it was to mow with those manual push mowers (see above), which is what we had. But I digress. The point I was trying to make is that the mower was used maybe once a week, once every two weeks if there wasn’t much rain. So the “block” we lived on probably could have shared one or two mowers if someone had figured out how to organize it. (I’m sure there were smarter localities that probably did. BTW, the photo isn’t of anyone I know.)

I previously posted on car-sharing your own car; in the end I opted to sell it instead and become car-free.

Rosenberg divides the new sharing economy into what are called full mesh schemes (like Zipcar) and own-to-mesh (like Airbnb, etc). Full mesh means a company owns something and rents it out (as in cars, for Zipcar) and own-to-mesh is a gazillion little owners renting out what they have, like Airbnb, or like the personal car sharing companies I talked about in my previous post.

I never understood why people didn’t share WiFi in small apartment buildings or areas that could be wired appropriately – like they already do in office buildings or hotels. Obviously, the telcos have much dinero to lose and that’s why they’ve “encouraged” everyone to lock up their WiFi. (For those of you who’ve been on it a long time, you know this was not always the case and most people didn’t password-protect their service when it was first rolled out.)

I’ve even heard of people who make their monthly rent by renting out a few nights on Airbnb and staying elsewhere – even, at times, in their cars (if they have them) – which seems a little extreme to me, but hard times can call for desperate measures. Maybe Airbnb is the 21st Century equivalent of the “rent party?”

But how does this all work in a system where the economy is dependent on consumerism and continued consumer spending, largely made possible by debt? Well, the answer is kind of simple. It doesn’t work for that kind of economy.

Perhaps we’re on the threshold of something new, both for the way we live our lives and for the health of our yearning to be sustainable, finite planet. (But expect a lot of wailing and gnashing along the way. It won’t be pretty.)