For some people, though, mostly young urban dwellers, the answer to getting around does not involve owning a car. Instead, many people are choosing to go car-free and use transportation alternatives like car-sharing, public transportation, borrowing, carpooling, bikes and, get this – walking, to reach their destinations. How can you do this? Let's talk after the jump.
Car divestors get rid of their vehicles for many reasons – environmental, emotional, etc. – and this post isn't going to try and convince you that getting rid of your car will save the world. Instead, let's take a look at a simpler reason: money. Each person has to do the calculations for him or herself, but it's not all that hard to find out that you can save money by going car free. That's what Erica Gies from Grist discovered recently, and many others have found out as well. Saving cash is just one reason to eliminate your car. Our friend Katie Rogers filmed her carless adventures and sometimes the idea strikes an entire town at once as a sort of social experiment. For the hardcore, there's always the move to Masdar plan. Someday. And maybe one day we can car-share a fleet of PUMAs. For now, the key thing to think about when considering the value of your personal car is your network. Do you have a network of good public transportation nearby? How about a network of friends who can help you out if you need a ride? Do you have a network of bike paths you can use to get around?
One very strong reason to consider ditching your car is carsharing. The idea behind carsharing is that a fleet of cars are parked around town and, when you need one, you use your membership card to rent the car by the hour, and that low fee covers the gas and insurance and everything. Zipcar is the best-known national brand, but there are other alternatives coming from Mercedes-Benz in Austin, Texas and IKEA in France. Carsharing doesn't really make you car-free, it just takes a big hunk of metal out of your daily life. When you need a car, you can still get one, and it can be cheaper for many people. The idea has enough merit that the traditional car rental companies like Hertz have gotten into the game.
For some people, there's no question that owning a car is a necessity. I grew up in rural Michigan, so I know what it's like to live miles from any store, work or school. In my life today, I'm also glad to have a car. If there were carsharing here, though, maybe I would consider eliminating insurance payments and gas station visits from my life. Some people move to live car-free. If you already live in a "networked" space, then perhaps it's time to sit down and do the math. Calculate if selling your car (or donating it for a tax write-off) makes sense. Perhaps you have your heart set on a certain kind of technology (how many times have I seen "no plug, no sale" in the comments here?) - would it be possible for you to go car-free until that technology becomes available? In fact, if going car-free saves you money now, then you can think about using the money saved to pay that premium for the Chevy Volt of Tesla Model S when they become available. We certainly participate in our fair share of car-lust, and the cash-for-clunkers deal is going to make it a little bit easier to buy a car, but car ownership is not for everyone. Is it for you?
Scooter photo above by Rodrigo Cayo (DREAM). Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.