Waking Up: How You Can Move Away from Car Dependence (and Save Money!)

With gas prices approaching (or already at) four dollars a gallon in the United States, it looks like I’m not the only one who is finding out that car free is the way to be. Especially when prices are only expected to increase as we approach the summer travel months. Turns out that the youth are moving towards solutions rather than just complaining about gas prices. As the New York Times reports, the Millenial Generation just isn’t that interested in cars and instead is focusing on finding other less carbon and money intensive ways of getting around, such as walking, biking, and taking public transportation. This aversion to driving isn’t limited to young people though, as federal data shows that overall vehicle miles traveled is down in the US.

While this might not be great news for oil companies or car manufacturers, it is good news for American people, their wallets, and our carbon emissions. According to the American Public Transportation Association, the average American family spends 18 cents out of every dollar earned on transportation, 94 percent of which goes to maintaining motor vehicles.  However, a household that uses public transportation regularly can save nearly $10,000 a year, savings that are only increasing as gas prices rises. So in addition to reducing carbon emissions by driving less, people are also saving money, something extremely important in this recession.

So, it’s clear is that Americans can’t afford to drive as much as we used to and since I have been living car free since 2008, I wanted to offer some tips for getting around without a motor vehicle, or being a “car slut” as I like to call it.

1.  Look into public transportation options in your area and use it as much as possible. While public transportation in the United States is generally pretty dismal (save for urban areas such as New York and Portland, OR), you might be surprised by what bus systems, commuter trains, etc have to offer.  You never know until you try.

2.  When carpooling, always offer a generous amount of gas money.  If you don’t own a car, you’re not paying for upkeep, repairs, or car insurance, so please don’t be stingy when compensating the person giving you a ride.  They’ll remember it and it keeps your car karma good, something you’re going to need a lot of if you’re going to make it as a car slut in the long term.

3.  Live within walking or biking distance of work and basic necessities (grocery store, pharmacy, library, post office, etc), even if it costs more.  I recently moved to Washington, DC and had to make the decision between paying to live in the city proper or saving money on rent and living out in the suburbs.  In the end I chose to pay more to live in the city less than 4 miles from my office and around the corner from the grocery store because it allows me to continue to live without a car and save money on metro fees, more than off-setting the extra money I am spending on rent. Not to mention I don’t spend over an hour a day in my car commuting, which really is priceless.

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Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net