What would your day look like if you didn’t have your car?

(pause)

Did you suddenly have a sense of panic or dread? What if I told you it could actually be possible, in Arizona? How do I know?

Because I’m living proof.

After learning how much driving was taking a toll on my emotional health, not to mention my pocket book, I decided to put my car in park – permanently – and venture on foot.

My commute: 16 miles. My solution: Public transportation.

Before I took the plunge, I evaluated where I drive and how often I honestly needed my car. Church, dinner with friends, the occasional movie… did all these places require my vehicle?

As for work, during rush hour I was spending an average of 45 minutes on the road, in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I would arrive at work disgruntled each day and by the end of the week, I would barely have enough money left over to celebrate the commuting conclusion at happy hour.

However, thanks to the Valley Metro Light Rail, the pay off to park my ride was much greater. I only needed to add minimal time to my commute while significantly increasing my “happy level” meter, financial freedom and connectivity to my community.

The author in costume at Tour de Fat

These are not new claims. Yet, some still hesitate. If you are considering making the switch, you wouldn’t be alone.

More and more people are kicking the car to the curb for an eco-friendly way to get to where they need to go. The Tour de Fat New Belgium tour encourages an individual from each city to give up their car for a year. A great blog called The Gubbins Experiment highlights another individual who hit the pavement for a year and the happiness it gave.

But, for some, resources such as carpooling, zipcars, the bus and (my favorite) biking do not seal the deal to ditch the wheels. So… let’s do the math.

According to AAA, the average person keeps a car five years and drives 15-20,000 miles per year.

Break that down:

20,000 miles. 1,000 gallons of gas/year. $4.00 = $4,000 dollars per year.

$4,000 dollars. Just in gas.  Now the rest:

Per year: Maintenance and repairs: $500 – $1000. Insurance: $1200. Taxes, financing and other miscellaneous fees…

Grand Total: Over $6,000 a year ($500 per month)

This figure is just to maintain having a car, even if you own it free and clear. (Read more in this 2008 consumer report.)

Now does walking sound more attractive?

A main reason for I see for why people continue to commute is that riding a bike or utilizing public transportation is seen as unattractive and compromising to one’s independence. In reality, I beg to argue that minimizing car usage will increase your independent movement, while also increasing areas for social use. The alternative solutions shouldn’t be a last resort. Just because you have the money to maintain a car, doesn’t make it smart to continue driving down the street for a Starbucks. Why not walk?

Through walking, riding my bike, and using the light rail, I have:

1. Discovered local businesses (keeps money in the state!)

2. Become more fit & found free yoga classes in a park (fresh air and no need for gym membership!)

3. Located two conveniently-located farmer’s markets (healthy eating!)

And all the while, still maintaining friendships, attending events, and successfully doing my job.

Trust me, this is doable. But, you have to take the first step.


  • I would just ride a bike or take a bus.

  • Jonce

    This is so great! Major congrats to you Nicole. I saw you mid commute the other day and was drooling over your new ride!

  • NicoleM

    Great post! The more exposure successful and experiential stories get, the more likely people are to give t a try. Popularizing public transportation is key!