Ok, here’s the situation: I am NOT buying a car.
The last time I owned a car was over five years ago, when I moved to Boston and brought my Honda Accord along with me, under the assumption that I would need it here. As it turned out, I absolutely did not need to have a car here—which was lucky because my Honda Accord’s brakes and engine both decided to fail a couple of months after I moved to the city.
In any case, I’ve been car-less since 2010 and have enjoyed it immensely. The public transportation system here is excellent, I love walking, and I also have a bike.
However, my new job is a bit of a curveball in terms of transportation needs. I spend the majority of each day visiting clients in locations all over the city, which means I’m packing up and traveling to someplace else every hour or two. I do have an office, but I only go there to do paperwork and attend meetings. The rest of the time, I’m on the road. (And by “the road” I mean the bus/train/sidewalk. And, once I get my bike back from the shop later this week, the bike lane.)
The vast majority of my colleagues who do this type of traveling have cars. And to be fair, getting a car would have some potential benefits, such as:
- Rainy days would be basically just like any other days.
- Cold days would be basically just like any other days.
- Hot days would be basically just like any other days (although, let’s be real: hot days are something I’m unlikely to complain about).
On the other hand, here are some of the costs that would result from buying a car:
- Cost of the actual car
- Cost of insurance
- Cost of gas (though my employer would reimburse me for some of this)
- Cost of repairs
- Cost of parking
- Cost of inevitable parking tickets (not the same as parking)
- Environmental impact of putting another vehicle on the streets and driving it around literally all day long
- Emotional cost of constantly being afraid of hitting cars/pedestrians/cyclists/dogs/cats (this is what happens when you learn to drive in a rural area and then move to a city)
- Emotional cost of dealing with traffic/road rage
- Time spent researching, locating, and test-driving various cars that I might want to buy
- Time spent driving around looking for spots that don’t require me to parallel park (because I basically can’t parallel park)
- Time spent shoveling out parking spots in winter
- Health costs associated with getting less exercise (except for the shoveling, which would be lots of exercise)
These all sound like logical reasons to try and get by without a car, right?
But I admit there’s also another reason that’s slightly less logical…and that is that I simply want to prove to myself that I CAN do this job without a car. It’s a self-imposed challenge, and I’m accepting it.
In other words, I am NOT buying a car.
Here’s my plan instead:
- Walk whenever possible. Sometimes it just so happens that the next place I need to be is not very far away, in which case I can just walk there. And sometimes walking for 15 or 20 minutes can get me to a more direct bus route.
- Use public transportation. I have already discovered at least eight new bus routes in the past two weeks that I didn’t know about before. Public transportation does have its quirks, and there are days when it can be highly challenging (due to weather, breakdowns, delays, etc.). But there are also lots of things I love about public transportation, like the fact that I get to see so many interesting people on the buses and trains, as well as the opportunity I get to do things like catch up on email or work on learning Spanish.
- Bike, sometimes. Biking is not always my first choice because it can make me feel disheveled and sweaty (or freezing cold in the winter), but I’ve done a great deal of bike commuting in the past, both in Boston and in China, and I think there will be days when it is the best option, depending on my route and timing. I strongly dislike biking in the rain, but I do have the gear for it and can do it if necessary.
Now, a major caveat to all of the above is that I’m only two weeks into this job and my schedule isn’t particularly busy yet, so there’s no guarantee that I can keep this up. I admit it is possible that I might write another post in a couple of weeks called “Ummm, Actually I Think I’ll Just Get a Car”. But in the meantime I really want to try to avoid it…wish me luck!
Thoughts? Tips? Do you think I can do it?