This is an independent addition to the previous post titled: “How You, and All of Us, Can Escape Car Dependency”
This twist is how to do so when you have kids.
My journey going car-free began a few years ago. Household expenses forced me to look at the larger line items and figure out how to keep bills paid.
Since we live in Northeast Minneapolis along a major transit line as well as a handful of other bus routes, I looked into the idea of selling our vehicle and doing what few Minnesotans would ever fathom… Going car-free! (It’s not as scary as you think.)
The process started while researching HourCar and Car2Go. The latter provider no longer exists, however it did play a big role in making me feel comfortable about not having a vehicle always at the ready. At the time, these little Car2Go vehicles were littered all over Minneapolis and Saint Paul. One only had to walk 5 minutes to find one if you needed to make a quick trip somewhere in the Twin Cities. At the time, I didn’t even consider Uber and Lyft as I wasn’t as comfortable with ride hailing services since I mostly relied on regular route transit, bicycle and my own vehicle for trips. Uber and Lyft now serve as my replacement for Car2Go. They are a reliable and cost efficient service that has never let me down.
HourCar’s membership ensured that if I wanted to go “up north” or use a truck to grab a store pickup of larger items, I had this option in my arsenal. Car2Go allowed for those “emergency” situations that happen when you have kids. Now that Car2Go is missing from our area, we rely on Uber and Lyft for those situations.
My smartphone home screen has a folder dedicated to our transportation toolbox. This one stop shop allows us as a family to get around town and even get out of town without having the burdens of owning a depreciating and money hungry personal vehicle. The way I look at it, I have access to buses, trains, numerous HourCars as well as my bicycle and Burley trailer. We never feel stuck when we have so many options available around us. The newest additions to our toolbox are also pretty fun! The electric scooters have found a place with myself and my girlfriend. We went on a little adventure along Shepard Road in Saint Paul with her sister. We mixed scooters and bicycles, along with transit and had a great time. That day was also fun because I was teaching her sister how to ride transit. It was her very first ride on Route 3 to Union Depot, where we met to play with scooters and bikes. A day without kids and the adults are out playing in the rain. 🙂
For a family to have the kind of flexibility as we do, you have to make some real deliberate choices in where you live, work and have childcare. We happen to already live in a transit rich neighborhood. One that is walkable, bikeable and has daily needs within reach. Our daycare is at the nexus of two bus routes, one of which leads downtown to access my job. A major east-west bike boulevard connects my neighborhood directly with daycare. A north-south arterial suitable for biking leads me downtown for work. Our grocery store options include a local coop as well as Cub Foods and Target. We are a 15 minute bus ride away from two other major grocery stores as well as transit connections throughout the Metro, including the Blue and Green Lines. We are a 15 minute walk away from a big box office store as well as a home improvement center. 15 minutes bus ride to a competitor’s home improvement warehouse.
I can say with confidence that our lifestyle using multiple modes of transportation has opened us up to the great neighborhood we live in and the quality transit system the Twin Cities is building out. It takes deliberate action to set yourself up to succeed without a personal vehicle in Minnesota. Not many families can possibly do it because of the way our area is laid out. If you are able to start from scratch and wish for a car-free lifestyle, you can definitely achieve this with some effort going in. As our transit network gets built out, more people and families will have access to these choices which have numerous benefits, the largest financial.
I hope this story can inspire others to look beyond their personal vehicle for some of their trips and take it one step at a time. You never know what you can do until you give it a shot.
Yes, anyone who lives in the city can go car light if they want to and are willing to make choices that make it possible, like living closer to stuff and shopping closer to home, especially if they’re willing to expand their transportation toolbox and ride the bus.
But that’s anyone who lives in the city. There are some exceptions, but not many, in the suburbs, and they’re much less likely to be in the newer suburbs.
Which is one of the many reasons we need to let more people live in the city.
This is another great post, even though it’s light on details.
The teaching someone to transit part is important and helpful – but you left out how much kids like the bus. We have a car but especially when he was a preschooler my kid LOVED the bus. No carseat! And when we have visiting kids from transitless places, we always take them on the light rail because they love it – little kids just love trains, and older kids who are dependent on convincing an adult to drive them everywhere really like the idea of being able to take the bus by themselves, even if they aren’t actually allowed to yet.