There’s a narrative people like to spin about car storage spots being necessary for local businesses to thrive.
As someone who doesn’t own a car, it annoys me every time I come across this argument. What not owning a car does is free up so much money to not throw down the car ownership drain. I could elaborate in this article on the other costs associated with owning a car (fuel, maintenance, etc.), but the comparable cost for car insurance is $0 if you just don’t drive, which makes the math easy. Plus, the money is undeniably leaving the community with the paltry exception of the few local people who work in car insurance sales, and the money is never coming back.
On average, it looks like people in my age bracket are spending somewhere around $1,000 yearly on insurance alone, and that’s if you don’t have any accidents. $83 monthly. $21 weekly. That’s enough to have a little discretionary spending every week. Here are some things to do to keep the money in the community every week instead of going to insurance giants (and as a bonus, you don’t have to trek out to the suburbs to do any of these! Everything is walk, bike, or busable).
Fuel up with burrito from a taco truck and relax with a beer and some sports on the TV at a local brewery. Enjoy some music with a couple tickets to a show at a tiny venue, watch a play at a different tiny venue, or get a real cinema experience at a small movie theater (when it is a good idea to do those things again for you). Bring home a small piece of art from an art fair. Get crafting supplies locally instead of from amazon.
Clean your body with a couple of fancy soap bars from a vendor at the farmers market. Buy a meal for someone hungry. Pick up the tab at a restaurant or take-out place for a friend’s meal. Pay for a bread subscription for delicious bread made by a couple of local bakers. Get a pie from the pie place that’s so good you have to enter a lottery to be able to buy one.
Or have a week of car insurance. Up to you.
Shop local: shop carfree.
One of the major reasons we moved to Frogtown is because of how many businesses are within walking distance! But I have to admit that I haven’t been taking full advantage of that; a combination of biking to businesses in other neighborhoods that I’m more familiar with, and ordering things to be delivered has prevented me from really exploring my hyperlocal options.
But my partner and I are going to be reviving a tradition from the previous household we lived in: weekly walk-to-brunch outings! I think this will be a good catalyst for finding businesses in our immediate vicinity.
It’s ironic that many of those who enjoy reveling in their car-free lifestyle, also seem to be proponents of the boom in big apartment buildings sprouting up alongside highways. How do you think the 100s of thousands of metro area residents renting apartments next to a highway are going to get to and from your artisanal bakeries, brew-pubs, neighborhood movie houses and quaint eateries?
I seems to me there’s a bit of a disconnect between the boom in big box apartment buildings in the highway corridors and the idea of living car-free.
The traffic madness speaks for itself. As the big apartment buildings keep sprouting up, car-free ain’t happening.
Well, some folks want to build a good sized apartment building on Lexington Ave, right near an LRT stop plus numerous businesses. But they are having to fight tooth and nail to do it. Weird.
I don’t spend much time thinking about apartment developments that aren’t in the city. But those are key to car-free and car-light living.
They have next to nothing to do with traffic too.
On what planet do the massive apartment buildings, sitting on top of massive of parking garages, surrounded by massive parking lots, next to massive highways, have next to nothing to do with traffic? Do you think the massive apartment building garages and parking lots are just for storage? How do you think the people living in the car-dependent locations get anywhere outside their highway-hellhole apartments?
Homes are not significant drivers of traffic. People go to and from homes wherever they are. Destinations are what generate localized traffic issues.
What projects are you complaining about? Doesn’t sound like anything in the city. The nearest apartment project to me is above a grocery store, across a parking lot from a liquor store and pizza place, across the street from a coffee shop, dentist, boutique, popcorn shop and fancy restaurant and half a block from one of the best off-street bike facilities in town. The people living there are going to be able to do a lot without driving (though the site could use better transit service).
Your boutique-facing, grocery/liquor-store handy, in-town apartment sounds terrific. Unfortunately, if you look at all the very large apartment buildings built recently, including a half-dozen or more with-in a mile of my house in Roseville, you’ll find that virtually all of them are 100% car-dependent, and have few, if any, nearby amenities easily-accessed by foot or by bike.
Homes, in and of themselves, don’t necessary generate exorbitant amounts of traffic. A 200-unit apartment building, on the other hand, sitting on some cheap suburban land next to a major thoroughfare, with no groceries, liquor, restaurants, or much of anything else easy to walk or bike to, generates a lot of ugly, fast moving, noisy, dangerous traffic.
Sounds to me like the problem is suburbs, not apartment buildings.
Density and car-dependency – the worst of all worlds.
Articles like this a pretty simplistic, and a bit condescending. Empathy mean realizing that not everyone is like me.
Working in the trades, it would be pretty difficult to not have private transportation. I am not a contractor, I work for contractors. There have been two jobs I was on for a year or a little better. I was able to bike and bus to those jobs many days, but I have also been on jobs for a day, or less than a day. It’s unrealistic to haul my weighty tool box on my bike. And I can’t support myself on jobs within my neighborhood, not the way my kids demand to eat there or more times a day. Should we expect folks in the trades to not own private vehicles? Is the writer suggesting it’s a simple thing for all or most people to not own vehicles? I can’t tell.
My son plays hockey in a rec league. It’s one or two times a week, for a few months in the winter. It’s not like the 50’s or the 70’s, when most neighborhoods in the cities had a hockey team. There are only about 10 teams in each age division across the metro, so I need to take him to arenas in Blaine, Richfield, etc. Of course, it’s not life and death to play rec league hockey, but it’s a pretty fun game, and kids should be able to play games. Biking from Saint Paul to Richfield in January, with hockey equipment, is just not realistic.
Believe me, I bike, walk, and use transit when I can. When I retire, I hope we can shed one vehicle. But for now, I may be wiring your next home in Minneapolis today, and tomorrow wiring your grocery store’s warehouse in South Saint Paul. Because they say this electric power thing is going to become really popular, and I can’t wire your home without any tools.
Pete, you’re absolutely right that our metro area is not built to be conducive to car-free living; but that’s no reason to just throw in the towel and accept it as it is. You have identified a bunch of pain points, so let’s find ways to eliminate those barriers and change our community for the better! Here are my thoughts on the specific ones you mentioned:
Hauling your toolbox would probably be palatable on an ebike! The government should be subsidizing ebike purchases, and we need more opportunities for people to try out ebikes to discover how great it feels to ride them.
Supporting yourself on jobs within your neighborhood would be much easier if we had higher-density neighborhoods. We need to upzone everywhere and allow development of mixed-use, walkable, high-density communities.
For hockey, you already named the solution: you would need more teams in more neighborhoods. Again, this is enabled by having high-density neighborhoods. But it still might be challenging with a less-popular sport like hockey; I’d wager you could find neighborhood soccer teams all over the place. You might have to organize a team yourself!
When someone comments about a condescending article (accurate btw), the decision to mansplain to that person is ripe with irony.
Hint: it’s ok that people have different views
I’m just brainstorming ways we need to change our community to allow Pete to walk, bike, and use transit more often. I don’t think Pete is wrong.
A forty pound tool box, on an e-bike, all winter long. When my employer has jobs going in downtown MPLS, the North End in Saint Paul, Bloomington, and Minnetonka. Uh-huh.
Substituting soccer for hockey is like telling your kids going to Dairy Queen for spring break is just a fun as a week at that stupid Disney place.
Since you walk, bike, and take transit when you can, I’m just trying to come up with ways to make that doable for more of your trips. Brainstorm some solutions with me!
I really agree with this comment. The thesis of this article seems to be “you can save money by not having a car.” I think people who are reading this are aware of how costly their car is. Certainly not the author’s intention, but it has hints of “want to buy a house? stop spending money on so much avocado toast.”
I’d love to challenge the author to find a different way to frame the article they seem to have touched on in the second half of this post – how supporting local businesses can help make your neighborhood a place you want to be. They obviously have a lot of knowledge about great, independent, local places to go to.
For a lot of people right now, the Twin Cities are not a place that can be lived in without a car. We need to push for change so that doesn’t have to be the case. But until then, it’s important to empathize with people in different situations.
“I think people who are reading this are aware of how costly their car is.”
Really?? I very much do not think so.
I always find these replies weirdly solipsistic. It doesn’t work for you. Great. The vast majority of people are not you. Sure, there are tradespeople hauling stuff they need for work, and always will be, but it’s a small fraction of all the traffic out there.
To be honest, most people do not bike, walk and use transit when they can. Most people never even think about getting around without a car, aside from maybe catching a train to the ballpark. People write posts like this in the hope that other people might realize they have other options too.
I definitely agree that most people do not realize their options aside from a car when making trips, and we need to do more to help people realize that. We also need to push for our cities and counties to build better environments for people and not for cars.
I think that’s why people seem to be taking issue with the article. As it stands, most people cannot live their lives in the Twin Cities without a car, so I question how productive it is to explain to people how much they could save by going car-free. Instead, showing people how many parts of their lives could easily involve walking, biking, or transit instead of a car trip is a more realistic ask that could go a long way towards normalizing non-automobile modes.
This lists some real gems of ideas for local places, places that are very awesome. I’m so grateful when there are cool bookstores and spots to watch films and performances. Furthermore, this post get bonus points because the photo is good.
If I didn’t own a car I would be stuck at home without a job. Eight to ten miles is a long way to walk to a grocery store.