Around the time my month of voluntary carlessness was coming to a close, I asked Jon to write a guest post on what his experience was like dating someone who had recently given up their car.
When Chad came to me a few months ago and told me about this crazy endeavor he wanted to embark on, my first reaction was … “are you crazy?” I moved to the DC area a little over a year ago, and having a car was never an option. I moved without a job, without any interviews, and living 100% on whatever savings I had mustered up (which fortunately did not dry up until I landed a new job). Due to cost constraints (between the cost of parking, the cost of insurance, and the cost of gas) along with the logistical elements, having a car was never an option for me. Going from having a car in high school and college, to being totally dependent on public transportation took some getting used to, but I quickly adapted. However, living in the suburbs of DC is not as convenient for public transportation (especially for those of us not lucky enough to be able to enjoy the RideOn buses for free, ahem Chad!). When I was completing my internship in the city my subway ride would take an hour each way (White Flint on the Red Line to Capitol South on Blue/Orange) and cost approximately $12 a day. When I landed my first job the cost dropped to $8 a day and with my new job and new apartment it has now dropped to $5 a day or about $100 a month and takes 10 minutes each way. While expensive, this still beats the cost of a car as $100 wouldn’t even cover my parking costs. I pay my metro completely out of pocket though I take part in a program that takes money from my paycheck pre-tax that I can use for transportation, which saves approximately $20 a month! While I do agree with Chad that the metro is expensive, and can be notoriously late and delayed (often so it seems for no reason) I think it is incredibly convenient if you both live and work in the city and still ends up being less expensive (depending on the distance you travel) than having a car.
Chad’s carless adventure was an adjustment. I had gotten used to the ease he had in getting to my apartment or picking me up, and now it would take longer for each of us to travel to each other and would be another consideration in the various plans we made. Given that I had not had the option of having a car, I couldn’t believe Chad was going to willingly give up the luxury of his. But, when he told me his reasons, I really began to see why he was choosing this. And his reasons, articulately described on his blog, are remarkable. When Chad and I started dating, I was the one with no car. I won’t deny that it was incredibly nice to be so close to someone with a car (I used to joke that I only kept dating Chad for his car, grocery shopping is so much easier when you don’t have to walk!). Chad was great at adapting to my needs, going places within walking or metro distance, spending weekends locally instead of going anywhere far, etc. But it was also a great experience for me to watch Chad undertake this adventure knowing full well from my own experience the logistical and practical considerations involved. I am lucky enough to live just a 5 short stops from my office making my commute significantly easier than Chad’s trek from Silver Spring to Rockville daily. I take one mode of transportation whereas Chad often took two or three. I am a runner as well, but I am not nor have I ever been a morning runner, and it took a lot of heart and dedication (and grumbling from me when the alarm went off early) for Chad to wake up early each morning to bike or run part of the way to work. I think what Chad ultimately proved with this undertaking, is that despite the logistical and practical challenges, despite the early mornings, the brutal weather (which he miraculously mostly escaped), and the added time, going carless is not an impossible task. It takes adjustments, and patience, and some problem solving, but nothing that cannot be overcome.
Jon, since he works for a member of the DC City Council, requires a disclaimer similar to mine, so here it is. Any views or experiences expressed here are his and not of the member he works for, the Council, or anyone else in DC City government.