This week, Thursday to be exact, our family passed the 5-month mark of our car-free experiment. To recap, our car, a 2002 Saturn LW 200, needed nearly $1,000 of work, so my wife and I decided to park the car while we saved the money to get the car fixed. That was Aug. 17, 2012. On Sept. 27, the day before Indiana required us to renew the registration, we called the St. Vincent de Paul Society and donated the car. It was towed away the morning of Sept. 28. My late father was Vincentian, so a donation to the St. Vincent de Paul Society made sense.
Between Aug. 17 and Sept. 27, my wife, son and I talked and decided to give going car free four months. Dec. 17 came and went and we still don’t own a car. Jan. 17 came and went and still no car.
Recently, I started reading Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck. Speck is not anti-car, but he believes cars should be put in their place and that we’ve become slaves to our cars. I found this gem: “We are sending $612,500 overseas every minute in support of our current automotive lifestyle.” (Page 52)
$612,500 every minute. Think about that. Think about what that money could do if it stayed in the U.S. economy. Would we be facing a fiscal cliff every few months? Would our elected leaders be fighting the way they do? I honestly think they’d find something else to fight about.
Another thing about that money. Most of the money that is not spent on cars stays in the local economy. So the money I don’t spend buying gas I spend locally and stays in the local economy.
Reading Speck’s book makes me feel good about giving up my car. But I also realize I live in a place that, while far from great in terms of walkability, is pretty good. Walk Score gave my house a 51. Of course, the closest “grocery store” according to Walk Score is a convenient store that specializes in cigarettes and pop, and the extent of its fresh produce is onions, bananas and apples. Ideally, I’d want to live in a neighborhood with a higher walk score and has a full-service grocery store close by.
In the meantime, I’m going to write my city council rep and my mayor and encourage them to read Speck’s book and to work to make our city more walkable.