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Six Months Without A Car

October 15, 2012 Featured, Public Transit, Steve Patterson, Transportation 7 Comments

It’s now been six months since I sold my car. Once before I didn’t have a car (2007) but I had a 49cc Honda scooter, so I got around pretty well on my own schedule. Now I have a power wheelchair and a bus pass, not as convenient.

ABOVE: The 30-day pass is different than the monthly pass in that it can span into two months, just depends on start date.

Don’t get me wrong, I love public transit (bus & rail) but I also love cars. I have numerous books on European cars, auto magazines from the early 1970s, etc. I read articles on the Motor Trend iPhone app daily. I’m a car guy without a car!

What I’ve noticed over these last six months is I think differently about time than I ever have since I got my driver’s license nearly 30 years ago (gulp). Just a couple of years ago I would compare how long a trip would take me on the bus to how long it would take me to drive. It doesn’t take long to get most places driving in the St. Louis region and the car was always faster, much faster just a few more miles away. A week ago I visited friends living near Loughborhough and Hampton and it took an hour to get there from downtown. Yes, an hour!

But that’s my new normal, surprisingly so it didn’t seem long. A trip to the Target at Hampton & Chippewa takes 40-45 minutes just on the bus, plus additional time getting to the stop and back home. Same for my doctor’s office, also on Hampton.

I’ve learned to make productive use of my time, often taking pics out the bus window, returning emails, making notes, keeping up on Facebook, etc.  I feel I’m just as productive as with a car, I just schedule things differently. Granted, I’m single and on disability so I’m not dropping kids off at school before going to work. I’m not trying to convince you to give up your vehicle, just note that.

In July I went on an 8-day vacation that included Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Oklahoma City. Amtrak got me to  my destinations and Greyhound got me home, I was able to see so much more on the trip because I wasn’t driving.

I’ve gotten a couple of rides with friends these last six months but I’ve not had to get a taxi to get somewhere, as I thought I’d have to.

Once you don’t have a car for a while your view of time and mobility changes.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    I’m glad that it’s working for you. Gotta wonder if it was karma that had you buying your loft (with its relatively good transit service and accessibility) before your disability kicked in? Or if you’d be as satisfied with your options if you still lived where you lived before?

    I agree, your perspective changes when you don’t have a car available. My first two years of college (Centre – great job on the VP debate!), we weren’t allowed to have cars on campus, so we walked and biked and did just fine. But you’re also right, daily life (getting to work, etc.) plays a huge role in whether or not going car-free is an option. With my current work schedule, the bus simply ain’t an option, and neither is biking. According to Metro’s Trip Finder, getting to and from work is a possibility, but at 50-51 minutes, when driving takes 15, the difference between getting home when I do now (driving) or nearly an hour later (by bus) is a deal breaker. Life is simply too short and my time is too valuable.

    • I think you missed Steve’s point that driving time is dead time, whereas bus time is productive time. I constantly see people on transit reading email, updating facebook, reading books or e-books. These are the same things that they would probably do after they got home from work if they were driving. Even walking to and from the train or bus is productive. If you drive, then you probably plan some other way to get some exercise after you get home.

      So, in sum, you can’t simply compare the time it takes to drive vs. the time it takes to use transit if you are wanting to maximize the number of productive hours in your day. And, of course, don’t forget about the hours it takes to pay for the car. You can discount your daily productive hours with these hours needed to enable you to have a car.

      • JZ71 says:

        No, I got Steve’s point – it works for him. Because of where the nearest stops are, my 50 minute trip would involve a 16-18 minute walk (0.9 & 0.8 mile) on each end, plus wait time for the bus, and only 17 minutes actually on the bus, where I could be multi-tasking. And while walking would definitely be a good thing for me, I’d still rather do my multi-tasking at home, in my recliner, and not sitting on a bus. To each their own . . . .

      • Eric says:

        No matter how productive you are (if you want to call email/facebook productive), that is still an hour per day spend away from your family. I am single so this does not affect me, and I take the bus to/from work almost every day, with a laptop open for most of the time. But for someone with a significant other to come home to, and especially for someone with kids who go to bed early, nothing can make up for the time spent away from them.

        • Andres says:

          Sure it can! I have a wife and kids. I find driving (especially in traffic) incredibly stressful. So, I could spend 15 minutes driving (or 45 minutes if traffic is bad), and come home stressed out and annoyed… or I could take the bus for an hour, and come home relaxed after having read a chapter or two of a book. I can tell you, the latter makes for a happier family, even if they don’t get to see me as much – the time spent with them is of higher quality.

          That’s what works for me. It might not work for others, but that was also Steve’s point.

  2. RyleyinSTL says:

    Steve – did you take your power chair on vacation with you? If so how was the accommodation on the train and bus?

  3. Sal says:

    WeCar and other ride sharing options are also available when the need arises.


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