I’m Car-Lite and I’m All Right

I’m in my second week of taking the rail to work, and I feel pretty good about how it’s going. It’s cold early in the morning, and today the sky looked like it wanted to start pouring down at any moment and I don’t have an umbrella or rain coat, and it sucks having to sometimes wait up to twenty minutes for the next train if I missed the one I meant to take – but I still feel that it’s worth doing.

I save 30 miles every day that I take the rail instead of driving. I knit, read, or nap on the train, things I definitely can’t do in my car. I no longer have the ability to just jump in the car and drive to the closest McDonald’s if the cafeteria here at work is closed, so that means that I don’t work through my lunch time anymore; I take the time to stop and eat in the middle of my workday, which is something that I rarely did before.

Not everyone can give up their cars full-time or even part-time like me. I’m fortunate to have a public transport system that’s fairly convenient, a job that does not have rigid hours (so it doesn’t matter if I oversleep, I can still afford to take the train and be an hour and a half late…like I did today), and no disabilities that require private travel in a vehicle. The fact that going car-lite is an option available to me because of my various privileges is something that I’m sorry to say that I failed to acknowledge in my last post about killing my car.

The public discourse regarding driving and its effect on the environment for the most part does not seem to take into account all of the people who, for a myriad of reasons, really CAN’T ride a bike or take the train or walk to work or the grocery store. There are definitely people for whom cars are a luxury (I would count myself among them), but there are plenty for whom cars are a necessity. There are people who literally NEED their cars to either support themselves, their livelihoods, or their families. Public transportation can only go so far, and there are definitely limits in accessibility (wheelchair ramps are really not the end-all, be-all of accessibility, ya’ll) on trains and busses.

We need to expand the dialogue to include those who have been left out if we really intend to find solutions. Some people will always need private vehicles, but there are others who are currently locked out of non-vehicular travel options and they need not be.

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2 Responses to “I’m Car-Lite and I’m All Right”

  1. Jo Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this and will now ramble on…

    When I was in my internship in graduate school, it would have been feasible for me to take the train to the metro to my internship… but I would have struggled at least one night a week to get to my evening classes (still in DC) on time as I would have had to transfer, etc. On top of that, the cost of the train was about five times the cost of me filling up each week. Which was pretty prohibitive in graduate school.

    My current job would be almost bus-able from my house except that the bus that would get me several miles closer to my job (on a road with no sidewalks, minimal shoulder, and speeding cars) only runs 4-5 times a day (something like 6:30 am, 9:30 am, 2:00 pm, 6:00 pm, 10:00 pm) which would prevent me from having the flexibility I need for my job (or keep me there until 10:00 at night). The alternative would be to take a bus to that road and then bike the rest of the way but I do not trust 99% of motorists to do their part to keep me safe and road is curvy and pretty much pitch black at night.

    I consider a car mostly a luxury for me; it is a luxury I love to have. I am fortunate to own my own car outright and ultimately don’t pay TOO much month-to-month for gas, insurance, and maintenence. I do not love my impact on the environment, but I do make attempts to consider my route (before retracing my steps 924802348 times) and to choose cars that have better mileage.

    I DO wish I felt that I had more of a choice sometimes. I often feel restricted by the unsafe behavior of motorists, the lack of bike lanes as an option, and the (relatively) poor public transportation system in the vast majority of areas in the state. I also like to truck my dog around, which works better in a car.

    End rant / long long comment going nowhere!

    • Jo Says:

      I also used the MTA website to figure out how long it would take me; they estimate an hour and fourteen minutes, getting me to work by 9:53 am. My drive is usually 20-25 minutes in the morning (and 15 if I leave after 9:30)… which isn’t prohibitive (a lot of good-for-the-environment-good-for-your-health-good-for-not-destroying-the-world things take time) but IS annoying.

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