Life without cars–public transportation matters! As do temporary cars

21 Sep

Photo courtesy RTA

The Thrifty BonVivant does not drive, though she finally got a driver’s license some years back, just in case. Though my non-use of a personal vehicle did not originate with eco-friendliness (though I wave in a friendly way at that old blue friend), nor did it originate with poverty, it makes me stand in solidarity with those who have given up cars for either reason–or for reasons of sight, legal issues, etc.  Yesterday my RTA bus wore a big “X”, a move that yesterday and Monday was meant to remind viewers and riders that there’s currently a threat of federal proposed cuts of 30% to transportation–they held a rally on Public Square in Downtown Cleveland. It’s already nearly impossible (or just incredibly time-intensive) to get from Cleveland’s West Side to East Side on buses, and I don’t get to my Kaiser HMO when I need to because they inconsiderately don’t have a downtown location–and the others aren’t RTA friendly.

But I’m a big advocate of RTA nonetheless. Not only does every bus ride promise a story, it CAN take you plenty of places in a thrifty manner. Best of all, the downtown streetcar lines E and B are FREE, in charming vintage cars, and handily get around even drivers who don’t want to lose their parking spots. Taking either trolley route on a lark gives you a quick tour of downtown and may take you on streets you’ve never seen–and it lacks most of the obstacles of the buses. With management, many wonderful places can be reached on buses and trains as well. Today’s destination? The Cleveland Museum of Art. My choice–direct RTA train to Cedar Rd. Station, with a free shuttle to the museum, or the Healthline to Case Western’s campus, and a two block walk to our free and fantastic museum. Price? $2.25 for the one-way fare, $5 for a day pass. Not a bad deal.

Taking public transportation can ruin your day. How many times have I been concerned that lingering stink from a fellow unlaundered passenger might have fingers pointing at me? (The Thrifty BonVivant wants her own limo and driver to avoid such encounters). Or wondered if a squabble might turn into a battle? And yet, the New Yorkers’ policy of eyes focused only on reading material remains a great option (reading while driving a car? inadvisable).Future posts will deal with long distance thrift transport, we’re just talking locally today.

Zip car for thrifty travelers

Sometimes a car rental is a useful occasional alternative, especially if you’re not bent on Cleveland winter bicycling. How about CSU’s new participation in the ZipCar program? This is a car-sharing program for students, faculty and staff that has a $35 annual fee (right now it’s just $25). After that, it’s $8 per hour or $66 per day, which includes gas, insurance, breakdown help and up to 180 miles of driving per day; more here–  Zipcar has programs all around the country, so you’re not just limited to Cleveland, and it’s cheaper than most rental agencies. Ah, but is it fun or elegant? You’ll need to tell me.

Now how much saving am I doing by not driving? That’s like asking how much I save by not smoking–without the comparison, I just don’t know. But–no car note, no insurance, no mechanic’s fees do add up. For those who drive, consider experimenting once a week, and see if you could make the shift–and then sympathize with those who have no choice, and urge legislators to support public transport.


6 Responses to “Life without cars–public transportation matters! As do temporary cars”

  1. lily September 24, 2011 at 9:29 PM #

    I have been studying your web site anytime I get a chance…and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy it! Thanks for your contributions to this subject matter!

    • Thrifty Bon Vivant September 25, 2011 at 2:19 PM #

      Thanks so much, Lily! I appreciate the encouragement, and eventually will settle into a cycle of themes for the different realms of life.

  2. Christine Borne September 26, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    Curious about your reason for not driving. Mine is that I just feel resentful that we’ve arranged our society in such a way that it forces you to own something expensive when chances are, you can’t afford it.

    Also this book says you can save about $8,000 a year by not having a car. I think that’s about right…although when I did own a car it was a beater that I didn’t have to make payments on. Also check out Green Metropolis.

    Good luck with your thrifty experiment!

    • Thrifty Bon Vivant September 26, 2011 at 10:55 AM #

      Although I thoroughly approve of my own greening, I must confess my reasons are mundane. Learned in H.S. Driver’s ed course on an automatic, but had a stick (and hills) at home; didn’t get license then and was in continuous school for a long time. Lived overseas (where I actually had a driver! Woohoo!) then back. Was used to Philadelphia’s comprehensive public transit, where it didn’t create a problem. More challenging in Cleveland. Got the license after a refresher course a few years back, but at this stage, it’s really only an emergency option. I’m so used to reading, texting and daydreaming while moving that I don’t think I’d be a great driver. I know people who stop driving can save plenty–but the savings from never driving are just absorbed and invisible. Wish I’d banked that $8000/yr!

  3. Health Insurance Cleveland October 9, 2011 at 2:34 PM #

    Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing on your rss feed and I’m hoping you write again very soon!

    • Thrifty Bon Vivant October 10, 2011 at 4:10 PM #

      Thanks so much! I’m trying to squeeze one out daily, at wildly varying times.

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