Category Archives: walk score

The Current Cost of Not Owning a Vehicle

We are approaching two months in Buffalo, without a car of our own. We spent $149.50 in August, and $249.11 in September on parking, bus, train, taxi, car share (gas & insurance included), tolls, and related memberships. The break out:

August $129.50

  • $96.00 Car share
  • $33.50 Bus/train

We certainly were more conservative with our transportation dollars our first month in Buffalo. We had a lapse in income and insurance to hurdle over, but we made it to the other side, without any significant financial surprises.

September $249.11

  • $137.00 Car share
  • $49.50 Bus/train
  • $30.00 Taxi
  • $12.00 Parking/tolls
  • $21.60 Membership/mileage overage from September

There was a week in September where I felt like it was “Monday” every day. I was making mistakes too frequently. I signed up for a car share to attend Eiki’s first soccer game, then left my keys with the fob in Brent’s bike, and he was at work. We took the public bus to London’s school on her first day and I bought a round trip ticket, forgetting those were only good on the train. Then I put the adult fare in the bus slot, instead of the reduced amount for a child. It was money spent, that we couldn’t recover. We attended Eiki’s second game, but then due to the substantial walking and waiting we encountered on that particular bus route, we decided to take a taxi back to our bikes waiting at the train station. It all adds up, but it didn’t amount to much when put into the perspective of car ownership, or did it?

Then there is the issue concerning the cost of convenience and quality of life. It takes a lot to leave me feeling like something wasn’t worth my time, or was a nuisance to my day. One of the reasons we choose to bike and walk is because we want the day to slow down. We enjoy the extra time rolling around the neighborhood, under scheduling, experiencing new things, and staying in touch with the weather. However, when London missed the bus to school last week, we didn’t hesitate to borrow the car share vehicle. It was the least inconvenient mode at the time, and we now know we need to work on a better plan B. So it’s all relative.

Had we maintained possession of our vehicle with our move, and used it instead of transit, car share and a taxi, what would our costs have been? That’s more difficult to calculate. I haven’t been tracking mileage, as we are spread in five different directions daily. I wasn’t sure if we should consider the cost of the yellow school bus, and how would you? Those miles are certainly accountable, it was just too much to consider, right now. Maybe another month I will take it on.

I maintain that I am uncertain about any future car ownership. The temptation is strong to buy another van, giving us the “walk out the door and into the car” convenience for out of town trips. I think the urge might be reduced if our local car share had a van parked in our neighborhood. Family size certainly affects our costs for the bus/train, but it also necessitates a larger vehicle, and that is a cost we pay in time to retrieve it.

While we could go purchase a car, I have been researching and dreaming about a bakfiets. We are staring into the frosty crystal ball that has winter white swirling all around, and wondering, could this be the vehicle that maintains our cycling lifestyle a midst colder/harsher conditions? It’s the vehicle of choice for so many with wonderful winters. My research has led to me to learn from the following (who also have resourceful blogrolls):

  • Modal Mom, Lana is riding a variety of bikes in Ottawa, Ontario with her son
  • Copenhagenize, a multi-contributor blog about building better cities, based out of Denmark
  • Chicargobike, this parenting pair write from the windy city about Chicago infrastructure and biking around with four children

For added good reads I took a moment to look up our neighborhood’s Walk Score: 77, Transit Score: 59, Bike Score: 55.

Right. That’s it for now. Cost break down of transportation for two months without a car, and some thoughts on how to proceed as we approach the fourth season. Cheers!

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Our Vehicle History: Brent

Part 1, my car history is back here. Part 3, our history together will be out soon. And this, Part 2, is probably a poor account of what Brent told me, but he won’t write it himself. Something to do with that full time job he has and all those extra accounts he works on. I just don’t understand what he means when he says “I don’t have the time.”

Mean while I am spending all his money. I paid for the bike he bought (with the credit card) several weeks ago , bought two plane tickets to Phoenix to my sister’s wedding and still have money put back for school tuition that is coming due. The tuition and the bike were from the extra income he has been earning, but the trip is all because of the savings from not driving our cars this month. No gas, no car payment (because we paid it off with other extra income Brent earned this summer), and reduced car insurance=$600 for two plane tickets, one for me, one for my other sister (who’s celebrating her golden birthday today). I can’t wait to surprise both of my siblings with the news that we will all be together for a wedding.

Back to Brent
During his early teen years Brent biked around his hometown of Ravenswood, WV. He likes to tell a story of working at tomato farm in Ohio, just over the river. He would get up early and bike over the bridge in all conditions to earn his piddly wages. Once he fell asleep while riding. I still can’t imagine how this is possible, but he and his mother swear it’s true. To make the story more dramatic, he was riding over the bridge when it happened.

At the age of seventeen he got his first set of wheels, a Chevette. He recalls driving it everywhere, ditching the bike, as it was no longer cool and going through a series of vehicles till he moved to Parkersburg, WV. He lived without a car for about a year and half, walking and carpooling with his girlfriend, co workers, neighbors, etc. He then moved to Columbus, OH, again without a vehicle. He choose an apartment blocks from work and a nieghborhood with a high walk score* (should he have checked back in the ’90s).

He had a client at work in Columbus who owned a used car lot and  Brent was persuaded to buy an Eagle Talon. He was driving this car when I met him in 2001 and it was this car that was hit on May 23 of that year and deemed a total loss by the insurance company. Thus beginning our car story together.

*For comparison, the Huntingon, WV zip code, 25701 has a walk score of ZERO. Our actual home address here in town has a score of 54/100. What is your walk score?

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