The Carless Report

So after going a week without a car I thought it would be appropriate to give you all a report on how that went.  Overall I have to admit I didn’t actually mind most of the experience.

Ok, I won’t lie.  The one day it was a -44C windchill during my walk to the bus sucked…there is utter no way to sugar coat that.  Yet if you dress properly for it (like minimum of two or three layers just about everywhere) and only have a small area to allow you to see you can endure it.  I had no frostbite during any of my trips.

I think what I noticed the most about going careless was having to plan more about my trips.  For example, taking the bus to work was fairly easy, but when I headed out one night to a meeting I had to look up which bus to take to get there.  Not a big deal, but a different mind set.  Also I noticed a loss of convenience, I just couldn’t stay later at work to finish something up for 10 minutes…I would miss my bus, so I had to consider if I was willing to wait for the next one in 30 minutes.

The experience also made me grateful for the friends who offered me the occasional ride.  Often it wasn’t a big deal for them to help me out (in one case it was literally a one block detour), but it often could save me a half an hour or more on my day.  I also enjoyed walking more to get some of my local errands done like picking up some books from the library.  I did notice I had to watch how much I was carrying around since anything heavy could be a problem to walk around with for too long.  I noticed the backpack helped a bit, but doing our major grocery run would require a cab ride home as there is just too much to haul.

So could I go careless on a permanent basis?  In theory, yes, but given our transit system I would likely avoid doing that in Regina.  It would be too big of a lose of convenience for us, given a lot of places we go on a regular basis aren’t well served by the transit system.  Yet the experience did make me consider how much I am driving and make me appreciate what I do have.  That old line from Big Yellow Taxi  by Joni Mitchell seems to cover it “Don’t it always seem to go. That you don’t know what you‘ve got. Till it’s gone.”

So what have you went without?  Did you ever go back or did it change your you?

6 thoughts on “The Carless Report”

  1. Tim, your comment about how you had to look up the bus schedule before you could figure out if you could leave work at a certain time brings back memories of my working days. I used public transit (commuter trains) for nearly all of the 23 years I worked. There were only certain times I would leave the office because those were the optimal times to catch my trains. If I left 5 minutes earlier, I’d get home the same time. If I left 5 minutes later, I would miss the next train and get home 20 minutes later. This totally changed my concept of time.

    Also complicating things was the fact that I had to take another train (a subway or something similar) to get to my commuter train, the one which operated on an actual fixed schedule. This meant that I had to allow a reasonable amount of time to make my connection, so if that first train got delayed by more “fat” than I built into my schedule, then I’d miss my connection. This is what life was like using the trains in New York City for 23 years and why I have stated in your blog all the time how much I hated that commute. (This was one of many reasons, BTW.)

  2. Generally I am pretty organized in my head for time. I give myself an hour to get anywhere in Toronto within a certain distance and an hour to get back (I need to transfer twice to get home).

    I am usually always about 15 minutes to half an hour early which suits me fine because I hate being late.

    With the transit system in Toronto, I do not have a problem taking it.. except for those odd days where the sidewalk is covered in half a foot of ice and it’s just so damn cold you can’t even breathe without hurting your lungs.

    In Montreal.. not so much. It is still better than other cities for sure, but it isn’t up to par with the service of Toronto (plus it gets colder in Montreal).

    That said, while I don’t own a car personally (yet), but I am damn happy that we have one to use when we go get groceries. I simply cannot imagine how people handle schlepping all those fruits, vegetables, bottles of milk and things back to the house (rice, flour, staples etc) on a weekly basis without a car.

    Without a car, I’d have to rent one, for sure. At least once a week with autoshare just to get groceries.

  3. I went without a car for 2 years but I was retired. I walked or biked(in summer)to get around. There is absolutely no transit in this small town of mine except taxis. However I got tired of asking for the spouse’s car when I needed it. So I bought a new car in 2010. No regrets. However it certainly was a good cost saving program during those two years.

  4. I am a carless household (2 adults, 2 kids) in small town (pop. approx 10,000)
    We’ve been carless almost 5 years now.
    Both of us work in this town within 1.5km of home.
    We use a combination of walk, bike (bike trailer for groceries often), Car Share (, Car Rental, bus.
    All together it works for us.
    I totally agree with that you have to plan a little more.
    Many folks will find it much easier to go to 1 vehicle per household, rather than give up that last one.

  5. It’s definitely different in the Prairies (Saskatoon) trying to go without a car than it is in the big city. I find it also depends on where you’re going. When I’m working in the home office, it’s a pretty convenient 27 min bus ride, no parking fees downtown, and also convenient for a 20min bike ride in the summer. But I’ve been at the clients office for more than 4 years, where the bus ride would be 1hr 19mins each way (1 transfer) and the bike ride is more like 45 mins, finishing off with a ride for the last 1.5km through busy industrial traffic, the alternative is a 10-15min drive with free parking. I have a friend in Toronto who is mostly happy carless, lives across the street from the subway that takes her to a stop across the street from her office. The subway complex near her condo contains a grocery store. But she wonders if she’d be more involved with her friends if she wasn’t limited in where she could get to and when due to transit schedules or cab costs. I personally couldn’t go carless and give up the trips to my parents farm or my sister in Alberta or over to my girlfriends place 1hr 15mins by bus or 18 mins by car.

  6. Hey Derek, try suggesting that your Toronto friend look for a carshare group. Similar to renting by the hour, rather than the day rate that a car rental company would do. And much cheaper. You only pay for what you need.

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