Car freedom came to me the day my car broke down and I had it towed to the nearest BMW dealership. Just four months earlier, I had spent nearly $2,000 in repairs and this one was likely going to cost at least that much.
So, that fall day, I sold it to the dealership.
And since then, I have been happily without a car. All this talk and news stories about high gas prices ($5.50 here in San Diego and it’s more than $7 at some stations where I used to live in L.A.) affect me not at all. If these high gas prices continue, car owners may echo what boat owners have been saying for decades: “the happiest days as a boat owner are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.”
How do I get around, you ask? Well, for one I live in an area – San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter – where I use a bike for local transportation. I go to the store with a backpack on my back; the store is just a five-minute ride from my apartment so I can go back another day if I need more groceries. Or wine!
For excursions outside of the immediate area, I use the trolley, either in combination with my bike or the bus system. The latter takes me pretty close – a few blocks to a half a mile – from my destination. The bike provides great mobility.
If I need to be a place in a hurry, I take Lyft or Uber. The monthly cost of this is less than I was paying to park in the apartment’s garage. I also save about $1,500 a year on car insurance and who knows how much on parking around town. (Plus, I don’t ever have to worry about parking tickets!)
For longer trips – for example, I travel to LA frequently to co-host PubClub’s video podcast, PubClub LIVE! – I take either Amtrak or something called the Flex Bus. Amtrak is about $70 round trip; Flex Bus is about half that price.
And by the way, I really enjoy riding Amtrak. In San Diego and through southern Orange County, it rolls right along the Pacific Ocean. I can see cars on the freeway – a journey I have done countless times – and know I don’t have to worry about traffic at the El Toro Y – the notoriously bad merging point of the 5 and 405 freeways – or elsewhere and can sit back sipping a glass of wine.
Can’t do that in the car!
Now I realize this approach is not practical for everyone. For starters, one needs to live in an area with at least acceptable public transportation (and this does not include L.A., unless you happen to live, work and play in the same area).
I also don’t have to commute to a job, drop off and pick up kids at school or do many of the other daily tasks that are so common to Americans in so many cities.
But perhaps if people would unhinge themselves from their vehicles and look at alternatives – riding a bike is a great thing, plus it’s good for your health – and become willing to at least try local public transportation, then the high price of gas won’t affect you quite as much as it does now.
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