For nineteen consecutive days, I haven’t driven a car. This despite the fact that during those nineteen days, we bought a new(ish) car, and had a loaner– a fancy Honda Crosstour– while the dealership repaired a scratch on our new car.
I’m feeling fairly saint-like for resisting the Crosstour. But other than that temptation, my year of not using my car is off to a good start. My life doesn’t feel terribly different, mostly because I’ve made a lot of changes in the last few years that reduced the amount of driving I was doing. One of the key elements that makes my experiment possible is where I live. Denver is especially suited for alternative transportation because it’s a decent bicycling city, the weather is nearly always walkable (with the right gear), and it is so proactive about public transportation. Which brings me to my third reason (see second reason, first reason here) that I’m not using my car for a year; because it’s possible. Because I can.
Denver and (some of) its surrounding suburbs are particularly friendly towards car-less lifestyles. The bus system, although not fast or efficient and possessing an atmosphere that resembles a bad combination of the Wild West and Mad Men-style misogyny, is cheap, and densely veined all across the metro area. One of my goals this year is to test the geographical limits of RTD.
Another thing that makes my car-less lifestyle possible, and even enjoyable, is the lightrail system. After two years of relying heavily on the lightrail for getting downtown, I have zero complaints about it. Zero! How many things can I say that about? The only thing that would make it better (does this count as a complaint?) is if the lightrail could take you more places. And RTD is working on that as fast as they can. By the end of 2016, seventeen cities* will have lightrail tracks running next to or through them: Golden, Lakewood, Denver, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Federal Heights, Westminster, Commerce City, Montbello, Green Valley Ranch, Aurora, Centennial, Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Englewood, Sheridan.
Not that it makes commuting easier, but while I’m crushing on the lightrail, I might as well gush about the obvious, that the lightrail is a train, and trains make cool noises; there’s friendly beeps, pleasant dings, and the quiet whir, a cross between white noise and wind, of the tracks as the train approaches. I love living within walking distance of the train, and I like hearing those sounds through an open window.
Carpooling is another system that has made my experiment relatively easier so far. I carpool to the grocery store, to my writing group (endless thanks to Andy!), to lakes where the trout ignore my bait.
Carpooling to the mountains is more fun than driving in alone. Although, it’s not a replacement for quality alone time in nature, and I still plan to experiment with getting into the mountains solo and car-less. In fact, a big goal of mine this year is to push the boundaries of where a car-less life can take me. What can I accomplish? Where can I go? Commuting may be the biggest challenge in a car-less year, but it’s also the least glamorous. I’m looking forward to discovering how much fun I can have during my car-less year.
*This is my personal, super unofficial count. I could very well be missing a city, or five.