This is a great "Why to" and "How to" book for Peak Oil preparers living in cities who would like to reduce their dependence on cars, save more money for potential financial disruptions, prepare for a more physical life by getting more exercise, and reduce their negative impact on the environment. Hey - may as well do it now, while gas is $3.50 a gallon, rather than when gas is $6 a gallon.
Chris, a seven time Emmy-Award winning journalist, is also a former SUV driver who started feeling the pain of rising gas prices. He sold his SUV sooner than anticipated and he was left, briefly, without a car. He began taking the bus, biking around town, and hitching rides from friends. At the end of the month, he couldn't believe the excess balance left in his bank account and soon became a car-free advocate.
His primary argument is that cars and SUV's cost much more than you think they do. When you add up the cost of car payments, financing, insurance, gas, depreciation, maintenance, repairs, car washes, car tags and title, parking, speeding tickets, and so on, the True Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a car is about $8400 ($700/month), while for an SUV the TCO is nearer to $10,000 ($833/month). And that was at 2006 prices! If you saved and invested the average TCO instead of spending it on your car, at a 5% return, you would have over $100,000 in 10 years. Whoa!
Of course, a car based transportation system also causes all sorts of other problems both for individuals and society. Take a look at the following list:
- Pain and suffering from car accidents (3 million injured in the US in 2003)
- Deaths from car accidents (Over 46,000 in US in 2003)
- Car accidents are the leading cause of deaths for infants and children
- Air pollution
- Carbon emissions contributing to global warming
- Noise pollution
- Stress caused by traffic
- Time wasted in traffic
- Health problems caused by not enough exercise
- Dead wildlife and animals (road kill)
- Wildlife habitat fragmentation
- Sprawl from unchecked development enabled by cars and cheap oil
- Use of diminishing fossil fuel resources
- Waste trash and pollution from old tire, motor oil, and car disposal
- The paving of America: roads, highways, driveways, and parking lots
He cites the following as the Six Keys to a Car Free Living:
- Can you get over your ego?
- Do you have a reliable way to get to work without a car (bike, car share, bus, walk)?
- Do you live in an urban or mixed-use development?
- Do you live near amenities?
- Do you have access to public transport?
- Are you flexible?
One of the keys to car free living is getting over the ingrained belief, pummelled into us by advertising and recieved wisdom, that all Americans need and desire a car. Think differently! Many people try to reduce the strain on their transportation budget by taking public transport, and this does eliminate the cost of gas, but most of the financial benefits of not owning a car only come after you sell your car.
If you have a reliable way (or two) to get to work, it's much cheaper and healthier, not to mention environmentally friendly, to release your car, embrace public transport and biking, and just RENT a car for isolated needs like vacations, moving large items, or ferrying guests around town. Chris only puts one sentence in the book in all caps, and it's this: Living within a few miles of where you work will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
He lists the following Top 10 Cities for Car Free Living (from Kathryn Keller, Women's Sport and Fitness magazine):
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Chicago, Illinois
- Denver, Colorado
- New York, New York
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Portland, Oregon
- San Diego, California
- San Francisco, California
- Seattle, Washington
- Washington, D.C.
Having lived in Denver, I can vouch for their public transport and excellent biking trails. They also have a great downton, lower downtown, and historic mixed-use districts surrounding downtown. Even the vast, far off southern suburbs are connected via a system of high-speed Light Rail and Park n' Ride parking lots. When I lived there, I commuted to downtown via bus and really enjoyed avoiding the parking fees, sitting in traffic, and having the extra time to read a book on the way to work. My husband biked to work 2 days a week and rode the bus the other three. (I miss you Denver!) Sadly, Oklahoma City always ranks dead last on these types of lists.
So if you are intrigued by the idea of saving $8,400 a year, reducing stress from traffic and your dependence on your vehicle, and decreasing your impact on the environment, consider reading this book to get the helpful and informative details on ditching your car.