With oil prices recently hitting $100 a barrel, and gasoline expected to average $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, driving a car is about to become a lot more expensive. As I filled the tank of my mini-van last night, and paid $53 for the privilege, I fondly thought back to the days when I didn't even own a car.

I'm not talking about my high school days, although I didn't own a car then, either. In fact, I didn't own my first car until I was 23 years old, and I was just fine without one. I had lived in Norfolk, Virginia, which has a great public transit system. Back then, a five mile trip on the bus from the Navy base to Military Circle Mall was 50 cents. If the place I needed to go to was within a mile or two, I walked. I walked a lot, and I was in great shape back then, too.

I lived in New York for awhile as well, and there are literally millions of people in the city who don't own cars. They either take a train, a bus, a taxi or they walk to get to where they need to go. It wasn't until I moved to Minneapolis that I needed to buy a car. They have buses there, too...but I needed a car for my job and to drive home on the weekends, which was 120 miles from Minneapolis. For the most part, in a major city, you probably can get by without a car.

Our cars represent a bit of independence, a "home away from home" and many people are reluctant to think about not having a car, or using theirs less. But, that's exactly what I have decided to do. I do need my mini-van so my wife can get to doctor appointments and for work-related activities, but we will be using it a lot less. After I spent $53 buying gas last night, I informed my wife we would be grouping our errands for the week into one day. Grocery shopping, doctor appointments, errands around town...they all need to be scheduled on the same day as much as possible, to cut down on individual trips all over town.

In about two weeks, I will move to a new home which is located about half a mile from my job. I will be walking to work most of the time, and riding my bike in the summer. The gas in the van can be used for errands and to take my son to school, which is located about 10 miles from where we will live.

In Oklahoma City, where I live, there are other options to driving as well. The city's transit system has a bus pass which allows people to ride the buses an unlimited number of times for $40 per month. That's less than what I paid for a tank of gas. I'm going to get one of these for my son, so he can take the bus from school to his job. It will save me plenty of money in the long run. A tank of gas currently lasts me about five days. Since a tank of gas costs about $50, well...you can do the math. I'd rather not continue to pay $300 a month for gasoline.

With gas prices on the rise, now is the time to develop alternative transportation plans. If you can't give up your car altogether through public transit, carpooling, walking or bicycling, you can at least use some or all of these methods to CUT BACK on your reliance on your car. It's not as convenient, but it will save money...and you might even get into shape while you're at it.

2 comments

  1. Anonymous // January 8, 2008 at 1:36 PM  

    A new idea that is taking hold across the country is "car share" -- a company owns, insures, and maintains the car or cars, and they are parked in a central place. You pay a small fee per month to join, then pay by the hour and mile to use the car. You sign up for the use on the internet, walk up to the car, use it as scheduled, return it. There's a gas credit card included, you buy gas on the car company's nickel. Much much cheaper and less hassle than rental cars. They say the average user spends about $45/month using the car.

    Of course -- you have to be somebody who lives near the cars, and you have to not need a car everyday. I was intrigued that some of the cars were vans or pickup trucks, I can foresee a day of freecycling furniture etc, which I haven't always been able to do because I didn't have a way to transport the bigger items.

    Just Google "car share" and your city's name to see if you have this near you.

  2. SavvyFrugality // January 8, 2008 at 9:50 PM  

    Hey, that's a great idea! I didn't see any "car share" programs or businesses in my area, but I did come across some listings for carpooling, which is also a good idea if you can stick to it.

    A few cities tried a "yellow bike" project a few years ago. Several bikes were located around the city, and the idea was if you saw one parked somewhere, you could just take it and use it, and leave it in another public place for the next person to use. However, many of the bikes fell into disrepair and were unsafe to ride, and even though the bikes were painted a horrendous color to deter theft (such as bright yellow), some of the bikes did get stolen.

    I'm moving within a mile of my job, so I plan to walk most of the time, and ride my bike for slightly longer trips. I'll use the car for things that I can't do with a bicyle, such as pick up groceries.

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