Friday, August 23, 2013

Could you live without your car?

I enjoy driving. There's nothing quite like feeling the rush of the wind as I'm cruising down the highway in my FR-S, with the windows rolled down and having complete control with every turn and burst of speed I make. Now, I'm all for promoting a healthy lifestyle by walking or biking places when possible, but the freedom to go where and when you want is not easily replaceable, especially when you live outside a major city in areas with rampant urban sprawl. For this reason, I don't think I could give up the ability to turn the key in my ignition and be halfway down highway 270 in a matter of minutes.

These days, more and more articles are popping up online about how millennials don't seem to care as much about owning a vehicle. They claim that we're driving less not just because of economical reasons, but for societal ones as well. The big argument at stake is that we're living life more for the experiences than for possessions. Does that mean it's cool to not have a car anymore? Even with gas constantly hovering near $4 a gallon, I would argue against that (as would my odometer)!

For every teenager and young adult we read about who is cherishing the benefits of going car-free, there are just as many who are earning their licenses and eagerly waiting to own a vehicle, or getting excited to buy a car with their first "real world" job. This rings true when you consider that not everyone in America has access to efficient mass-transit systems where restaurants, shopping, and other amenities are a short distance away. Would we like those things to be closer? Sure! Those who are attached to their cars are not all that different from the car free advocates. We still rely on technology to socialize and plan our outings, but realize that trying to do so without our vehicles is not always an option when you have friends spread out over urban, suburban, and rural areas.

Another thing to consider is just how many activities and places of interest are centered around driving to the destination. In St. Louis, for example, we love going on float trips in the summer, visiting theme parks like Six Flags, and spending time in Forest Park. All of those activities are made immensely easier by owning a car, whether you're transporting inner tubes, food for a picnic, or several kids!

Instead of focusing on the idea of going completely car free, it would be more realistic (and beneficial) for all of us to encourage the growth of bike paths and walkable neighborhoods in the areas where we live, and also promote more businesses that are located near those spots. This will give us a reason to drive less, but also one that most car-free advocates support the most: it helps to bring the sense of community back to our neighborhoods, whether we choose to get there by foot, bike, or in a Prius.

Delmar Loop, St. Louis Loop, Bike Friendly,

Do you think you could give up your car? What would it take?  


  1. I would love to not own a car, but is that practical in a city like St. Louis? No! Because the public transportation is not great here. If I were in New York or the heart of Chicago, I could easily get by without a car (and it's never ending expenses).
    People want to be closer to the shopping district, restaurants, movie theatres, but everything is built so far out plus bad public transit makes it all complicated. Also corporate giants like Walmart replacing several local shops is a contributing factor. People are more dependent on a Walmart that is 30 miles away (for a lot of small cities) and to get to that you need a car! You cannot possibly bike to shops, grocery stores. So that option is out.
    Bottomline - if you're in America, you need a car! Otherwise you're pretty much dependent on others who own a car.

  2. Appreciate the comment! I think so many of these articles being written about youth losing interest in vehicle ownership aren't considering statistics outside of NYC or Chicago.

    1. Whoever is writing such articles should consider doing a social experiment and live in a small town of Nebraska or even Massachusetts.

  3. This is a great article. I just moved into Philadelphia this weekend and it's hard getting used to the street parking. I was told you could find spots anytime before 9 and last night I found that out to be true. I had to go out and get groceries so I had to take my car. Unfortunately I had a sweet parking spot in front of my house and by the time I got pack (15 Minutes later) it was gone. It took me about 30 minutes to find another spot. I would also love not to own a car and be able to take public transportation to work and such. It would save me a lot of time and the hassle of finding spots some days. Unfortunately that is not the case since I work out side the city. Other then little shops in the city, I need to take a car to get to different places. I even had to rely on a car to take me to toyota in new jersey to even buy a car when I moved to PA. I wish I did not depend on a car but unfortunately I can not at this moment. Thanks for the great article!

  4. My pleasure. Thanks for sharing your story, and good luck getting those sweet parking spots!