Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Car Lite Update

Another of my goals for 2012 in the theme of being mindful is to drive less than 6500 miles (541/mo; 125/wk). Much like dining out, this goal is twofold: lowering our environmental impact and saving money. Let me give a bit of background for those that are new to my blog. After we moved downtown in January 2009, we tried to live without a car since so many of our destinations are within walking distance. The biggest challenge was work 15 miles away, but we could bike or take the bus there. Our initial attempt did not work because we still had a car and it was too easy to drive whenever it was slightly inconvenient to bike or take the bus. On June 7, 2010, my car broke down and we chose not to fix it to give this a real shot. It took a lot of planning and creativity, but we lived 4 months without the car, and our lives changed forever. We learned patience, flexibility, and resourcefulness, and our stress was greatly reduced. We've since fixed the car, but we still strive to drive it as little as possible.

For me, driving a car (which I hate) comes near last in my preferred modes of transportation: walking, cycling, train, bus, boat, car, plane. (Side note: while I prefer to fly in a plane to riding in a car, it is last because the environmental impact is far greater than driving, and it's a mode that I use so rarely). In actual use, it's probably closer to this: bus/car, walking, cycling (the others are for special circumstances, so it's not fair to rank them, although train travel is amazing and would be #1 if I could take it everywhere). On closer inspection, we drove more than we rode the bus last year: if I figure 25 miles a day to work, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, that's at most 6,500 miles by bus, and I know it's less because we drove or biked to work some days, and we did not work a full 52 weeks. We drove over 1200 more miles than that last year. I'd like to change this statistic to have the car last.

Last year, I set a goal of driving less than 4000 miles. That was a very aggressive goal and we did not quite meet it, but we drove the car 2,844 less than in the previous year: 7,713 miles in 2011 vs 10,557 miles in 2010. This is actually really amazing when you consider that in 2010 we lived without a car for 4 months, so we made more efficient use of the car in 2011 when we had it available all the time. When you average the miles per month, we drove 1,320/month over the 8 months when we had a car in 2010 vs 643/month over 12 months in 2011. That's less than half per month, so I'm really pleased with that. But we can do better :)

I want to be mindful of every trip we take by car. If we plan ahead, there are very few times we'll need to use it. There are of course exceptions, most notable criteria are distance and time (but again pre-planning can counter the time constraint). Another major criteria is if we need to haul something that won't fit on our bike rack or trailer, but this doesn't happen often and will happen even less as we continue to declutter our home.

In January, we drove 622 miles. That was a bit higher than my goal, but most trips were needed. Here is a breakdown as best as I can remember of when we used the car:

  • running group: 25 miles/week. It kills me to drive less than 5 miles each way to run with my group, but we start at 5 am during the week and I already get up early enough. I still need to be able to function the rest of the day at work. Biking there on the weekends is a bit more feasible, but it depends on the weather, start time and milage. I often bring extra clothes and food for before/after, and I may not always want to bike 5 miles home after running 20+ miles. I'm going to try to bike there more often though or at least carpool.
  • work: 4 x 30 miles roundtrip. Jason needed to bring stuff home from his office, or we had to be home at a specific time for another commitment.
  • volunteer at Disney: bus didn't run that early
  • races: DeLeons & Ocala; too far and too early for bike or bus
  • storage: needed the car capacity to haul everything home, which saved us $100/mo by getting rid of it.
  • random errands: needed to get there before business closed

Generally speaking, I'd like to use the criteria below as a guide of when to use each mode of transportation

  • < 2 miles (1 way): walk
  • < 5 miles (1 way): bike
  • races > 5 miles or tri/du: car
  • work: bus or bike
  • running group: drive or bike
  • visit my family: car or bus (weather/time permitting)
  • time constrain: car (or plan better to take bus/bike)
  • large/heavy load: bike trailer or car (depends on size/shape and distance)
  • visit Jason's mom: train
  • visit Jason's dad: car or plane
  • airport: bus
  • > 5 miles, time/weather permitting: bus (if service in that area) or bike or car

Meeting our goal in February will be tricky because it includes the trip to Jacksonville for our marathon, but we should use the car very little otherwise. I'll keep you posted :)

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