About 10 years ago, my husband suggested that we get rid of our two cars and take transit everywhere instead.
My response? No. Way.
As someone born and raised in New Jersey, home of the Turnpike (Exit 5A) and the traffic circle, my relationship with my car is primal. (Never mind that my car is a 12-year-old Honda inherited from my in-laws.)
But now that my employer has moved closer to the downtown Minneapolis core and generously subsidizes my transit pass, I’m thinking one of those cars sitting in my garage can go.
Which is exactly what Minneapolis resident Gene Tierney wants to hear.
Tierney, a former commercial real estate developer and confirmed baby boomer, has founded a nonprofit group called CarFreeLife (www.carfreelife.org) which promotes living car-free, or “car light.”
The mission of his group is to educate people about the perks of giving up one’s car (or just one of your cars).
He says it’s easier now more than ever to relinquish your wheels — given the metro area’s budding transit and bike networks, and the availability of bike, car- and ride-sharing services such as Nice Ride, Car2Go, Hourcar, Zip Car and Uber/Lyft.
You can order just about anything from services such as Amazon Prime with doorstep delivery. Plus, developers are increasingly building transit-oriented developments, close to the train and bus. (Tierney admits that suburbanites may find it tough to go carless.)
The obvious reason to abandon one’s car is financial.
AAA estimates that giving up one car saves people $8,698 a year. That includes fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration fees, depreciation, taxes, and finance charges for a “typical sedan” traveling 15,000 miles a year.
That doesn’t include any sort of monthly car payment, AAA said. And it does not factor in how much it costs to commute using another transit mode.
Tierney says cars affect our communities with harmful emissions and increased health care costs associated with a car-oriented sedentary lifestyle.
“I don’t want this to be polarizing or anti-car,” says the affable Tierney. “I’m not trying to convert anyone, just share information.”
Recently, Tierney teamed up with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Community Vitality to look at how relinquishing your car affects the local economy.
The U’s economic model found that for households making $50,000 to $75,000 annually, giving up one vehicle would add $6,813 to the Hennepin County economy. As these savings are spent locally, the ripple effect of increased economic spending ultimately totals $11,270.
There’s also a negative impact of $5,732 — including lost business for insurance companies, financial institutions that finance cars, local governments that issue license tabs and registration, gas stations and auto repair shops.
All told, the U’s research estimates that a household relinquishing a car in Hennepin County would contribute $5,538 in annual economic activity.
Brigid Tuck, senior economic impact analyst at the U, says the study is hardly exhaustive. “It’s a starting point for a discussion, it sets up parameters for thinking about the issue,” she said.
For example, the economic model used does not take into account households that simply shift miles to another vehicle, the costs of alternative transportation, or the number of residents willing to actually give up their car.
“At this point,” Tuck said, “it’s an eyeball estimate.”