Some interesting news reported last week caught our attention: even though DC has seen an influx of new residents over the past decade, many of the newcomers are choosing to live car free. Over that same time period, the number of car registrations has remained relatively flat.
Coupled with other statistics that show over 35% of the households in the District do not own an automobile, it’s clear many residents are choosing to use Metro, the DC Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, carsharing services and their own 2 feet to move about the city.
These car-free residents include many of DDOT’s own employees. They not only talk the talk, they walk the walk, putting the programs and services they work on into practice and helping shape the Sustainable DC called for by Mayor Gray. Here are a few of their stories. As you will read, they have found their transportation choices liberating rather than restrictive.
Brooke Fossey, Transportation Planner – Policy, Planning & Sustainability Administration
When I got rid of my car in 2004, it was both an economic and quality of life decision—I had found it costly to maintain, I didn’t use it that much, and quite frankly when I did, driving stressed me out! Moving to DC made me realize for the first time how a great transportation network can take you anywhere you need to go without driving. Sometimes it takes a little more planning, but I have found that when you let someone else do the driving, life can be a lot more relaxing.
Seven years later, I still think being car-free enhances my quality of life. I have been able to be car-free by relying on Metrobus, Metrorail, Circulator, Capital Bikeshare, carsharing services like Zipcar, my own bike, and my own two feet. I used to walk or take transit everywhere, but Capital Bikeshare got me feeling comfortable on a bike again, so I bought a bike and now I ride to work on nice days and Metro in bad weather. I’ve found that biking is not only an incredibly efficient way to get from one place to another but I also have gotten healthier and more in-shape while doing it. I use Zipcar to get to my weekly cello lesson and for the occasional home improvement project run to the hardware store, though I’ve found that most things can even be carried home on a bike—even a 1-gallon tub of joint compound or a Christmas tree! I’m very thankful for all the transportation options we have in DC that allow me to pick what’s right for me.
Eric Stults, Projects Officer – Office of the Director
Although I know how to drive and I maintain a driver’s license, I’ve never owned a car in my life, and I love living a car-free lifestyle. I’m in my 50s now, but for many years as a boy, I had a newspaper route, enabled by my Schwinn, in my small hometown in Ohio, and it not only earned me a bit of money, it provided my principal means of exercise. Bicycling is still my single biggest source of exercise, and although I sometimes am disappointed by the behavior of motorists or fellow cyclists here in DC, in general my daily bicycle commutes and other bike jaunts put me in a good mood, enjoying the fresh air in all seasons. I feel like a boy again on my paper route! And it saves me so much money. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Automobile Association both estimate that Americans spend around $8,000 per year per auto, for buying or leasing the vehicle, fueling it, repairing it, parking it, maintaining and insuring it. Those costs amount to about 17% of Americans’ after-tax income…a huge drain that is outpaced only by spending on housing. I spend only a few hundred dollars a year on bicycle maintenance and accessories….and the thousands I save can be put toward retirement, charity, vacations or other purposes. I’m also able to rent out the parking space at my condo for $200 per month to a car owner in my apartment building, so the net benefits are even greater! From my paper route days and my years living in frigid Minneapolis, I am accustomed to biking in all seasons, but admittedly there are some really wet or windy days when I prefer to simply walk or take a bus or Metro in my travels around the District.
Josh Moskowitz, Program Manager – Progressive Transportation Services Administration
To semi-quote a favorite author, “I had and have a city kid’s indifference to cars.” Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I biked, bused, walked and took the subway everywhere. My high school subway commute to the Bronx was an hour and a half each way. I’ve never had a license and the first time I drove a car was when I was 19. It’s hard for me envisioning ever living in a place where owning and driving a car is a necessity for functioning. Working on our Capital Bikeshare program has been a great fit, as I’ve been able to watch so many of our residents and visitors traverse our city on one our oldest transportation modes that epitomizes healthy and environmentally-friendly living.
Kirk Benson, Contract Specialist – Contracting and Procurement
A couple of years ago I moved here from Chicago and left my car there, assuming I would eventually go back to get it. When I found my apartment, since I wasn’t familiar with the District, I purposely moved near a Metro station; because coming from a city with a robust transportation system I was used to utilizing public transportation. After using the system and realizing that everything I needed was near a Metro station or a Circulator I opted to leave my car in Chicago; and between the ease of access to the Metro and the relative ease of walking through the District it eliminates the stress of maintaining, fueling and parking a car, not to mention the costs associated with those things.
Monica Hernandez, Communications Specialist – Office of the Director
Two years ago I packed up my belongings, sold what had become my lifeline – my car – and moved to DC. Since then I have been car-free and I absolutely love it. I’m not only proud of the fact that I have decreased my carbon footprint but also very proud to work in an environment that’s responsible for creating the type of options that allow people to live a sustainable life. On any single day I reach most of destinations by walking or taking the Metro, Circulator and/or Capital Bikeshare and on occasion use Zipcar. Rain or shine I’ve made this lifestyle work for me and plan to stick to it.