Category Archives: alternative transit

How to: Enjoy a car free lifestyle

I’m going to do a series on how to get things done while car-free. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I am going by my own experiences and what other car-free friends do to live and enjoy life while car-free. I’d love to hear your comments about how you get things done, or suggestions on what I should cover during this series. – Myra

Enjoying a car free lifestyle is more difficult in some places than others. I’ve lived in a lot of those places. However, even in more rural places we can still get around without a car with a little imagination. I’m going to talk more about car free in a medium to large city that has a public transit system, since that is the target audience of this blog. Some tips may apply to my public transit deficient friends, so keep reading!

1. I love, love, love combining trips. This is the easiest way to enjoy a car free lifestyle. I mean doing a bit of grocery shopping, stopping by the drug store, visiting a park THEN heading home. People in cars do this, too, but it is doable via transit and saves a WHOLE lot of time! Not only are you minimizing the number of trips you have to make, but you are also probably shopping at places near each other, so that’s less travel time for you!

2. Get out and walk. You’ll find interesting places along your route that you may have never found otherwise. When we are whizzing along in a car or bus, we miss so many things. Take the train or lightrail to an unexplored neighborhood and get out and walk 10 blocks in each direction. Did you find a bookshop? A shoe repair shop? A hole in the wall taco joint? This goes into #3.

3. Map the places you find. When you have visitors or just have some extra time on your hands, bring out your hand drawn maps of interesting neighborhoods. Let your friends or kids choose where the next adventure should be and go!

4. Be reasonable. Everyone can’t or won’t be car free. Instead of bashing people over the head with your feelings about living car free, how they are killing the world and how horrible a person they are, try to empathize and come up with gentle suggestions. Are they dealing with an elderly family member? Do they live in a residential area where they are little or few transportation options other than driving? Are there sidewalks and bike lanes along their route to work? Do they work non-traditional hours where public transport isn’t an option? Are they knowledgeable about the transit options available to them?Are they afraid of transit? If so, take them for a ride! Be an example, not a judge, and you might gain some converts to the car free lifestyle!

5. Make yourself knowledgeable about the alternative transit options near you. Where do the local bus routes go? What are the schedules for local commuter rail? About how much time is between subway trains at 3pm? Can you rent a car in your neighborhood? If not, where’s the nearest Zipcar or car rental agency? Is it easy to catch a cab in your neighborhood, or do you have to use a car service? Does the bus have equipment to carry bikes? Are there bike lanes along your route?

Do you have any tips to add? Let’s hear it in the comments!

I’m Still Car Free and Other Thoughts

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but the my car free world is still walking and using public transport to get from point A to point B.

It’s been easy to stay car free since I live in New York City. Previously, I counted using a taxi cab or car service as ‘cheating’ at being car free, but I have had a change of heart. Since the cab or car service isn’t for my exclusive use 24-7, I am still car free. I haven’t taken a taxi cab or car service recently, but I did find that it is far faster to take a taxi 1/3 of the way to work on Sundays and then get on the subway. The time saved is about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the cost is $12-15. The benefit-cost analysis I go through each Sunday morning is priceless. Some Sundays I have born the cost of the taxi cab because I couldn’t deal with the bitterly cold winds racing down Amsterdam Avenue as I waited for the bus. On other Sundays, like today, I knew I wanted to buy lunch out while at work, so I had to decide between a comfy, quick ride 1/3 of the way to work or taking the bus to the subway (and transferring at Herald Square to a second subway).

I have been reading about alternative transit and ways to make life easier for people interested in living car free. One of the recurring themes is building or redeveloping walkable cities. Walking is good exercise and if people have stores, businesses and entertainment within walking distance, they are more likely to walk than to drive or even use public transit to get there. I know that walking is not feasible for everyone, but for the vast majority of people, walking to the grocery store could be an option if we build smaller, neighborhood groceries and encourage businesses to hire local employees, we could make huge strides in improving our communities and lessening the demand for new roads. Even if we begin building toll roads in earnest, we still won’t have the funds necessary to maintain the roads we have preexisting. America is truly at a crossroads in terms of transit. Some have predicted that within 20 years most people will be forced to be car free, rather than it being an option, simply because of traffic jams, the cost of oil and poorly maintained roads.

What are your thoughts?

World Carfree Day is September 22

What are your plans for World Carfree Day? Are you going to participate in activities in your city? Or will you take transit instead of driving?

carfree day logo

I will be doing my usual slate of activities – taking public transit and walking to/from work and on personal errands. I do want to have a few minutes to check out the crowds and see how many people are going car free, even if it is for one day only.

Do you have a backup plan?

I started a new job this week, and I’ve been commuting about an hour and a half via subway to my job. As a survivor of the 2003 Northeast Blackout, I can’t help but wonder how I will go about getting home in case of another blackout or subway outages. I work about 16 miles from home. Walking would take about 5 hours on a good day, so what should I do?

us_overflight 2003 blackout

My first plan is to stay put at my office. It might be the safest place to be, especially since I have snacks in my desk. If this is not possible for whatever reason, then I will try to get buses home, which might take up to 5 hours, too. The masses of people trying to get home would block streets and bridges, but at least I would be able to make it home if I absolutely had to.

During the Northeast Blackout of 2003, I was fortunate enough to pair up with some people in my office who found a rental car with a 1/4 tank of gas and made it home to Jamaica, Queens. However, I may not be as lucky this time as I work in Brooklyn and live in Harlem. Most of my neighbors don’t have cars and none of my coworkers live near me.

What’s your plan if the transit system shuts down or some emergency prevents you from getting home car-free?

Car Free Adventure to Staten Island

It is definitely summer in New York City. I decided to cool off a bit from the urban heat island that is known as Manhattan and headed to Staten Island, the oft-forgotten borough of New York City. I took the subway to the new South Ferry Station, which is totally fabulous. I would have gotten photos except the MTA police did not look too happy at the sight of my camera, and I saw no need to get arrested or detained for taking photos in the subway.

A quick walk over to the ferry terminal, and we’re off! I forgot that I lack sea legs, so I was a little shaky on the trip over because of the rocking of the ferry. I got a few great photos of the Statue of Liberty; saw the bridges – the Brooklyn, Verrazano-Narrows,  Manhattan and Goethals; and even caught a few pigeons hitching a ride to Staten Island with us.

The Staten Island Railway is one of the oldest continuously used rail corridors in the United States, so it was a treat to finally ride it. I rode the entire length of the Railway, through neighborhoods of all types – industrial, residential and commercial. Staten Island, at least from the windows of the subway car, looks remarkably like New Jersey. Very suburban and low density. I wasn’t expecting high rise towers like Manhattan, but I was thinking there’d be more dense development around the railway stations than I actually saw. Despite its name, the SIR does not use commuter rail cars – instead, they use modified R44 subway cars. The trains are shorter and some stops are flag stops only.

After riding for over 40 minutes, arriving in Tottenville was a treat. There wasn’t much to see the further south we traveled, but I wanted to switch sides on the train and see another view of the island. One fascinating thing about the Staten Island Railway is that there are no fares between most stations on Staten Island, so there are no ticket booths or Metrocard machines. People can just walk up, hop on and ride to their destination. It reminded me of “Choose your own fares!” – how much do people value the Railway but would pay if it were optional to pay, and how many would simply continue using the system without paying? To transfer from the ferry (which is free) to the Railway at St. George Station, you must pay the regular subway fare of $2.25 or swipe your unlimited MetroCard (and vice versa).

I did wonder about parking, since I know many people use the Railway to connect to the ferry service to lower Manhattan. Where in the world to they park? I didn’t see a lot of huge parking lots or decks. Perhaps people take buses to the Railway or those who commute by Railway live within walking distance of the stations.

In the end, my adventure was 3 hours long but worth the views of the city from the ferry, and didn’t cost me a dime since I already paid for the unlimited Metrocard.

World Carfree Day – September 22

carfree

World Carfree Day is September 22. Do you have any special plans? If so, add your event online at: World Carfree Day And join the World Carfree Day Page on Facebook!

World Carfree Day is an annual celebration of cities and public life, free from the noise, stress and pollution of cars. Each year on September 22, people around the world organize events of all sizes to showcase alternatives to the automobile. World Carfree Network invites organisations and individuals everywhere to join!

Every September 22, people from around the world get together in the streets, intersections, and neighbourhood blocks to remind the world that we don’t have to accept our car-dominated society. 2009 should be no different.

Roundup from around the ‘net

Make Up a Fake Parking Permit, Park Wherever You Want!

Last year the Bloomberg administration made a big deal about reducing the number of parking placards issued to city employees, slashing them by over 25,000. At the time, the cutback on permits, which allow cops, civil servants, and other lucky bureaucrats to park almost anywhere, was heralded by Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives as “a good first step. But the final analysis will be weeks and months from now, when we see how actively these plaques are enforced.”

So last week the group decided to test enforcement themselves, creating a bogus parking placard with the name of a non-existent city agency, the “Citizen Protection Administration.” Spokesman Wiley Norvell spent six hours parking a Mazda Miata at various illegal spots around Manhattan,

Could BRT replace the Second Ave. Subway?

As this week of bad news for the Second Ave. Subway draws to a close, we return again to a question of transit on the Upper East Side? As they do every time another SAS delay is announced, Streetsblog advocated for a BRT solution to the Second Ave. problem. But is that a realistic replacement for a full Second Ave. subway?

In rehashing their BRT argument for Second Ave. — one they explored in February — Ben Fried and Streetsblog made a rather bold claim. “On the east side of Manhattan,” Fried writes, “the right BRT configuration would carry almost as many commuters as the Second Avenue Subway, for a fraction of the cost.”

The Importance of Employment Centers

Jarrett has an interesting post on how LA is more like Paris with their polycentric form than a more monocentric place like New York City. I’ve been looking all week at LEHD data, mapping out job clusters and have noticed that many places in the United States are polycentric. This is also something Richard Layman talks about a lot as well, but in a slightly different way.

And a cool cartoon…

lucilegomez01_650

"A long time ago, human beings were devoting such a strong cult to these things, that they offered the lungs of their children as a sacrifice."© Lucile Gomez Here is a beautiful carfree drawing from Lucile Gomez. You can follow her work in French on her website: http://www.lucilegomez.fr/ (Source: CARFREE BLOGOSPHERE)