Living Car-Free & Car-Lite
By Allison Osberg, MN GreenCorps Member (TLC)
Can you imagine all your transportation costs for an entire year amounting to less than $100?
Ifrah Mansour, a panelist from our recent Transportation on Tap event, says she couldn’t see herself paying anything more.
For the commuter that relies heavily on a car, the $100 figure might be unthinkable, but for the panelists and much of the crowd at TLC’s discussion on car-free and car-lite living this month, it wasn’t a far-fetched reality. On the contrary, it was a reality some were already embracing.
Ifrah Mansour lives car-free in South Minneapolis.
Ifrah lives in South Minneapolis and has been car-free her whole life. “It’s very unheard of in my car-loving Somali community,” she explains. To get to work, school, and play, she makes her trips walking, biking, and occasionally busing.
Our second panelist, Jordan Olsen, a Saint Paul native, does own and use a car but has been bike commuting in Minneapolis year-round for the past five years. He pays more on transportation than Ifrah but only a small fraction of the AAA estimate ($9,122) to own and operate his vehicle each year. He estimates he spends about $1,500 annually—mostly on insurance.
Economics aren’t the only reason Ifrah and Jordan avoid relying solely on a car.
Traffic, parking, safety, and health all contribute to why Ifrah and Jordan stick with other transportation options—even in the coldest months. While they admit that it’s not always easy to live car-free or car-lite, motor vehicles have not necessarily proven convenient and neither can imagine themselves relying heavily on a car for the foreseeable future.
Ifrah cites the social benefits that come with walking and biking: being able to stop and talk to passersby, pull over for a spontaneous pit stop, and be more a part of one’s community.
“I think also we are slowly becoming aware of our impact as individuals on the health of our planet,” Jordan says.
Saint Paul-native Jordan Olsen lives car-lite, relying more on his bike than his car to get around.
Despite the many reasons for driving less, the alternatives are not always self-evident. As the Transportation on Tap conversation got rolling, it evolved into almost a live advice-column scenario—one with outright enthusiasm, encouragement, and comradery.
I’m going to start bicycling to Plymouth every day from Minneapolis. I’ve never been out that way. How do I even begin to find a route?
I never thought that I’d be into apps, but I love them. Has anyone tried OMG Transit?
I rely on my bike to get everywhere. I’m thinking about selling my car, but then what would I do if I was injured?
These are just a few of the many questions asked that night. Folks were quick to jump up from their seats, join us by the stage, and contribute their questions, anecdotes, and advice.
Do a test run in Plymouth when you don’t have the stress of being somewhere on time or with all your business gear. Ask locals; they’re almost always happy to help.
A developer of OMG Transit actually was just here, but I can say that I think the app works great—and I’m not even affiliated with the company.
First of all, make sure you have insurance for any injury. Then, if you can’t bike, consider your transit and car sharing options. Check into Metro Mobility.
When it was noted that the panel skewed young and healthy, a man in his fifties approached the microphone and explained how he avoided going long distances by bike because he worried about his knees. When he finally decided to just give it a try, he was pleasantly surprised by how good he felt afterward.
Judging by the crowd, it seems that if the possibility is there to get around without a car—or use a car less—the pros outweigh the cons for many individuals of all backgrounds, ages, gender, family size, and physical condition.
“The multi-decade trend of declining zero-vehicle households appears to have played itself out,” concludes the AASHTO report Commuting in America 2013. “The count of zero-vehicle households is now increasing.”
Here in the Twin Cities, bicycling, walking, and transit ridership are all on the rise, car sharing and bike sharing are growing, and the number of zero-vehicle households is nearing 90,000. Still, many jobs in our region are inaccessible by bus or train. Many streets still are not bike or pedestrian friendly.
Transit for Livable Communities is working to make car-free and car-lite living more feasible options by securing dedicated transportation funding for transit, bicycling, and walking via the Move MN campaign. Through our Transportation Options program, TLC also is addressing transportation as a basic need and increasing knowledge about the asset-building potential of options like biking, walking, transit, car sharing, and bike sharing for families and individuals working toward greater economic self-sufficiency.
I find that even as we work toward better transportation infrastructure, education, and funding, it’s affirming to know that people who want to decrease car use and expand other options are part of a growing movement. Thanks to Ifrah, Jordan, and all who joined us at Transportation on Tap this month for leading by example and for contributing to an informed, encouraging discussion!
Save the date for TLC's next Transportation on Tap event: Tuesday, June 3, 5-7 PM, Republic (Seven Corners), Minneapolis. RSVP.