As a new resident of Arlington County, I’m happy to announce that I have officially gone car-free! It was a relatively easy decision to make, given that keeping my car with me would have been almost prohibitively expensive, as well as the fact that I simply just do not need one living and working in Arlington County. I am now one of four ATP employees who does not have a car, and instead rely on other modes of transportation to get around the Arlington/DC region. While I know it’s not always going to be easy or the most convenient to live the car-free lifestyle, I have to say that so far it has been pretty fantastic.
The most immediate benefit that I’ve noticed since leaving my car behind has been the impact on my wallet. Although I didn’t drive a whole lot before I moved, I still would find myself paying for gas almost weekly, as I drove around to run errands, go play soccer on the weekends, or visit friends (none of whom lived near my house in Bethesda). In addition to gas, I would have had to pay almost an additional $60 a month to park at my apartment complex, which was a huge factor in deciding to go car-free. Also knowing that I won’t have to drop $200-$500 when the car is due for maintenance in a couple months is a pretty good feeling, especially when I have other important monthly costs such as rent and student loans.
So how do I actually get around? My previous hour-plus commute on the Metro is now a short 20-minute bus ride to Rosslyn, the cost of which is covered by my monthly transit benefit through work. I can easily walk to places such as the grocery store and CVS, as well as restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. While I’m not within walking distance of a Metro station, my apartment complex offers a free shuttle to Pentagon City for residents, or I can just hop on one of the many buses that pass by my apartment to get to the Metro or into DC. Living without a car in Arlington has also made me realize that places are really not as far as they seem. Times when I normally would have just hopped in my car without thinking about it and driven down the street, I now have to walk to – this has actually helped me get more accustomed to my neighborhood and has been a better way to learn my way around. Finally, I have started looking into getting a bike, which would make it even easier to go shopping, meet up with people, or even bike to work.
It’s not always going to be easy to live without a car, I imagine there will be a few times that I’ll want a ride to Target with one of my roommates, or get caught in a downpour while walking back from the grocery store. However, the financial, social, and environmental benefits of not having a car far outweigh the disadvantages, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s been considering the switch.
For those who don’t want to get rid of their car, you can still go “car-lite” a couple days a week by trying different modes of transportation while leaving your car at home. Remember, Car-Free Day is just a little over a month away and is a great opportunity to ditch your car and get around by walking, biking, or public transit! For more resources on how to get around Arlington and DC without a car, check out the Car Free Diet website or contact ATP to see how you can improve your commute to work!