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Joining the Car Free Club

Keara Mehlert
Keara Mehlert August 13, 2012 Keara Mehlert is a former Property & Development Services Program Director at Arlington Transportation Partners. She has been car-free and loving it for the past five years and has been biking 5.5 miles to work every day since October 2012.
ATP TAKEAWAY: Ever consider going car-free? Keara is now one of four ATP employees who does not have a car, and instead relies on other modes of transportation to get around the DC region.

As a new resident of Arlington County, Virginia, 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. I'm come to realize I simply don't need a car to live and work in Arlington.

I am now one of four Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP) employees who does not have a car, and instead relies on other modes of transportation to get around the 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.

KearaCommuteBike

 

Costs to Own a Car Quickly Add Up

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. I drove around to run errands, go play soccer on the weekends, or visit friends—none of whom lived near my house in Bethesda, Maryland.

In addition to paying for gas, I would have 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. Knowing that I won’t have to drop $200 to $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.

Life Without a Car

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. I can also 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 not as far as they seem. I now walk to places I normally would have habitually taken my car. This has helped me get more accustomed to my neighborhood and has been a better way to learn my way around. I'm looking to buy a bicycle, which would make it even easier to go shopping, meet up with people, or even commute to work.

Become Car Free or Car-Lite

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. 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. Car Free Day 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 without a car, request a custom commute plan to see how you can improve your commute to work.

Request your custom commute plan

Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com for Arlington Transportation Partners

Tags: Bus, Car Free Day, How I Commute to Work, Metro, Commute, Transit

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