Carless in Seattle: A Car Sharing Experiment

My partner and I have always had two cars—until January, when our aging but reliable Honda Accord was totaled by a Penske moving van. The unfortunate accident spurred us to test an experiment we had been thinking about for some time: can we get by on one car?

In theory, it seems like a sensible plan. My partner needs a car to drive to Bellevue every day, but I take the bus to work. Apart from that, our lifestyle is a bit simpler than most families’—we’re childless (sorry, Dash and Fritz, dogs aren’t kids), so we don’t have music lessons or soccer games to coordinate. It has always seemed a bit ridiculous to have a second car sitting idle Monday through Friday except for the occasional distant trip or doctor’s appointment.

And our West Seattle neighborhood is well-served by public transportation, including three bus lines and a water taxi, not to mention the car sharing services ReachNow and Car2Go. Plus, there is Uber, which I can use to get just about anywhere, anytime…lickety-split.

Still, I get anxious at the thought of losing my personal car as a backup mode of transportation. Unlike today’s auto-avoiding millennials, I really like owning and driving a car. To me, it represents the two experiences I prize above almost everything else: Freedom and Independence.

We’re going to try this one-car-household experiment for at least one year, maybe two. If I want to visit friends, go out of town, or make appointments after working hours, I’m not going to alter those plans. I’ll use car sharing services, walk, or take the bus.

I will track all my expenses and note any inconveniences associated with not having my own car. Then I’ll analyze the data and share the results with you. I hope the information will help seniors who are thinking of giving up their cars and others who want to tighten their household budgets a bit.

The goal, of course, is for the cost savings to far outweigh the inconvenience and anxiety of not having a vehicle at hand.

Will it work? Time will tell.

If you aren’t familiar with the ReachNow or Go2Car car sharing services that are rapidly spreading across the country, here are a couple of articles in Ars Technica and the Seattle Times to get you up to speed.