Living in Atlanta Without a Car
Let me preface this post with one big caveat. Mobility in Atlanta really comes down to where you live and this city has a predominant car culture; so running counter-culture to that has its challenges. My wife and I live intown, so access to all types of alternative transport is easy for us. We are minutes away from getting a Lyft, taking Marta, grabbing a ZipCar, utilizing Bike Share, or just walking on the BeltLine. If you live outside of the I-285 perimeter, this post probably won’t help you a lot. I still challenge you to try the lifestyle but I am sure it will be a bit more difficult.
Along with location, we have a relatively simple life with no kids and not a ton of outside commitments other than exercise and the night out with friends or family. Given that living situation, we decided to try the no car experience after both of our car leases ended. We had already barely been using our cars; averaging just 8,000 miles a year each on them. We both can work from home a lot and our offices are reachable by Marta within 30 minutes.
- Traffic is horrible, why waste time in a car. Average Commute Time by County
- “Access over Ownership” – Minimal Maxims
- Pros: save money, more exercise (steps, cycling), less stress from traffic and car ownership.
- Cons: less visits to friends and family outside the perimeter, complete reliance on services, and the Marta schedule.
First and foremost you have to analyze cost. Total cost of car ownership is what you need to look at. That means account for the monthly payment, service & repair cost, taxes & registration, insurance, fuel, and any parking fees. We also, factored in our average daily time spent commuting in the car. We multiplied that time by the hourly equivalent of our salaries to gauge lost productivity costs.
We then compared all these cost against what it would cost for a monthly Marta pass, taking Lyft everyday to and from work, a ZipCar membership, plus a bike share membership. We decided to get rid of our cars if not having cars resulted in a savings from utilizing the combined commuting alternatives. One thing to keep in mind is that many employers will pay for, subsidize or allow you to deduct Marta passes pre-tax. These funding options are like additional savings on not owning a car.
After you determine if the cost savings are worth it, the real planning starts. You really have to plan your Monday through Friday schedule ahead of time. An organized schedule makes it easier to plan when and how to be somewhere.
Where you work can make or break the no car lifestyle. My wife and I are lucky to be within a 1 mile walk or 10 minute bus ride of the Midtown Marta station. Our offices are also a short walk or bus ride from the Buckhead Marta station. On average, our commute on Marta is 30-40 minutes from door-to-door.
Our situation is not the norm but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The key is analyzing what your options are for covering that last mile of your commute between the Marta Station and your office. Generally, Marta will you get you within a half-mile of your destination in the city and a mile of it when outside of the city. So, finding the most efficient way to cover that last mile or so is they key. I find the bus system is slow and unreliable. Bike share, walking, and ride-share services could fill in the gap. What works for one person won’t work for another. So, experiment with all three and try to keep a log of how long each option takes.
We have leaned a lot on mobile and delivery services when it comes to making sure our day-to-day tasks get done. We found that there are many services that offered free delivery and pickup when you met a minimum order amount or paid for a subscription service. Some examples of how we handled different chores with services are broken out in the table below.
|Service||Focus||Minimum for Free Delivery||Notes|
|Instacart||Groceries||$35||Publix, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and more|
|Postmates||Almost Anything||$20 *||* with Postmates Unlimited subscription. $10 per month.
– $10 credit code: w52d
|Pawfect Pet Grooming||Mobile Pet Grooming||N/A||Approximately $55 per month for grooming.|
|Fabricare Dry Cleaners||Dry Cleaning||N/A||Twice weekly pick up and drop off.|
Additionally, we have a landscape crew, home cleaning, and pest control services among others that make periodic visits to maintain our home and allow us to reclaim a lot of our time.
This area of life probably was probably least impacted by going car-less. Lyft has filled in nicely for getting to those last minute events. The best part is you don’t have to struggle with parking when you arrive where you’re going. You can also drink freely without worrying about leaving your car overnight at the end of the party.
One common question related to socializing is, “what if you just want to get away?” Well, again access is just as good if not better than ownership. During the past 6 months we have rented a car a handful of times to go out-of-town. From Charlotte, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and elsewhere. Rates are not bad especially if you plan ahead. Moreover, we don’t pay for 100% of a car that we use 20% or less of the time.
The future of transportation is not going to be about the car. Even where cars will still be used, they will most likely be run autonomously. Georgia is getting ahead of the game and passed a law that puts in the framework to build out autonomous vehicle lanes, parking spaces, and more. Moreover, groups like Advance Atlanta, the Atlanta BeltLine, Georgia Commute Options, and many more are coming up with When it comes to regional transit, Hyperloop is stepping in to connect regional cities. Routes are being planned that could revolutionize travel and commuting as a whole. Theoretically, you could live in one state and commute to work in another daily and in under 30 minutes to one hour. Ultimately, we may add a scooter and a motorcycle with sidecar to are vehicle options.
Let me be clear, we are not anti car or against car ownership. We’re just against a car first culture. A lot of that has to do with lifestyle and living location. Another part has to do with having visited many great cities with excellent mass transit. The final motivation comes from what I just said in the paragraphs before, technology could soon make it less and less appealing to own a car or at least multiple cars.