Hacking Your Way to No Car in Atlanta
It’s been over one year since we gave up on owning a car. Inspired by some friends who themselves are coming up on two years without a car. The point was to commit to a social experiment on what it is like to live in an automotive culture without one. AGAIN, we are not anti-car, we just don’t get the same enjoyment and freedom out of owning one as others. We will probably still buy a car eventually some time down the road. When that happens, we will have galvanized a lifestyle where getting in the car is a 3rd or 4th option instead of the default.
For this follow-up post, I am sharing some ideas for getting to the same state that we are in. Or even down to just one car in a multi-person household. First off, there is no perfectly balanced equation for everyone. You will have to adjust the levers of what you are willing to pay on housing and other items to make living in Atlanta without a car workable. I sincerely hope these ideas help a lot of people get out of their cars. Atlanta’s traffic situation is getting progressively worse. The downstream impacts of that congestion have not even fully materialized.
- Live near the Marta line.
- Work off of the Marta line.
- Boost your commute.
- Automate everything.
During this no car social experiment I’ve learned that you become hyper local. Most of your time not at work is spent within a 5-6 mile radius of your home. So it’s important to define where you want to live. Make sure that the neighborhood you pick matches your lifestyle. For this reason we shopped for a place with a high walkability score and within a half mile walk of the Beltline and a Marta station. Additionally, we want to walk to everything that life requires. So, we went to the neighborhood we liked, parked the car, and walked around a lot. Made sure we could find everything we needed before signing off.
- Aim to live within 1 mile or less of a Marta Station, Grocery Store, restaurants.
- Research the walkability score of your ideal neighborhood.
- Walk the area and identify options for a Dry Cleaner, Dentist, etc..
Where you work is the other big reason for daily driving. That commute can also be soul crushing. Additionally, every minute you spend in your car is costing you an opportunity to get in that morning workout, healthy breakfast, afternoon hobby, etc. If you have any flexibility, narrow your career search to areas within commute alternatives. An office location does not have to be directly from Marta train station, but it should be within a mile or two. More importantly, make sure the proximity can be covered by a simple bus route, shuttle, bike share, or easy walk.
- Look up companies positioned within 1 mile or less of a Marta Station. Literally, ride the rails and get off at a target station. Go building to building and make note of their tenant list. Then look up jobs at those companies.
- If you are a remote employee or get some telecommuting days, identify Coffee Shops and Co-working locations near-by or a short ride on Marta. This will make for better work life balance at home.
- Also, research shuttle options that can help close the gap between Marta and the office., i.e. The Buc around Buckhead and Lenox, company shuttle, or the Arts Center Station shuttle to Atlantic Station.
Consider a Mobility Booster
Walking is healthy and functional but it can be time-consuming. In the Georgia Summer heat, it can be unbearable walking for 5 minutes. So, consider getting yourself an in-between type of transportation. Something small, portable, and efficient. We went and got two U-Scooters after seeing a coworker with one. I am 100% convinced that these little scooters could be a game changer for the Atlanta area. We cover about 1 mile every 5 minutes with these. I have included a video of a quick-lunch run we made on ours. The restaurant was 3.5 miles from the house. We covered the distance in about 12 minutes. I recorded some GoPro footage of it and have included the video below. At about $700, they don’t break the either.
Additionally, bike share and electronic bikes are becoming more popular. There are also articles circulating that Lyft will soon offer an unlimited ride subscription service for about $200-$250 a month in Atlanta. Lastly, there is always car pooling, which can at least make a longer commute more manageable and cut the number of cars on the road.
Automate Your Chores
Outside of commuting to work, it’s the daily errands that often get people into their cars. So, try to leverage a lot of the new third-party services that can do the shopping, sorting, and all around back and forth for you. Again, we almost have this down to a science now. If you search you will find like we did that mobile services average about a 10-15% premium on top of the cost of going out and running the task yourself. The time saved when multiplied by the hourly rate equivalent of our salaries makes using these services a no brainer. You can get pick up and drop off services for almost anything these days. A lot of these services were started for the elderly who can’t get out but now, they are available to most anyone. I have listed many examples below.
- General Tasks: Task Rabbit, Mobile Pet Grooming or Vet, Laundry Services,
- Groceries: Instacart, Amazon Fresh, Hello Fresh, Plated, Blue Apron, Blue Bottle Coffee
- Shopping: Amazon Prime, Jet, Prescriptions delivery, Postmates.
Again, we’re not anti-car. The goal is to show to get people out of the comfort zone of just getting behind the driver’s seat. Something has to be done, now that Atlanta has over 100k Super Commuters willing to sit in their cars for more than three hours a day for their round-trip commutes. The big picture for me is to ask yourself this, “What is the opportunity cost for every minute I am sitting in a car that I could be using to do something else more productive?” I have seen that the time saved has given me the windows during the day to get in all the little self-care and side project things that have made life more complete and fulfilling. My favorite moment of reclaimed time are the morning and/or evening walks with the family just enjoying life.