In the news this week: SEPTA ridership is at a 22-year high. The price of gasoline and the increasing number of younger people and empty-nesters moving to the center of Philadelphia are probably part of the explanation. Also, surprisingly but happily, the Gov. Corbett-appointed commission on transportation is recommending increasing state support for SEPTA by boosting taxes on oil companies (about time: Exxon’s profits are up 40% this year!), raising driver-related fees and dedicating a fraction of sales taxes to mass-transit.
All this is good news for those of us who have given up our cars and live a simpler, greener and cheaper life in Center City. My husband and I took a deep breath about two years ago and gave up the four-wheeled beast, quickly discovering that we would save more than $6,000 a year in transportation costs, including gas, insurance, parking and registrations. And that figure was calculated including the cost of transit fares, Philly Car Share rentals when needed and such.
Living car-free in the city is news in lots of other places; a Baltimore news piece is just one of many lately. Meanwhile, Next American City has done a study on new technologies that can improve transportation experiences, with their first 18 study participants asked to ditch their cars for a week. Results? Car deprivation (how addicted ARE we to driving?) made folks think creatively, try new experiences, seek autonomy. All experiences we had, and ultimately enjoyed, at our house. Another finding: you may lose a car, but you gain a community. Our bike-mad friends Juliet & Gavin Riggall from North Street Design have ditched their car entirely, and they certainly know what a rich and interesting biking community they belong to in Philadelphia.
Did we have reservations about jettisoning that carbon-dumping car? Sure. But it’s worked out pretty well. We’re lucky, of course. We live in the heart of William Penn’s pedestrian-loving grid. Unlike many of our fellow Philadelphians, we live nowhere near one of the food desert neighborhoods in our city. And we have a nearby friend who loans us his car when there’s an unplanned, long distance trip called for.
You can do it, too. Even if, like my husband Marc, you don’t have to bike to work, you’ll appreciate the new bike lanes for slowing down and quieting traffic. You’ll learn the new skill of SEPTA negotiating. And be in better shape for all that walking.