Bring Me on Home

About a year ago, after much cajoling, Zeph moved to San Francisco. He brought with him his comfortable bed, his ugly coffee table, and his Audi A4. Now that a year has passed, one of the three belongings is no longer with us. Unfortunately, it's not the coffee table.

After about three months of waking up way too early to move the car for street cleaning, storing it in Mom's garage, and generally not using it due to the hassle it caused, we started crunching some automotive numbers. It turns out it was cheaper for us to rent a car for one weekend a month (about as often as we used the car) than to pay to own, maintain, and insure our own vehicle. Who knew?

Zeph found some poor soul to take over the lease, and that was the end of the car. And, honestly, our lives have barely been impacted by its departure. Driving in San Francisco is a pain and a half, parking is nonexistent, and having to drive means that somebody doesn't get to drink. Where is the fun in that?

So how do we get around without the car? Bus, mostly. Zeph takes the bus to work, we take the bus to get our groceries (and manage to do just fine with what we can carry home), and we even bring all of our beer-making supplies home on the bus (more on this later). I am lucky to be close enough to my office to walk, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance as well. We do just fine without a car in San Francisco.

The problem is when we want to leave. Although my mom and her side of the family are slowly migrating to San Francisco, my dad and Zeph's parents live in the Sacramento area and Nevada County (respectively). We also have plenty of friends who still in that general area - friends who like to throw parties that we like to attend. Like I said before, we figured out that renting a car for the weekend (about $30 a day) is cheaper than keeping a car sitting in Mom's garage. And renting was what we did for many a weekend.

Then, all of a sudden, summer pricing kicked in and rental prices went through the roof. Not to mention the fact that after almost two months of not driving I almost had a heart attack when we went to fill up at the pump. I knew gas prices were soaring, but $60 for a tank?! When I started driving I could fill up for $20, and I'm not that old people.

Our weekend excursions went from an affordable $60 to a shocking $150. A change of plan was needed.

Amtrak is how I traveled home throughout college, and Zeph used to commute by train a few times a week. But, at $25 each person each way, the rental used to be more economical. Well, that has all changed, and $100 for a weekend with family isn't that much more than the gas alone would cost. Plus, you get to drink wine on the train. Try doing that in a car. Well, legally, I mean.

Nowadays we ride the rails often, and we have a new rule for staying with friends and family: You want to see us, you pick us up at the train station. And you know what? It hasn't been a deal breaker yet.

I promised in my previous post that this blog would be more accessible than its predecessors, so I will take a quick moment to acknowledge that part of the reason I can live without owning a car is because of the excellent public transportation in San Francisco. I couldn't have even come close to getting around without a car in my hometown of Roseville - the city just isn't designed for pedestrians.

But, there are steps you can take to use your car less. Try finding a coworker to carpool with, buy a bike for medium-distance trips, and if the drive would take less than 5 minutes, walk. Your pocketbook will thank you in the long run.

And, if you're feeling really empowered, go to a city council meeting and ask why the town is designed for automobiles and not people. Who is paying taxes, anyway? Tom, or Toyota?


Ivan Chew said...

"Tom or Toyota", lol. Nicely put. Oh, about your comment about out-of-towners taking buses, I thought I had it all worked out in Quebec City. Apparently I missed one final detail! ;)

Serge said...

Roseville is certainly a place where it's almost a must to have your very own mode of transport if you don't plan on commuting at all.