Well, my car-free adventure has come to an end. I have to say, it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
What was a big take away from this project? My Car-Free month wasn't exactly CAR FREE. I used lots and lots of cars to get around in April. In fact, when calculating my trips - Lyft rides and rides from friends equaled more than 2x the number of trips I took using the bus. I just couldn't afford to give as much time as was necessary to limit my commute to only taking the bus or train everywhere I needed to go, and (as I've stated in a previous post) my biking confidence is just not where it needs to be. (I'm working on it though!)
What I Enjoyed About Being "Car-Free"
Beyond really enjoying the walks through my neighborhood to my bus stop or to the store (and the health benefits from these walks), and the privilege of getting to know my community better, the cost benefit of not using a personal vehicle helped illuminate why people might make this choice. Even with all of the Lyft rides, going car-free was undoubtedly more affordable than owning a car. I spent a total of $255 in April on transportation (that's $175 on Lyft rides and $80 on a monthly transit pass). Compare that to an average month of car ownership - I have a little 2012 Toyota Prius Plugin. I spend around $530 on car payments and insurance, and an average of $45 on gas (which isn't much), for an average total of approximately $575. That doesn't include car maintenance or parking fees. When you make the financial comparison, going carless makes a lot of sense.
How to Make it Better
I already started this journey with a tremendous amount of respect for the people who live the car-free life. That respect has grown significantly. I could handle the significant shift in my s
chedule that was required to use these different modes. But, I can't imagine what it would be like to have kids to get to school or daycare, and, while my schedule is varied and I often bounce around town from meeting to meeting, my commitments usually occur during regular business hours. The sheer amount of time that I needed to dedicate to travel was astounding. There were hard lessons learned like - give yourself a 5-minute window to arrive at the bus stop or the bus could pass you by., and - take the earlier bus if you have a connection at Fort Worth Central Station - often the bus you need to take leaves as you arrive at the station.
Actual picture of me waiting for the bus after missing my first ride.
Currently, among Texas' major transit systems, Trinity Metro receives the least amount of local funding. They have the lowest sales tax rate (.5%) & fewest member communities. What would our system look like if we were to make per-capita investments that were on-par with our peer cities? How much more accessible would our city become?
The frequency and number of routes in our system are not set in stone. With more funding, Trinity Metro can increase the number of buses on a route, so your wait-time is cut down from an hour to every 15 minutes. Routes that help you get across town can be added (not every trip is heading to downtown Fort Worth after all!). More amenities can be added by both Trinity Metro and the city to make the ride more enjoyable - like more transit shelters, or sidewalks that connect to bus stops. These little improvements add to a much more efficient, functional system.
Why we should fund transit
Our population is increasing, the poverty rate is rising, and transportation is expensive, especially for moderate-income households.
If you don't think transit services are for you, consider who in your community might benefit from these improvements. Think of how an efficient transit system could affect your time spent in traffic. Consider what it might look like to let your parents age in place, or how important it is for a student to be able to get to school. Transportation at its core is a community issue, and it will take community will and political action to support its smart growth.
Let your voice be heard!
To increase transit's role in Fort Worth's overall transportation system, the City is implementing Transit Moves | Fort Worth. This comprehensive long-range plan for improving the City’s transit system is comprised of four main elements:
A transit vision for Fort Worth to guide improvements through 2045
Specific improvements that should be implemented to achieve the vision
Identification of potential new sources of funding for the improvements
Governance changes recommended to facilitate implementation of the plan and improve transit service delivery