What I’ve Learned from Being Carless for 6 Months

I didn’t make a big deal of it when I sold my car back in August because truth be told, I didn’t think I’d last that long without a vehicle. Ever since I had moved to the heart of Atlanta, I had been asking myself “Can I live in Atlanta without a car”? In the beginning, I had decided to start riding MARTA (our public transit train) and kept my car for the occasional errand. At the end of 3 months of completely dedicating myself to taking the train, I realized that I was using my car only a handful of times per month and since I still had a high car payment, I figured selling my car and getting rid of the extremely high monthly payment would be well worth committing to a couple of extra steps to the grocery store. And as much as I’ve missed my 4Runner (such a GREAT car), there are a few things I’ve learned from being carless that I didn’t expect would happen. 

ONE. Cars lead to a big sense of freedom. 

Not having a car and having to rely on ridesharing and friends to help transport you around is really frustrating. I’m not saying that I’m not thankful for every friend who’s offered to take me to the grocery store, you guys have been insurmountable to my success at being carless, but not being in control has been a huge adjustment. I have to actively plan an extra 30 minutes into any errand I plan because I know I’m not in control of where the car is, what route we’re taking, or any other quick stops that may be planned along the way. The train is great for getting me to and from work, but when it comes to extra errands, the time it takes to get there greatly outweighs the need for the errand. 

TWO. I’ve spent less money. 

This seems like a “duh” because I got rid of my car payment, but in all actuality the less freedom I’ve had with running mundane errands, has kept me out of places like the mall, Target, or HomeGoods to “kill a little time” which had inevitably led me to make purchases that were frivolous and spontaneous. I’ve been online shopping a lot more from Amazon, but that’s for things I don’t want to have to lug home from the grocery store like toiletries and cleaning supplies. Now that the train and ridesharing are my main forms of transportation I have to think about whether or not that bottle of wine or cute marble tray is really worth dragging home on my 30-minute commute. Most of the time the answer is “HECK NO”. 

THREE. I’ve been exercising less. 

This one I’m not certain if it’s a coincidence to my work life ramping up or the weather turning cold, but I’ve been more okay with not going on as many runs as I had in the past. I used to run at lunch and then after work when I had a car, but now that I walk to the train station, walk to work, potentially work out at lunch (if my meetings allow it), when I get home, all I want to do is rest my feet. Sometimes I’ll just not work out at lunch because I walk to and from the station and it’ll “all count in the end”. 

FOUR. I’ve seen less of my friends but the time with them has become sweeter.

Sadly, because most of my friends live outside of the area of a train station, I’ve seen less of my friends than normal. Now that it’s been getting dark earlier, I’m less inclined to hang out around my work area with them after work because it would mean an unsafe train experience at night or an expensive uber. However, now that I am not able to see them as I had before, the time with them has become more precious. I find myself picking up the phone more or planning dinners/ brunches/ work lunches with them so that I can get my friend time in. It’s been more fun (and a little more old school) to catch up in person instead of taking their accessibility for granted. 

FIVE. Atlanta has a long way to go to be a public transit friendly community.

The MARTA is GREAT if you live within walking distance to one of the stations and then work somewhere off the routes but most of the cities businesses don’t have the advantage of their employees being able to utilize train transit because the line is so limited. It’s really sad that we can’t invest more money into expanding the trainline because when catastrophes happen (I-85 bridge collapse, icy roads, any sort of other daily traffic woes) the train is always able to get passengers to their destinations. Even though the train doesn’t always run on it’s supposed schedule, I can always rely on it to get me to where I’m going at the end of the day. 

Overall, being carless has been H-A-R-D. I have been saving up to buy a new car for the last six months, which I’m proud to say I’ll be able to buy something in cash when the time finally comes (hopefully March!!). I hope to get more active again in the city- I feel as though I’ve been locked into a Midtown bubble- and exploring more of the city. Since we have such limited transit stations for the train, I don’t get to go explore the other neighborhoods as much as I would like to. In the end, having all the extra money from not having a car payment, has been pretty great but I don’t think I’m going to go carless again in my life and I am really thankful to be able to have the means to get myself a new car. It’s amazing how much your life can change from not having a car. 

Author: Cynthia

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