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30 Days Off the Road - Part 2

February 23, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote here that I would take a shot at getting around Austin without my Toyota Tundra pickup truck for a month. I referred to the experiment as #30DaysOffTheRoad. My experiment was recently completed and I thought I would share some key thoughts and results on the 30-day project (January 13 to February 11).

First, a by-the-numbers breakdown of what I used and at what cost:

  • Bus, 34 trips, $63.
  • B-cycle, 8 trips, $0 (I have an annual $80 subscription; rides under 30 minutes are free.)
  • Car rides, 7 trips, $0. (Also known as bumming a ride.)
  • Lyft, 6 trips, $98.63.
  • My bike, 5 trips, $0.
  • Car2go, 4 trips, $30.18.
  • My truck, 4 trips. Yes, I relapsed four times but three of them were on weekends to take my daughter Laura some place fun. Only once did I drive my truck to work downtown (for a reason that now escapes me.)
  • Total cost: $191.81

As you can see, the Capital Metro bus was my go-to source of alternative transportation. I’ve been a pretty frequent bus rider for the past five years and, for me, the reason is simple: it’s inexpensive and the network around town is pretty extensive, if imperfect. But it requires patience, and I’ve found that just trying to get people to try it once is very challenging. (Note to Capitol Metro: execute more effective PR campaign on benefits of bus travel).

Also, for a person working downtown, B-cycle is a pretty effective way to get around. Fortunately, the time period was January/February and not the summer. The worst thing is running into people you know pedaling around in a suit. It’s kind of awkward but, at the end of the day, who really cares? Riding a bike has always put a smile on my face.

I can’t say enough good things about Lyft. The drivers and cars were nice, extremely prompt (when you request a ride using the app, you better be ready to go within 3-4 minutes), and, best of all, the lack of a transaction between the driver and passenger makes for quick and painless exits to your destination.

Car2go is a game-changer too. If transit, for example, is a convenient way to go from home to work and back, car2go answers the question of how to take ancillary trips during the day to locations not served by the bus or not served conveniently.

Overall, I have to admit that getting around town without my truck wasn’t as hard as I anticipated. In fact, it was kind of fun as each day became an adventure in how to go about town. My wackiest John Candy moment was Friday, Jan. 16. It went something like this:

  • #5 bus from home (Redd St. and Gillis) to downtown (4th and Lavaca St.)
  • Seven-minute walk to work.
  • Borrowed car to the Austin Board of Realtors grand opening event in northwest Austin.
  • Drop off car at Cirrus Logic, walk to MetroRapid stop at 4th and Lavaca.
  • Took MetroRapid to The Domain for a “tasting” at the Westin Austin (in preparation for our annual fundraising event, KnockOut Night.) The 45-minute ride, by the way, was not so rapid.
  • Caught ride from RECA team member back to work.
  • B-cycle to a happy hour event on West 6th St.
  • Took bus home for night.

On that day, I traveled 51 miles using my feet, the bus, a bike, a borrowed car and a bummed ride. It was one for the ages.

Will this change my transportation habits? Absolutely. It already has. I won’t be giving up my truck any time soon, but I will be using alternative transportation a lot more. I might even choose alternative options the majority of the time, rather than infrequently as I did before the experiment. And my decision to do so has nothing to do with saving the planet, reducing traffic or avoiding road rage – all of which are positive outcomes.

To me, choice equals freedom. When I have different options from which to choose, I feel both in charge and flexible. When you think about it, four of these alternative options – car2go, Lyft (or Uber), B-cycle and MetroRapid – did not even exist here as little as five years ago. While more road capacity certainly helps and is desperately needed, maybe we should be focused on providing more transportation options instead.

What do you think?

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