When I moved back to Kansas City from Seattle this past June, everyone and her mother was telling me that I wouldn't be able to survive life in the Midwest without a car. I decided to prove them wrong. I've never owned a car in my life, although I have driven and ridden in them extensively like most Americans. Initially, my lack of car was always a direct result of my poverty and subsequent lack of incentive to spend wads of money on something I didn't need but eventually it became a lifestyle choice that I've fiercely taken hold of.
So I moved back in June and initially I was staying with family and commuting downtown with them every day, then taking the bus over to Westport. At that point I had almost resigned myself to inadvertently having a car because my boyfriend had one, but the Universe took care of that soon enough and his car was totaled in an accident. He decided not to get another one. So by the time we'd moved into our new apartment in Valentine, we were car-free and planning to stay that way.
Since we live in such a fabulous location, everything we need is within walking distance or by bus. It has been a joy to walk to work every morning and having a 10-15 minute commute. The whole experience has been supremely idyllic and I was a little worried that winter snow and ice might bring that to a halt, but it turns out that ice storms and snow storms are a lot less problematic when you can slide down the icy street to work instead of sliding around on the highways.
And I know this lifestyle isn't for everyone (yet), but I'm happy to a living example of how to live without a car in the big ole sprawling Midwest. If the idea of living car-free or even car-light appeals to you in any way (like your checkbook, for instance... check out the true cost of your car over at Edmonds.com) I suggest reading How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life by Chris Balish. He's a non-car-owner who came to change his lifestyle because he - like my boyfriend - totaled his car and decided he really didn't need it.
Balish's take is very common-sense and he does a great job of breaking down all of the little details that you need to know to make living without a car work really successfully. For instance, he provides 6 questions to ask yourself to see if you're ready to work towards a car-free life:
- Can you get over your own ego?
- Can you get to work reliably without a car?
- Do you live in an urban area, or in a mixed-use development?
- Do you have access to public transportation?
- Do you live in close proximity to amenities?
- Are you flexible?