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Can a planner live car free?

Messages
17
Points
1
*sigh*

Living life without a car is a big quality of life issue for me. Right now, I live in the lovely town of Chapel Hill NC - where the buses are free (or already paid for - student fees, parking fees, and resident property taxes) and convenient (as long as you are going to the University). I can walk to 2 grocery stores, a mall, the Chapel Hill public library, and other stores and services. Life is good. I hate cars.

I've always hated cars - partly out of fear, partly out the environmental reasons to support a less car dependant life, and partly out of my love for older, walkable communities. I don't have a drivers license and never have had one. I started to learn to drive last summer but left to come back to school before getting beyond the very basics.

After I graduate, I plan to move somewhere with a great transit system and get on with my car free life. My boyfriend hates cars as much as I do. We're probably 2 of only a few children of suburbia who never learned to drive (I know at least one other - we tend to gravitate towards each other). Yet, I worry about my career. And family members pressure me to begin driving.

I'm an Undergrad, doing a planning minor. I love what I've encountered of planning so far - but I don't love the fact that many planning jobs require a license. My plan has been to work for a while and get some more experience in the field. I'd love to nail a planning related job after graduation but, in this economy, I don't think it will happen. I don't have enough experience. So, my plan right now is to take a full-time job and hopefully find a part-time planning internship to supplement that. Once I've gotten a better feel for the field and saved some money, I want to go back to grad school.

But sometimes I question whether or not I should even persue a career in planning at all. I can learn to drive if I have to but I still want to live car free. I imagine that if i were a big city planner (which I want to be) that I would not have to drive as much as planners elsewhere. Yet, sometimes I wonder if that could ever happen - considering that I might need to take entry-level jobs elsewhere to gain experience.

Anyhow... I hope that some of you can provide some perspective on this. Can it be done?
 

The Irish One

Member
Messages
2,267
Points
25
you need to drive, especially if it will help with work experience, so go for it. JUst think about it, you need to be practical about growing in your career. At the same time, nobody is saying hey you need to drive when you're not at work. I say this as an absolute bicycle enthusiast/ radical. I would rather bike than drive anyday. I am also a fierce speed walker, fierce!!
 
Messages
17
Points
1
Well... while I admit that I need a license (even just so that I'm not disqualified for a job with little or no travel because they want someone to drive on the slight possibility it may be needed), I may not that asked the right questions. What I really want to know is - how often do planners in, say, a moderately sized place with good transit (at least so that they could get to work) actually have to drive? What about in bigger cities (NY, Boston, etc.)? Are site visits there still conducted by car? Do many municipalities maintain gov't cars for use by planners for site visits, etc. so that they do not need a personal automobile?
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
I didn't get my driver's license until after I finished university, and yeah - not having it eliminated me from getting several student planning positions. But I always found jobs that I didn't need the license - usually in gov't agencies that didn't do development review.

I definitely needed the license for my first "real" planning job, although I did live for over a year without having my own car. I was lucky enough to be able to walk to work, and I would bum rides off friends, rent a car to travel back "home", and use the city car for some "unofficial" business to get other stuff done.

I'm not sure if my job description here requires me to have a driver's license. I do know that in order to use a City car though, I have to pass a City driving test - which I've never bothered to do. I use transit or walk to all my site visits - that's pretty easy to do here. The only times I've used the pool car (1990 Chev Cavalier Wagon - RUGGED!), someone else has booked it, and it's usually for a meeting out in one of the suburbs.

I'd get the license - even if it's just for ID purposes. I hated having to carry my passport around to get into bars. If you're lucky, you'll get a job in a place where they have municipal cars, and you won't have to get your own.
 
Messages
5,353
Points
31
Although it would be ideal to work car-free, it's somewhat unrealistic to perform your job without either having access to one or having the ability to drive one. When I worked in the downtown area, I would catch the bus to work on occasion (more times than not). Now that I work in the suburbs and am expected to be all over creation for meetings and such, I can't work without a car. In fact, I had to purchase a new car because I knew my 10 yr old vehicle wasn't going to be able to handle the increased commute time as well as the other additional miles that were going to be put on it.
 

Repo Man

Cyburbian
Messages
2,550
Points
25
I think you should get the licence. I think that even in bigger cities, site visits are conducted by car because it is unrealistic to use mass transit for site visits. Yeah, there may be a few instances where taking a train is quicker, but most projects are not going to be on a rail line. Buses are extremly slow too. Cars give you the flexibility to go where you want on your own schedule, which is essential in planning. Chances are that a municipality will have some type of vehicle that employees may use for site visits, meetings, etc so you wouldn't need you own vehicle. I think that if you are planning on working for a consulting firm, you would probably need your own car.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
Messages
3,838
Points
25
Might as well get it. It doesn't mean you're abandoning your ideals or anything. It also doesn't mean you need to own a car. It'll just show potential employers that you can drive when necessary. It might also help as a planner to know what its like to drive in the city when working on neighborhood transportation improvements. In a cold city biking will be too tough during the winter.

I recommend a used saab with a round "euro" sticker on the back. This communicates that you know driving is uncool, but is a necessary evil.
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,984
Points
29
crnflwrblu said:
*sigh* I hate cars.

I've always hated cars - partly out of fear, partly out the environmental reasons to support a less car dependant life, and partly out of my love for older, walkable communities. I don't have a drivers license and never have had one. I started to learn to drive last summer but left to come back to school before getting beyond the very basics.

Do you accept rides in cars from your work colleges, peers, family, and friends? If you do ride with them you are a hypocrite. If you never jump in anything but a taxi, bus, train or plane, then shine on Sister and stop reading here!

I once had a college professor who sucked the life out of the people in his world because he refused to learn to drive a car. He never learned to drive because he also “hated cars.” He frequently begged rides to go to official functions. He whined when something official was not within walking distance of his home. He bitched about the comfort level of the cars he was riding in for free. He paid for gas infrequently. When he did pay it was not nearly enough. The funny thing is he was in actuality forcing the burden of his prejudice (fear) on all of those around him. Now he has a debilitating injury that restricts his ability to walk. Had this person learned to drive a car perhaps they would be able to function in their world without being a burden on others. This person always rationalized their fear by claiming to be for the environment. What a joke.

If you can live in an urban world where big brother meets your needs by all means enjoy yourself. But if you ever want to travel outside of this urban paradise of yours I suggest you get yourself a driver’s license and maybe a moped.

:)
 
Messages
17
Points
1
Actually...

...I rarely get a ride from someone. I don't want to be a bother to anyone. Lets see... some Friday nights I go out with friends and one of them always offers to take us all home (by car). Last week, I got a ride to a site we were looking at for a planning class - but most people were car pooling anyway. I accept more rides when I'm in places that are less transit or walking "friendly" - such as the sprawlish monstrosity that my parents just moved into or to get to the rural town where my grandma lives. But, usually, I walk or make use of whatever transit system I have available (and, honestly, I don't count taxis - although I've used them before, I've been known to go out of my way to use a bus rather than take the taxi... maybe I'm cheap).

That said, I know I need a license... but it is encouraging to hear that I might not have to drive as much as I assumed (if I live in a bigger place).
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
Place will matter. Most communities do not have good public transportation, if they have it at all. You may end up limiting yourself to larger cities. Alternatively, you could be in a small town where it is possible to walk or ride a bike, but you will also find yourself longing for the freedom to get to places outside of the city.

On the job, I frequently find myself needing to go to check on sites, attend meetings, or chase out to other parts of the city or neighboring communities. We do not have municipal cars, but I do get a $3000/year car allowance.

One more thing. How long will it take you to walk, ride a bus, or use other means of transportatoin to get somewhere? Cars have the advantage of being quick. I can drive to the business park at the edge of town in five minutes. It would take me forty-five to walk, or twenty to ride a bike. Your manager, as well as your other co-workers, may not like that you use up so much time getting around instead of working.

My recommendation would be to get the license and buy an inexpensive, economical car. If you don't want to drive for most personal trips, then don't. But it is there for work, to occassionally get away for a weekend, to visit family, etc.
 

forzadeaconi

Member
Messages
4
Points
0
Hi. I intentionally live a mostly Carfree lifestyle, and I'm a planner, and as you can see, I'm not quite from a big city like Chapel Hill. You may have heard of my town before, which incidentally, doesn't have transit as good as yours.

First, I admire your zeal for carfree living. If you don't own a copy of Carfree Cities by JH Crawford, check out www.carfree.com and join the carfree list. You'll find people who are dedicated to finding real carfree (or more likely, non-car-dependent) lifestyles in the US.

Second, you're going to need to take a bit of the carfree chip off your shoulder and recognize that in most of the US, even in large, transit-friendly cities, there are large pockets of urban America, never mind suburban America, which depend on a car. As a planner working in this realm, you will need to go to public meetings at libraries, schools, etc., that are only reachable by car. It's bound to happen. Think about your professional goals, and realize that while strict carfree living may feel nice, it's really a career hurdle not to have license. Besides, one day someone you care about may be hurt, and you may need to drive. Professional reasons aside, this is the best reason to learn.

Next, don't take my second point too hard. Recognize that as an individual, you can do a lot to influence others by your example. Perhaps you can do even more, by living a non-car-dependent lifestyle that does have a car in it, or at least acknowledges that there are many trips in the US for which a car will always be indispensable, in particular, the many rural places in the US.

Being carfree by yourself is great, and feels liberating in many ways in terms of how your lifestyle changes. You'll probably watch less tv and have stronger leg muscles. However, if you've got a lifestyle that many Americans can emulate, you may have something more powerful. I find that I get a lot further by explaining how much money I save by walking and taking transit when I commute rather than telling people how often I get groceries from Weaver on my bike. For most people, the latter behavior just isn't an option, especially if they've got kids. But these people can do park and ride, and they do understand the fiscal and environmental savings that accrue from their behavior.

In closing, you don't need to be in a big city to be carfree as much as you need to make good location decisions at the micro level when you choose housing. Also- there's no inherent shame in owning a car. It's how you make use of the car you use that makes the biggest impact. Understand your impacts and share them with others.

I own a car, but since last year, I've converted 154 miles of weekly commuting by car to nothing by car, and limited my non-work trips as well wherever possible. That's 7700 VMTs reduced, roughly 265 gallons of gasoline saved, and while it's not completely carfree, I don't ever doubt I'm helping the environment.

Good luck!
 

green22

Cyburbian
Messages
101
Points
6
car free planning

I also do not drive and have no valid liscense. I think it is very important to have people who are not just saying we need to plan for alternate transport modes, but living it. As a person who doesn't drive you are always fighting the public system which only recognizes one mode. To use your bus pass in Toronto you have to show your drivers liscense or a youth ID. I don't qualify for a youth ID because I'm 36. I "ve been using an out of date Ohio liscense from 1992 and have only been kicked off the street car once.

I have found that with a combination of a fold up bike and bus I can reach most locations quickly. It is a shame that I will have to buy , rent, register and insure a car, take drivers lessons and pass a drivers test to get a job or to ride transit in Toronto. In a just world planners and transit agency workers would be forced to get and use a metropass to get a job, not be given a company car. When planners actually use transit it will become more responsive to users needs. We already have loads of planners who are intimately familiar with the highway system. Eliminate company cars and institute a 90% paycut and planners may become familiar with new commuting patterns.
 

dbhstockton

Member
Messages
12
Points
1
First let me say hello to Chapel Hill. I live in New jersey, but my brother just moved down there and I have some friends in Carrboro. It seems like a wonderful place to live and I always have a great time when I go down there.

Now let me talk some sense into you.

You can live car-free if you must, but it's silly to do it just out of principle. Unless you decide to live someplace like NYC, you'll be severely limiting your options, and not just for employment. Your living costs, choice of housing, recreation, leisure activities, and social life will be influenced as well. In otherwords, your quality of life will be adversely affected unless you deside to live in a pedestrian-friendly town, and even then there will be effects.

I understand not liking cars. I resisted for a while. I didn't get my license until I was 19 and a car until I was 20. Here's my solution, and I offer it to you: I live in a "walkable" community, but I have a car so I don't have to mooch off of other people for rides to the warehouse store. I can walk to a cafe or the public library, or I can hop on the interstate and go to Ikea. There's plenty of towns like this, at least in New Jersey. Find one and have the best of both worlds.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
Re: car free planning

green22 said:
To use your bus pass in Toronto you have to show your drivers liscense or a youth ID. I don't qualify for a youth ID because I'm 36. I "ve been using an out of date Ohio liscense from 1992 and have only been kicked off the street car once.
Green - go to Sherbourne subway station and get a Metropass ID photo taken. http://www.city.toronto.on.ca/ttc/mdp.htm
 

green22

Cyburbian
Messages
101
Points
6
no car

thanks I got it. I had called shurburne before but they told me I couldn't get a pass because of my age. They had been talking about the school pass. I specifically asked for the metropass this time. Quick, cheap and convenient.
 

OhioPlanner

Cyburbian
Messages
304
Points
11
I live in a relatively large city. I live one house away from the bus stop and 3 miles away from work 6 miles from downtown. Both of which are on the bus line. I live across from a park and library and less than 1 mile from a grocery store.

We purposely bought our house where we did so we can reduce our auto dependency.

I take a car in occassionally, but I don't have to have one. The biggest issue is those night meetings. You have to carefully watch the bus schedule to make sure you have a way home at night.

I'd say you have to have a license and buy a cheap car that you can drive when you have to.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
I am curious about all of you people with no car, or who live a "non-auto-dependent" lifestyle. Don't you ever leave town? OK, sure, it is a good thing to bike or take a bus to work. But what do you do when you want to visit a state park on the weekend? Or tour a neighboring city? Or take a road trip? Just curious.
 

green22

Cyburbian
Messages
101
Points
6
i can't afford to travel often, but I took amtrak to Chicago last year. The bus is another option, a plane is my last choice. I used to hate travelling with a car because of the high probability of it breaking down on long trips, the bus is cheaper in the long run.

I moved to Toronto now and my wife and I will go on a bicycle vacation to central Ontario in the warmer months. We're not the greatest bikers so up to 200 miles or so is about our limit. The worst part of the trip is the dogs that chase you from the houses along the road. Taking children along on a long bike trip is also challenging. You have to take less busy roads. If you have people who are not into bike riding far distances in your family you can always combine the bike with the bus or train or leave the bikes at home.

Since vacation time is so limited you have to flexible in your destination or travel mode. i've always wanted to go to London once in my life perhaps, and I would either take a boat or fly. If I go, I might not come back.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
I've been car free for almost 4 years now. I've been living in South Philly of late but for the three years prior I was living in the South Jersey suburbs and within walking distance of the train there.

If I need a car for a few hours i use Philly Car Share. If I need a car for the whole day or weekend I rent one. It's normally less than $30 a day and far cheaper than paying $200 a month for insurance on a car that sits there 5 days a week.

Beyond transit and renting cars the mode of transit i use most is my two feet and the shoes or pedals underneath them.

You certainly shouldn't be subsidizing your employer by using your car for work. If your employer requires a car then they should pay for it. 15 cents a mile doesn't cut it. If they don't have a company car, or one reserved at a rental agency, they should be paying you what AAA says it costs to operate a car - 50 cents a mile.

I understand that in Chapel Hill (i used to live there) life without a car is fairly easy but getting out of Chapel Hill can be a problem. If there isn't a local car sharing service maybe it's time you started one. You could be waiting a long time for TTA to get that train to Chapel Hill.

As a planner working for a public entity i'm not about to spend as much on a car as i do on shelter. It's absolutely ludicrous.

To answer the question of what the "no car" people do - well, there's basically no place between Delaware and Connecticut that i can't take a local train to and if by chance there is, then i rent a car. It's much cheaper than owning one - all the money i save leaves me plenty to travel with.
 
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