Remember, September is Try Transit Month! With the recent gas shortage causing long waits at the pump, it’s a good time to try taking transit around the Triangle area. Or, switch to an active mode such as biking or walking, at least for a portion of your trip (which extends the life of your current tank of gas, too). Check out gotriangle.org/trytransit or ask me how!
September is a great month to be a transit rider, pedestrian, cyclist, or advocate. That’s because it’s Try Transit Month and Car-Free Month!
While there’s no universal governing body over these events, many cities around the world have adopted their own days/months/weeks and events to promote less reliance on the automobile. Trying transit and going car-free go together (obviously), so it’s a win-win for cities to promote their public transit systems and also show people what reduced car congestion feels like.
Coming up is one of the more popular events of this month, World Carfree Day, on September 22. Paris is one popular example, but car-free days have been held in cities big and small all over the world. On this day, people around the world are encouraged to leave their car at home and bike, walk, carpool, telecommute, or take the bus to work, school, or play.
Washington DC, where I used to work, does a lot of promotion for Carfree Day (they call it Carfree Metro DC). If you’re in the DC area, you can sign up to take a pledge to go car-free or car-light on that day. What’s “car light”? If you can’t give up your car entirely, perhaps instead of driving the entire way to work you use a park & ride facility and take Metro, or you arrange a carpool with a colleague or friend.
How will you plan to celebrate Car-Free Day?
Since I’m already car-free, I pledge to celebrate Try Transit Month by:
- Take transit for 2 trips each week in September when I might normally walk
- Get at least 2 friends back in DC to go car-free on September 22
For those of you in the Research Triangle Park area, GoTriangle (our regional transit system) promotes Try Transit Month and has a lot of great resources on their site.
I’d love to hear about your personal pledges and what you plan to do to celebrate on September 22 and all month long!
I thought it might be useful to compile a list of resources for getting around without a car. These can be helpful even if you own a car! Maybe you want to use transit more, get healthier, experience your community, or you find yourself car-free here in the CH/Carrboro area temporarily. Or maybe you’re here as a visitor! (hint hint)
I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. The area has many transit agencies with great resources, and UNC’s Transportation & Parking department has some great programs, but I’ll re-share them here so they’re all in one place.
Also, I know that lack of experience riding transit (and ensuing anxiety about where you can get to, how to pay the fare, etc.) is a huge barrier to entry for first-time users. Even if you’ve taken the bus or subway in other cities, using a new bus line can be intimidating. Hopefully my perspectives on these resources will help remove some of that anxiety.
My Personal Resources for Car-Freedom
- Google Maps. This is my first source for transit information in a new area. Other apps are better for real-time arrivals, but this is how I figure out “can I even get from A to B without a car?”
- Nextbus. This is my #1 app for real-time travel information. It reads your location and shows which bus stops/routes are nearby. Great for when you already know where you’re going, and need to find out when.
- Zipcar. Zipcar lets you rent a car for a very low hourly rate after paying a yearly membership fee. The one major drawback is that you still pay even when you’re not physically in the car (e.g., you go on a hike) and you have to return at the pick-up location.
- Lyft. For when you get stranded.
- Amazon Prime. For groceries or pantry items (e.g., antibacterial wipes) that are bulky or that I buy regularly, I use Amazon Prime to restock. This saves me from having to make a transit trip 18x a week to run out and buy simple non-perishable stuff that I don’t need to see in person. Peapod is a similar concept, but for groceries. I don’t use Peapod because I love going to the grocery store, but people love it.
- Other car-free tips:
- Make your trips efficient. Going to the store twice because you forgot something is 10x more frustrating when you have to wait for the bus…for the second time that day. Combine your trips and minimize the back and forth. On the flip side, when I have a long day of class I’ll pack everything I need for the day.
- Choose the best quality shoes you can afford. I go through shoes very quickly with all of the walking I do. It makes your walk experience a lot better (and your motivation to take active transportation) if your feet don’t hurt all the time.
- Be prepared for weather. It makes the car-free journey a lot more pleasant if you have a rain jacket, umbrella, rain shoes, or the appropriate cold-weather gear to keep you toasty as you go.
- Be generous to those who give you rides. This depends on your personality, but when I grab a ride with someone I try to be effusive in my thanks, pay for gas occasionally and/or reimburse them for gas each trip, and offer something in return (cookies!) every once in a while.
Other Official Resources for Taking Transit
- Chapel Hill Transit
- GoTriangle Trip Planner
- App for GoTriangle Transit
- UNC Transportation and Parking – including the Commuter Alternatives Program
So when you don’t own your own car, what do you do about car insurance? In all my digging, the most helpful online dialogue was the Popville post on driver-only car insurance. Disclaimer: Everyone’s insurance situation is unique, and this isn’t a specialty area of mine, but I do think it’s helpful to share what I do know.
I personally don’t have auto insurance, so here’s how I cover myself when I do happen to drive a car:
- When renting a car: I opt for the supplemental liability protection and the personal accident insurance (~$20 per day). You can get this directly through the rental company at the counter when you pick up the car. Yes, credit cards come with some coverage, but typically only for collision damage – think damage to the car. But if I happen to injure another person, and they sue me for their medical costs, the supplemental liability protection protects me. (Note: how good the protection is, and how much of a pain the process is, remains to be seen, and hopefully I’ll never have to know).
- When driving a friend’s car: This is sticky depending on their policy and the state. Many policies (like my parents’ policy) cover occasional non-cohabiting drivers. Again this depends on the state as each state has different penalties for driving without insurance of your own, particularly for liability.
- When driving a roommate’s car: Since I don’t have non-driver insurance of my own, I don’t! Insurance companies will consider a roommate part of your household and require that you’re on their insurance to be covered at all.
- Zipcar and Car2Go: These include minimal coverage with your use of the shared cars.
If anyone has other info to add about non-driver insurance or how they cover themselves, please add! I’ve been thinking about getting some non-driver insurance of my own, so I’d welcome a dialogue on that.