Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Life in this City without a car

Front of our house

Six years ago I tried an experiment and wanted to see if I could live without a car in this city.   I live in the Burnside Gorge neighbourhood and I work out of my own house.   I thought this should be realistic for me to do as I have chosen to live without one when I was younger.

I lived in London for almost three years without a car, though no kids and a very different lifestyle.

I lived in Kitslano in Vancouver without car but then had to buy one to be able to get to work.   My job started early enough that I could not get there in time with transit.

Near to my home I have the #8 and #11 on Gorge and the #21, #22 and #26 on Burnside.   I can get to for following locations in Victoria without changing buses:
  • Camosun Interurban
  • VGH
  • Esquimalt
  • Downtown
  • Fernwood
  • Hillside
  • Oak Bay, all the way to the marina
  • Uplands/Cadboro Bay
  • UVic
  • Mackenzie/Shelbourne
  • Uptown
The selection of locations is pretty good as long as I do not want to go to the Westshore, Peninsula starting at Saanich municipal hall, James Bay or Fairfield.

My experience of needing to transfer in this city is that if everything is going well it adds ten minutes to your trip.  If ti goes badly, you wait and wait and wait.

I live walking distance from Tillicum and the Gorge Plaza, home of the original Fairway.  I have the movie theatres, rece centre and library all within walking distance.

I thought this would be possible, but the reality of having three kids made this very, very hard to do.

First off was that it took much longer to get to anywhere I had to go with the kids.   Getting Archie Browning took about half an hour, driving it takes me ten minutes, 15 if traffic is bad.  The #26 runs every 24 minutes which meant I was at the arena about 15 minutes earlier than I needed to be because my son could not be late. Coming back there was about a 10 minute wait.   With the car for an hour practice, it took about an hour and forty minutes round trip.   With the bus the same practice took about two and a half hours.

Getting kids to events added a lot of hours of travel time to my week.   There were times when it was not possible to do it on the bus because two kids had events on the same evening.   Borrowing a car is what I had to do to accomplish on those nights.

The next problem came with shopping.   Not having a car removed some of my normal options for shopping and this added about 20-30% to my food bill.   I hear you say "but use a cab".   Cabs may carry them now, but six years ago they did not offer booster seats for kids.  Lugging around booster seats while you are shopping is awkward.

My shopping was restricted to the Fairway, which is where I do a lot of my shopping anyway.   The problem is that the volume that I shop in does not make it easy for the groceries to be carried home.   What I ended up doing was having to go shopping every other day and giving up on bulk purchases.  I lost more free time because of this.

Walking home with a pack full of groceries and a bag in each hand in the rain is not a pleasant experience.

For work I have to be downtown from time to time or at the legislature.   With a car it takes ten minutes to get downtown.   With the bus, and I still use the bus now about half of the time, it takes me about 30 minutes and to that the time from arriving early.   With the car, a half coffee meeting means I can be back home in in one hour easily.  On the bus it takes me more like two hours.   With the addition of the LRT it will take me an extra 15 to 20 minutes beyond that because of the transfer time involved.

I tried and I found it was not realistic to live without a car and have kids in Victoria.   If I wanted to be a martyr I could be doing it now, but it does not make my life any better, it just left me with fewer hours in my life to do all the stuff I already do not have enough time for.  The only reason I could make this work at all was because I borrowed cars to make it happen.

There about 47,500 households in the CRD with kids.   These households representing about 150,000 people, or 43.5% of our population.  Life without a car is a serious problem for families with kids and makes life unnecessarily difficult.   Rising costs to operate a car makes it that much harder for a poorer family to have a car.  The various reductions of capacity on roads in this region makes life that much harder for people with kids who are a large portion of our population.

Making people feel guilty for owning and operating a car and then charging more so much in taxes and fees that government makes more from car users than what is spends on every thing related to cars simply does not make sense.
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