Watts: One Less Car

Jul 10, 2019

I live on a country road in Hinesburg, with a walkability score of zero - meaning there is nothing within walking distance of my house, except a very nice walk - no stores, jobs, or other necessities of daily life. Despite our remote location, we’re a two-driver, one car family. And it works. During the week, my routine varies between pedaling the twelve miles to my job in Burlington or riding into the village, where I mount my bike on a public bus heading into the city.

It may seem obvious, but the most effective way to cut your driving is to not own a car. Once you make the investment - purchase, registration, insurance, maintenance - using a car makes economic sense, so you end up driving more. This is a fact confirmed recently by the annual U.S. National Travel Survey. Three-car households drive more than two, and two-car households drive more than one.
In Vermont, where 94 percent of households own one or more cars, driving alone to work is the norm.

Going car-free is difficult, but selling a second car can mean a significant decline in a household’s driving - and its carbon footprint from travel. Which is why organizations like CarShare Vermont can make a big impact. It offers families the use of vehicles without the financial commitment of ownership. For every vehicle CarShare puts into circulation, 16 households sell a car.

My rural one-car lifestyle is made possible with a few advantages. Hinesburg is served by a weekday commuter bus. And I have a significant financial incentive—my employer offers me a free bus pass and I no longer have to pay three hundred dollars a year to park. And I can get a free taxi ride home if I'm delayed at work.

Our system has evolved into making us all very car dependent. Choices are limited. I don't mean to minimize that. But a quarter of the trips Vermonters take every day are under one mile. And if more people experience the day-to-day life of a walker, biker or bus rider, they will demand better bus service, safe crossings, bike paths that don’t end - and there will be more options for all of us.