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Saturday 9/22 Car Free Day


Tomorrow is Car Free Day.
On Sunday, I invite all of you to write a short answer to:
"How hard was it to not use the car all day?"
On my drive back from Montgomery Mall today to Wheaton, MD, I kept thinking how spoiled I was to be driving my 2004 big mini van that gets only 19 mpg to a mall on the east side of the County just so I could have lunch with a friend.  While I didn't plan it, I dropped by the Apple Store while I was there and used my credit card to purchase a new battery for my 2006 MacBook.   I couldn't help asking the sales rep about the price of the newer MacBook Air and wondering whether it would be a better investment to upgrade than to buy a new battery.  Silly of me, I know, my old computer works just fine and it would be wasteful to get rid of it, at least that's what I told myself before purchasing the battery and leaving.
"Would I even be at the Montgomery Mall if it was Car Free Day?", I thought while driving back to Wheaton.  "Would I have taken the bus instead?"  My daughter, who is too young to drive, keeps telling me I'm a hypocrite because I make her take the public bus everywhere including to and from school, to friend's houses, to go shopping, etc.  I try very hard not to taxi her back and forth to events she can take a bus to and from.  But today, I didn't even think about looking up the bus route and schedule to go to the mall and that is one of the points of Car Free Day.  
How hard is it to not use a car?  We know the benefits of using public transportation, walking, biking, etc. and yet, why do we keep using our single occupancy vehicles for point to point trips?  Yes, of course it is faster and more convenient to walk out of the front door and climb into my car, which is usually only about 30 feet away from the door, but at what cost?  What did I spend in gas, how much wear and tear did I add to my car, how much carbon pollution did my car emit on the way there and back, what was the wear and tear on the County Road system, what was the cost to the Mall to provide parking for me and how much does that service increase the cost of rent for the stores at the mall, etc., etc.
There is still time to pledge not to use the car tomorrow by visiting:
But what I, and others, would like to know, is were you able to keep your promise?  Did you just stay at home waiting for Sunday?  Or did you enjoy walking, biking and/or using public transportation instead?
Good luck not using the car tomorrow and I hope to hear some of your stories on Sunday,

Elizabeth Chaisson, AICP
GreenWheaton President

Replies to this Topic

On Saturday, September 22, because I like the planet and I also love to get a little exercise, I took a bus to Silver Spring and walked a mile to the Washington Ethical Society (WES) for some training. 

After the training, I took another bus downtown, walked to the mall with a friend and then caught Metro to the Navy Yard station and the Yards Park to join the annual Veg Fest, a wonderful celebration of delicious vegetarian food (another passion), with a profound respect for non-human animals. I got to see many old friends and ran into my neighbors who gave me a ride home 

On Sunday, I returned to WES - this time by bicycle (10 miles) to spend some fun time with 1st graders as we shared our long and short experiences. Later I returned home via the Takoma Park farmer's market. Later I drove my Prius to a WES Earth Ethics meeting, picking up 2 car-poolers on the way. 

September 22, 2012 was not only car-free day, but also my 67th birthday. 


How did everyone do?
"How hard was it to not use the car all day?"
Well, I didn't make it.  I was on the computer trying to decide where to go without the car all morning.  My sister invited me down to the National Book Fair on the Mall in DC, then called to tell me there was another festival on 8th Street and Barracks Row in SE, DC.  I actually went on-line and discovered that there was a lot happening in DC all weekend and most of it was metro accessible.  So it would have been fairly easy to be a DC resident and go car free all weekend without noticing it.
But I live in the suburbs.  Yes, I am a 5-minute walk from the Wheaton metro and bus depot, but if I want to visit a friend in northern Montgomery County or go grocery shopping for the week, it could be painful to do this via public transportation.  How painful?  Well, I usually fill five bags with groceries when I do my weekly shopping.  That would be too much to carry, and I gave away my metal shopping cart 1-2 years ago to a neighbor who didn't have a car and kept using their baby stroller to lug groceries.
How else could it be painful?  Around 3 pm, a friend who lives in Howard County northwest of Ellicott City called and invited us to dinner.  I laughed and told her it was Car Free Day and there was no way we would be able to get to her house by public transportation.  I hung up and promised to call her back in 20 minutes to see if I could figure it out.  My daughter insisted that I try to take the bus since I always make her do that.  I googled my address and my friend's address and clicked on the public transit icon.  The result was that it was going to take us 3 hours and 36 minutes to get to her house and the last 6 miles was by taxi.  Obviously it would take longer if we walked the last 6 miles.  And that's what I mean by painful.  The estimated time to her house when I clicked on the car icon was 30 miles in 41 minutes.  Also, we were invited for dinner, and when I clicked the public transit icon after selecting the estimated time of departure after dinner, it was going to take us 7 hours to get home.  There were about 7 transfer points and quite a bit of wait time in between transfers.  We would have arrived home at 4 am.
So it was possible to take public transit to my friends house, but it would have been painful.  Instead we just jumped in the car that gets 40 mpg around 6:30 pm and arrived around 7:15 pm despite all of the pouring rain, which made me even more grateful that we had a private car to transport us because waiting at a transfer point in the rain would not have been pleasant!
I'm hoping I will be more appreciative over the next few days of how lucky I am to own a private car that can take me anywhere in the region in so short a time.  I also hope I will think twice before jumping in the car to make a single trip to a place I can walk, bike or take public transit to in less than 30 minutes.

Elizabeth Chaisson, AICP
GreenWheaton President

Hi All,

I would have loved to go carfree on Saturday, as I do many days of the year.  But, I considered my priorities and the larger impact of my actions when deciding what to do.  I had already agreed to volunteer with The League of Conservation Voters, doing door-to-door campaigning for Obama in Virginia, when I heard about carfree day, and realized that I would not have been able to get to the meeting place in Fairfax without a car.  I think an afternoon of knocking on doors of voters in a swing state, telling that I'm campaigning for the President because of his strong(er) stand on environmental issues will, in the long term, have more positive impacts for the environment than one less person on the road that day.   

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