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  • Writer's pictureGary Grewal

Why There's Never Been a Better Time to go Car Free

For those of you that have been with us for a while now, you know how much I love cars. There are about 3 chapters dedicated to them in the book, and if anyone chooses their ride as a "conscious spending" category, I fully support it. Some of us are just wired that way. The way certain cars catch our eye, the way they sound, the thrill of how they drive and handle, it's just pure delight.

Sometimes, there's no better recipe to lift your spirits than to put your favorite tunes on, open the sunroof, and go for a drive on a single-lane highway or scenic byway.

Another reason to love cars? You can sleep in 'em! Who needs overpriced and crowded campgrounds or hotels (yes, I saw a state park that had campgrounds for $50 a night. To sleep on the dirt. In the words of Regina, what is happening to the world?)

That being said, I've never been such an advocate for being car-free as I am now.

From Car-Enthusiast to Car-Minimalist

Surprised? Most of us have never seen such high gas prices, and most importantly, we've never seen the cost of used cars appreciate over time. Who would have thought that a Subaru Outback would sell for $3,000 more when it was 2 years old and had 20,000 miles on it, than when it was brand new?!

On the other hand, I was wondering what the whole uproar was about "dealer markups" as some manufacturers were threatening to cut off deliveries for dealers who were asking for prices above the MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price). And yes, I can verify that I have seen it in real life. A local dealer listed a base model Toyota Prius for $27,999, (a ripoff as it is) and then dared to place a $6,700 "dealer adjustment" onto it for a whopping $35,000! For. A. PRIUS.

Sure, you can make the argument that since gas prices went bonkers this year and there was finger-pointing of price-gouging or intentional restriction of supply, people naturally gravitate towards hybrid or electric cars. Plus, this is the basic economics of supply and demand.

However, all car prices are going up. Want to know some of the biggest markups out there? Trucks and SUVs. For some reason, I thought pickups sold for about $30,000. My neighbor then bought a full-size GMC and told me he paid $80,000. For something that gets less than 20 miles a gallon. I wonder why he's complaining about things costing more!

Why Walkability is the Future

Financial Fives readers also know that I'm a firm believer in sustainable infrastructure and multimodal transportation. If it was up to me, each city with over 500,000 residents would have a train from their airport to the city center, or at least every capital city in all 50 states.

There has also been an increase in bike infrastructure, as in dedicated bike trails and protected bike lanes in cities across the country.

There are now entire communities being built around the concept of being car-free, like CulDeSac in Arizona. Transit is a huge part of one's lifestyle so how to get around to amenities is key.

If you do a simple Google search for "public transportation near me", you'll likely find your local transit authority, responsible for the bus and or/rail system.

A city's "walkability index" or "walkability score" help define how easy it is to navigate the community by foot. Most people assume this is only downtown neighborhoods, yet that's only the tip of the iceberg.

What is MultiModal Transportation?

Many small towns, college towns, and even suburbs have pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods or villages. Even where I grew up in car-loving suburbia, we could easily walk to major grocery stores, gyms, coffee shops, parks, restaurants, schools, and video stores (yes, I'm dating myself, good times BlockBuster!)

Whether or not you call it a "car-free movement", there are clear examples of car-free cities around the globe. Some cities like Paris shut down dense urban centers to cars on a certain day of the week, so pedestrians can walk as they please without worrying about getting mowed down by a texting-and-driving motorist.

There are great YouTube channels such as Not Just Bikes, CityNerd, and Strong Towns that beautifully showcase how pedestrian-friendly areas thrive and are increasingly in demand based on consumer behavior.

There was even a study on how the retail and residential tax revenue from a city's downtown subsidizes the suburbs. Because suburbs are spread so far out, they take more storm drains, more asphalt paving, more streetlight maintenance, more water, electrical infrastructure, etc.

Food Hall? You Mean Like Those Chain-Infested Mall Things?

If you've ever been in a "food hall" you'll know the feeling a pedestrian gets when they come across a multimodal neighborhood. Food halls are kind of like upscale food courts that we all grew up eating at in suburban malls. You have dozens of eateries within a stone's throw of each other.

Now, they are free-standing buildings or incorporated into a mixed-use development, such as an office building.

In Denver, where I once lived, food halls were all the rave. They were in art districts, downtown, in walkable neighborhoods, and near universities. Avanti, Denver Central Market, and Milk Market are all very popular, so much so that the concept of a food hall has taken off in the surrounding suburbs of Denver, and guess what?

People drive, bike, or rideshare over there, and then they can eat, watch live music or an outdoor movie, attend a farmer's market, get a drink, or work on their laptops.

Walkable Neighborhoods are the Future

If you have a chance, just sit and people-watch next time you are in a walkable area. Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, CO, 12 South in Nashville, Uptown Atlanta, or even The Domain, in a suburb of Austin.

They are thriving because people want to just be able to live and visit where they don't need a car. Apartments in proximity to those areas are hands down more expensive than suburban ones, because of the demand for walkability.

As you can see, there's never been a better time to go car-free. Shun the greed of car dealers marking up cars above the MSRP, shake your head at long lines at the gas station as people pay $6 a gallon, and free up hours of your life doing something that makes you feel alive.

It's much better than sitting behind the wheel in traffic, looking for parking, or being stuck behind that bus you wish you got on so you could finish a book for once!


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