Thursday, December 18, 2008

Walkin' in a winter wonderland...In Seattle!

Well, after a teaser snowfall over the weekend, we got the real deal today. When I got up to go to my dad's office, I looked out and the decision was made, no way would I drive! Yes, I confess, I was going to drive. Trying to get to meetings and drum up clients around town has put me back in the car more than I want to be.

Anyway, one flake of snow and Seattle goes into panic mode, and the drivers, well, let's just say I saw enough today to really confirm I made the right decision! What I saw today:
  • mid-90's vintage BMW with all four wheels locked up sliding, kind of sideways, kind of straight into an intersection.
  • SUVs, pickups and all variety of passenger cars sliding around corners
  • folks driving on icing streets as if they were bone-dry pavement in the middle of summer
  • many cars with engines near redline and wheels spinning, but not really going anywhere

One other thing I saw, and experienced, that had me scratching my head some was the number of articulated buses that Metro Transit was running in this weather. For those of you who don't know what an articulated bus is, it's kind of like two buses joined together with an accordion-like section. The thing is, the drive wheels are, like in any other bus, the rear wheels, only on the second portion of the bus. In essence, the trailer is pushing the cab!

Now, I know these increase carrying capacity. This is a good thing when people are opting not to drive. However, in the ice, they do tend to jackknife a bit. The one I was to catch to my dad's office did so (before arriving at the stop I was to board it), and my dad also saw several of them jackknife when he was dropping my mom off at work. Perhaps Metro should consider parking the articulated buses in this weather and decreasing the frequency of some routes to spread the buses out to account for the decreased passenger capacity.

Oh, when we really embrace a real mass transit solution regionally that includes something other than buses being run throughout the area, not just a few other options?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Getting Back to "Normal"

With our recent move I feel I have spent more time in the car in the last few weeks than I did the entire rest of the year all together. We have walked for several little errands as we worked to put our new home together, but with all the trips back and forth between our old place and the new as we attempt to get rid of all the excess stuff we have acquired over the last few years, we just hadn't managed to get back into our usual routine, especially concerning grocery shopping. But today we had a day where we just planned on staying put and relaxing. No moving related work, whatsoever. This gave us the opportunity to slow down just enough to allow for a leisurely walk , instead of drive, to the nearby Whole Foods for the few grocery items we were needing or once seen, seemed to need (unfortunately we were hungry when we shopped!) This was a direction we really hadn't set off in before so there were many discoveries along the way, one of the great benefits of walking places. In a 9 to 10 city block area we discovered a local Italian restaurant that seemed to be doing a Thanksgiving Day feeding program, a creperie with organic ingredients on the menu, an apartment in a courtyard with a bird feeder that was being enjoyed by a wingless "bird" with a grey fluffy tail and a huge flock of Bushtits and Chickadees foraging in a very nicely landscaped area in front of a building. It's only on foot or maybe on a bike that I really get the opportunity to enjoy all the nature that graces a busy city like Seattle.

I look forward to the last couple trips being over with and a full return to "gettin' around" the way we so very much prefer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We've got press, yes we do!

We've got press, How 'bout you!

While we've been busy, um, not updating the blog, we've gotten a bit of press.

First off, we were mentioned in the October issue of the newsletter for the Washington State House of Representatives: In the House (see article on page 7).

A little over a week ago, we were awarded "Site of the Month" on 365 Days of Trash.

Not bad for neglecting the blog, eh?

Update: We've not given up!

Well, it's been a while since I've updated. We've not given up the project, but life's been a bit crazy.

In week 12, I posted that I lost my job, and by week 14, we were looking at housing options in Seattle. Well, since that last post, we have found a place to live and moved. I'm also looking for work. This month plus has seen more use of the car, what with trying to cram in as many housing options to look at as possible into one day, trips to clean out a storage unit, and trips to Goodwill to donate things we didn't bring with us.

We're nearly settled now, so our car use should drop back off.

I've gotten sloppy about keeping track of my statistics lately, so I can't give a good accounting of our car use and non-use for this gap. Sorry for those who are curious about that.

More posts coming soon!

Monday, October 6, 2008

14th Week Statistics

Dates: September 26 – October 2

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.68 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 3.26 miles
    • Bicycle: 14.25 miles
    • Bus: 261 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 278.51
  • Gallons of gas saved: 11.14
  • Gas expense saved: $41.00
  • Total transit fares: $30.00
  • Total miles driven: 97
  • Gallons of gas used: 3.88
  • Cost of gas used: $14.28

What a week! We spent a lot of time on the road with two trips to Seattle. Since we were looking for housing on the second trip, we used my mom’s car to get from location to location. Even planning an hour and a half in between viewing appointments had us cutting it close in some cases to be on time.

After three months in which we’ve used the car very little, we found ourselves relieved to be out of the car. Running around in a steel box on wheels just feels alien to us now. It feels good to be walking and cycling around again!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

13th Week Statistics

Dates: September 19 – 25

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.76 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 13.64 miles
    • Bicycle: 9.73 miles
    • Bus: 5.01 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 28.38
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.14
  • Gas expense saved: 4.27
  • Total transit fares: $6.00
  • Total miles driven: 20.1
  • Gallons of gas used: 0.804
  • Cost of gas used: $3.02

Well, when you take out the daily commute, the numbers change a bit. There’s a lot less distance by bike when I cut out the 4-mile daily round trip. Sunday we needed to get out, and headed to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, there is no bus service into the delta (hint, hint, Intercity Transit!), so out came the car.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Note from the Chief Errand Runner

Since this project began I have often had to remind myself of the pictures I've seen of stout little old ladies in neat black widow's dress hauling their daily groceries up the steep alleys and staircases of Italy.  It puts things into perspective when you're a 30-something woman with very little hill to traverse.  When I found myself starting to mumble about feeling like a pack horse while carrying bags and baskets of groceries to and from my home, those images of strong Italian matrons stopped my complaining and served me a piece of humble pie.  I realized how spoiled we really are in this society with everyone having cars that go anywhere and everywhere.  Then I think of how many women in this culture would not be able to continue running such daily errands on foot into the latter years of their lives.  They may not have remained in good enough condition, partly because of their reliance on those very cars.  So I hope to change that pattern, at least in my own life, and perhaps be an inspiration to others.  I won't just benefit from the physical exercise but also from the near daily interaction with local business people in my community who perhaps might just need a little inspiration themselves.  

12th Week Statistics

Dates: September 12 – 18

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.79 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 8.51 miles
    • Bicycle: 21.07 miles
    • Bus: 0.82 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 30.4
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.22
  • Gas expense saved: $4.61
  • Total transit fares: $0.00
  • Total miles driven: 11.03
  • Gallons of gas used: .44
  • Cost of gas used: $1.67

What a week! This week included the blow of losing my job, and the car was used to bring my personal things home from the office. We combined that with a trip out to pick produce from a garden we were asked to look after (it turns out we would have had quite a lot to try to bring home by bike) and a trip to get the cats’ food from Mud Bay on the Westside.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How Green is Cycling?

I did a Google search on “how green is my commute” and came up with this article on Bicycle Fixation. It is an interesting read and something to think about.

We often here people talk about how green they are. Perhaps they chose a high efficiency vehicle (or a hybrid). Maybe they hypermile. Maybe they compost and recycle and reuse as much as possible. All these are good things, and can help the environment. But is riding a bike green? In and of it self, the author says no. I go both ways on this, but mostly disagree with the author’s assertion.

Hear me out.

In as much as riding a bike replaces a car trip, I don’t think anyone would disagree that it is green. Use the bike for your exercise? Again I’d say it is. What’s your alternative? Drive to the gym for an hour staring at the television while you work out on the stair master? Drive to the pool to swim? Granted, again the bike is reducing car trips, so it meets the “green standard” applied by the author.

Let’s look at something the author addresses that’s close to my heart: bike touring.

I like bike touring. OK, I’ve not done a real tour since high school, but I’d like to get back to it and enjoy some tours in the future. Most of us like to take a tour someplace we’ve not seen, or is just so incredibly wonderful we want to go back at a slower pace. I had the opportunity to pedal through the Loire Valley in France, Bavaria, Czechoslovakia, northern Germany and the Netherlands one summer. Of course, we had to fly from Seattle to Europe and then take trains to the starting points for the various legs of the journey. We know that flying uses huge amounts of fossil fuels, and trains use significant amounts as well. But let’s look at the time spent cycling. Each leg covered several hundred miles, by bicycle. These are sections that would likely have been traveled by car or bus otherwise. So, in that sense each leg we rode, we omitted a car trip.

If my wife and I decide to tour the Oregon coast by bicycle, we could do so one of two ways. We could lengthen the trip significantly by starting and ending from our home (which is the only way the author of the article considers the trip to be green), or we could find transport to our selected starting point, then ride our tour, and get transport back. Maybe not 100% green, but every choice we make that will reduce car trips (and along many routes we may choose to ride, there are lots of cars) is a green choice. It doesn’t matter if the “green portion” is bracketed by less green options. We have to make the choices that make sense to us.

What do you think? Please leave us your comments.


Monday, September 15, 2008

11th Week Statistics

Dates: September 5 - 11

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $ 3.84 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 1.74 miles
    • Bicycle: 41.39 miles
    • Bus: .65 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 43.78
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.75
  • Gas expense saved: 6.72
  • Total transit fares: $0.75
  • Total miles driven: 0
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Catching Up

Leave it to preparing for and going on vacation to really get one backed up. Three weeks of statistics, and the August monthly statistics are now posted. Sorry for a bulk innundation of numbers.


August Statistics

Here's how the numbers looked for the second month of the project:

  • Average cost of gas in Olympia, WA for the month: $4.02 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation:
    • Walking: 41.15 miles
    • Bicycle: 83.29 miles
    • Bus: 192.28 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 316.22
  • Gallons of gas saved: 12.65
  • Gas expense saved: $51.30
  • Transit fares: $22.00
  • Total miles driven: 254.5
  • Gallons of gas used: 10.18
  • Cost of gas used: $40.20

Well, we now have two months behind us in this project. Gas usage went up this month, entirely due to our vacation out to the Olympic Peninsula. I'm really pleased with how we are doing with this.


10th Week Statistics

Dates: August 28 - September

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.94 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation:
    • Walking: 8.45 miles
    • Bicycle: 15.14 miles
    • Bus: 20.31 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 43.9
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.76
  • Gas expense saved: $6.92
  • Transit fares: $0.00
  • Total miles driven: 146.8
  • Gallons of gas used: 5.872
  • Cost of gas used: $23.14

This week included our return from vacation, so more driving (but not that much)


9th Week Statistics

Dates: August 22 - 28

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.96 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation:
    • Walking: 9.93 miles
    • Bicycle: 9.97 miles
    • Bus: 11.54 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 31.44
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.26
  • Gas expense saved: $4.98
  • Transit fares: $3.00
  • Total miles driven: 107.7
  • Gallons of gas used: 4.308
  • Cost of gas used: $17.06

During this week, we headed out on our vacation. Since we were taking bikes and kayaks, we had to drive to our destination.


8th Week Statistics

Dates: August 15 - 21

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $3.96 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation:
    • Walking: 9.72 miles
    • Bicycle: 20.66 miles
    • Bus: 26.53 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 56.91
  • Gallons of gas saved: 2.28
  • Gas expense saved: $9.01
  • Transit fares: $4.50
  • Total miles driven: 0
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Seventh Week Statistics

Dates: August 8 - 14

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $4.08 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 14.99 miles
    • Bicycle: 30.80 miles
    • Bus: 151.81 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 197.6
  • Gallons of gas saved: 7.9
  • Gas expense saved: 32.25
  • Total transit fares: $14.50
  • Total miles driven: 0 miles
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00

Back to a week without using the car! This week also included a trip to Seattle by bus for Maurie.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Let's go Hiking!

Being avid outdoors people, a challenge that Maurie and I have found with this project is how to get out and go hiking without taking our car.

We found that we can get from Olympia to Lake Quinault or up to Pt. Angeles by bus. We can hike right out of Quinault, but from Pt. Angeles there's still the issue of how to get to the trailheads in the National Park.

To my joy, we've found some information to help with going hiking via public transit.

Hiking shuttle to Snoqualmie Pass

Hiking the Wonderland without a car This article not only has information on getting to Mt. Rainier National Park by transit, but also has some good information about some special deals Zipcar has for Washington Trails Association members, and a link to a site dedicated to hiking by bus.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sixth Week Statistics

Dates: August 1-7

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $4.18 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 6.51
    • Bicycle: 21.86
    • Bus: 2.4
  • Total car-free miles: 30.27
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.21
  • Gas expense saved: $5.06
  • Total transit fares: $0.00
  • Total miles driven: 0
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00


A step backward for understanding between cyclists and motorists

On July 25th, Maurie and I witnessed Critical Mass ride down 1st Ave in Seattle. As we watched, we talked a bit about the rides and how our opinion about them has changed a bit. We used to see them as trying to anger people, but after seeing this group rolling at a decent rate, with riders “corking” intersections to allow the rest of the group to pass safely, I had different feelings about the group. Maybe it was the lack of overtly angry motorists we saw waiting for the riders to pass.

Then I saw this article in the Seattle Times on Tuesday, July 29.

Now, I don’t know all the details about this incident, and it saddens me to see it happen. For several years I’ve commuted by bicycle. I have tried to follow all the rules of the road and be a good representative of the cycling community. Nonetheless, I’ve heard all manner of negative comments about cyclists. Those who know I ride would often add, as an afterthought, something along the lines of “but I know you’re not like that.”

Sadly, when I ride around town and see some other riders, I feel like I’m in the minority. I see so many cyclists who don’t bother to follow traffic laws; riding through stop lights and signs; weaving between cars and riding against traffic. I know that many cyclists around Olympia do follow traffic laws and try to help improve our reputation, but I don’t seem to remember them as easily. I’m afraid that many motorists feel the same way.

I want to encourage those who cycle to pay attention to the rules of the road, no matter where or when you ride. The moment our bicycle tires hit the road, we become traffic and are subject to those rules as well. Show drivers the courtesy we ask of them and try to help them remember the responsible cyclists more than the scofflaws who happen to ride bikes. Remember, a smile and wave goes a long ways to helping ease tensions.

Some Bicycle Commuting Resources

Cascade Bicycle Club Commuter Resources

League of American Bicyclists Tips for Commuters

Bicycle Alliance of Washington Transportation and Commuting

Bicycle Commute Guide


Saturday, August 2, 2008

First Month (plus) Statistics

Dates: June 27 – July 31

Well, it’s been just over a month on this project, and time to look back at how we’ve done. Here are the numbers for the first month (plus):

  • Average cost of gas in Olympia: $4.39 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 60.23 miles
    • Bicycle: 106.39 miles
    • Bus: 234 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 400.62
  • Gallons of gas saved: 16.02
  • Gas expense saved: $70.02
  • Total transit fares: $36.50
  • Total miles driven: 146
  • Gallons of gas used: 5.84
  • Cost of gas used: $25.74

The total car-free miles really blew me away when I looked at the monthly total. Like everything, you don’t really realize how the “little things” do add up. Our total transportation expense for the month was actually cut by more than half, but what’s truly exciting is that our gas expense was to about one sixth of what we normally budget and spend on it!


Fifth Week Statistics

Dates:July 25 – July 31

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $4.30 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 8.42
    • Bicycle: 16.9
    • Bus: 144.7
  • Total car-free miles: 170.9
  • Gallons of gas saved: 6.8
  • Gas expense saved: $29.26
  • Total transit fares: $22.00
  • Total miles driven: 26
  • Gallons of gas used: 1.04
  • Cost of gas used: $4.47

This was a big week. On the 25th, we took a day trip to Seattle, all by bus and foot. We also decided to join South Sound Area Kayakers for a paddle up McAllister creek, resulting in a 26-Mile round trip drive to the launch site.


Thursday, July 31, 2008

Assumptions and Stereotypes

“What are you excited about?”

That was it. One line of text typed (yes, typed) on a blank sheet of paper stuck to a utility pole I walked by one morning last week on my way to a meeting. Hanging next to the paper was a pen on a string.

I started to walk on past the sign, but turned back to it. I do have something that I’m excited about. I’m excited that since June 26, Maurie and I have covered more miles by foot, bike and bus that we have in our car. So, taking the pen I wrote “That I have used my car less than I have biked, walked or taken the bus.” And with that, off I went to catch the bus to my meeting.

I passed the sign on my way back to the office from my meeting. From a few feet away, I could see that someone has added something to the sign, but I couldn’t read it. When I got close enough to read it, here’s what I found. Written below my entry, with an arrow pointing up to mine, was the phrase: “Fricken hippie greener”

I had a good laugh over it. I mean, it’s funny. Here someone has taken one sentence, with no context and no knowledge of the author, and ascribed a set of characteristics to said unknown author. I could go back and reply with snarky comments (yes I did have a couple come to mind), but why?

Let me clarify something. I’m not a hippie or a greener. I was born too late to be a hippie, and I am not a student or alumnus of The Evergreen State College. There’s nothing wrong with either label, they just don’t accurately apply to me.

You know, this was a great, light moment for me that day. I’m still excited about what Maurie and I have accomplished. Name calling and such won’t diminish that one bit. I’ll let you in on a secret that this unknown commentator may never know (well, not unless he or she finds this blog): I’m excited that by not driving as much, we are getting more exercise by cycling and walking, we’re spending time together in situations where we can give each other more undivided attention, we’re spending less for gas, we aren’t stuck in traffic, and we know that we’re doing something to lessen our environmental impact.

Whoops, I did it. I mentioned environmental impact. Does that make me “hippie greener” or a “whacko environmentalist?” It doesn’t really matter, in the end, I’m me, you’re you and we are all who we all are.


Fourth Week Statistics

Dates: July 18—July 24

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $ 4.40 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 14.36 miles
    • Bicycle: 22.9 miles
    • Bus: 9.86 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 47.12 miles
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.88
  • Gas expense saved: $ 8.29
  • Total transit fares: $ 2.25
  • Total miles driven: 0 miles
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00

Once again, we kept the car parked for a whole week!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How my commute has changed

I entered the work world in the spring of ’94, with a round-trip commute of about 81 miles. I started out driving this commute solo, but soon started car-pooling with a co-worker, each of us alternating driving one week at a time. Since the spring of 2001, my commute has predominantly been by foot, bike or public transit.

For a large portion of the time in between these dates, I was a single occupant driver. I’d changed jobs and was working in Olympia (driving from a Tacoma suburb). I was able to rationalize driving as more convenient or that my work for part of the year can have hours too unpredictable and late for transit to be a realistic option (in fact, at most I had a total of two weeks over the following 6 years where I wouldn’t have been able to take a bus home).

I started re-considering how I get to and from work in the fall of 2000. I had just returned from a month road trip to the California Sierras for a backpacking trip. During that time, I paid gas prices of over $2.00 a gallon (I know, we could only wish they were at that level today, but they were high for the time). I no longer enjoyed driving the same long, boring route up I-5 day in and day out.

Washington State has a Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) law which requires employers to provide incentives for employees to use alternate commute methods (RCW 40.01.230; RCW 70394.521-551). The state agency for which I worked was subject to this law as well. As an incentive, my employer would pay for my bus pass from Tacoma to Olympia. So, for a month or two, I made my trips to Olympia mostly by bus. I was still driving to a park and ride to catch my first bus, but it was a step in the right direction.

December of 2000, I changed jobs and started working in Seattle. Now I was commuting into “hostile territory” a.k.a. traffic! My employer provided a bus pass, so I continued the car/bus combination for a while. When the transmission in my truck died, I switched to entirely commuting by bus and foot (or in the summers bus and bicycle). I was spending anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours each way on my commute, with up to three bus rides each. This was not a good way to put quality time into a young marriage.

October of 2002 we pulled up stakes in Tacoma and moved to Seattle. My commute became 30 minutes by foot or 15 minutes by bike each way. I still got a transit pass from my employer, but found it was used more for getting around Seattle in general than for getting to and from work (by the time I made all the necessary transfers, it was just as fast to walk to work, and faster to ride my bike!)

In 2004, I returned to my previous job with the state. After realizing how much I enjoyed walking or riding my bike to work, we factored the ability to do so into the criteria we used in selecting our home. I had to be able to walk to work within 30 minutes. We did it, and now my commute is at most 30 minutes if I’m walking (or taking the bus, because of the delay at the transit center). My bike ride in is still 15 minute or less.

I can honestly say that the effect my commute change has on my day-to-day life has been positive. I have time each direction when I can make the transition from work life to home life more easily. The stress of the day is not compounded with the stress of driving; rather it is blown away in the breeze from a 15-20 MPH cruise along the end of the bay on my bicycle. What a better way to deal with it!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Third Week Statistics

Dates: July 11—July 17

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $ 4.41 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 6.2 miles
    • Bicycle: 21.09 miles
    • Bus: 8.57 miles
  • Total car-free miles: 35.86 miles
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.43
  • Gas expense saved: $ 6.33
  • Total transit fares: $ 3.00
  • Total miles driven: 0 miles
  • Gallons of gas used: 0
  • Cost of gas used: $0.00

Hooray! We were able to keep the car parked the entire week! It feels really good to have gone a week without driving at all. Here’s to more car-free weeks to come!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Second Week Statistics

Dates: July 4—July 10

Here are the statistics for the week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $4.43 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 14.25
    • Bicycle: 26.9
    • Bus: 64.8
  • Total car-free miles: 106
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.662
  • Gas expense saved: $7.36
  • Total transit fares: $7.00
  • Total miles driven: 25
  • Gallons of gas used: 1
  • Cost of gas used: $4.43

This week the car was driven in a “mercy mission” to help get a couple of cyclists we met on the bus get to their destination on the 4th of July. You can read about it in Maurie’s Reflections from July 4th.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Week Statistics

Dates: June 27—July 3

Throughout this experiment, I’ll post the statistics for the week. They will be in the form of a simple summary consisting of:

  • Cost of a gallon of gas for the week in Olympia, WA (from Plum St. Chevron)
  • What car-free modes of transport we used, and the total distance for each
  • Total car-free miles
  • Gallons of gas saved by not using the car
  • Gas money saved by not using the car
  • Total transit fares
  • Total miles driven
  • Gallons of gas used
  • Cost of gas used

Here are the statistics for the first week:

  • Gas in Olympia, WA this week: $4.43 per gallon
  • Total distance for each mode of car-free transportation
    • Walking: 17 miles
    • Bicycle: 18.6 miles
    • Bus: 5.95 mile
  • Total car-free miles: 41.55
  • Gallons of gas saved: 1.662
  • Gas expense saved: $7.36
  • Total transit fares: $2.25
  • Total miles driven: 95
  • Gallons of gas used: 3.8
  • Cost of gas used: $16.83

This week, we drove to Tacoma to run some errands. In order to make the most of our trip to Tacoma, we tried to include something enjoyable to do, rather than just driving up and back. On this trip, we took our kayaks and spent some time paddling in Chamber’s Bay.


Paying Attention

It was my main day for grocery shopping today. I had a good list of places to stop by, all in the downtown area of Olympia. I set out on foot from home with my market basket, a couple reusable grocery bags and a well recycled coffee bag. My first stop was to Olympia Coffee Roasters where I got a half pound of their wonderful Decaf Peru De Florida. Then I walked on to The Bread Peddler to munch a breakfast pastry and cup of coffee while making out my grocery list. I think having a special treat like this is an added bonus to doing the errands this way; I am out and about long enough that I can easily justify sitting down and enjoying a local goody. After a delicious energy booster it was time to go to Bay View, then the Olympia Seafood Company and finally the Farmers Market. I had several things to take care of while at the market and was beginning to get hungry for lunch, but wanted to have my lunch at home. The combination of being eager to get to my much needed lunch as well as having an extensive list of things to gather at the market ended up being a bad combination today. The low blood sugar made me ditsy and my eager tummy hurried me nearly half way home (over a half mile) before I realized that I was not carrying my bag of peaches and apricots! Of course what I was carrying was fairly heavy (thank goodness Twin Oaks Creamery wasn't there today or I would have been carrying milk and cheeses as well!) so it was with quite a bit of frustration that I turned myself around and headed back to retrieve the fruit I had bought. I decided after that to just head over to the bus station and catch a bus up 4th to knock a bit of extra walking off for my already famished frame.

It is always frustrating when you leave something you have purchased behind somewhere, even with a vehicle to take you back, but add to that a lot of walking, hunger, and a steadily growing sunburn (yep, I skipped the sunscreen today, it was overcast when I left, and yes I know better!) and this can make a far more frustrating situation than usual. I am making a note to myself for the future: check to make sure you have all your purchases before heading home!

Happily sitting with my feet up even if my nose would make Rudolf's look dull,


Monday, July 7, 2008

The Value of the Trip

The value of the trip

Our first car-less adventure has caused me to start re-thinking how I view the value of a trip. When we first started this experiment, I thought of the value of the trip in purely monetary terms:

  • How much would it cost to drive there and back?
  • How much will public transit cost for the same trip?
  • Which means of transportation makes more sense financially for this trip?

I was looking at any method of transportation that way.

Our 4th of July trip made me stop and think about it. As I mentioned in my write-up on the first adventure, I found that I had less stress; I could take a bit of time on the road to sit back and read; I was able to carry on really good conversations with Maurie; we got to meet people we'd not have had a chance to meet otherwise.

Adjusting how I view the trip, I see that there are dimensions of benefit that cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents that affect the real value of the trip. The decreased stress; the quality time with Maurie; the opportunity to get some reading in; not having to worry about parking at our destination: all these things add much more value to the trip than simply getting there quickly.

While finances will undoubtedly have some influence on our choice of means of transportation, it's not going to be the deciding factor. Even though a trip from Olympia to Portland, OR costs around $72 on Amtrak, or $122 on Greyhound, versus around $60 in our car, I'm going to thoroughly enjoy taking Amtrak to Portland with Maurie.


Maurie's Reflections from July 4th

First of all, Mark is one of those people who cannot easily carry on a conversation while driving. Nor, really while being a passenger in a car. In one case he is so focused on the road and traffic and in the other he tends to just fall asleep. I'm not sure what makes the bus different, but it is. He enjoys the opportunity to take his mind off the road and focus it on some good conversation with his wife, something she doesn't mind at all! Or he can spend an uninterrupted 45 minutes reading, something I am sure he really appreciates since his day to day life seems to leave little time for extracurricular reading. With the extra reading time he may just get through that book by presidential candidate Obama BEFORE the election. I enjoy the extra time for reading as well. Where I tend to get car sick reading in a car, this is not the case on a bus, at least not on the freeway. And though I have more reading time than Mark does I also have a much longer book list. A writer must read! I got further through "Three Cups of Tea" on Friday than I had in a quite a while.

We even made some new friends. A couple of cyclists who were making their way south by bike and having quite the adventure of it. They had stopped to catch a bus for the last leg of the day after getting thoroughly lost and we were able to offer some help once we got back to Olympia. It all made a great story and had us laughing for hours afterwards. We never would have met these guys had we been in our car. That was worth the trip by bus all on its own. It's situations like this that create community not to mention give a writer some good fodder for future stories.

What we may have considered as cons to taking the bus for this trip turned out to be pros. We got home at a reasonable hour, met some fun folk, relaxed, and had a great time. I think we're learning the truth in the adage "It's not the destination, but the journey that matters."


Our First Car-less Adventure

On July 4, we went on our first “car-less adventure” as we're referring to activities beyond our regular errands around town. The Tall Ships were in Tacoma for the 4th of July weekend, so we decided to visit them to enjoy the day getting a little piece of history touring the ships.

We made the trip entirely by public transit, leaving the Olympia Transit Center and arriving at Tacoma Dome station, where we transferred to the new Tacoma Link light-rail train to get us closer to the entrance gate for the event.

Traveling by bus definitely takes longer than driving a private car does. However, I think that the quality of the trip is more than a fair trade for the extra time en route. There was much less stress than we would have experienced by driving.

There was one potential source of commute stress. The last bus from the 512 Park & Ride to Olympia left around 8:15 PM, arriving in Olympia at 9:00 PM ( Intercity Transit was operating on Sunday schedule for the holiday). In order to make the bus, we had to leave the festival a little earlier than we would have if we'd driven. Without the need to be back to the 512 Park & Ride as early as we did, we might have taken more time to enjoy the activities along dock street. In hindsight, leaving when we did was better for us. We did not stay too long, trying to do too much that evening.

The trip up and back was definitely more enjoyable than it would have been if we'd used our car. We were able to take some time to read our books on the way up. On the way down, we were able to carry on a really good conversation about the day and our experience with this experiment so far.

All in all, I think that this was a great first car-less adventure for us.

Trip information and statistics for the day:

Transit Routes taken:


  • Maurie: $2.00 each way (included transfer)

  • Me: No charge to Tacoma (my employer provides a STAR pass which gives me a free ride on any Intercity Transit route); $1.50 each ride between 512 Park & Ride and the Tacoma Dome Station

  • No charge for the Tacoma Link

  • Total of all fares: $7.00

Cost if we'd driven: $9.02, determined from the following factors:

  • 60 miles round trip from our home to the Tacoma Dome parking lot

  • $4.42 per gallon for regular unleaded in Olympia on that day

  • 25 mpg average mileage for our car

Overall transportation savings: $2.02