If you read my April column, you’ll recall that I sold my car. After moving to Midtown, my vehicle had been parked more than driven and I was still paying off the loan, insurance, maintenance, gas, etc. It felt like I was wasting money.
So, when a friend was in a car accident and needed a new set of wheels, I offered mine. I was excited about the prospect of saving hundreds of dollars each month, but there was also trepidation about being “car-less” in Atlanta.
As of this writing, I’ve been without my Corolla for more than two months. I haven’t missed it – except one Sunday when I needed to get Decatur for lunch.
I was planning to take MARTA from Midtown to the Decatur station and then stroll over to Fellini’s. It was a sunny, warm Sunday and a slice on the patio with friends – who were also walking or MARTA-ing – sounded like a good time.
I’ll admit that I’m not a regular MARTA user. I take it to the airport or down to State Farm Arena/Mercedes-Benz Stadium for concerts and games to avoid traffic and parking fees. That rare usage left a gap in my brain for just how long it would take to get from point A to point B. In a serious pre-senior moment, I might have also forgotten I needed to change trains at Five Points, adding more time to my trip.
Once I added actual time on the train, plus walking I knew I was going to be at least a half-hour late to meet my friends. And, of course, I started thinking about this while I was in the shower when I should have already been walking to the station. My only other option was Lyft.
While I was frantically toweling off and drying my hair, I was on the app to see if a ride was close and how much it was going to cost. $20 seemed steep, but it was my fault, so I decided to go for it. But I didn’t order the Lyft right away because I relaxed a little and wasn’t worried about being late.
By the time I ordered the Lyft, the cost of the ride had jumped to $30! This was going to be an expensive lunch. I suppose the one consolation prize was that I got to the restaurant before any of my friends and claimed a good spot on the patio. Little victories, folks.
I took MARTA for my return trip and door-to-door was about 45 minutes. Adding extra time for longer journeys is something I’ll have to get used to if I decide to live vehicle free.
On a similar note, I also checked out Flexcar, the new service you join for a one-time fee of $199 that allows you to rent a car for $80 to $120 per week, which includes insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. The entire process is done online, and you just pick up the keys and the car at a designated lot. It’s apparently very popular because cars are often unavailable, so surely more vehicles will be added to the fleet.
What this whole experiment in city living has taught me in a few months is that we need more extensive public transit options. MARTA needs to expand its rail lines and explore more areas that would benefit from bus rapid transit lines, like the one coming to Summerhill and being discussed for the Clifton Corridor. Rail on the Atlanta BeltLine needs to happen sooner rather than later.
We also need more affordable ride-share or vehicle sharing or borrowing systems for those who need reliable transportation to get to work, medical appointments, and buy groceries.
A great city deserves even greater transit.