Car Independence, Part II

Last month Lowell attorney Matt Donahue wrote about his plan to “shed his car.” Thirty days into the experiment he files this report:

30 Day Report:

Lowell Environmental Attorney Tries to Declare Car Independence! Part 2

Well, the first reaction is of course the caliber of the Richard Howe Blog. Thanks for the positive feedback and the fascinating discussion of how we become “Car independent,” which would of course lead to energy independence. I appreciate the loyalty to the car; it is tough to stare it down each day and take public transportation or bike or walk. I have become so lazy about it that the best part of this exercise – no pun intended – is that you have to think about your transportation choices and plan accordingly.

Yes, that sounds silly, but those things that we take for granted we do not think about; we just do it or go and the car helps us do things more conveniently. But what is the problem with waiting a bit?

Well that’s a topic for another day…

The New Economy

The fact of the matter is that with a laptop and now a Droid, I have access to my paralegals, secretaries and associates in my law firm via phone, internet and e-mail all the time. So if I am on a bus or waiting for a bus, or a ride, I can review e-mails and respond. In fact, many things are done before I even arrive at the office. So when staff arrives at 8AM, I can provide them a list of things to do and they can ask me questions upon my arrival. These things I could not do if I was in a car – though I could talk on the phone which I did for ten years, but that was adding more neck and shoulder pain. It was not as effective as a thoughtful well thought out conversation or e-mail planning your day — Or managing staff for that matter.

So it has clearly become more than just dropping driving a car. It is a way of life and is there really any waiting any more when you have electronic hand held devices?

(I recently waited at the RMV for an hour registering the new car and did my reading on line of the NY Times, Reuters and, of course, the Richard Howe Blog…)

So what is time now and what is place and why crowd out that space and time with self transportation. Why not exercise – bike and walk – or hook a ride publically or privately (a cab is an option, but does not take a car off the road.)

This is my 30 day report on my transportation travels over the last month since the death of the suburban. (Post Suburban Life)

Car Low Lites

To quickly recap, our Suburban died in the last week of July 2010. We had a neighborhood camping trip planned, so I had to rent a mini van and borrow a trailer to fit all the stuff – 14 kids and 5 adults to get to a campsite in Vermont.

We needed a car to return two sons to college on the weekend of August 27-30 — One to Vermont and the other to Connecticut.

We incorporated a few days vacation with the kids before the drop-off to Vermont on the

No-Car Highlights

The more time I spend away from car, the more I enjoy it and the more I really do not like driving. It gives me back pain, shoulder and neck pain. I have more pain sitting in a car than I do after a good session of exercise, the difference being that I get no benefit from drivint. My chiropractor loves me when I drive and my spinal column gets all messed up!

The guy at the gas station hates my new smaller more energy efficient car:  “What happened to the suburban? I used to love those $75.00 fill ups!” Ouch!

No sitting in traffic. Have you been on 495 lately? Better you than me!

Unintended Consequences

For about two weeks, we did not have a third car, so ironically we juggled and there were unintended consequences. For example, my son Matt, who typically took the car to his job at Meadowlands Ice Cream, started to bike to work. In the end, he really liked the biking. He is back in school now. Matt’s biking was partially the result of Greg’s landscaping job in Westford, for which he needed a car. Matt, who sleeps late, decided he did not want to drive Greg to work – then requiring him to be picked up- so he opted for the bike.

Catching a Lift:

Because Lisa works downtown she requires a car for her work as a nurse with the VNA. She drives as part of her job in the Greater Lowell area to see her patients. Since her office is next door to mine, I would frequently catch a lift to the office with her. We may have created the first Belvidere to Downtown Lowell 1.3 mile carpool!


My in-laws frequently had a car available that I could use for appearances at court or meetings outside of the city or pick ups of non-driving children from camps, summer school or other activities.

In the end we did buy a car, but it is sitting in the driveway more often than in the past, because I take the bus, walk or bike to the office.

So I have given in to Lisa’s common sense and realistic advice – also commented on in my August 24 entry in which I wrote that  from a practical sense you can have a car to give you peace of mind, but leave it in the driveway.


Riding the bus is nice, simple, and the AC is cranking as I use the 15 to 20 minutes to organize my thoughts for the day or literally do my “to do list.” On the way home I veg out and watch the scenery and close my eyes or sometimes do some light reading.

People are still looking at me funny, and sometimes the bus drivers are not sure that I am in fact waiting for the bus. Though I saw several people recently who commented that they took the bus for a period of time or rode their bikes to work in the past. If I was in a city like Cambridge or Somerville – both less populous than Lowell, or even Lexington — no one would think twice about taking the bus to the train or the MBTA. If this an issue for Lowell, is this an issue?

So, to date I have walked to the office, biked to the office, carpooled to the office, taken the bus, and borrowed a car to take to the office to then use for some appointments on those days I needed a car.

I am still waiting for a call back from Zip Car; nothing yet but I am going to call the CEO and have a meeting with him. There corporate headquarters is in East Cambridge

Inspired by Marianne’s’ comments in your blog Dick, I am making adjustments to bike more – it is too quick, easy, fun and good for you to ignore.

Transportation Challenges

I now look forward to getting from point A to point B without a car. In does require some thought and planning and scheduling. With a car in the driveway though, there is less havoc if domestic emergency transportation issues arise – like a call from Lisa saying , I am stuck with a patient and Peter needs to get to the dentist in 15 minutes!

2 Responses to Car Independence, Part II

  1. Marianne says:

    I was so happy to find this update this morning, I am so glad that your new system is working well for you! I am also happy to hear that you and your son are biking more – it’s the fun of it that hooks you.