The carless attorney: a year end report

Last fall, local environmental attorney Matt Donahue was forced to contemplate (and live) life without a car. He wrote about his experience here and here. As 2010 drew to a close, Matt assessed his experiment and shares his observations below:

Well, here is my year-end review (through December 23rd). To quickly recap: Our car died on July 27, 2010, and I was relegated to various modes of transportation through August, including rental cars and borrowing cars and taking the bus and walking at times. As some recall, I have tried to not use a car as much as possible. The deal would be not to own one in the first place so I wouldn’t have to pay for a car, the insurance, gas, etc. But, I have resigned myself that it would be too extreme so now my goal is to leave the car in the garage as much as I can.

I have found that I have been somewhat successful but could clearly do better.

I have broken down the days into categories thinking of ways that I could reduce the use of a car or to use a Zip Car that is an hourly rental if one were available in Lowell.

A key is scheduling my days around what I call “Car Days,”— days when I know I will need a car usually due to work-related appointments, court dates, hearings, and meetings out of the office that happen off the simple public transportation grid.

So, unfortunately, most court houses are in places and at times that don’t have direct transportation or the reliability would cause me to be late—not sure a judge would understand. Yet, some might.

Here’s a breakdown of my relevant schedule for September through December:

  • # work days – 79
  • Days on bus/walk/bike – 31
  • Days worked at home – 4.5
  • Days for Zip Car, if avail. – 10
  • Days out of state – 7
  • Carpool – 4
  • Car used at night only – 4

The percentage of days worked when I went to the office without a car was thirty-nine percent (39%). If I count days I worked from home, my total work days without using my car was forty five percent (45%).

September to December, 2010:

1. What would be the impact if 10 people replicated these numbers of 100 or 1,000? I am getting at reduction of what is called, “carbon footprint.” If you use the calculator on, approximately 1,830 car miles produce 1 ton of carbon in our atmosphere. So, elimination of miles in a car is critical.

2. There is a high premium on organization and setting schedules. Any interruptions lead to use of car, i.e., we need something at the grocery store or a child needs to be picked up due to an after school activity.

3. Trips into Boston for court appearances, training, and using the subway in town is easy—traveling through the suburbs is a challenge.

1. Try to increase use of public transportation for local appointments and court appearances and other “off site” appointments related to work.

2. Bring Zip Car to Lowell.

3. Bike more to work and walk more to work.

4. Addressing reduction of use of car on weekends.

One Response to The carless attorney: a year end report

  1. Marianne says:

    Thanks for the update.

    I would especially agree with #2 in your summary – my partner and I were sharing one car from August – the beginning of this month. We finally broke down and are back to two cars and the thing that really pushed us toward that was the amount of time we spent coordinating our schedules.

    I love snow but I will say that the amount we’ve had this winter has made commuting by bike not particularly realistic. I have only been on the bike twice in January (both because I was waiting on a repair and because of the weather) and my goal for February is to commute to work at least once a week by bike.