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  • Derek Hermsen

Experimenting with Transportation: 1 Year without a Car

When my plug-in hybrid's lease expired at the end of 2017, I decided to conduct an experiment in transportation: life without a car. On December 6, 2017, after 17 years of commuting downtown via a car and parking in a garage, with much anxiety, I gave notice to terminate my parking pass. There was no turning back.

My motivations for this experiment were two:

1) It would be better for the environment; and

2) I would benefit from some exercise.

My commute would become a 2 mile trip to the UW light rail station, riding light rail to Westlake Center, and then walking 2 blocks to the office. I estimated my time of travel from my house to the light rail to be 12 minutes by ebike, 15 minutes on a normal bike, 25 minute jog, or 40 minute walk. From there, the light rail is on 5 minute departure intervals and takes 10 minutes to Westlake Center. Walking 2 blocks takes 5 minutes. Therefore, my commute one way was going to range from 30 minutes up to an hour depending on what I chose to do. Driving downtown usually took me 11 to 17 minutes depending on the time that I left and traffic. It was important for me to place a higher value on reducing stress and increasing exercise that I was getting at the cost of a longer commute. I rationalized that it was also time that I wouldn't need to spend at the gym. I was at the heaviest point of my life and weighed 203 lbs, so I really didn't need to be sitting in a car.

My end goals of this year long experiment were to go the full year without reverting back to driving my commute, to lose some weight, and to share the story with people about having a lifestyle without needing a car.

My transportation strategy for maintaining mobility downtown included:

1) walking

2) bike-share (i.e. Lime Bike)

3) ride-share (i.e. Uber)

4) car-share (i.e. Car2Go)

I had plenty of setbacks along the way. I had my ebike stolen, a couple gout attacks, and worst of all, in April, I herniated the L4/5 disc in my back. The disc herniation forced me to just walk. No more bike.

Here are lessons that I learned over the 12 months of 2018:

-Don't use cable locks for your bike if you want to keep it.

-There is absolutely no regret of ditching driving as a commute.

-Walking daily through UW Horticulture, by the crew shell house, and Husky Stadium is inspiring.

-Light rail is dependable and easy.

-UberXL is great for client tours.

-40 minutes of walking can cover a lot of TED talks.

-Car-sharing wasn't really needed. I only used Car2Go twice.

-I used eLime and Lime bikes all the time.

-Life as a broker without a car was better.

-Drinking and driving a Lime bike is just as dangerous as driving a car.

So how did I do with my goals? What were the results? Well the weight loss was going great until my back injury. Weight loss slowed from there and then by football season the weight started to come back. My lowest point was down 17 lbs, but then ended the year down just 9 lbs. I'll take it!

My goal of sharing the story of having a lifestyle without a car was achieved all along the way and extremely fun. People enjoyed when I rolled up to Joey Kitchen on a bike ringing the bell, or when I shared my Lime rides on Facebook with a less-than-straight-line on the map biking home from the Duchess; and a lot of people just enjoyed making fun of me. Especially other brokers. I would have made fun of me too! I enjoyed that. Center of attention. Getting my message out.

Reaching the goal of going a year without commuting via car was a huge success. My reward to myself at the end of the experiment (ironically) was getting car. But not just any car, an electric car. My dream car. A Tesla Model S.

In January 2019, I bought my dream car, but still commute via light rail.

On Saturday, January 20, 2019, Elon Musk "liked" my tweet about the Tesla dream coming true.

That ended up being the biggest reward of my experiment. 5.3 million impressions across Twitter thanks to Tesla and my man-crush, Elon. All because I ditched my garage parking pass and hopped on light rail.

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