Ten days car free in Okie City.

Ten days “car free” in Okie City ended today when my mechanic called and said they had finally figured out all the little problems that resulted from the attempt on May 25th to steal my car, the second such event in three months, and the car would now reliably start.  The first time the thieves got away with the car, but it was recovered.  However, there was a $280 repair bill to replace the steering column. The mechanics installed a kill switch, which disconnects the ignition so that even if hot wired, the would-be thieves would not be able to start the car, and that kept the car in my driveway.  It didn’t stop them from destroying the steering column AND the car’s computer, so this time the bail was $573. In the meantime, I had an interesting time getting around without the use of a car.

  • I bought a bus pass — although that took two trips downtown, since on the first trip I didn’t have cash or a check on me and as it turns out, the city bus system does not take debit cards.  They did give me a day pass free as a consolation prize.  A second trip to the downtown city bus center was successful.  I also picked up all the route schedules while there at the center and wandered around downtown a bit.  I used the free downtown bus system to go to the food court at the Park and Robinson for lunch.
  • The bus pass is good for 30 days from when it is first used.  So you can buy it any time in the month; it’s not bound to the calendar month.  For those of us over 60, it’s half price — $25 — which is quite the good deal.   To qualify for the senior pass, you have to bring your ID and fill out a form at the downtown transit center, and there is about a 5-10 minute wait. If you lose it, it’s $5 to replace.  It’s good for 3 years before it has to be renewed.
  • The first time you use your bus pass, you insert it into a slot on the fare box and it disappears down into the machine and then is regurgitated with the date and time of the first ride on the back.  On subsequent rides, you run it through a magnetic strip reader with the magnetic strip facing towards you.  If on the senior or special needs ride, you’re supposed to carry your transit ID with you, although none of the bus drivers asked me for mine.
  • Generally, the buses arrived within 5-10 minutes of the scheduled time.  The transit management’s advice is always to be there 10 minutes in advance, but that isn’t always possible on transfers.  The East West NW 23rd route usually crosses Classen only 2-3 minutes ahead of the scheduled time for the North or South bound Route 5 (which runs up and down Classen eventually on the outbound side ending up at Mercy Hospital).  So I missed some of those connections and made some.
  • It pays to invest in a messenger bag, or over the shoulder bag, or something similar.  I got nicely caught up on my periodical reading.  Depending on the purpose and length of the trip, I loaded it with my lunch, extra reading material, calendar, etc.
  • It helps to have some portable music or radio.  I have a little transistor radio, well, it’s not actually a transistor radio, but it looks just like one I had back in the 60s and is about the same size, lol.  Am-Fm-shortwave. If you must know, I got it from http://www.ccrane.com which is where I typically buy electronic stuff online that isn’t computer-related.  I’ve been buying from them for years and have always been happy, even when I had to return something because it quit working.  You have to have earbuds as silence is the rule on the bus as far as radios and other electric devices are concerned.
  • Carry refreshing liquids!  Especially if your outing involves walking.  I carried an insulated cup of iced non-sweet tea with lemon or lime.  I often had to stop and refill it when passing a convenience store.
  • I had lots of nice conversations with people of all races both on the bus and waiting at the bus stops.
  • The walk to Epiphany, from Lyrewood and Wilshire (last outbound stop on Route 8 and closest to my work), always went faster and easier than the walk back, which always took longer and was more grueling.  The former was typically in the morning, the latter the evening.  It would take 30 minutes to walk to the church and 45 to walk from the church to the bus stop.  The only sidewalk runs along Wilshire from Lyrewood to Rockwell, and there are pedestrian amenities at the Rockwell and Lyrewood intersection, but that’s it.  Not one additional inch of sidewalk and no pedestrian crosswalks from Lyrewood and Rockwell to Epiphany, whether I went up Rockwell and cut across the New Church property, or went up NW Expressway and cut through the Archdiocesan pastoral center property to get to Epiphany.  Got lots of strange looks from drivers, so much so that I stopped looking at the drivers, lol.  There are some disturbed people driving along NW Expressway is all I can say about that experience.
  • All the walking was good for me.  The least I walked on any day of the last ten was 1 hour, and several days involved 1-1/2 to 2 hours walking.  All my doctors are texting me — “Sell the car Bob, sell the car.”  ;).
  • A friend gave me a ride to church on Sunday AM and a coop board member gave me a ride home Sunday evening after a Coop board meeting at Epiphany.  Otherwise I would have had to use Uber or Yellow Cab.
  • I did one ride on Uber, to go to a party on Saturday night. Then I walked home (from 47th and Shartel) and it was a nice evening walk.
  • Doing anything that going somewhere took Planning.  First I decided the time I needed to be somewhere (if the trip was time bound in any way).  Then a look at the system map at http://www.embarkok.com  to see what routes were needed.  I typically used routes 5, 8, and 23 for most of my travels.  Next was figuring times and connections to get me there and making an estimate of the walking time at the end of the bus journey.  I used a rule of thumb of 1.5 to 2 minutes walking per block.  So if I needed to walk from NW 23 to NW 33, that’s 15 minutes of walking.
  • I estimate the cost of a year without a car for me at $4,415, most of which would be for the estimated 168 cab rides that I would need to go back and forth to my job at Epiphany on Sunday, and come home from work on evening after rehearsals and meetings (36 choir rehearsals/year, 10 parish councils, 10 liturgy boards, 52 Sundays, etc). The other costs are $300 for 12 $25 bus passes and monthly home delivery for my food coop order.
  • If the city extends bus service to midnight, and if the #8 route is one of the evening routes, then my annual cost goes to $3,040.  If they add Sunday service, that knocks my transit cost to $1,790.  Even if there was Sunday service, I would still take a taxi to work, as I have to be there at 730 AM and the Sunday bus is unlikely to run early enough for me to walk 30-45 minutes at the end of the rout eto Epiphany.
  • The annual cost for me operating a car, based on the average monthly cost for the first five months of 2014, times 12 months, is $4,305.  If the capital cost of a car is added to that expense, then car-free is a clear winner.  The $4,350 included $280 for this latest repair, but it turned out to be more expensive, $573.
  • You can’t be in a hurry if you’re not driving a car.  Well, you could get in a hurry I suppose but it wouldn’t do you much good unless you called a cab or Uber.  That’s an interesting psychological side-effect that I wasn’t expecting.
  • If you signal for a stop, check to make sure the electronic display above the driver says STOP REQUESTED.  If not, you might not have pulled the cord hard enough or the pull cord may be out of order (it was out of order on one bus I read).  So don’t be afraid to holler out “You passed up my stop” if the bus driver doesn’t stop.  I ended up doing that a couple of times.  The concept of where the buses stop as a “bus stop” seems a bit hazy, but generally it is at the far corner of an intersection or a place that is marked with a bus stop sign.
  • You have to carefully calculate how much you buy if you go shopping.  One trip to the Super Cao Nguyen almost was “too much fun” for the return walk lol.  So it’s useful to have sturdy reusable bags with straps that go over your shoulder, because you will get tired fast carrying bags in your hands.  Everyone has a cheap reusable shopping bag for sale, but I’ve never seen one with a shoulder strap.  Mine are home-made except for my messenger bag, which really isn’t suited for groceries, lol.  If I was going car free, I would buy one of those small fold-up carts.
  • You see the city from a much different vantage point with a car free lifestyle.  When seen via “street view,” Oklahoma City is a different place.  It is much more interesting.
  • People are shocked at news that you are without a car for an extended period.  Even for me, it’s considered “weird.”
  • There was only one “snafu” that caused me to be late.  I was waiting for the route 8 bus, and about the right time for it a bus pulled up, but it was labelled route 9. So I waved it on.  Then about 15 minutes went by with no bus and I’m thinking, “Hmmm. . . ” so I pulled out my stack of schedules and as it turned out, if that was a route 9 bus, it was way off course.  So I had to wait an hour for the next Lyrewood and Wilshire bus, which I did at the bus stop since to walk home and back would have consumed 40 minutes and I didn’t want to walk that much, lol, for 20 minutes at home. I had plenty to read and drink and NPR on the radio so I was relaxed and comfortable.  I don’t know why the snafu on the labeling of the bus. It was an electronic sign so probably someone just forgot to change it.  In the future, I am going to try to pay more attention to what routes might potentially come my way and if a bus stops that isn’t one of those routes, I’ll ask the driver what route he’s driving.
  • I think this would almost be impossible if I lived in the 73132 zip code. It was much easier to do from the 73106 zip code, since this zip code has high transit density (for OKC anyway), and most things I need are within walking distance — two major independent grocery stores, 4 pharmacies, the Asian district with all of its shopping and restaurants, OCU with its library and cultural amenities, the Plaza District, and downtown is a short bus ride away.
  • Non-money benefits from car-free living: better physical condition, lower blood sugar,more time to read, more opportunities to randomly meet interesting people, less of a feeling of hurry to my life.
  • So the third time will be the charm. I’m thinking if thieves trash my car again I’m going to sell it and stick with the bus, cab, and feet.  I may change my mind, and it remains to see how i would do in winter, but this was more do-able than I thought it was going to be.
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3 Responses to Ten days car free in Okie City.

  1. davidglover says:

    Wow. What a tale. We need a critical mass option of trusted hitchhiking kinda like Lawrence onboard.

  2. CarlessInOKC says:

    Excellent post! I especially like your point about having less hurry in your life. The mental health (whether quantifiable or qualifiable) have been my favorite part of going carless. If you plan well, there’s no need to rush, and being on foot — notwithstanding any injuries — is a consistent speed that is very minimally affected by traffic of any kind. Transit can be hit or miss, but it’s nice not to worry about your bus getting stolen, right?!

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your adventures. Oklahoma City needs more strong advocates for active transportation.

  3. GardenWoman says:

    I am familiar with the car-free lifestyle, and I am glad to see your post.

    I have met quite a few interesting people while waiting for and riding the bus also. I would like to see a campaign to invite all our city council to ride the bus.

    Your post reflects many of my same experiences… time to read or listen to something interesting. Sometimes needing to go somewhere the bus doesn’t go or needing to go at a time the bus doesn’t run. Nonetheless, cars are expensive and they really deprive us of some good lessons in life.

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