Nothing beats the freedom of hopping in your car on a frosty morning when you are running late to work, but an increasing number of Portland households are moving away from this freedom and toward a more practical (and affordable) lifestyle. Low-car or car-free households now account for 60% of the city’s net population growth. About 25% of households have more working adults in them than cars, meaning these adults are sharing cars and finding other means of transportation at rates higher than many other big cities in the US.
Benefits of Car-Free Living
About 30% of Portlanders living alone in the city do not own a car. Portland’s unique culture is dedicated to green living, which is reflected in the number of residents who choose a bike to get to work. In addition to bicycles, Portland residents have the option of taking public transportation, ridesharing, carsharing or just walking to their destinations. In fact, Multnomah County’s drop in car ownership since 2007 would supposedly fill 287 acres of parking, according to Michael Andersen of Bike Portland.
When so many alternatives become available, it’s hard to justify a huge car payment for equipment that sits idle the majority of the day in a parking space. The main benefit of car-free living is simple savings. Each year, the average resident spends between $6,500 and $7,000 on car expenses. For many, the convenience of car ownership does not offset the monthly payment, regular maintenance, insurance and high gas prices.
Convenience itself is simply a matter of perception. Many drivers willingly give up the car for the sensation of actually getting somewhere when they take up a patchwork of alternative commute options. Rush hour in Portland has become something of a nightmare in the last few years, and idling in gridlock day after day takes a toll on your health, that of the planet, and of your wallet.
Cons of Car-free Living
As fewer households want the responsibility of car ownership, more are relying on street cars, TriMet, and MAX light rail to get them from point A-to-B. With more protected bike lanes opening up throughout the city, there has also been a slight increase in cycling. Still, there are times when a car is truly preferable to taking any of these options.
When going to a job interview, for example, it may be stressful to rely on transportation that may be unreliable. If you are on a date and want to move around, public transport can be difficult, especially later in the evening when many routes have closed. Fan of skiing or hiking? Many previous car owners miss the convenience of getting in their cars and going wherever they need to at a whim, especially for getting out of town.
Carsharing Options in Portland
For those times when a car is ideal, a number of car-sharing startups have gained popularity around the city. The share economy is a boon for residents who face some of the highest living costs in the country.
With over 200 cars in Portland, this membership service allows anyone to reserve a car by the hour, half day or full day. You can even book a car for up to a full week. There are several plans to choose from, with monthly or yearly options. This is extremely convenient for errands, appointments or even day trips. All it takes is a swipe of your ID to unlock the door. Gas and insurance are included in the price of the rental. These can be found parked near apartments and college campuses in addition to shopping districts. Zipcars must be returned where they were found.
Getaround is an alternative to Zipcar much like an Airbnb but for cars. The San Francisco-based startup hooks up individual owners and people who want to rent their cars. Owners set their own rates. Rates and cars vary. All kinds of cars and prices are available. As with Zipcar, the car must be returned to the owner, and usually you must meet with the owner to swap keys. Insurance of up to $1 million is included in the rental price. There is a rating and reviews system to help you decide what works best.
Car2go is another car-sharing option in the city that is both corporate-owned and allows for one-way trips. The German service manages a fleet of 300 Smart-for-twos throughout Portland. You can rent them by the minute and can park them at any designated location when you are done with the ride.
Traditional car rental services continue to serve a purpose for those times when you need to leave town for several days at a time. Road trips are likely less expensive through one of these than through a carshare service. Regardless of whether you own the car or not, you always run the risk of getting into a car accident. No Portland car accident attorney understands the inner workings of insurance claims more than Richard Rizk of RizkLaw. Contact him at (503) 245-5677.