Going carless in Seattle makes more sense every day

One Bus Away (left) showed  the next four buses and their expected arrival time, while Moovit displayed the next bus due to arrive.

One Bus Away (left) showed the next four busses and their expected arrival times, while Moovit (right) displayed only the next bus due to arrive — which was accurate since the bus that was -1 on One Bus Away never showed.

It has been 18 days since we walked away from our 2008 VW Rabbit and headed to the Bellevue Transit Center for our bus ride back to Seattle, and I’m now more convinced than ever that we made the right decision. Because in those 18 days, I would have used my car three times.

As outlined in our first Without Wheels post, our monthly car-owner costs in Seattle were $583. That’s $19.43 per day, meaning I would have spent $349.74 over those 18 days. Being without wheels, I’ve spent a whopping $7.25 — that’s 40¢ per day over the same period — to accompany Karen to the airport, go grocery shopping and run to Home Depot. Carless math makes me happy!

After our first Orca card experience during Karen’s trip to the airport familiarized the process for me, I was ready for my maiden bus trip a few days later to pick up groceries. Being a neophyte, I checked different websites/apps to determine the quickest route. I started with Google Maps on my laptop, which displayed bus/route options, and then I jumped over to my smartphone to review time schedules on One Bus Away and Moovit. While Moovit satisfied my inner graphic designer, One Bus Away delivered a more robust experience because it includes to-the-minute arrival estimates and if the bus is on time, early or late.

The #12 bus runs every 10 minutes, and One Bus Away (see image) indicated the bus should have arrived already, indicated by the -1. But that minute turned into five, which turned into a no show — which, as the image shows, Moovit was accurate in predicting. No biggie, the next bus arrived one minute late as indicated. (After I’ve logged some bus trips under my belt, I’ll do a post comparing a variety of apps — but I need to use them first!)

I left my apartment at 4:50 pm and was on the bus at 5:12 pm. Nine minutes later, I was off the bus and walking a few blocks to the grocery store. After I was finished shopping, I walked five blocks with my two reusable shopping bags and hopped on a bus that was right on time. I was in the door of my apartment by 6:35 pm, for a total time away of one hour and 45 minutes. The bus delay added 10 minutes, and an unusually long wait in line at Safeway added another 10. So, roughly an hour and a half to shop and use mass transit. With my car, it would have been between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes. I can live with the extra time when you consider the total cost was $2.25. When estimating our expenses, one thing I didn’t take into consideration was the transfer window in Seattle is two hours. As long as your roundtrip is within that window, you only pay for the outbound trip. Good to know!

A few days later I had to run to Home Depot for some cam locks to repair a filing cabinet we were selling prior to our pending move. I saved time by placing the order on line so I could pick up the item right away and hop back on the bus. I had to walk five blocks to pick up the #21 bus, but it dropped me off in front of Home Depot. Total roundtrip from my front door was 40 minutes, which would have been roughly the same via car. Another $2.25 and no return fare due to being within the transfer window. Considering that most of our errand running will be quick turns, the monthly expense for busses will be half of what I anticipated because I calculated $2.50 each way as a conservative estimate.

One thing I did enjoy was walking through neighborhoods I usually zipped through in my car. I was getting a chance to soak it all in, which was fine by me. So far, I love being carless in Seattle.



3 thoughts on “Going carless in Seattle makes more sense every day

  1. Pingback: Bus rides can be fun!

  2. I LOVE your blog! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! My husband and I will be touching down in Seattle mid-May without a car – for the first time in our lives (late 20’s)! I know there will be challenges but mostly I’m excited to finally be free from the costs and hassles of owning a car!

    Great posts, thanks for doing this.

    • Thanks for finding our corner of the web, reading and commenting! And welcome (soon) to Seattle! If you have any questions prior to arriving, don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll help you in any way we can.

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