Cleveland

My First Month in Downtown Cleveland Without a Car

Cleveland is a car town. Ever since I started telling people here that my goal was to live downtown without a car, most people looked at me like I was crazy. The idea of not having a car is simply unthinkable for many. And since most people within the area called “Cleveland” actually live in suburbia, the idea is impossible. But with over 25 years of experience in an urban setting without a car and with no desire to get one, I thought I’d try my car-free act in Downtown Cleveland.

Map courtesy of thisiscleveland.com.

As of this writing, I’ve been living downtown for a month. In terms of local travel, I’ve encountered a fair approximation of just about every scenario I’m likely to experience and gone everywhere I think I’ll need to go. Everything I need – grocery, dry cleaning, movies, live theater, shoe repair, tailor, restaurants, cafés, stadiums and arenas, dog parks… all of it – is within walking, biking or public bus distance. And in addition to the regular $2.50/ride bus, there are also three free bus lines with routes and stops throughout downtown. On a few occasions, I’ve used Uber.

Still no car. Still no need. Still no desire.

Just for fun, I looked into how much it would cost for me to maintain a decent and affordable small/mid-size car here and ran the numbers. For the car, I used the monthly payments listed with a local Ford dealer for a 2018 Fusion Hybrid SE. The gas is based on the $1,400 the average American driver spent on gas last year (The Motley Fool). The insurance figure is based on the Cleveland average (Quote Wizard). Keep in mind that the monthly car payments I use are below the national average, which is north of $400, and that the total monthly cost of keeping a car does NOT include repairs and maintenance, parking tickets, accidents or other incidentals. In other words, the total is lower than most people’s monthly car tab.

Here’s the breakdown:

Car payments: $250
Gas: $120
Parking in my building: $180
Insurance: $60
Total: $610 (not including repairs, parking tickets or other incidentals)

And here is the breakdown of my actual transportation costs for October 2017:

Uber: $77.90
Bus: $5.00
Total: $82.90

I suspect some months will involve more bus and Uber rides simply due to inclement weather. In warmer months, it’ll be all about the bike or walking. Overall, between walking, bicycling, public transportation and Uber, I don’t see my habits and practices being too radically different from what I was doing in New York City. Contrary to common practice of people who live or work downtown, Cleveland is a remarkably walkable city.

Over the course of a year, there will obviously be a few destinations that would require a car. Whether I rent a car or use Uber on those occasions, I’m confident that my year-end transportation costs will still be dramatically lower than the price of owning a car. And with all the walking and bicycling, my year-end weight total will be lower, too.

This is only possible because Downtown Cleveland has become exponentially more livable than it was when I was growing up here. There is still a way to go (downtown desperately needs a veterinarian and a proper pet store), but Cleveland has become a wonderfully livable and workable city. And without a car, it’s even more affordable, making it a fabulous city.

More to come.

9 Comments

  1. Anne Fairfax Reply

    I’m always amazed to learn about the Scandinavian countries, with their massive bike-riding habits, considering their punishing climate, not to mention early winter darkness. Show the way George, you are in the vanguard, and hopefully others will follow.

  2. Kevin Krol Reply

    I commuted by bus from the far west side for 7 years when I worked downtown. It’s one of the harder places to get to in Greater Cleveland via RTA, especially outside business hours, but it was well worth it. I spent quite a few hours studying for my professional licensing exam on the 55F, and I attribute my registration as an architect almost entirely to that bus ride. I’ve since changed jobs, and now work differently where I need the use of my car constantly and at a moment’s notice, but I miss the daily commute down Lake Road, Clifton and the Shoreway. I still live right on the 55F route – bus goes right past my house. And I love it.

  3. I like what I am reading about Cleveland and am planning a trip there…Any suggestions about time? I’d rather not meet the worst of the lake effect winter, but should get some idea. Thanks! And keep it up!

Talk to me...