If you glanced at my January financial update, you would have seen that we didn’t spend any money on gasoline last month. How is that possible? Well, I filled up near the end of December and the tank happened to last the whole month. It was a bit of luck and I’m not sure how long it will be before we make another no gasoline month. Anyway, now that gasoline prices are going up again, I’m quite glad we live in a very walkable neighborhood.
Check out our walk score!
We live in downtown Portland and it’s a “Walker’s Paradise” according to walkscore.com. Now that I am a stay at home dad/blogger, I don’t have to commute to work anymore. Previously, I split between driving and taking the light rail out to the suburbs for my job (17 miles each way.) Mrs. RB40 works near downtown and she takes public transportation to work. We usually drive only once or twice a week and I love it. I hate getting stuck in rush hour traffic and it’s great for my health to be able to walk more.
These days, I spend much more time walking than driving. I walk to the parks, library, grocery store, restaurants, theater, bank, and many other places. Baby RB40 also walks with me all over downtown Portland. It’s a bit slow when he comes along because he has to investigate every little thing in his path. The last time he rode his stroller to the library was over 4 months ago and a mom commented that his stroller was so clean. That’s because we rarely use the stroller! We are walking everywhere and I think it’s good for Baby RB40 to see the town from this leisurely view.
Other transportation options
We also have excellent public transportation options in our location. According to Walk Score, we have access to 34 buses, 5 rail lines, and 1 other. I’m not sure what they mean by ‘other’. Perhaps they are counting the car sharing programs or maybe even the tram. Here are our options.
- Streetcar. I got the annual pass for $100. The price went up to $150 this year. The streetcar is a good option for going around downtown and to other neighborhoods that are very close by.
- Bus and MAX light rail. A 2 hour ticket is $2.50. These used to be free downtown, but they got rid of the free zone last year. The bus and light rail is a good option if I have to go out further that what is available by streetcar.
- Zipcar. A car sharing program. You pay an annual fee and pay $8+ per hour to drive one of their cars. You have to return each car to its designated parking spot.
- Car2go. A new car sharing program. They are all Smart Cars and you only pay for the amount of time you drive. There is no annual fee. There are no assigned parking spots and you can park these Car2go cars almost anywhere in their home zone.
- Bike. I have a bike, but I’m not very good on it, so I don’t use it much.
Usually I walk or take the streetcar around downtown. If our destination is further out, then I drive. It’s a lot more convenient than taking the bus or light rail. We actually didn’t have a car for 3 months when our old BMW Z3 broke down in 2010 and we survived just fine.
Our previous walk score
We used to live in the suburbs near my old office because of it was easier for me. Our old walk score was 40 (Car-Dependent) and we had to drive everywhere. Our old house was about twice as big as our current condo. I liked the space, but I like living in downtown much better. There are so many more things to do within walking distance and it is much livelier here. I understand why some people like living in the suburbs, but we like living in the city.
Our high walk score is not free
Our 98 walk score is not free. Our small condo costs more than our previous house in the suburb. We also have higher HOA and property tax. Just those two things cost us $450 more per month than if we had stayed put. That is expensive, but we also saved in other ways. We share only one car and rarely drive. Our utility bill is also lower because the condo is much better insulated.
We don’t spend as much money on entertainment because there are so many free things to do in town. Last month we went to the free day at the Lan Su Chinese Garden, Children’s Museum, Oregon History Museum, and the $2 day at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. This month we’ll take advantage of the free day at the Zoo and the Japanese Garden.
Overall, we are probably paying around $200 dollars per month extra for the privilege of living downtown. (I figure an additional car, gasoline, and related expense would cost us $150/month. Utilities probably cost $100 more in the burb. $450-$250 = $200.) That’s not too bad and we can handle it right now. We could always go carfree and we’d come out ahead. Having a car is so convenient though.
So that’s how I was able to skip paying for gasoline in January. Gasoline price is going up earlier than usual this year, but the experts expect it to level off for the rest of the year. I just feel bad for readers who has to fill up every week. That’s tough.
How about your neighborhood? Can you beat my Walk Score? 😉