One of the things that we were reflecting on this morning was that we’ve been carless for the entirety of our almost two years in Trento. We used Antonella’s mom’s car on and off the first year, as we tried to carry the house in Virginia while living in Trento. Ironically, by the time we sold the house a car did not seem so much a necessity anymore. We had gotten used to managing for more than a year with riding the bus, walking the kids up to school (no mean feat), and borrowing a car from time-to-time.
By the beginning of the second year we decided to started using Trento’s Car Sharing program, which has actually changed our life here in some subtle and pretty powerful ways. To be honest, Antonella was pushing for car sharing from the beginning, but I was tepid at best. I did not like the idea of having to share a car (I am an American after all), and was pretty set on buying something, but after a car-free year I was getting convinced. So, we decided not to buy a car and give car sharing a go in earnest. It’s been 8 or 9 months on the car sharing tip, and I’m a believer. Antonella, as usual, has won me over 🙂
Car sharing here works like this, you sign-up for the service (which is subsidized by the province of Trento) and you’re given a card that can open a variety of cars parked around the city. You have an online app and you reserve the car of your choice for a pre-determined amount of time, and off you go. You pay by the hour, but will be charged a bit extra if you go over a certain amount of kilometers. It works out to anywhere from 3-7 euros an hour depending on the car. This is probably how most car sharing setups work, but it was new to me so I figured I’d share. The thing that proved to be the real difference-maker is that both gas and insurance are included—and given the price of gas in Italy (about $6 a gallon) that is not a trivial bonus.
There are a few reasons why car sharing was revolutionary for us, but I’ll start with the most practical of the three: money! We spend a third of what we did in Virginia on a car. And that is with fairly heavy usage of car sharing in the last 8 months, including a few long trips to the mountains, nearby cities, etc. You can choose what size car you want, which directly effects the price. The nice thing is you control how much you pay, so if times are tight, you just don’t use it that day, week, month, etc. So, it’s like we have a new car (or several) that we pay far less for.†
The other side effect of car sharing that I didn’t expect was the health implications. In that same 8 months I have averaged walking 6 miles a day, which is a huge shift in my life. I lost weight, feel better overall, and no longer hide under the covers when it’s time to walk the kids to school up 25 flights of stairs. On the health front, not owning a car has been huge bonus, and it is now baked into my daily life. If I want to do anything locally I basically hit the pavement and start walking. Defaulting to walking rather than driving has paid huge dividends beyond the dollars and cents argument for not having a car. In fact, I think this element has been far more valuable in many respects.
Lastly, I’ll avoid any claims that I am saving the environment, especially given I’ve flown all over creation this year. But not owning a car could earn me some righteousness points on the environmentalism front if I ever wanted to play that card. Just think about it, I could say shit like, “It’s Global Warming, dammit, and I’m doing my part to combat this persistent evil by not even owning a car! What the hell have you ever done?! —you lame-ass Subaru-driving hippie!” The ability to say that might be the truest and bestest reason for being carless in Trento. Forza, bava, forza!
†Keep in mind, however, none of this would be possible if there wasn’t a solid bus system in Trento that was well-funded, on-time, and ran regularly seven days a week. Public services for the win!
It’s a pleasure to watch your socialism grow comrade
What passes for socialism in Europe is high treason in the US 🙂
Jim, you’re Bonnie Prince Charlie. Return from exile and win it all
‘”Carless in Trento” is the feel good movie of 2017!’ only to be followed up by the comedy, “Dude, Where’s My Share Car”?
Silliness aside, I am joyed to read this and envious of a place like Trento that both culturally and economically supports a more rational way of transport.
There is no public transit out this way. I’m pretty sure there are no Uber drivers and while I have seen taxi cabs, I can’t even imagine the cost of hailing one. That said, I aim as much as possible to walk where others drive, or minimize the driving to mega errand trips. Red Dog is certainly not fuel efficient.
It’s a half mile mid-day walk to my mailboxes, and seeing all my neighbors drive up to the boxes, sometimes not even getting out of their cars or quads to reach the box, I feel like the Last Human With Working Legs. Well, me and this a retired 4 foot tall feisty retired lady named “Adie”.
This is the last summer holiday weekend; and I had to drive to the closest big town for a friend’s birthday dinner. Even when I left at 8:30pm, in the dark, the highway up from Phoenix headed to the forests was a jammed parking lot, pickups and mega SUVs, goliath campers, and large vehicles pulling trailers loaded with motorized quad. I can’t even fathom how the forest can consume this barrage, but it is large. This means around Strawberry, all day long people are tooling up and down my usually quiet dirt streets in all kinds of motorized quads and carts. I lament to Felix about the poor “Carters” who have lost their bipedal modality.
But he, who I am to criticize what others call “recreation”?
The best part of your story is reading the results of walking more than driving. My own walking patterns of 4-6 miles per day all have to do with adopting a dog. This time spent walking, mostly in the adjacent forest is my most fruitful thinking time, but like you I physically feel better especially having shed ~20 pounds.
While I recalled your stories of running long distance in high school, I never imagined the Jim Groom I knew becoming a mountain hiking freak. I love seeing that image shattered, and am happy to read (and see the epic photos) of Hiking Bava.
Good point Alan, Carless in Trento is clearly Sleepless in Seattle. If only there was a group of internet photoshoppers who could make the posters for this film?
I’m glad you picked up on the Sleepless in Seattle. I tried to get Tom Hanks to guest post this one for me, but his rate was unreasonable 😉
The blog post comment, #Nobody does those like the dog 🙂 Yeah, the health side effects of being carless is definitely the story. I just like talking shit on those lazy-ass American car owners more than I enjoy my Reclaim Your Health story 🙂 There is no two ways about it, this story about car sharing and walking is much easier to write from an environment that fosters such a life style. Trento instituted car sharing while also keeping public transportation costs as close to zero as possible, in order to deal with the increased congestion in the city center. They really don’t have the option to build more, bigger roads here.
But in some ways they do not have to. In addition to the bus system and car sharing, the train system is amazing both locally and nationally. A huge difference for me has been having the ability to get to and from Verona airport within an hour by train for $13 (how much did we pay on Amtrack to get to Baltimore that time?). A huge difference between Italy (and other European cities I’ve been to) has been affordable transportation between cities (which for me also means to and from airports). Granted, traveling the two or three hours from Trento to Milan’s Malpensa airport cost closer to $35-$40, but there are no parking or gas fees, which saves me a ton when traveling abroad for extended periods. And when Tim and his family were traveling Italy, we were able to meet up with them in Rome as a family of five for less than $200 each way (that’s less than the gas to drive there). The infrastructure around transportation here is invested in heavily, and you can see it everywhere. That’s been a huge difference between the default to car mentality of the US, and one I really appreciate in terms of quality of life. In three weeks I’ll be traveling to Torino for a presentation, and it will on a awesome three hour train ride with internet, a working table, and pretty decent coffee. I’ll take that over a car any day of the week.
Also, we walk Daphne on our hikes everyday too, she’s just far more camera shy 🙂
You should move here, we can get the blogging band back together.