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!