Follow by Email

Visitor Count

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


You can't live most places in the USA without a car. Maybe if you're living in New York or Boston, or a city with a good public transport system, but generally, it's not done. The system is designed around cars and car ownership. I'll go into the pros and cons of US cars another day, but the system works well, and very few people try to live without a car.

In London a car is a luxury for many people, my wife and I included. We could have one, but it'd be expensive and usually unnecessary. Travelling to work, to the shops, or to events within Greater London is cheaper, quicker and easier using buses and the tube network (the underground). That's not to say it's actually cheap, or quick. A journey into Central London from my house in West Ealing, say to Oxford Street (the main shopping street) and back currently costs £5.80, nearly $10, for a return journey using my Oyster Card. Don't take my word for it, you can check here;

It also requires setting aside an hour or more for the journey, though it's only seven miles. I would catch a bus to Ealing Broadway Station (10 minutes) , then a Central Line tube to Oxford Circus (29 minutes). That's quite a straightforward journey, assuming no waiting time, but I'd need to allow about 5 minutes to get to the bus stop, 5 minutes waiting for a bus, another 5 to walk from the bus stop to the tube station platform, and another 5 waiting for a tube train. So an hour overall, assuming no holdups. My wife's daily commute to work usually takes 1 1/2 hours each way.

If it takes an hour and $10 to go seven miles by public transport, why not drive?

First there's the basic cost of UK car ownership - purchase, road tax, insurance, MOT (an annual health check on your car), repairs and fuel. Then there's the Congestion Charge, a fee levied by the city for driving into the central area, to discourage drivers (it works). It's currently £8 a day. Then there's the cost of parking. Yes, you have to pay something to park pretty much anywhere in London. As I don't have offroad parking where I live, I would have to pay an annual fee (£25 where I live) to the local borough council to leave a car standing outside my house during certain hours of the day.

So travelling around London costs, in terms of time and money. Assuming no signal failures on the tube, traffic jams, strikes or other holdups.

Now consider travelling around Eugene. We had a hire car and travelled the city North-South and East-West many times over three weeks. Only once was there a traffic problem, which we were able to skirt round. Every other journey took less than 20 minutes to get from start to finish, regardless of our destination. We had offroad parking at our Motel, and would if we had a house or rented apartment. There was always ample parking available at our destination. Parking was always free. Gas is cheap (yes it is, dear American readers, even if you're paying $4 a gallon).

So, all things considered, we expect to travel pretty much everywhere by car when we're living in Eugene, unless we can walk or cycle, and it'll be cheaper, quicker, and easier than travelling round London. Out of a 16 hour waking day, we will be saving maybe 2 hours of travelling time every day.

That is just one lifestyle change we are looking forward to.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. I live in central Springfield and work in West Eugene - about 80% of the distance across the entire metro area. It takes me - you guessed it - 20 minutes to get to or from work. There are 2 main areas that get congested/slowed during typical drive times and can be avoided though traffic here is not like real traffic. Coming from the Portland area originally this seems light to me still. My last job in Portland was about the same distance from home and at 4:30 in the morning when I went to work took me about 20 minutes drive. Coming home at rush hour it took me 45 minutes on a good day. That just doesn't happen here unless there's been a bad accident blocking more than a lane.