Help Me Be Successfully Carless
May 6, 2015 12:20 PM   Subscribe

My car was totaled on the freeway last month, and I've decided to take this opportunity to go carless. I've read through the other questions (not a lot of them), but would love tips, tricks and things to watch out for.

I've had a car basically my entire adult life (20 years), so the transition has been a bit bumpy. I'm fortunate to live in Seattle, which has great transit for my needs. I get a bus pass from work, there is a bus to/from my office every 10 minutes, and I live across the street from a 24-hour market.

But I still feel like there are things I could be doing to make it easier - for example, I just started carrying one of those "fold into a pouch" shopping bags with me for unplanned grocery trips, and after it occurred to me, I felt silly not having thought of it sooner. There have to be other obvious things out there that I'm just missing.

I also struggle with finding the right gear. For example, I bought a messenger bag as it's less bulky than a backpack for on the bus, but despite being large, it barely holds enough clothes for an overnight stay at my boyfriend's place. It's also causing me pain since the weight is uneven on my body. Now I'm thinking I need to get a backpack instead, but wish I'd thought of that before I bought a $150 messenger bag.

So, AskMe - please dispense unto me your wisdom!
posted by dotgirl to Travel & Transportation (34 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't learn to drive until I was 27, so have some experience in this.

-If you need to walk a way, especially to work, then investing in waterproof trousers are a god send (along with water proof coat). I started a job with a twenty minute walk to it during an extremely rainy month, but would arrive in work fairly dry thanks to my outfit. You'll obviously need decent footware to pair with that.
-A backpack will work best for your needs. Try not to get too bulky a one, something you can stow on your lap while on the bus is key.
-You can get taxis! They're expensive, sure, and they're not for every day needs, but don't feel like you need a lift every time you get invited to a place that requires public transport. Get a train/bus to the nearest point, then taxi from there. Just remember it as an option to keep your independence.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:26 PM on May 6, 2015

A car sharing service is a huge help for when you absolutely need a car. I'm not familiar with Seattle but I used Zipcar in Chicago, and it looks like there are complementary options in Seattle:

Having a bike with a basket or rack is nice when you want to go just a little bit farther afield than walking.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:27 PM on May 6, 2015

Messenger bags and backpacks are suitable for different purposes and different clothing. Even if you get a backpack, you'll still use your messenger bag sometimes.

The greatest thing about not having a car is that you can actually enjoy the trip when you go places rather than have to constantly be aware of everything around you and risk death of you or someone else if you miss something or make an error of judgement.

So how are you going to use all your newfound enjoyable travel time? If you plan to bus a lot, consider getting a pocket-sized ereader. If you're going to walk a lot, consider adding to that an subscription. And of course your public library will lend both ebooks and audiobooks. You can listen to audiobooks on your phone. Podcast person? Here's your chance.

If you're not the type who will lose it immediately, get a fabulous super strong umbrella. I am the type to lose them, so I make do with crap, but man, I wish I were the type not to lose them.

What kind of shoes are you wearing? Go comfy!

Get a cart of three. I have one each of these styles and they're super useful. Each is useful for different things 1, 2, 3.

And yeah, waterproof gym teacher pants are awesome.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:28 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've never done it, but a lot of places do grocery delivery. There are dedicated services like Pea Pod (I'm sure there's one that services Seattle), but many grocery stores now offer this themselves. I think Safeway does your first delivery for free. I know people who have done it and it's good for buying on bulk. What I used to do was get a cab on the days I wanted to buy in bulk or buy things like a case of water, and stock up to make the cost of a cab worth it. For non-heavy items when I planned to buy a lot, I bought a grocery cart with wheels -- I invested in that after one too many handles ripped during the walk home. The other option is becoming an Amazon Prime member. Then through the Prime Pantry, you can get tons of typical household items shipped to your door quickly (free free maybe, depending?). I know car-less people who do this and like it a lot.

Having shoes that are comfortable to walk in will be more important if you're walking a lot. You'll want to be careful walking at night and may want some brightly colored clothing or a flashlight keychain. Since you're in Seattle, it will be good to have a lightweight jacket with a hood. Light enough that it's not too much when it's warm, but ready for any unexpected rain. When you're driving all the time, it generally doesn't matter if it rains.

I actually recently bought a laptop bag for walking. It was $100 and not really the right bag for me. I may sell it on eBay or something because I found a laptop bag I like better for only $30. So I feel your buyer's remorse on the messenger bag.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:34 PM on May 6, 2015

I'm also in Seattle! I'm contemplating going carless, but shopping trips and hiking trips prevent me from doing so. But...

1. If you can bicycle and feel comfortable doing so (or live near a trail), get a bike. It'll increase your range a lot. But of course, that costs money for the bike, getting it road ready (lights, panniers, racks, fenders, lock, etc) and getting bike gear. Alternatively, get a Pronto membership, if it's useful in your area. My coworker swears by an ebike, but I feel that's too big of an investment for me, personally.

2. A backpack is much, much, much better than a messenger bag. I have a Northface Recon (they also have regular non-women's version, with more neutral colors) from ten years ago, and it works beautifully. It's annoying when sitting on the bus, compared to a messenger bag, but it is superior in all other ways. Keep it on your lap when you're on the bus. (It makes for a nice cushion to nap on, too, if you're really tired.)

3. Get a rain jacket. A nice one with a hood with keep your torso dry and also block the wind. I personally don't worry as much about pants because your legs can tolerate the cold much better than your torso.

4. Carshare, carshare, carshare. Get ZipCar and Car2Go memberships. Get the Uber and Lyft apps. I would try not to use them, but if you need them, they are super convenient.

5. Get comfortable, all-purpose shoes. I have minimalist Merrell's that are comfy to walk in, I can ride a bike in them, and they look cute. But barefoot shoes aren't for everyone. Find that one pair of shoes you can wear for everything (and hopefully it's water resistant, unlike mine), and make it your everyday shoes.

6. Get an ebook reader. In fact, get a Kindle. The Seattle Public Library system has an extensive ebook collection. You can send things directly to your Kindle with a click. (With a nook or Kobo, you have to connect it to a computer.) Sometimes, I'll borrow a book with my phone, and send it to my Kindle, and then it's there. (Or you can just read on your phone, but I'd be careful about battery usage.)

AppleTurnover mentions grocery delivery. I don't actually know of grocery stores in my area that does delivery, though it's common in larger cities (like New York). But if you hate grocery shopping, Amazon Prime is a viable alternative.
posted by ethidda at 12:38 PM on May 6, 2015

AmazonFresh in Seattle was reliable and fairly reasonably priced on a number of items(at least last year). They also have some local vendors (frome pikes place, etc). Amazon Prime for a lot of other odds and ends was also great, as they frequently delivered same day (we were in downtown Seattle). Safeway also delivered to our area, but I never got around to checking their prices so they could be cheaper. I still generally got fresh produce at the market, but it's nice not lugging around cans.
posted by ghost phoneme at 12:42 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just noticed you said you live close to a grocery store. Then you may not need to worry about groceries.

One other thing is if Seattle has an app or a good website for its public transportation, definitely use that. In DC and Chicago, they had apps or webpages where you could see when buses were due to arrive, which was super helpful for planning when I needed to leave the office to catch a bus, or get to the bus stop in the morning to be to work on time. In Portland, every bus stop has a bar code scanner so you can use your phone to look up how long it will take for buses to arrive. I'm sure Seattle has something like that. It is immensely helpful in making sure you don't miss buses or stand around for a half hour when you could've just walked to your destination.

I also got pepper spray for my keychain. I've never had to use it, thankfully, but sometimes walking on the street late at night, there are definitely people who are drunk or on drugs, so it gives me peace of mind to be able to walk down the street with the pepper spray in my hand, ready to go if necessary. Women need to think about stuff like this, sadly.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:53 PM on May 6, 2015

Car2Go is in Seattle, and pretty good, though the SLU-area Amazon people are massive users of the car fleet. It's also sometimes hard to find a car when you're in a good transit corridor. It was, I forget, $25-35 to sign up and if you never use it, it'll never cost you another dime.

Your Orca (bus/ferry) card should be registered online (so you can cancel a lost card) and set it to refill its cash balance such that it doesn't autorefill more than once/month-- It doesn't like to do that for some reason I never figured out. The cash balance will cover the difference from your work pass if any, or if you take the ferry.

The jacket thing-- yeah, stash a jacket, a spare pair of headphones, maybe even a spare shirt at work, as well as whatever you need to put your hair back into shape after a windy or wet day. Somedays you'll be carrying a jacket you don't need, but it beats not having a jacket when you do need it. I got caught out last week with that nice day that turned to crap at about 4PM.

Messenger bag-- when it gets heavy, swing it around and carry it on your ass. Play with the strap length-- you might want it to rest on your hip, or maybe tuck it under your arm-- it's your call. When I overnight, I add a backpack.

As for groceries, just get in the habit of making smaller trips more often. I plan dinner at work and shop on the way home reasonably often. It helps when I inventory my cupboards and fridge so I don't end up with 12 boxes of panko breadcrumbs. You can also be flexible with where you go-- Safeway today, Trader Joe's tomorrow, Whole Foods on payday. I bought a large carabiner to help me carry multiple grocery bags, but never went so far as to get a cart. Eventually I switched away from the foldable bags in favor of 1 or more canvas bags from TJ's.

It takes longer to get places, and much less time to park, so your planning ahead will be different, but not a great deal more than you were doing when you had a car.

We carless are legion! I'll see you on 40!
posted by Sunburnt at 12:55 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

Figure out how to minimize schlepping things. Like, if you are bringing toiletries to your boyfriends place a lot, just buy some at a store near him and keep them at his place. Bringing a packed lunch to work? If there are certain items you eat regularly, say bananas or granola bars, buy them near your office and just keep a bunch at your desk, so you're not carrying them from the grocery store back home and then to the office one-by-one. Use Amazon Prime for heavy or infrequently purchased things to save yourself an errand. Keep coupons, gift cards, and store loyalty cards with you so if you happen to be near a store you'll have them with you. Develop your own calculus for deciding between public transit, walking, car share, and cab depending on weather, distance, time, and safety.
posted by Yellow Silver Maple at 12:59 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've never had a car and one thing i try to remind myself is that if the weather is awful or its late or whatever, I'm totally justified getting a cab because though paying cabfare seems like a chunk if money at the time, its nothing compared to the ongoing expense of being a car owner.
posted by kitten magic at 1:09 PM on May 6, 2015 [15 favorites]

Keep your work shoes at work, and wear practical shoes everywhere else. Most applicable for office jobs, but possibly also if you work a trade or in health care, etc--anywhere you might need specific footwear and have a small storage space at work. Some people also keep their work uniforms, including button-downs and suits, at work and bring them home occasionally to wash.
posted by epanalepsis at 1:14 PM on May 6, 2015

I've found that a lot of the challenge is psychological: You are switching from a large fixed cost (car purchase, insurance, registration, possibly parking and property tax, occasional repairs) to multiple small costs. Sometimes it's hard to spend that $8 for an Uber/cab, or $10 for grocery delivery, instead of waiting 20 minutes for a bus, or to spent $100 to rent a car for a weekend getaway. It might help to estimate your annual costs of car ownership and divide by 365. If you are cheap about spending for convenience, you simply won't be happy, and if you're unhappy, you might end up buying another (expensive) care.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:23 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am mostly carless myself, and also in the Seattle area, and I can't say enough good things about e biking. E bikes are cheap, cheap, cheap compared to cars, they will take you up any hill in Seattle, and there are bike lockers at all park and rides and Sounder stations, rentable at the station of your choice for a full year for a pretty cheap $50/year. And you can carry groceries, a change of clothes, your purse, etc. without any effort or back strain. I highly recommend Ortlieb panniers, fenders for the Seattle weather, and shopping at Seattle Electric Bike, where they are truly helpful.
posted by bearwife at 1:37 PM on May 6, 2015

This little folding hand truck is wonderful for transporting heavy or bulky items by foot or public transportation, especially if you are on the shorter side.
posted by veery at 1:53 PM on May 6, 2015

Yup. Also, instead of running out for a particular errand as/when the need arises, keep a list of tasks going (in your head or on your phone), and then do a bunch of them at the same time/location, when it's opportune. So e.g. book your hair appointment, which takes place in neighbourhood X, on the same day you need to pick up your drycleaning, also in neighbourhood X. (You might already do this, sorry if so.)

Dress in layers (to accommodate different temps in different settings), and keep everything light.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Carry less stuff. I usually have my wallet, phone, keys, planner, and a book. Not much more. When I'm going to spend the night somewhere, often I wear jeans that I can re-wear and just bring a clean shirt and underwear. (I am a ladyperson, albeit a minimalist one.)

When you have to carry more stuff, canvas bags that you can sling over your shoulder are way comfier than carrying a bunch of grocery bags by the handles.

There is no One Pair of Shoes. You will be so much happier if you have the proper footwear for a variety of conditions: insulated boots for cold, light sneakers or sandals for summer, waterproof for rain. Also, make sure to have a good scarf, hat, socks, and gloves for cold weather.

A bike is great, but cold-weather biking can be extra super duper cold on the extremities. See above, and cover your ears, too.

On those rare occasions when you have access to a car, do a whole bunch of car things at once. I think many New Yorkers are familiar with the Ikea + Costco day.
posted by the_blizz at 2:00 PM on May 6, 2015

For now, maintain a non-owner auto insurance policy. It shouldn't be too much money and will cover liability in case you do end up renting a car. In sone states, rentals do not come with any liability coverage whatsoever, and your credit card's insurance does not cover liability either. Most "normal" rental agencies charge several bucks a day for liability, so if you find yourself renting more than very rarely it'll pay off in that respect alone. More importantly, you will avoid paying the ridiculous premium you will pay for having a gap in coverage if you end up deciding you need a car again.

That gap will double the price or worse. It's like being a brand new driver. If you have a family member who maintains a car, they may be able to add you as a driver to their policy for low or even zero cost. If not, the non owner policy should be cheap enough in the short term until you're sure one way or the other.
posted by wierdo at 2:17 PM on May 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

My tips as someone who has never owned a car:

--Zipcar, Car2Go, Uber, and Lyft (etc.) are all your friends. Whatever you are going to spend on them is less than you would pay for a car (or, if it's not, then you should probably go ahead and buy a car). Don't feel guilty about needing to catch an Uber because you're running late to work or it's freezing rain outside or renting a Zipcar because you want to pick up a bulky purchase and don't want to bug a friend. This will make you so much happier/stress-free. It also helps make you feel more independent/less like you are reliant on favors from friends with cars (which SUCKS).
--Leave as much as possible at your regular "destinations". So, a supply of work shoes, clean clothes in case you're caught in a thunderstorm, extra phone charger, etc. at work, clothes that live at your boyfriend's and get washed there instead of being carted around, etc. The less that HAS to be transported, the better.
--Good rain (and cold, but maybe this is less an issue in Seattle?) gear. You want to invest here because not having it makes you WAY more miserable when you're hoofing it sans car
--If you don't have one, invest in a Kindle or Nook for reading purposes on the go. Don't try to carry around heavy books wherever you go.
--Delivery delivery delivery. Anything that can be delivered should be.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:19 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Car errands are about doing everything at once: go to the grocery and buy food that will last me 2 weeks, take returnable bottles in, stop by the pharmacy in the same plaza, pick up dry cleaning, all on the same Saturday morning. When you're going by bus, you want to schedule things to carry one item at a time. Dry cleaning on the way to/from work when you're not doing other errands. Groceries every 3-5 days, so you only ever carry 1-2 bags at once.

Always have an extra sack with you so if, for example, you end up carrying something heavy (bottle of liquid) it can go in your backpack and you'll have an extra sack for the lightweight stuff that was already in the backpack.

If you're a smartphone person, buy an external battery pack thingy. I rely on my car for charging my phone when I'm out and about, so if I didn't have that option I'd need another charging source.
posted by aimedwander at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

I bought a messenger bag as it's less bulky than a backpack for on the bus, but despite being large, it barely holds enough clothes for an overnight stay at my boyfriend's place. It's also causing me pain since the weight is uneven on my body. Now I'm thinking I need to get a backpack instead, but wish I'd thought of that before I bought a $150 messenger bag.

Ugh fuck fuck fuck messenger bags. I switched mine out for a nice messenger pack years ago, by chrome. Its just as indestructible but doesn't destroy my shoulders and can actually hold things.

That said, i'll nth the suggestion for car2go. It's awesome.

I only had a car for 2 years of my entire life. I didn't have one until i was 22 or 23, and just sold it. I barely drove it too.

1. the suggestion to leave stuff places you regularly go is spot on. i've been doing this my entire life without realizing it. I was anti-backpack in high school even, and would only carry the exact homework/paperwork i needed for that specific day in a jacket pocket. I have duplicate everything. Extra laptop and phone charger at work(in addition to an extra jacket, sweatshirt, hat, umbrella, even change of shoes). When i didn't live with my girlfriend, i had a BUNCH of that kind of stuff at her house. Even towels and pajamas.

2. Comfortable waterproof shoes you can really walk a long ways in, all the time. i'm a huge fan of justin "ropers" or whatever a given site wants to call them, and they're not only fairly unisex but i see more women wearing them than men! i've had the same pair for like... 4 years or something, and they're STILL waterproof. Make sure to get the rubber/crepe soled kind, not the leather bottom kind. Those are useless.

3. Waterproof, or at least resistant clothing that isn't ugly raingear so you'll actually wear it. I shelled out for water resistant jeans(levi "commuters") that look normal enough that i've ever gotten compliments on them. This kind of stuff is a must or it becomes a bear. For years i just didn't bother wearing waterproof stuff because i didn't want to look like a plastic wrapped goon, and i was miserable.

4. zipcar/car2go/etc provide the insurance. car insurance is a waste of money if you don't have a car. i completely disagree with the advice above to pay for broad form or whatever. Really add up how much that costs yearly because it's a stupid waste of money IMO.

5. biking in seattle is for masochists unless you only do it when it's grey but not rainy or nice out. i get pushback on this from a lot of people, but i did it for YEARS and i'm completely done with it unless the weather is at least mediocre-ok. it's a good way to get places, but it's just miserable in the rain because everyone drives like shit, you're constantly on edge, and you're getting cold and sweaty. i know people who bought tons of cycling rain gear and helmet caps and stuff and do it almost 365 days a year, but nah.

My current plan looks something like take the bus if i'm scheduling something far in advance, use a car2go if busing would take like 4x as long(which can happen with certain trips easily), take uber/lyft if i just need to be there NOW.

I think my average car2go trip is like $6-12, and my average uber trip is $8-10. It's surprisingly not some decadent dilettante thing to take uber/lyft a lot and does NOT add up as fast as you think it would.

I did the math at one point and for my partner, driving a car2go EVERY DAY to and from work either broke even or cost a bit less than owning a car, paying all the fees/maintenance/parking(i actually dont even think i included parking!), etc. You can use a carshare AND take taxis CONSTANTLY and still spend less money. It just feels like more because it's $10-20 a day here and there, rather than a few invisible bills that just autopay off your card.

I consistently have so much more walking around money now that i don't have a car again.

Oh, and the above logic about cabs also applies to moving things. A $19+deposit small flatbed pickup at home depot, or a guy with a truck from craigslist is STILL cheaper than owning a car. Especially a car large enough to move anything meaningful. The same applies to getting a lyft plus/uberXL to pick up you and your bike and a bunch of groceries or whatever sometimes.

I'm actually going to be really annoyed if i get a new job and i just have to have a car to have a reasonable commute. Having done both, owning one while you live in the main part of seattle feels like such. a. waste. and really an extravagance.

Every time you take an unexpectedly long/expensive cab trip to transport something or when you're just beat and don't want to deal with transferring buses and stuff, remember things like having to deal with someone sideswiping off your mirror when your car is parked.
posted by emptythought at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2015

Invest that money you are saving on car insurance on:

- good snow boots - warm/waterproof that won't make you think twice about walking through slop.

-good umbrella and breathable water sealed jacket with hood

-rain boots/galoshes

These are your new commuter tools - when you get to your destination put on your real shoes/etc. try to get yo your destination 5-10 minutes early to find a washroom to pull it together. Thus seriously sounds way worse than it really is.

Going careless is the most liberating thing ever.
posted by floweredfish at 2:55 PM on May 6, 2015

Car share, good shoes, get a bike that lets you carry things (my credit union gives loans specifically for buying bicycles same as they do cars), rain gear, and just keep the messenger bag because I have like 8 backpacks, all different kinds, and I use them all. Treat all the aforementioned things like tools and buy decent ones.

I always remind myself that the cost of delivery or a cab when I need one is nothing compared to owning a car. My two favorite things are a produce CSA and Amazon Prime (cuts down the amount of errands I have to run so much). There's grocery delivery (here in SF there's Instacart which goes to both the co-op and Costco) which is totally worth it. I try to save my time for things like biking to the farmer's market rather than going to Walgreens for the third day in a row because I'm out of ___.

I work in several locations fairly regularly and just buy a pair of 'work shoes' to leave there, sometimes with a change of clothes and toiletries (in case I get rained on unexpectedly or spill my coffee on myself or something). Then I can wear whatever practical shoes are appropriate for the commute method/weather.

If you need to move something big the hardware stores have box trucks for $20/day. So much better than trying to jam a couch in a rental van from the car share that's on a time limit. I love the box trucks.
posted by bradbane at 3:29 PM on May 6, 2015

I am also in Seattle and was carless for 2 years - I walked and bused EVERYWHERE (including Olympia). All of the above are fantastic suggestions, but my greatest recommendation is to get comfortable, waterproof shoes. I dropped $150 on a pair of waterproof adidas that were simply wonderful. These days, almost every outdoors-y brand has waterproofed, comfy shoes. My favorites now are from Saucony. Also maybe get a pair of dress-casual ones, too, so you don't have to change if going to a more formal (oh, who am I kidding? this is SEATTLE) affair. Cole-Haan had a great pair, but I'm unsure about the women's selection.

Best of luck in your carlessness!
posted by singmespanishtechno at 4:12 PM on May 6, 2015

The google maps app is incredibly good for public transport planning. I use it all the time.

Be careful how you treat people who give you a lift, especially if being car free is unusual in your friend group. Offer petrol money and say thank you. I have one friend that doesn't drive, and she drives me nuts dropping hints about getting lifts places that are often inconvenient to me (doubling the length of my trip home whilst only slightly reducing hers), and another one who takes it very (very) personally if get togethers are organised for places that are hard to get to by public transport.
posted by kjs4 at 4:31 PM on May 6, 2015

Warm weather: I haven't found salt deodorants to be terribly effective for reducing underarm sweat odor, but they're great for everywhere else. Spraying salt water on clean skin and allowing it to dry before you dress will go a long way toward reducing "hot human" smell.

Cold weather: Silk glove liners, sock liners, and a thin knit silk scarf take up little room in a backpack and can make a big difference in comfort if the weather turns a little colder than expected. I carried a pair of chemical hand warmers and foot warmers for a couple of winters, but I never ended up using them.

Always, always carry some cash.
posted by timeo danaos at 6:05 PM on May 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Everyone has a radius. It willl be helpful if you start thinking of the reasonableness of distances based on transit/biking/walking. An hour by car is, for example, a day by bike. This is a key emotional transition.

Bicycling is just as fast as transit for trips of several miles or less, you get fresh air & exercise and you aren't beholden to someone else's schedule. The first thing that came to mind when you were talking about ergonomics was that a bike rack with panniers means you get to let the bike do the heavy lifting, and it has wheels! For me, the fresh air is the key perk to biking over bussing. Occasionally I bus when the distance is great enough. The key perk of bussing is knowing precisely when you will arrive at a faraway location.

I remember the first time I used a bike trailer. Someone gave it to me and I figured it might come in handy but had no idea what I would use it for. And then promptly started finding uses for it. Many things that you would expect to need a car for can be hauled by bike trailer. We are building a house and literally hauled almost all of our windows using a kid trailer. It is a load of fun. Pun intended.
posted by aniola at 7:30 PM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Keep your feet dry! Bring extra pairs of socks to work and leave them there. Consider doing the same to your boyfriends house along with toiletries. Have toiletries at work as well, along with other *just in case* items, like a sweater, sewing kit etc. In the same vein, get shoes that are comfortable and will breath and keep your feet dry. I have great boots for when it is rainy and otherwise I almost always wear sneakers.

Backpacks are great! I wear one all the time and it is great for schlepping stuff, but also don't be afraid to also carry a tote bag when you have additional things (like overnight clothing). I use this one, which apparently all the kids are into these days, but it is really comfortable, has a slot for laptop and is pretty durable.

Shared car services are the best and always have your phone set up with transit trackers (bus trackers) and car services (cabs phone numbers, uber or whatever).

I absolutely hate messenger bags - they just don't fit me right - and I bike all the time! Consider selling it on eBay if it was new and expensive.
posted by Toddles at 7:38 PM on May 6, 2015

Also seconding the "always carry cash". I actually have a separate slot in my bag where I keep an emergency 20. I rarely have needed it, but its nice to have when you do!
posted by Toddles at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2015

Get the apps for all the transit systems that you might take. They'll help you plan your route more efficiently during non-peak times. You might also want to follow them on Twitter so you stay aware of any service changes or interruptions.
posted by Coffeetyme at 7:58 PM on May 6, 2015

Oh yes, there are 3 apps that use the Seattle bus system's not-exactly-GPS bus tracking system. It works great most of the time, but doesn't work at all if the buses are on snow routes or otherwise diverted, since it's using a system of odometers plus some kind of radio check-in at various stops.

Seattle Metro just released their own app, "Trip Planner," but there's also OneBusAway, which was the local pioneer app, and quite good, great for storing "Favorite" stops, but also Transit App, which uses GPS to see where you are and show you buses stopping near you, and thus requires less input from you. That one works with my Pebble, which is nice. All three are free, and all are on Android and iOS. Not sure about WinPhone, but start with those 3.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:48 PM on May 6, 2015

You don't need much of anything special. Wear good walking shoes. Carry a simple backpack. Keep a folding raincoat in the pack. Buy a two-wheeled grocery thingy if you frequently walk home with heavy shopping. Ride a simple bike with a good rack or bags on the back, depending on how much stuff you normally carry.

Learn where you can take public transit with your bike, so you can get way out of town more easily and then ride home. (Take transit in the uphill direction and then coast home on your bike!)

If you occasionally have to move something really big and awkward, ask a friend for a ride or call a taxi. If you have to move something really big and awkward all the time, of course, get yourself a bike trailer that can carry the load. Maybe share the trailer and its cost with another person because now you both use it for your weekly shopping.
posted by pracowity at 2:42 AM on May 7, 2015

Btw, don't think of yourself as car-less. I don't. I'm car free. That's free of all the costs of owning a car, free of the hassle of driving, free of the problem of parking.

If you decide to sign up for car sharing, don't get a monthly-payment plan right away. I used to have a plan where I payed $50/month and got $50/month of rental time at a discounted rate. The thing is, I never used it. In fact, Zipcar eventually cancelled my account because I hadn't used a car in so long. Now I've been without a car-share for at least a couple of years and I find I'm just fine without it. So if you sign up, don't commit to anything until you know how much you're actually going to use it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:55 AM on May 7, 2015
posted by maryr at 9:34 AM on May 7, 2015

Oh, also, a note on groceries: You can always take transit to a grocery store and take a cab home. That way you don't have to pay for car share service you aren't using while you are in the store.
posted by maryr at 9:35 AM on May 7, 2015

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