Friday, January 3, 2020

#CarFreeFamily 2019: How Much Does it Cost?

It's that time again... time to tot up what we spent on getting around in 2019. I decided to do a Twitter thread on this, so rather than reinventing the wheel, I'll borrow heavily from that & add in a little more context, since I've got a wee bit more space here.

This year's transportation costs include:

  • Modo Car Co-op bookings
  • Poparide trips for Oliver
  • bike maintenance & parts for our fleet
  • Mobi bike share memberships
  • charging my Tern GSD e-cargobike

What I'm not including is:

  • the Modo bookings made & paid for by my employer, HUB Cycling, for work as a cycling instructor
  • transit trips made two & from my work, because this is also covered by HUB
  • all the taxi rides I took because of my broken ankle, which were covered by Worksafe BC
  • the cost of buying my Tern GSD
I suppose I could include depreciation for the bike or something, but honestly, I don't know how long I'm going to use this bike or what I'd get for it if I sold it, etc, so it's really hard to calculate. The Tern GSD S10 cost about $7900 with all the passenger & cargo accessories I got, extra accessories, extra locks, & $818 in taxes.

Carshare, Rideshare, & Bikeshare

Took a Modo car on a dark & rainy night to B's choir concert
We drove about as much as usual, 19 Modo Car Co-op bookings, a bit over 500km, but no rental cars, which is what we often use for out-of-town trips. Our Modo bills totalled $708 for the year. So MUCH less than owning one!

By the way, if you're interested in joining Modo, you can get a $50 driving credit if you sign up with the code SPOKESMAMA.

Oliver took a couple of rideshare trips to the Okanagan via Poparide, one of which straddled New Year's, so I've only included one way. These came out to $136.

Our Mobi memberships are also quite low cost--$20 each--because we qualify for their Community Pass program. More details on the Mobi site here.

Our Biking

Tern GSD on the Seawall 
I estimated that the cost to charge my Tern GSD e-bike was about $0.035 per KM, or $37 a year based on the past 5 months. I originally included $15 for this in the transportation costs. HOWEVER, I grossly overestimated this by multiplying the kWh by the time it takes to charge, which is wrong. So ignore what I tweeted, the total should be about six times less, or a bit over $6 a year.

2019 was a good year for bike maintenance too. We didn't have many flats or major issues with our bikes. Total: $559. Less than half 2018's total. Part of that may have been because the new Tern GSD hardly needed any work & it was my main ride for the last five months of the year.

However, we did buy a few things like studded tires for two more bikes, so that bumps it up by $140.

P.S. If you are looking for a good bike mechanic, take your ride in to Clint at Velo Star Cafe.


Transit cost us a measly $102 for the four of us. Other than my work trips, which I mentioned above, we just don't take the bus, Skytrain, or Seabus that much.

Some conclusions

A lot of our savings come from living in an area that has everything we need within walking or biking distance, plus pretty great transit & bike infrastructure. We really don't need to drive for 90-something percent of our trips. I realize it ain't the same in most of the rest of North America, but it doesn't have to stay like this. Also, I recognize that many people can't afford to buy good e-cargo bikes like mine--I couldn't either, to be honest, until I got a settlement from ICBC after I got hit by a car in October of 2018. Here are a few things, let's call them action items, that I push for in my advocacy work:

  • We need rebates for e-bikes & to exempt them from tax so more people can can & will buy them. They're expensive, but research shows they do replace car trips, which can only be a good thing for so many reasons!
  • We need to expand frequent, fast transit & robust carsharing in other cities so more people have better choices than owning vehicles & driving all the time.
  • We need to build a well-connected all ages & abilities cycling network in all our cities to make it safer & more enjoyable for more people including children to cycle for transportation.
  • More employers need to incentivize transit & active travel to work like mine does!

The Total

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc
Transportation-wise, 2019 was a bit of a weird year. Because of Oliver's new job & my broken ankle, we didn't go on any camping trips or travel anywhere as a family. 2018 was a more typical year, & we spent a bit over double this year's total, which you can read all about here if you're interested.

All right, now that I've made you read through my whole TED talk (drum roll please)... here is the total transportation costs for our family of four in 2019:


Now I know some people might include the cost of buying my Tern GSD e-bike, but even if I had included that, the total would still be less than the average annual car costs in BC!

Now, your turn! What were your transportation costs for 2019? Including travel, all car costs like parking, maintenance, insurance, etc. I'd love to hear about it in the comments below...

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