Considering public transportation

My friend Jessi brought up an interesting point when she visited this past weekend. She suggested being a Chicago resident with a car may be more of a liability than a convenience. She helped me break it down by the numbers:

  • Car payment each month: $242, until it’s paid off in May 2011;
  • Car insurance: currently $79 a month, although she thinks it’s likely to skyrocket with the move;
  • Parking: Most apartments I look at either offer free, hard-to-get on-street parking, or a reserved spot for $50 a month;
  • Public transportation: I will be purchasing a monthly CTA pass for $86 while I’m busy not driving my car.

Not to mention gas, should I actually drive my car somewhere. Why do I need a car? Well. I will need one to initially get to Chicago, and then also to come back for my stuff. And if I ever want to go to Caldwell again I’ll need to drive there. However, Jessi suggested taking Megabus back and forth, like she does from Cleveland to visit her Chicago friend. I just looked, and a one-way bus trip on Megabus from Columbus to Chicago is supposedly $25, a deal that sounds almost too good to be true. But it looks like they make it a straight trip there, because the duration appears to be a little less than seven hours. Now if only Megabus could take me to Caldwell…

Anyway, it’s something to think about. The thought of not having a car readily available at any given moment feels so debilitating, but that’s probably because I am used to living in Ohio. Maybe it really would be different in Chicago? I have a feeling I’ll know more about how likely this option is once I’ve been living there for a month or two. Do you think you could do it?

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4 thoughts on “Considering public transportation

  1. Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I lived in Chicago. Without a car.
    Chicago has (or had) an awesome public transportation system. The times I missed a car was when I had to buy something bigger than a postage stamp (like an ironing board–what’s that, Grandma? you ask [whippersnapper]).
    Anyway: there were rare occasions when I would catch a cab.
    But: what I noticed was there were no cars of any age, shape or form that didn’t have a scratch or a dent or a ding. Parking is horrendous; the parking garages are basically multilevel units of playing “Chicken”, and parking downtown? Almost as much as monthly rent.
    And salary considerations: I made a great salary…..for Ohio. Chicago? Way out there. I didn’t see how I could (a) buy a car (b) pay for parking (c) afford insurance AND (d) pay back student loans plus (e) other living expenses and (f) have anything left over.
    So I didn’t even try to have a car.
    What I did about twice a year (when someone would come to visit from out of town) was to rent a car. That worked well; it made sightseeing a lot easier. Now, if I could have afforded a driver? That would have been better.

    I’m guessing that Chicago still has the parking rules from when I was there (think Seinfeld and George Constanza). You could only park for so long; you could only park on certain sides of the street; how close is it to park near your abode? What time of night are you coming home? Just how bad is your neighborhood?

    Other questions: I have heard that Megabus is a good deal. You might have to coordinate trips to Caldwell with either hitching a ride with family/friends, someone coming to pick you up, or Greyhound to Cambridge (and someone coming to pick you up—good luck with that one).

    Ah….to be young again.

  2. My aunt and I were talking about your move because she lived in Chicago for many years. She said to expect your car insurance to triple and that you also have to buy a pass for on street parking. She also recommended that you look at the Roger’s Park neighborhood for affordable but still safe living.

  3. I have a friend who lived in D.C. for a while and she chose not to have a car. She used public transportation in the city. She was a member of some kind of rental company that allowed you to pick up a car at a metro station and leave town with it. Her membership included insurance and a certain number of car check-outs per month, or something like that. It might be worth checking to see if Chicago has something similar.

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