So, What’s the Verdict?

“Ok, – the one year anniversary of Atlanta WithOut a Car has passed, so what did she decide? “ I’m sure you have been lost without knowing the answer!

I didn’t report in at EARTH DAY 2011, the one year anniversary of Going AWOC….Atlanta WithOut a Car, because it seems the universe decided for me.  I fell executing a  top spin, down the line, (almost a) winner on the tennis court, broke my arm and had surgery. Seems I needed some ‘internal jewelry” installed. (That’s what my friend T calls the titanium plate inserted in my wrist!)

So, what did my one year of Going AWOC...Atlanta WithOut a Car teach me? 

First and foremost, yes, you can live in Atlanta WithOut a Car. That is the obvious one.  In-town living helps – lots of community connectivity and development density. And maybe its more than just in-town that make is quite do-able. Midtown is the epicenter of it all, in my opinion. I have so many transportation options and am so close to so many businesses and personal services that are walking distance. My nail salon, my hair salon, the bank, dry cleaners, several grocery stores  – all the important things!

I am not alone Going AWOC. I met quite a few others who do this as a way of life. One of my favorite groups is Heals on Wheels, who ride monthly from Downtown to Midtown for the grins and giggles of it.

MARTA is terrific.  Yes, busses come late sometimes, but that is because they are stuck in traffic – behind CARS! Hello? The trains come like clockwork. Often, my blackberry alarm rings right as the train pulls in. Talk about being able to set your watch by it! Yup, that’s true!

I learned a lot about how helpful people are and enjoy paying it forward now that I have the hang of it. I don’t exactly know why but my mood elevates when I step on the train or bus. Corny? Maybe, but I have a few stories of how I have made the whole bus laugh! Can you say Lucy, or was it Viv? And how far can that tomato roll? Nothing like getting everyone engaged! Let’s play find the onions now!

I learned that people are interested in how to do it – like my friend Loretta who wanted to learn how to put her bike on MARTA. She does that regularly now when she meets her friend for a weekend ride. And Wendy decided she could do more MARTA if I could help her understand the bus routes. Once I got a call from a women moving to Atlanta from DC who was interested in Going AWOC. She heard about me and wanted to find out how easy/hard it would be. Happy to – no prob!

I also learned we need more connectivity between areas of the city – but you already knew that. I do have to arrange meetings according to Marta routes and sometimes I had to spread them out a bit. But, I have gotten skilled enough to be out all day taking a train, a bus, and a train then heading home having meetings in Midtown, Downtown,  Buckhead, the Perimeter and home again.  I feel like quite the urban hiker when I can do that. And tired!

I have learned where lots of coffee shops are close to the train lines. Makes getting work done between meetings easy and adventurous. I have a great idea for a revenue stream for MARTA, ‘with an app for that!’  

Did I ever screw up? Hell to the yes on that one!  I had one experience where I just couldn’t get there. It was the one year anniversary of a friend’s business and I totally screwed up. It was a new route to me. I missed a connection, had to wait at a stop with no cover. Out of nowhere the skies opened and the rain poured. I had no raincoat or umbrella because rain was not in the forecast nor hinted at by the blue skies. I got drenched! Such is the summer rains, eh?   And I was having such a good hair day!

I did miss one meeting. I overscheduled myself that day and missed a connection. In the spirit of fairness, I have done that with a car. That’s more my spirit of “yes, I can do it all!” Some lessons are never fully learned?

Once I was an hour late for a committee meeting because I went to the wrong office. Had I been With a Car,  I would not have been as late, but I still would have gone to the wrong office! Still, a big ooooppps!

I never used the excuse of “I can’t come, I don’t have a car, I can’t get there” when I didn’t really want to go to something. I am proud of that. I was honest or I rented a car. I did want to use that as an excuse sometimes, though! Really, how much fun can you have OTP? Yes, I am an in-town snob. (just teasing , Deb!)

The GA Solar meetings are tough. They meet  in a green building but it’s not an easy route to get home safely after dark.  I do my best to ride share but have missed some. Thanks to video conferencing with Sid’s new company, Learn it Live, I can watch the meeting. But, I love to socialize so that is disappointing to not always be there.

I like that people ask me about MARTA and I can be an ambassador for the system. MARTA is a terrific experience and that message needs spreading around. No, its not perfect, itsmarta and its provides lots of options.  I also wish MARTA would ask me for suggestions because I have those, too.

I like when I am out and about and see a bus for a route I’ve not traveled.  I wonder where it might take me. New adventures lie ahead.

Speaking of what lies ahead,  I am participating in the Noir next weekend. That’s where me and 1000 people show up Chastain-style, with all the fancy accoutrements for a ‘formal’ picnic. Everyone is in all black attire with tables, chairs, centerpieces, linens and food hauled in, I might add. Based on the wildly successful French foodie event, Diner en Blanc, Feast Noir aims to bring 1,000 foodies together in an as-yet-undisclosed location to enjoy dishes prepared by the participants themselves. I am the table host for our gluten-free, vegetarian table. The Flash is that you don’t know where the picnic is until the last minute, hence flash mob. Stay tuned for how I handle that one! (Please, please, please, be in Piedmont Park!!)

So, Atlanta WithOut a Car? In the spirit of transparency, it was harder than I thought to really get the hang of the transportation systems.   And, I don’t mean just the first week. I have become nimble with it now, but it takes practice and missing a few buses to understand what you can and cannot get away with. And the weather is always an issue – winter/summer = tough!   I learned when Mother Nature whispers, be prepared for her thumder! I gear up-rain boots, raincoat and umbrella!

Establishing systems takes time and creativity. Getting my days reorganized to make the commute time useful took some innovative planning. Learning how to go to the grocery store was a challenge but I figured it out. Some days were more difficult than others but I never once said to myself, “gee, I wish I owned a car” or  “if I had a car I could…” because with  Zip Car, I did have one when I needed it.

I learned new habits are hard to create but once made, they do stick!

Would I do it again? Apparently, because I am well into year 2!

Yup, I’m still Going AWOC – Atlanta WithOut a Car!

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