Being Multimodal: Why…

In this first article about Being Multimodal, I want to talk about why we decided to do this.  It really boils down to three things, all very simple.  Combined, they create quality of life.  They are health, wealth and community.  These are three things most people claim to want yet do very little to acquire and maintain.  Let’s take a look at each in a little detail.

Personal Health

America is physically and mentally sick. We eat poorly and don’t get enough exercise.  We’re just delusional enough to believe that we can solve this problem with a pill, elective surgery and a compartmentalized trip to the gym…as long as it doesn’t take too much time!

Multimodal works in Seattle...and just about everywhere else, too.

Multimodal works in Seattle…and just about everywhere else, too.

Why do we think this way?  I don’t know but I suspect it has to do with the myth that we can cram more activity into every day by simply moving faster.   It’s a great theory but it doesn’t work.  The law of unintended consequences kicks in.   All that artificial movement comes with a cost, whether we care to acknowledge it or not.  The proof is right before our eyes.

Being multimodal means slowing down.  It means making a conscious decision to choose the best form of transportation for each trip, even when that means leaving the car parked.  It means choosing to live closer to home, and that, in turn yields all sorts of health benefits, both physical and mental.  Riding a bike and raising your pulse is just a small part of it.


Detroit has very effectively convinced us that a car is an extension of our personality. It is a brilliant marketing strategy, but as is the case with all marketing strategies, it tends to mask a slightly different reality.  Driving a car is expensive.  Fortunately, with a little planning it is a mostly advoidable cost.

Indy's abandoned Bush Stadium was an auto graveyard during the

Indy’s abandoned Bush Stadium was an auto graveyard during the “Cash for Clunkers” program. The hidden costs of car-centric culture are staggering.  Photo-Wired

According to AAA, the true cost of owning and operating a motor vehicle is somewhere around $9,000 per year.  If you’re the typical American two-wage earner family, you probably have two cars.  That means your annual cost is $18,000.  The median family income was just under $54,000 in 2014.  The math doesn’t work.

Fortunately, you can make the math work, either by figuring out how to earn more money (good luck) or by cutting costs.

We chose to cut costs. By eliminating one car and replacing it with a monthly premium UTA transit pass ($198/month, $99/month once we turn 65), we reduce our transportation cost by a whopping 37%.  We will save even more by using bicycles for all trips of five miles or less…well over 50%.  If and when car sharing comes to Ogden, it will be an easy desicion to eliminate both cars.  That will save us in excess of 80% of our total transportation cost, even with new bikes and occasional car sharing.


This is the most important why of all.  Providing accommodation for automobiles destroys communities.  Cars take a lot of space.  Wide roads are chasms that divide people.  In many cases, they tear neighborhoods apart.

Interstate 94 in the 1960s. What was once a vibrant neighborhood became two marginalized neighborhoods with a large gash down the middle. Is it any wonder people left? Photo-MN Historical Society

Interstate 94, St. Paul Minnesota in the 1960s. What was once the vibrant Rondo neighborhood became two marginalized neighborhoods with a large open gash down the middle. Photo-MN Historical Society

Automobiles pollute.  They’re noisy and dirty and destructive when used improperly or recklessly as they often are.  When you eliminate them from streets and neighborhoods, those places invariably heal and people connect in ways that they simply don’t when the car is front and center.

I want to live in a neighborhood where children play in the street and neighbors sit out front instead of in back, protected from cars whizzing by.  Who doesn’t?  And so from our perspective, the tradeoff of Being Multimodal more than offsets any loss of convenience that comes from not having an on-demand car at our disposal 24/7.

So that’s why Jan and I have made the decision to become multimodal.  In my next post, I’ll talk a little about the logistics of how we implemented our plan.  Until then, Cheers!


One thought on “Being Multimodal: Why…

  1. Pingback: Being Multimodal: How | Five miles or less? Bikes are best!

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