When you live on a fixed income, rising gas prices can put a sizable dent in your budget. Gasoline prices rose 4.7 percent in February, according to the Consumer Price Index, and are 19.2 percent higher than they were in February 2010. Minimizing your vehicle usage or even going carless can help you counteract the impact of higher fuel costs.
Susan Christie, 69, moved to a residence in the middle of town in Corvallis, Ore., in 2000. Now, everything she needs is within a walkable distance from her house. "It saves the environment, makes things easier for people who do drive, and it's better for your health and fitness," she says. Christie walks the five blocks to the nearest grocery store with a cart and takes the free local bus system for longer distances. Although she owns a Honda station wagon, she uses it only for out-of-town trips when there is no public transportation option available. "Driving is the last choice," she says.
[In Pictures: 10 Places to Go Carless.]
Curbing your car saves you money and helps the environment. But to truly go carless, you need to live in a pedestrian and bike-friendly community that also has affordable and reliable public transportation options. U.S. News used our Best Places to Retire search tool, powered by data from Onboard Informatics, to find places where you can successfully vacate your vehicle in retirement. We screened for places where large numbers of people walk or bike as their primary method of transport, and places that also have public transportation as well as additional low-cost transport options for seniors.
Len Borgeson, 65, gets to local stores and the senior center in Boone, N.C., primarily by using the free local bus service, AppalCART. Boone and Corvallis both have free bus systems for all residents. Seniors age 65 and older can ride the bus for free in State College, Penn., and Ann Arbor, Mich. And every place on our list offers significant public transportation discounts to seniors of certain ages.
Roger Segelken, 64, rides the TCAT local bus system practically daily in Ithaca, N.Y. "TCAT buses stop at the end of my street every 30 minutes and connect to downtown Ithaca, both college campuses, medical facilities, shopping, local state parks, and essentially everywhere I need to go without a car," says Segelken, whose vision impairment makes it difficult for him to drive at night or in bright light. "Between TCAT and Ithaca Car Share, it is entirely feasible to live here without owning a car." Seniors age 65 and older pay just 75 cents per ride. And Segelken, as a Cornell retiree, rides for free.
All of the places on our list also have low-cost taxi or van services specifically for seniors. Princeton, N.J., residents age 65 and older have access to the local Crosstown door-to-door transportation service for $3 each way. Seniors in Amherst, Mass., can utilize a senior van service for between $2.50 and $3.50 per ride, depending on the distance. And retirees in Berkeley, Calif., can get free rides to senior centers and the grocery store.
Another local amenity that will help reduce your transportation costs is car sharing and carpooling services. The Amherst-based nonprofit Ridebuzz.org helps residents find or offer shared rides. And Ithaca Carshare allows upstate New York residents to occasionally use a car without having to pay for insurance or maintenance.
[Visit the U.S. News Retirement site for more planning ideas and advice.]
You will save even more money if you are able to run most errands by walking and biking. Boulder, Colo., is known for its more than 300 miles of bikeways, some of which are physically separated from the streets for safer travel. "Between the bike paths and the bike lanes, it is almost quicker to bike around town than to drive," says Cara Priem, 58, of Boulder. "There are fewer stop lights and the parking is better." When she needs to haul groceries home, Priem attaches a trailer to her bike. "I can exercise and do my errands at the same time," she says.