A Rhode Islander’s Experience Diving Head-First into a Car-Free Lifestyle
October 8, 2023
Editor’s note: This story is part of ecoRI News’ Rhody Riders series, a collection of stories about people who choose to live without a car and use a combination of walking, bicycling, and public transit to get around the Ocean State.
WARREN, R.I. — When Allison Montagnon’s vehicle needed repairs two years ago and she realized she couldn’t afford the cost, instead of saving the car, she decided to sell it.
With the money she made, she paid off some debts and, because she worked at Hope & Main in Warren and lived in town, her lifestyle didn’t change much.
Two years later, Montagnon, 39, has switched jobs and, though she’s missed the bus a few times, but is still grateful to be car-free.
Montagnon, who grew up in a small town in Connecticut that didn’t have any public transportation, said she’s still getting used to using public transit.
“This is my first time really navigating it and trying to understand how it all works,” she said. “The first couple of times I took it, I didn’t even know what time it was coming. I didn’t know I could look it up on Google.”
A lot of her technique has been trial and error. To get a better understanding of the system, Montagnon said she went out on a day that she didn’t have much to do, just to test-ride the bus.
Montagnon now works as the communications manager for the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, which allows mostly remote work but has an office based in Providence. Part of the reason the council allows employees to work from home is to save time and gas, reducing their employees’ carbon emissions. But it still has monthly staff meetings at the office, and events sprinkled throughout the state, which Montagnon gets to via RIPTA.
Some breakthroughs have come accidentally. Once, she said, she happened upon an express route that “opened up like a whole new world to me,” through the East Side of Providence.
She avoids having to transfer and most frequently uses the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s 60 line, which she takes into downtown. Montagnon has friends that will pick her up, “then we’ll kind of like spread my adventures from there,” she said.
If she isn’t busing, Montagnon walks, like to her local market for small grocery trips.
She said there have only been three times in the last two years where she missed a bus and had no alternative but to take a ride share such as Uber or Lyft.
On one occasion, she missed the bus and, standing in the pouring rain, she ordered an Uber.
If she has one complaint about RIPTA, she said, she wishes that services were more reliable and more frequent. Otherwise, she’s been happy with her experience so far.
Often, she has friends offer to drive when they hear she is taking the bus home. She’s texted a friend while hopping on, thanking them for the offer but declining it.
“Then within, you know, 15 minutes, I’m home, and I’m texting this person, and they’re like, ‘How? How are you home already? I haven’t even had enough time to put my shoes on.’”
Join the DiscussionView Comments
Your support keeps our reporters on the environmental beat.
Reader support is at the core of our nonprofit news model. Together, we can keep the environment in the headlines.