Cars and Kids

Originally published December 10, 2010

Most of our fellow Brookline residents are astonished when they learn that we, despite being new parents of toddlers, got rid of our car this year. Their reactions have ranged from surprise to astonishment to shock. I’ve even been mildly chastised by one fellow Town Meeting Member for getting rid of the car; after all, how can I possibly bring the kids to any activities such as ballet or music lessons if we don’t have a car?

To which I answer, that’s why we live in Brookline. Because almost anything we’d want to bring the kids to, we can do without a car.

Many people choose to live in Brookline because the town makes living car free easier. At the November Town Meeting, we considered an article that would have reduced the number of parking spaces required for new residential development. The article has been referred to committee, but the simple fact that it was being considered shows an understanding of what kind of community Brookline is.

Much of Brookline is conveniently set up for people who don’t want to own a car. We have the T and we have buses. We have a few “downtown” shopping areas. And for those who find they need a car now and then, we even have the presence of Zipcar, a car-sharing company, which allows many residents to use a car only when they really need it.

However, from what I have gathered by talking with other Brookline residents, no one expects a family to get rid of their car after having children. In fact, the general consensus is that having children leads most families to finally purchase a car as a life necessity. A lot of people think that getting rid of our car was a pretty drastic step, but to be honest, there were a lot of compelling reasons for us to do it.

So, people ask us, why did we do it?

The first reason was that we were inspired to participate in the Brookline 2010 Community Climate Challenge. Brookline 2010 was a year-long initiative presented by two groups: Climate Change Action Brookline (CCAB), a volunteer activist group that is working to have the town reduce its impact on the world when it comes to energy use, and the Selectmen’s Climate Action Committee. According to Mary Dewart, the CCAB Campaign Director, nearly 700 residents have signed on so far and made some sort of commitment to reduce their carbon footprint.

So when we learned about Brookline 2010, and we pondered how we could participate, getting rid of the car presented itself as an obvious choice. Consider:

  • We own a condominium unit that does not come with a parking space.
  • We live within walking distance of two T stops and a supermarket.
  • My job is located in Copley Square, right on the Green

Line, so I don’t need a car for a daily commute.

  • Our dry cleaning is picked up and dropped off by Ross Cleaners in JFK Crossing.
  • With twin girls, we rely on in-house babysitting instead of daycare, so we don’t need a car to take them anywhere on a daily basis. Even their doctor’s office is on the T.

Perhaps I was feeling guilty as well. After all, twin girls use up a lot of resources already and have increased our family’s carbon footprint. Getting rid of the car was a way to offset the doubling of our family’s size. After I present the facts, people then usually ask us how we’re managing. For the most part, we’re doing just fine. I will admit that there are a few times when we’ve relied on others for a favor that requires a car. We can’t drive out to Burlington to see Nomi’s parents anymore, so when we want the kids to visit their grandparents, Nomi’s father usually drives in and picks us up. They’ve also helped us by picking up supplies for the girls at membership warehouse retail stores. And we’ve had friends help us drive boxes to our storage unit in Brighton or give us the occasional lift. I’ve also tapped my fellow Library Trustees to give me a lift home after our monthly meetings, even though I can take the T to the meetings, just so I get home earlier. But in all these cases, people have been more than willing to help us out.

Given how easily we’re managing, it occurred to me to ask Mary Dewart if any other Brookline parents had taken the step of getting rid of their car. Dewart doesn’t know of any, but she did remind me of the Car Free Day that the Brookline Public School Green Teams sponsored in October (as Patch reported at No Cars, No Problems for Brookline’s Students). It’s possible that the Car Free Day encouraged another family to consider getting rid of their car as well. However, they may feel that it’s too late to make a similar environmental commitment because Brookline 2010 is almost over. But not to worry. The Brookline 2010 initiative will continue into next year under the name Brookline Tomorrow: Climate Action Today.

It’s the perfect opportunity to get rid of your car, just like we did.

This week’s column is written by Michael A. Burstein.

About this column: The adventures of two Brookline parents and their twin daughters, Muffin and Squeaker. This column originally appeared on the Brookline Patch website. Copyright 2012 by Brookline Patch.

About Michael A. Burstein
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