We’ve talked before about all the benefits of going car-free or car-light by car sharing with programs such as Zipcar and City CarShare. Ditching your car in San Francisco can save you up to $10,000 a year – so fewer cars not only means a cleaner environment and faster public transit – it means a stronger local economy as money for cars and gas that once flowed out of our city is now circulating in our local economy.

We recently stumbled upon a study (we love studies!) that focuses on the rewards of going car-free for a week. The study, conducted by Latitude Research and Next American City, asked 18 participants in San Francisco and Boston to forego using their cars for one week and, instead, rely on public transit, walking, bicycling and sharing rides.

At the start of the study, participants reported that their main reasons for having a car were convenience, control and flexibility. However, after one week of going car-free, more than four-fifths decided owning a car was no longer necessary, particularly if they knew car-sharing services were available. The study found that the autonomy of owning a car could be replicated with real-time transit apps and car-sharing services. Transit apps encouraged participants to switch their travel routines and changed their perceptions about the necessity of car ownership.

Public Transportation Connects Community

In addition to gaining knowledge and familiarity with their public transit systems like Muni, participants reported that using transit made them feel more connected to their communities as many discovered local events, shops and businesses that they had previously been unaware of while driving.

Going car-free even for a week proved to be a strong civic return on investment for participants. When people ditch their cars, they not only save money, but they also help clear the roads, which means Muni can run faster and more reliably. And when Muni is faster and more reliable, more people will choose public transit.