Carless in Seattle

When we were handed our Danish residence cards, back in June, we were told that we had 90 days to have our driver’s licenses transferred from the US to Denmark. If we waited longer than 90 days, we’d have to go through the lengthy and rather difficult process of tests – presumably all in Danish.

We have no plans to buy a car – not now and not ever. We might, at some point, join a carshare service for all those trips to the gardening supply store or when we need to take our fat cat to the vet. So I started the process sometime last month.

I got my picture taken (they don’t do this at the DMV – thank the gods), I scheduled my doctor appointment, I had my vision and psychological exam and was asked lots of questions about my driving history and had to disclose all the medications I was currently taking. After my doctor decided I was fit to drive a car, I was given a stamp of approval and a sealed envelope which I was to deliver – unopened – to the officials at the Kommune (this is where all official business happens. Nice and centrally located. When in doubt – about just about anything, from schools to job searches to utilities – just head over there).

Here I handed in my envelope, I was asked to fill out more paperwork and was asked to hand over my Washington driver’s license. At this point, I was told everything appeared to be in order and that I should receive my driver’s license in about three months.

Three months?!

Fast forward to my Seattle trip. Here I am, without a car that I was planning to rent as soon as I arrived because I am without a driver’s license.

Life in Denmark without a car feels natural. Everything is within walking distance. If it isn’t, a bus or a train station most definitely is. In Seattle, unless you live in the very center of the city, a car is still a necessity.

I am staying with a friend in South Seattle. I have friends who live in West Seattle. I mapped the distance from Friend A to Friend B and came up with about 10 miles (or 16 km). To drive the 10 miles would take anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes. To use public transport it would take between 72 and 118 minutes (if I were to miss my connection). Yes, that’s about two hours.

I’ve taken a few buses here and got on the train a few times. I give myself about an hour to an hour and a half to get anywhere. And, of course, I rely on my friends to drive me around. This makes me feel like a helpless twelve year old. I feel terrible about asking for rides, but sometimes the car is the only option (as bad as transportation is in the city itself, it’s practically non-existent once you want to head on over to Whidbey Island).

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