As someone who de-car’d for a couple years — then brought the car back with a determination to live very car-lite — I can tell you that car ownership seems almost inevitably to lead to car creep.

Once I got Mut back, I started out driving about once a week at first, mainly to Kaiser (I brought back the car because I had to switch health insurance to Kaiser; getting there and back via bus took more than half a work day when I lived in Santa Monica). Then I started becoming a bit lackadaisical about my planning for events I planned to attend, half-heartedly planning out a public transit option but then hopping in the car because I was going to run late. Then I started agreeing to a few far-ish events here and there — without looking for carpool partners, whom I routinely looked for when I didn’t have my car.

Things took a dramatic turn for the worse when I moved to West Hollywood — partly because my new apartment no longer had space for a bike (it is now on permanent loan to Sara Bayles of The Daily Ocean) and partly because I couldn’t wean myself off Santa Monica!

I started making trips once a week to hit all my favorite haunts, from Co-opportunity to the LEED-certified library. To my credit, I bundled all the Santa Monica errands together for one day — but I was driving more than ever before. That, plus the simple fact that I had to cobble together new car-free trip plans for every place I wanted to get to, meant that I found myself driving a good 3-4 times a week the last few months.

My one semi-valid excuse excuse is the crazy weather we’ve been having. You must admit: It’s tough to get motivated to explore new eco-transit options during sudden torrential record-breaking rainfalls and freezing temperatures. Honestly, I didn’t have the clothes for it.

But the rains ended, the weather warmed up, and No Impact Experiment’s Transportation day arrived yesterday, with its directive to “Burn calories, not fossil fuels” — just as higher traffic fines and gas prices kicked in. I was feeling cranky and cooped-up from all the time spent behind the wheel too.

Serendipitously, Tuesdays were my Santa Monica days. Yesterday, I’d planned to go to a meeting, get tea with Sara, then shop at Co-opportunity. Three stops may seem like legitimate excuse for a car trip to some, but honestly, if I didn’t have my car, I would have simply planned differently to either eliminate the need for the trip, or consolidate them into a smaller area — as the original Tuesday plans would have required getting on a whole bunch of different buses for every stop.

So I canceled the trip to Santa Monica.

After all, West Hollywood is a perfectly good meeting place; I was just clinging to my old Santa Monica habit. I can buy produce at Trader Joe’s or Pavilions, both of which I can walk to. They aren’t as awesome as the Co-op but certainly not horrible enough to justify burning lots of fossil fuels on my part. And Sara I could see on Thursday, when I plan to attend LA Green Drinks in Santa Monica.

So instead, I stayed nearby and finally figured out which bus to take to my boyfriend’s — and took it! A 10-minute ride on the Metro 10 and about 10 minutes of walking later, I made it to his place in Hollywood, with a little fresh-ish L.A. air and much-needed post-holiday exercise and without traffic and parking hassles.

Then I patted myself on the back for not only freeing myself from an unnecessary long car trip to Santa Monica, but also starting a new habit that’ll keep me out of the car a few extra times a week.

Of course, the eco-transportation work isn’t done: Anyone want to carpool to Santa Monica for Green Drinks tomorrow?

Going car-lite in Los Angeles
MNN's lifestyle blogger finds that where there's a will to think outside the car, there is usually a creative way. Will you drive less in 2011?