Jessica Bentem had just filled the car up with gas.
“I made it about 10 minutes,” the Everett woman recalled. Then her car decided it was done — for good this time.
“I was fed up with cars at that point,” she said. “So I didn’t put much effort into finding another one. I just made the decision to go with the bus.”
That decision soon led to more than savings in gas, maintenance and insurance bills — $700 last year alone. All that walking between bus stops, home, work and other destinations also helped Bentem shed 40 pounds.
Her story earned her the title of Curb the Congestion Champion of the Year.
Community Transit runs the Curb the Congestion program, which rewards commuters who carpool, take transit, walk or bike to work. Bentem was one of the program’s quarterly honorees in 2016, making her eligible for the top honor.
“I was super surprised. I was not expecting that at all,” Bentem said. “Am I the only one riding the bus? Yeah, I was shocked.”
Bentem has been regularly riding buses for three years now. She’s stuck with it through a move and a job change. Her commute now involves three buses and 1.5 hours of travel time each way for her job in Bothell.
“It’s gotten easier,” she said. “I did not like it at first. At first, it sucked — for probably the first six, seven months it sucked so bad. I was walking and out of breath. At that point I was still smoking cigarettes. But I was getting out and getting more active, and I started losing weight.”
The new routine became even easier when she stopped smoking a few months later, in fall 2014.
“During summer time I was taking a lot more walks, taking my daughter on walks or on a bus to try a different park. It was an adventure for her,” she said.
Her boyfriend — who has never had a car and always walks where he needs to go — also offered motivation.
Bentem said taking the bus isn’t for everyone, but she encourages folks to at least give it a shot.
“The best parts are the fact that it’s cheaper. And when it’s nice outside? You’re actually out. And I like to be out in the sun. You’re not stuck in a car in traffic, missing it all,” she said. “The worst part is when the weather is bad. I’ve been stuck in the worst monsoon-like rain.”
For those who switch to the bus, Bentem highly recommends getting an Orca card. It works like cash or a bus pass and automatically tracks different fares and transfers.
Will she ever try a car again?
“It’s not on my agenda. I’m good right now,” she said. “I’ve got other things I’m trying to save up for and buy — and a car is not one of them.”
Read about two other local women who have drawn extra benefits from ditching their cars — including paying off a mortgage 20 years early — in today’s Way to Go section.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-339-3432
Stop driving alone
Curb the Congestion is an incentive program from Community Transit that offers cash rewards for those who choose “smarter trips” along Snohomish County’s most congested roadways.
That means ditching the solo drive and instead:
Curb the Congestion is funded in partnership with Snohomish County through developer mitigation fees and federal grants.
More info: www.communitytransit.org/choiceconnections