Many people could not imagine life without a car, but between the economic challenges of today and the average cost of owning a car in the US being almost 20 thousand dollars plus the environmental considerations of another fossil fuel burning machine, life without a car might not be so scary of a thought.
Without question, living in a larger metropolitan city such as New York will greatly assist in maintaining a mobile quality of life without a car. Accessible mass public transportation is a key feature in making this lifestyle viable. According to WalkScore ,a private civic group whose mission is to promote walkable neighborhoods, while 83% percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas, yet only 5% live within walking distance of decent public transit. Options regarding commuter railroads, public bus routes, subways, and streetcars/trolleys can make or break an individual’s decision to live car free.
Based on residential reviews, popular opinions decree that the following are the Best Cities in the United States to live without a car:
New York, NY:
Hands down, New York City comes first to everyone’s mind as the best city for living without a car. It’s one of the most walkable; best suited to withstand an oil crisis, and has extensive public transportation. Since New York has limited land resources historically, it has been built up rather than out with extensive urban sprawl. Combined with the grid based street structures and public transportation, many die hard New Yorkers never even get a driver’s license.
While Boston’s transit system is a combination of bus, light rail, subway, and commuter rail lines that don’t intersect at a common hub, the T (“subway”) does have a far reach to the majority of the metro area except certain pockets of Cambridge and Allston. Despite the issue that the certain T lines, such as the Green line, are slower, other lines, like the Red line are deemed “pretty nice”. Boston is a good city to live without a car in as walking and bus routes are very reliable.
San Francisco, CA:
San Francisco has a good system (BART) that incorporates a subway, light rail, and commuter rail marking it perfectly possible to live here without a car, and you can get anywhere in the Bay Area if you know how the various systems work.
The Chicago train system covers almost everywhere you need to go and busses do the rest. The Blue Line and Red Line both run 24 hours. Major airports that can connect you to anywhere in the world, O’Hare and Midway, are both served directly by the local train system for no extra charge. Chicago, like New York City, was one of the first planned cities, so the whole thing is on a neat and tidy grid, with a few diagonal streets radiating out from the giant downtown “traffic circle” of sorts which called the Loop. So if you are looking to live without a car, Chicago might be a good choice for you.
Philadelphia is highly walkable with a number of residential neighborhoods both in the downtown area (Center City) and in the adjacent areas of Northern Liberties, West Philadelphia and South Philadelphia. While the Philly public transit service, SEPTA, adheres to a unique standard of upkeep and scheduling that can be considered challenging, a small subway system, good streetcars, commuter trains and busses make car free living possible.
Portland has always seemed extremely easy to get by without a car in and has the benefit of a surprisingly comprehensive public transit system with frequent service. Portland, Oregon has great busses and uncrowded streets for biking, and the distances are extremely manageable. It’s cold and wet more often than not, though.
Seattle has a very good bus line between closer communities and Seattle proper. There are also rail and ferries depending on where you are coming from making it easy to get around without a car. Seattle is hilly, however, and the weather is often windy so the winter can be a miserable time for long walks.
The DC Metro is quite good — safe, clean, generally reliable — and it runs to 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, though it still only runs until midnight on weekdays. Also, the network, while running far into the suburbs, does not stop very frequently in those suburbs. It helps to be near Union Station and a bus stop, and walking distance from everything and you can enjoy the freedom of living without a car.
There are also quite a few other cities mentioned where people have lived without a car and enjoyed a quality standard of living.
Car Free Living Honorable Mention Cities
Dallas is rapidly expanding their DART light rail system and in a few years or less it will be really extensive for a system like that.
Denver has a very good mass transit system supporting car free living.
Life in this little city is possible without cars. Downtown’s very walkable and reasonably safe, and if you need to escape you can take a train or bus to Boston and beyond.
Just across the river from DC, Arlington is small but dense, which allows it to have a correspondingly dense transit system. Metrorail, Metrobus, ART are all quite comprehensive, and Arlington has plans to build a streetcar or light rail system along one of the main roads in the next 5-10 years and turning this city even friendlier for car free living. There’s one major corridor where walking is very convenient, but this is NOT generally true of the Metro.
Ann Arbor, MI:
For 8 years with no car. It’s a little different than living in a big city with no car, but very doable. The campus and City are quite entwined making it easily walkable with a bus system.
New Haven, CT:
While the public transit isn’t great, since one can walk everywhere, there is lots of housing within 1/2 hour walk of the downtown core so you can live car free here.
With a very walkable, livable downtown, and the good county-wide bus system, if you lived and worked downtown you could have a totally car free life. On the other hand, you would want a car, as there is so much to do in Vermont outside of Burlington.
Downtown or near-west/east sides of Madison have support of a decent bus system and are one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US. There is also the university with some ~50k students, so if you live near that you can benefit from all the small shops that are around to serve that huge, mostly car-less population.
Then there are some cities that, no matter how green you might want to be, cannot really be lived in without a car.
The worst American cities to be stuck in without a car:
Los Angeles, CA:
Just as New York City is on the tops of everyone’s lists as one of the best cities for living without a car, LA is always on the bottom as the worst. Aside from the traffic due to too many cars, as for living car free, avoid Los Angeles and southern California like the plague. The types of cities that tend to require cars are ones that developed relatively recently, particularly those in the south, and suffer the worst from suburban sprawl.
Phoenix had quite a few dishonorable mentions as a city where one must have a car. Though the metropolitan area is finishing the initial state of the construction of its light rail system, that will begin operating later this year so they might be coming out of the worst car free living category.
Atlanta has a rail system but no commuter rail and few options. Residents claim it is definitely a car city and no one should attempt to live without a car here.
Houston, TX, Detroit, MI, and Charlotte, NC; all were said to be bad cities to live in without cars.
Overall, it definitely helps to do your homework and make sure that you are living in an environment that can support your decision to live without a car. Big Bucks Auto™ is blessed to be in the New York metro area, so we can support those who want to sell their used car in New York and be able to live a high quality of life; car free.
Thinking about selling your car? Read our How to Get Fast Cash for Cars article for some useful tips.
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