Life without a car in the US: Easy living or scraping by?
September 20, 2006 1:47 AM   Subscribe

Besides NYC, what are the best American cities to live in--for a non-driver?

Background: I've been spoiled by my experience in Tokyo where the subways/trains are frequent, timely, clean, and can get you in a short walk's range of pretty much anywhere. A car is unnecessary and impractical for day-to-day life in the city, and those that have them tend to be car lovers and/or wealthy.

The Sitch: I'm planning a move back to the US and wondered if I could possibly continue my car-free lifestyle in a place with excellent public transportation. I'm looking for a city where shops are in walking distance of home and people of all income levels use public transport to communte to work... and where it's not too uncommon to not have a car.

The Question: I'm aware of NYC, but are there any other American cities with comparable public transportation systems? Please share your personal experiences with me!

I hate driving. HATE it! I have poor vision and a poor sense of direction, and if I could have my way, would never ever drive again.
posted by QueSeraSera to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (55 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Chicago comes to mind...I lived there for 10 years, most of the time without a car. Frequent and fast trains, els/subways, and many many bus lines were my experience. Wrigley Field and the Cubbies are a bonus :)
posted by pjern at 1:56 AM on September 20, 2006

Fellow driving-hater here, and I've been living in Washington, DC without a car for three years now. It helps to be near Union Station and a bus stop, and walking distance from everything.
posted by brownpau at 2:08 AM on September 20, 2006

Coming from Tokyo, Chicago and DC come to mind as the closest. That's all I got.
posted by -t at 2:08 AM on September 20, 2006

I've heard good things about Boston and eKnow a couple of people who live there without cars.
posted by jedrek at 2:11 AM on September 20, 2006

San Francisco's alright.
posted by alexei at 2:27 AM on September 20, 2006

San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago all should be fine. 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.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:38 AM on September 20, 2006

Seattle's not bad, depending on where you live. If Capitol Hill you don't need a car at all. Queen Anne and Belltown as well. Caveat: Seattle is hilly, and the weather is often windy. Winter can be a miserable time for long walks. The buses are ok, though.

Definitely not American, but I live in Tokyo and the public transport (trains and subways) is outstanding.
posted by zardoz at 2:55 AM on September 20, 2006

Again, DC. The Metro and buses are good, and every sort of person uses them. (Nobody wants to drive in DC - it is a horrific nightmare.)
On preview: hey zardoz read the question again! Maybe you and QSS should go get a drink and discuss the merits of Tokyo mass transit! ; )
posted by zoinks at 3:11 AM on September 20, 2006

While San Francisco's public transportation can hardly be called 'top-notch' (especially, I'd imagine, when compared with Tokyo's), it's 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 (and don't).

I've lived in the City for 25 years now, and have been happily car-free for the past 15.
posted by trip and a half at 3:16 AM on September 20, 2006

Boston is amazing for walking. The subway stinks, however. Frequently late, delayed, broken-down, under construction, whatever. Bus routes are more reliable. The MBTA has also been accused of catering to certain economically advantaged neighborhoods over others when it comes to designing service, so that takes a bite out of your "everybody rides the subway" qualification.
posted by mykescipark at 3:20 AM on September 20, 2006

Philadelphia is doable, I know someone who did, subway (small) good streetcars, commuter trains and busses. You caneventake oneto exciting Camden,NJ.

If you are a walker, one must also consider the weather. DC in July is not pleasant! I lived there for two years. Surprisingly big difference from my native New York (and that can have its hot sticky humid days)

On the other hand Chicago in January is also not pleasant. Neither is Boston.

Other than the ones mentioned you are pretty much SOL in the States.
posted by xetere at 3:44 AM on September 20, 2006

That is, of course, You can even take one to exciting Camden, NJ.
Cat walked on keyboard.
posted by xetere at 3:45 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: I was thinking about buying this book for my boyfriend for Christmas (shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh) but it may interest you as well. I haven't read it myself, so I don't know if there are tips on where to live, but it looks as though there are tips on how to live without a car in the US.
posted by srah at 3:46 AM on September 20, 2006

I too recommend Chicago for its robust network of elevated and underground trains (a comprehensive fan site of the L is here). All of its lines converge at a giant downtown "traffic circle" of sorts called the Loop. I am in Boston, which I would recommend except for the fact that, like San Francisco, the transit system is a hodgepodge of bus, light rail, subway, and commuter rail lines that don't intersect at a common hub. And I agree with the comment above that they are skimping on service to poor areas with overreliance on cheap mass transit substitutes like "bus rapid transit."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:04 AM on September 20, 2006

I lived in Boston Proper for six years without a car. It was easy.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:06 AM on September 20, 2006

exciting Camden, NJ

I knew that had to be a typo. It's amazing that your cat stepped on the exact right letters to spell "exciting".

I lived in the Boston area for several years without a car, even to the point of turning down a FREE car from a relative because it wasn't worth the hassle. I thought the T was a great system, so I respectfully disagree with those above.

You could also live in Burlington, VT without a car -- it's a very walkable, liveable downtown, and the county-wide bus system was quite good when I lived there (and was getting better). You would want a car, as there is so much to do in Vermont outside of Burlington, but if you lived and worked downtown you certainly wouldn't have to use it on a daily basis.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:17 AM on September 20, 2006

Boston, most definately. The city is a nightmare for drivers, on the other hand.

The subway stinks, however. Frequently late, delayed, broken-down, under construction, whatever.

The T ("subway") is great for one reason: it goes everywhere (except certain pockets of Cambridge and Allston). The problem with the T is that it's slow, but that's because it's not a proper-subway that's 100% underground: trolleys just aren't going to be as fast a normal subways, so the more miles of track a particular line spends above-ground, the slower it is in general (the Green line is notoriously slow, for example, but the Red line is pretty nice.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:21 AM on September 20, 2006

I've had good experiences with San Francisco and Tokyo, but I haven't had a job that I have to commute to in 10 years, so your mileage may vary. Especially in San Francisco.
posted by Ookseer at 4:22 AM on September 20, 2006

I'd also just like to add that while NYC is a great city for a non-driver, it's a shitty city for a walker. The physical distances can become daunting rather quickly. Their subway is the best in the world, though, which nearly makes up for it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:24 AM on September 20, 2006

Both DC and Philly are doable without cars, but you'll have to be a little more careful in planning where you move to than you would have to in a city like NY or Chicago that has real public transit.

These days it's even easier to get by without a car in US big cities because you can get a membership to something like Flexcar and have access to a car when you need to get somewhere off public transit lines.
posted by footnote at 4:25 AM on September 20, 2006

any older city, even small ones, are very good for non-drivers. I lived for three years in New Haven, CT, founded c1630, and the public transit isn't great, but that doesn't matter, since I could walk everywhere. There is lots of cheap housing within 1/2 hour walk of the downtown core - well, actually, all of the housing is cheap by big city standards.

But I can imagine that any city of a similar size and age - predating cars - would provide similar amenities.

Within larger Eastern cities, whether you need a car is usually dependent on where you live. I grew up in Toronto, and I would say that within the old city of Toronto (as opposed to the expanded), you could live perfectly happy without a car. But you do need a car if you live in Etobicoke or Scarborough. (Well, you can live without one - I always have - but there is a decrease in the quality of life, and shopping is hard). So some places like Philidelphia or Pittsburg might be very nice, depending on what neighbourhood you choose.
posted by jb at 4:35 AM on September 20, 2006

Boston, including Cambridge, and Chicago.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:39 AM on September 20, 2006

I lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan for 8 years with no car. It's a little different than living in a big city with no car, but very very doable. Becuase the campus and the city are sort of the same thing, stuff is very walkable or bus ridable.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:40 AM on September 20, 2006

My major piece of advice about living without a car would that a granny cart is your friend - they work for laundry as well as groceries. My roommate and I never had to beg rides to do big shops, and just one of us could do the shopping for two of us for two weeks - including supplying our cranberry juice in big jugs addiction. 50lbs of groceries is much nicer on wheels.
posted by jb at 4:41 AM on September 20, 2006

Blah. Talk to me about the merits of the Boston T when they extend the service past 12:30 at night. The only reason people choose not to drive here is because driving, and parking, is even more of a froth-inducing nightmare than the cute little trolleys they try to pass off as a transportation system.

(But yeah, the buses aren't actually all that bad, barring traffic.)
posted by hilatron at 4:47 AM on September 20, 2006

I'd also just like to add that while NYC is a great city for a non-driver, it's a shitty city for a walker. The physical distances can become daunting rather quickly.

Disagree, at least in Manhattan. I don't even have an unlimited use MetroCard, because when I have to take the subway, that's a trip. The walking is exercise - it's always a little shock to get out to the suburbs and see all the obese people that you don't see in NYC.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:55 AM on September 20, 2006

Talk to me about the merits of the Boston T when they extend the service past 12:30 at night.

Talk to me about the merits of the T when they fix their shit. (For the record, the light rail lines are reliable enough (Red, Orange and Blue). The trolleys (green line) are going to turn me into a republican with secret hopes for privatization and union busting that would allow removal of T employees who can't be bothered to work.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:02 AM on September 20, 2006

It's not a big city, but I went and visited my brother in Davis, CA, and it's probably the bicycling capital of the US. They have a lot of buses, too. I imagine you could get around pretty easy without a car until you wanted to leave town to go somewhere. Then, I don't know if they have trains, you would have to take the bus.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:18 AM on September 20, 2006

I lived in Tokyo for a time, and I'll agree 100% with you, QueSeraSera: the transit system is second to none. (Even New York City.) You pay for it, of course, but the extensive and reliable service is worth it.

I'm now living just outside Washington, DC. Yes, the Metro is quite good -- safe, clean, generally reliable -- and it runs to 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays, which definitely beats Tokyo. (Metro still only runs until midnight on weekdays, though.) Also, the network, while running far into the suburbs, does not stop very frequently in those suburbs. Think of it as the Keio line making only kyuko (rapid) stops. It's designed for commuters in mind, so all of the lines terminate close to the center, with no options for transferring in the suburbs.

I actually live in Arlington, VA, which is 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. There's one major corridor where walking is very convenient, but this is NOT generally true of Metro. Stations outside of the downtown core are usually miles apart and your connections from there are by bus. And the buses are usually not even close to being on time...

I have no car, either, so I'm coming from the same perspective as you are, QueSeraSera. You need to make sure you live in a place with a convenient grocery store, drug store, Metro stop, etc. The prices for those kinds of apartments or condos have risen dramatically over the past 5 years, but that's how it is here. Even in the suburbs, there's not a whole lot of transit-oriented, dense development -- and what there is is new and expensive ($1200+ a month). That was irritating for me, coming from a 80 sq ft apartment in Tokyo that was under $1000. (And I could've found a cheaper, bigger place if I didn't live in Shinjuku, but I digress...)

Anyway, DC is pretty good for transit. I'll echo what people are saying about Boston, Chicago, SF, and Philly. Oh, and as for the weather in DC: it's nicer than Tokyo in the summer; still hot, but less humid.
posted by armage at 5:41 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: San Francisco is a great town to be carless in. It's also a pretty small city geographically so you can walk a lot of places besides taking public transit.

Toronto is another great city for being carless, though it's not in the US.

I live in Toronto and haven't driven for two years now. I hated driving and I'm so happy I don't have to do it anymore.
posted by Melsky at 5:46 AM on September 20, 2006

Madison, WI is very doable if you stay close enough to the downtown or near-west/east sides. Its one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, we have a decent bus system, and there is a flex-car system for times when you _need_ a car. 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.
posted by rsanheim at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2006

The trend these days is to make cities more accessible without needing a car. Obviously the bigger cities like NYC and Chicago have always been friendly in this respect. I moved back to Milwaukee from Madrid in January and have been easily living sin car in summer and winter. I live close to downtown and 3 minutes walk from a decent supermarket. My work offers me a nicely discounted unlimited bus pass which I use almost all of the time.

I do own a motorcycle but don't rely on it all that much. Walking and the bus are my favored means of transportation. So yeah, depending on your flavor, many cities will be good
posted by JJ86 at 5:58 AM on September 20, 2006

i found the washington DC metropolitan area (both in and out of the city itself) impossible without a car. the people you meet and the things people want to do are simply too scattered and the metro trains are geared for occasional not routine use, whereas the buses are unreliable and unlike in, say, NYC or chicago when the one you want doesn't show up, you can't just walk two blocks to an alternate bus. again, unlike NYC or chicago, DC tends to segregate use too much for life without a car (living stuff is over here, working stuff is over here, fun is over there. so you can't, for the most part, hit the dry cleaner on your way out of the office, drop it off at home and then hit a night spot without an arduous mix of transportation).

i like living in chicago without a car. i can get to my grandmother's in the burbs on one of two el trains and to my parent's in the burbs on a commuter line with regular express trains. i can get up to my father's marina well north of the city on a commuter and have several different transit options between my office and home. i don't know anyone who regularly drives to work.

i've lived in four different neighborhoods in chicago and always been within a couple blocks of at least two grocery options, several good restaurants and general shopping. the el is not pristine or shiny and new and some of the buses leak a little in the rain, but the new flash card is great and the CTA does try to listen to consumers.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:34 AM on September 20, 2006

On the other hand Chicago in January is also not pleasant

The Chicago Pedway was built just for this reason.
posted by Bonzai at 6:36 AM on September 20, 2006

Philadelphia, as other posters have mentioned, 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. However their public transit service, SEPTA, adheres to a unique standard of upkeep and scheduling that might best remind the outside visitor of the public transit system of Tirana, Albania. But yes, highly walkable and with the essentials (supermarket/laundromat/drugstore/restaurants) almost always in walking distance.

I'm also surprised noone has mentioned Portland yet. The city 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.
posted by huskerdont at 7:18 AM on September 20, 2006

And speaking of Portland, there's the one here in Maine. I know more than a few folks that live in this little city and don't own 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.

If you're looking for a warmer climate (and who isn't?), I spent a few days in Chattanooga, TN this summer and it seemed like it would be very easy to get around if you didn't have a car there. They even offer free electric buses downtown. And they have a GREAT aquarium.
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:28 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: Chicago again. I've been here for six years without a car. In addition to what was posted above, Chicago 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 downtown (the Loop). That, and being bounded by Lake Michigan to the east make it easy to navigate.

There are subway lines that go to both O'Hare and Midway airports. O'Hare can connect you to anywhere in the world. Midway is newly renovated, and I actually prefer to use it. Smaller and closer.

My advice would be to live in the city (not the burbs) near a subway/elevated train stop. The buses, while plentiful, are not as reliable.

Also, I've spent time in NYC and Boston and their winters are essentially the same as Chicago's. Chicago has a reputation for horrible weather, which while true, is no more horrible than NYC or Boston. Manhattan and Boston have been getting pounded the last few years, and the winters here in Chicago haven't been bad at all.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:30 AM on September 20, 2006

Another Boston/Cambridge resident here. Honestly, beyond the early closing time [12:30], I don't mind the T. As Civil_Disobedient says, it's primarily the aboveground stops that get slow, and those are mostly located on the Green Line. The T is also still pretty cheap, as transportation goes - $1.25 a ride. I don't use the bus nearly as much, but I've generally found the busses to be fairly reasonable. [And to the posters saying that the MBTA caters to economically advantaged residents: The mix of people one sees on the T really varies depending on where you are. Yeah, you'll see lots of yuppies in Davis Sq., and many college students near the B.U. stops, but elsewhere that's not at all the case. And everyone goes through Park St. It's nowhere near perfect, but one does see a wide range of people on the T, and it's certainly not something that only one socioeconomic class uses.]

Additionally, Boston and Cambridge are really walkable. If I have the time, I tend to walk anywhere that's half an hour or less away, and that gets me to a great many of the places I'm trying to go. Bicycling's another option, and a lot of people I know prefer to bike everywhere.
posted by ubersturm at 8:03 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: You can get by in other towns, but as a life-long non-driver (I have epilepsy), if I left NYC it would be for london... america is full of small towns and big towns, but it only has one city.
posted by mdn at 8:04 AM on September 20, 2006

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.
posted by spatula at 8:06 AM on September 20, 2006

I fifth or sixth Washington DC. It's easy to get around and the metro lines are excellent, if sometimes crowded. There is a great bus network in the burbs, but it runs along major thoroughfares, so you're screwed if you live in the boonies.

Portland, OR is great, but if you're planning on moving to one of these places try to research what you'd be doing. Portland is no place to move and then immediately find a job, unless you're looking for a service low-wage deal.
posted by parmanparman at 8:18 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: What do you do for a living?

This is key because, while lawyers and bankers and artsy types are downtown jobs anywhere you go, in many other professions a large proportion of the existing jobs, and a very high proportion of newly created jobs, are in the suburbs, with non-existent or highly impractical transit options.

If you are (for example) in any technical or scientific profession (excluding medicine), or in corporate sales, marketing or administration, I think you're going to risk some serious career compromise to live car free in Boston, Philly, San Francisco or DC. Chicago and NYC might be your best options, although even there those kinds of jobs are growing faster in the suburbs than in the city.

And, while I agree that it's possible to live car free in many cities across the country, I think you'll find that only in Manhattan and the Very-Far-East-Side neighborhoods of Brooklyn is it common for anyone other than the very young and very poor to live without a car. Your alternate criteria -- using transport for daily commute -- might be a much better way to look at the situation. (Living in Hoboken, one of the various spots which contend for "sixth borough" status in NYC, the only thing we like better than not having to drive a car every day is having a car to drive when we want to drive.)
posted by MattD at 8:52 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you're expanding to include North America as a whole, you should add Montreal to the list. You can easily live in Montreal without a car.
posted by mikel at 9:15 AM on September 20, 2006

At sort of the opposite end of the Spectrum from most of the suggestions here, we checked out Eugene, OR at one point because we were thinking of moving somewhere smaller/cheaper than Seattle. I don't know how the public transportation was, but it really felt like a place I could go nearly everywhere I wanted to go by bike.

The footprint of the city was relatively small and not too hilly, plus the pace and culture seemed amenable.
posted by Good Brain at 9:47 AM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: Here's another pro-Boston vote -- I lived there happily without a car. I did, however, ride my bike everywhere, as the T stops running at midnight and I got off work around then.

I don't recommend Seattle for the car-free. I know people here without cars, but they do car-share dealies and still end up driving. The public transportation here just isn't very good.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2006

Having grown up in L.A. and having driven 300-400 miles a week when I last lived there, I, too, now live in DC. I do have a car but it's 5.5 years old and has only 16,000 miles on it. Enough said.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:15 AM on September 20, 2006

I know I'm going out on a limb and will probably be shouted down.

But in my twenties I lived in Minneapolis in the Uptown area, and on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota without a car.

Both Uptown and U of M neighborhoods are ungodly difficult to find parking.

I would strongly recommend Uptown over UM.

When I lived in Uptown, I worked downtown. Very short easy bus ride. Lots of different bus routes go right thru the center (Lake and Hennepin) or very nearby.

It's a very fun place to live especially when young. LOTS of entertainment, shopping within walking distance. Walker Library and branch of YWCA on Hennepin, just off of Lake Street.

Best urban-park walking paths in the Twin Cities, with Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. And easy biking distance to Lake Harriet, Minnehaha Parkway, Minnehaha Falls, Lake Nokomis, Mississippi River roads, both West (Minneapolis) and East (St.Paul).

Though there are a few days/weeks during the winter when standing at a bus stop can be a little brutal. But, those who live here generally toughen up pretty quickly. To me, it wasn't that big a deal. Thanks to global warming, winters in Minnesota aren't nearly what they used to be.
posted by marsha56 at 10:44 AM on September 20, 2006

Oh good, someone finally mentioned Portland. Here's the skinny: Frequent Service lines and the MAX lightrail are good to great, but everything else is so-so. MAX does a major expansion just about every five years. This round, they're going to Clackamas, a deep suburb. MAX also goes to the airport. However, almost all bus service ends before last call. I supplement my bus trips with bike trips and Portland has a first class bike culture and a policy of creating bike commuter infrastructure as opposed to the recreation first and commuting as an afterthought infrastructure of Seattle. SW Portland isn't particularly walkable (With the exceptions maybe of Multnomah Village and Hillsdale), but there is a SW Trails project in the works to create recreational urban hikes. One great, unique thing about Portland is that outdoor adventure is insanely transit accessible (e.g. Forest Park, Sauvie's Island, rivers, mountain biking). Wild in the City is a great resource in this regard.

The Pearl District and Old Town are the high growth city center walkable neighborhoods. Subsidized housing (e.g. Pearl Court) has a fairly low bar in downtown because the cut-off line is based on a percentile of the neighborhood's income. Otherwise, it's pretty spendy in the city center. Hawthorne, Mississippi, Belmont and Alberta are walkable neighborhoods, although there's more novelty shopping than basic groceries. The part of Irvington between Broadway and Fremont has a good mix of functional shopping within walking distance (Wild Oats on 15th and Fremont, Safeway on Broadway and 11th.)

Portland rocks because Portland fought to trade the Mt. Hood Expressway for MAX in the 70s. We also have the urban growth boundary, which has limited sprawl. However, these advances are threatened by the recently passed and, so far, legally upheld Measure 37. The pro-sprawl developers failed to end the urban growth boundary by its own merits, so they crafted a law that nullifies just about every building regulation there is under the sleight-of-hand of property owner reimbursement. Portland's livability is also threatened by its own success. As someone else mentioned, good jobs are scarce, because everyone wants to live here. Of course, it rains a lot here, but it's usually that Pacific Northwest misty rain that's not as miserable as an outright downpour.

In short, if (and only if) you can get set up with a job on good transit and a home on good transit, then Portland is the place to be.
posted by Skwirl at 12:04 PM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: I live carfree in the Boston area, and it's totally doable. I'm in my mid-late 20's, well out of my student ghetto stage, and I'd say I still know more people without cars than with. It can be a PITA sometimes(being out in the weather in the winter, shopping for household stuff, and in my case, not being able to easily play soccer, since all the leagues are out in the 'burbs), but it's not all that bad, especially if you supplement it with a very occasional zipcar or ride cadged from friends. It's not on the level of NY or Tokyo in terms of coverage or hours, but it's not at all hard to work around either. Just make sure you make easy access to the T a high priority when choosing a neighborhood and apartment.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 2:24 PM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: Smaller New England cities, and college towns will usually have a nice "downtown" area where you can live and be within walking/biking distance of all your daily needs. It depends how flexible your workplace locations are. Providence RI, Amherst/Northampton MA, Ithaca NY, Madison WI, Iowa City IA come to mind as examples.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:50 PM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster: Hi zardoz , isn't Tokyo great?

Thanks all for all your helpful recommendations. I didn't think the no car thing was even doable in the US, but you've proved to me otherwise! Though I'm a bit bummed to hear that the majority of carless folks are either young or poor. Not that I mind sharing... it just makes public transport a lower priority for cities than if more taxpayers were using it.

I like the idea of Boston, Chicago, Philly and Minneapolis. Canada sounds interesting and I'll definitely look into it. But I think I'm leaning toward the west coast for various reasons.
Woo hoo for the Eugene, OR mention, by the way. I went to U there! It's a great town, though the job market is tough.

If I pursue the no-car thing, I plan to use your info as a starting point and then narrow my choices down based on job opportunities. As parmanparman, MattD and others alluded to, finding an agreeable job situation is most important. Couldn't just show up in a new town without something lined up. :)

Thanks again!
posted by QueSeraSera at 8:07 PM on September 20, 2006

Best answer: I know it's been said multiple times, but I also have to chime in for Chicago as the only really viable alternative to NYC if you want to live in a city in the United States without a car.

I moved to Chicago from Minneapolis (a city I consider a chore without a car) and ended up getting rid of my car after a few months because it's actually easier to live there without a car than with one. I was there for almost six years and I can honestly say that less than 10% of my friends in the city had a car.

There are certainly other places in America that you can live without a car, but if you're looking for something along the lines of Tokyo, then I'd say Chicago.

As said before, the train system covers almost everywhere you need to go and busses do the rest. The Blue Line and Red Line (the only two I practically ever took) both run 24 hours. O'Hare and Midway are both served directly by the local train system for no extra charge (not even NYC has that).

Chicago has also been called the best city in the US for bicycling, and with good reason. Things only look to get better, too, when you consider the Bike 2015 Plan that the mayor there has enacted.
posted by atomly at 8:40 PM on September 20, 2006

I lived for two years in Chicago with out a car. Very easy to do.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:17 PM on September 20, 2006

QueSeraSera said: Though I'm a bit bummed to hear that the majority of carless folks are either young or poor.

I'm not sure about the rest of the people who replied but no, I am neither. I just have different priorities.
posted by JJ86 at 7:33 AM on September 21, 2006

Response by poster: My apologies, JJ86. On second look, my comment actually does sound offensive, but it was in response to something another poster said about the carless in general. Sorry if that wasn't more clear. Looks like I'll need to work on my English a bit more before I leave Japan!

MattD said: I think you'll find that only in Manhattan and the Very-Far-East-Side neighborhoods of Brooklyn is it common for anyone other than the very young and very poor to live without a car.
posted by QueSeraSera at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2006

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