Where's the best city for living 100% car-free?
July 22, 2008 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Where's the best city for living 100% car-free? Is there an affordable walker's paradise?

I live in Portland, which is a wonderful place, but even here it can be challenging to live without a car. Every now and then my wanderlust kicks in and I find myself craving a change of scenery. Is life without a car better somewhere else?

NYC, Boston and San Francisco seem prohibitively expensive. Also, I don't have good enough vision for biking on city streets, so bike friendly places aren't that helpful for me.
posted by 2oh1 to Travel & Transportation (68 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I grew up around NY (easier to live without a car, but expensive), lived in DC (pretty much impossible to do anything outside of downtown without a car) and Chicago, which isn't quite as accessible as NY, but a lot cheaper.
posted by Oktober at 3:47 PM on July 22, 2008

Walkscore ranks cities by walkability.
posted by gyusan at 3:48 PM on July 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Looking at Walkscore: Can it really be that LA is the 9th most walkable city in America?
posted by ManInSuit at 3:51 PM on July 22, 2008

Walkability isn't everything, even if you want to live car free. For example, here in St. Louis, Enterprise is offering car sharing (like Zipcar or Flexcar) for a little bit of nothing. It's a great program if you live downtown (which already has grocery stores, restaurants, night life, etc.), and St. Louis is a lot more affordable than NYC or Boston.
posted by gd779 at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2008

Better link to WeCar.
posted by gd779 at 3:57 PM on July 22, 2008

Los Angeles is very walkable, depending on where you live. It's just that "Los Angeles" encompasses a huge variety of areas.

2oh1: An area being "walkable" means that it has to have a lot of amenities in a small area. Having lots of amenities in a small area is very desirable. Very desirable areas are expensive to live in. Therefore, the more walkable an area, the more expensive it will be on the average.

What are your criteria for a place to live? 'Cause you can find walkable areas in lots of places. But, like I said, the more walkable it is the more expensive it will tend to be.
posted by Justinian at 3:58 PM on July 22, 2008

Chicago. Cheap, very walkable.
posted by nitsuj at 3:59 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Madison, WI.
posted by kldickson at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2008

New York. It's both very walkable--because for a huge city, it's extremely compact--and has excellent and comprehensive public transit.
posted by millipede at 4:14 PM on July 22, 2008

Oops--saw that you find NYC prohibitively expensive. Which is true, but less true if you choose to live in one of the boroughs besides Manhattan, which are also fairly walkable and also have access to great public transit.
posted by millipede at 4:15 PM on July 22, 2008

You could live 100% car-free, while still renting cars from share services like ZipCar, Philly CarShare, etc. if you get wanderlust.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:19 PM on July 22, 2008

Beware: Walkscore is definitely misleading. It ranks my neighborhood as one of the most walkable in L.A. - sure it is, if you like aggressive panhandlers, trash everywhere, poorly maintained sidewalks, and super noisy, high traffic streets, *and* if your idea of neighborhood shopping means everything has to be a generic chain.

Interestingly, the cities I've lived happily car-free in are prohibitively expensive: Santa Monica and San Francisco. Right now I dream of moving to Portland because it seems a good middle ground.
posted by chez shoes at 4:22 PM on July 22, 2008

The OP doesn't have good enough vision for biking. Does that also mean not good enough vision for driving? Zipcar's great, but I can see how it might not fit some meaningful definitions of "100% car-free."
posted by ManInSuit at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2008

chez shoes, to be fair, WalkScore does list that on their Known Issues page. I do wonder why they don't weed out the more obvious duds--I mean, if the neighborhood has "Skid Row" right there in the name, it probably isn't that pleasant to hang out in.
posted by fermion at 4:39 PM on July 22, 2008

Washington DC should be well up there. If you live in town, save for Glover Park, it's very easy to get around most places without a car. Walking here is fun and the buses are pretty much on time. Once you learn the Metro is for the tourists in the summer things get a lot easier.
posted by parmanparman at 4:40 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a lifetimer without a car (at 45 now) and having lived in quite a few places in the US both big and small, it is not so much about The Place as much as it is about how you arrange your life.

1) Live near your job/income source or easy transit to it.

2) Live near transit connections and/or a center of commerce for your social and supply needs.

3) Pay some of what you save by not having a car, and use it to afford the right location.

If you can do that, then everything else falls into place. But no matter how you slice it, there will always be stuff your car buddies can do that you can't, that's just how it is.

Walkscore is somewhat helpful for zeroing in on neighborhoods, not so much for whole cities.
posted by quarterframer at 4:47 PM on July 22, 2008 [7 favorites]

fermion, that's the sad thing - where I live (what Walkscore calls Mid-City, what I call the Fairfax District) is anything *but* skid row. But thanks - I hadn't seen that link before and the explanation of their algorithm does make it a bit less laughable.
posted by chez shoes at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2008

You might get ideas from this long list of car-free cities and neighborhoods, most of them in Europe.
posted by PatoPata at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2008

I guess you can be car-free in LA, but you'd feel like a prisoner.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:58 PM on July 22, 2008

I think you already do have the correct answers: NYC and SF are the best for living car free. You can do just about anything you need without one, and in many ways, it's actually more of a pain to have a car than not have one in those two. But you're right, they're expensive places to live.

Chicago isn't walkable. I don't care what Walkscore says. Sure, parts of Chicago are walkable. Those parts are generally expensive, too. I've spent lots of time in Chicago, and I really wouldn't consider living there car-free.

For extremely cheap, urban, walkable, pleasant and lovely, check out Milwaukee by the lakefront. No, really.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 5:00 PM on July 22, 2008

Madison, WI.

I would say that almost any smaller city with a huge university will work, like Madison, Eugene, Ithaca, or Ames (and even some larger places like Austin are possibilities). Lots of students don't have cars, plus all the semi-hippy hangers-on, so not having a car isn't unusual; there are usually plenty of very walkable residential neighborhoods close to services; sometimes decent public transport; and the small scale of those towns means that everything is close enough to walk.

The downside will be travel -- many small cities no longer have good bus and train connections, and smaller airports are losing service with the current airline contractions.
posted by Forktine at 5:09 PM on July 22, 2008

Avalon, California has very few cars.
posted by yohko at 5:11 PM on July 22, 2008

Let me add a bit to my original question here.

First off, I'm legally blind, which means I can't drive. My vision is good enough that most people don't know I have a problem, but I can't drive and won't bike where there are cars. I find myself frustrated because our country seems to be so car-centric. Even when I asked a question about where to live car-free (as in, without using a car) people quickly chime in about renting cars. And I don't say that as an insult to those who suggested renting a car or zipcar. Let's face it - most Americans would panic if they had to be without a car for a week.

I'm not looking for a walkable area. I'm looking for a truly walkable life. Groceries, movies, pubs, shopping, etc etc etc. Portland is very good in that regard... but even here, not having a car can be a problem - and that made me wonder if there is somewhere better.

...oh, if only I could afford NYC!
posted by 2oh1 at 5:11 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Walkability ratings really aren't useful since it runs like a list of U.S. cities from most populous to least populous. It would be helpful for them (or someone) to normalize the scores for population.
posted by tinkertown at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2008

2oh1: There aren't many places more walkable than parts of Portland. You're talking like San Francisco, parts of Manhattan or NYC, etc. They tend to be quite expensive.
posted by Justinian at 5:16 PM on July 22, 2008

Chicago has great public transportation.

Between the L, the metra, and the buses, you can get pretty much anywhere in the city or near suburbs without a car.
posted by Oktober at 5:22 PM on July 22, 2008

Justinian, I suspect you're right.
posted by 2oh1 at 5:25 PM on July 22, 2008

The thing about living in an expensive city like New York is that not needing a car saves quite a bit of money. I think about leaving the city, and the fact that my salary would be lower elsewhere (if I could even find a job in my field), plus that the cost of owning a car would be close to what I'd be saving in rent, I really don't think my lifestyle would change much. Except I'd have to drive more, and I hate driving.

Of course, if you live elsewhere and already don't have a car, then moving to a big city would make a bigger difference to you financially than to someone who does drive.
posted by lampoil at 5:28 PM on July 22, 2008

Welcome to Philadelphia, where I don't know a single person who lives within city bounds who bothers owning a car. Many make some use of a carsharing nonprofit called PhillyCarShare, but many do nothing but foot-power and public transit. It's not as cheap as a much-smaller city, mind you, but people familiar with Boston/NYC real estate often express great surprise at how cheap Philly is, and people used to cheaper places seem to simply find it pricier, not unaffordable (a la SF/NYC). The basic trick is to live just far enough from Center City (what we call the central downtown area) that prices drop off, but close enough to walk; there's also a good-if-you-ignore-NYC-next-door public transit system. I know plenty of people living in the city on not-terribly-well-paying jobs, in perfectly acceptable neighborhoods, who don't own cars. (Major note: Everyone I know lives relatively close to Center City - there are huge swaths of the city that aren't really doable without a car. It's just that there's more than enough walk-friendly territory to make for a good life for those interested in being carless.)

In fact, on Saturday I'll be moving into a place that scores a Walkability of 92 - it's right off a subway line, walking distance to groceries, bars, a huge shopping district, etc. And while I make pretty good money for a recent college grad, I'm by no means rolling in cash for a pricey apartment.

Is Philly as walkable as NYC? No. But I was once asked to sell Philly to someone in a single sentence, and I said "80% of what makes NYC great, at 30% of the price."
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:29 PM on July 22, 2008

Everyone who says Chicago is walkable hasn't tried to carry groceries a few blocks in the winter - even with the L.
posted by Gucky at 5:33 PM on July 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Toronto. Cheaper than SF or NYC. Possibly easier to move to than Europe.

Groceries, movies, pubs, shopping, etc etc etc.

Hey, I used to have all of that just on Roncesvalles! Plus decent public transport makes it easy to get around town without driving or biking.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on July 22, 2008

Minneapolis/St. Paul are affordable, have good public transport and good/great walkability except in the winter.
posted by Xurando at 5:45 PM on July 22, 2008

I should probably include Montreal as well although I haven't lived there. But I have gotten around on several visits all over Montreal sans auto.
posted by GuyZero at 5:45 PM on July 22, 2008

Toronto! GAH!!! I can't even begin to express my envy of Canadians! I've heard such good things about Toronto, not to mention that Vancouver B.C. is stunning. I need to marry a Canadian!
posted by 2oh1 at 5:49 PM on July 22, 2008

Savannah, GA. It is beautiful and it is incredibly easy to live car free. It also has a lot of culture for such a small place due to its amazing history and large art college.
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:06 PM on July 22, 2008

I'm not sure why nobody's mentioned Boston yet. I haven't owned a car since I came here over fifteen years ago. There are plenty of neighborhoods that aren't that expensive to live in (although the OP would need to define 'expensive' for him, and decent (not stellar) bus and subway service if you pick your location. Lots of culture for a small city.
posted by canine epigram at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2008

I went to school in Savannah and pretty much never drove. If you live downtown you can walk everywhere. It's kind of high crime though.
posted by bradbane at 6:43 PM on July 22, 2008

Who says Chicago isn't walkable? Sure, it can be a pain in the winter...but it'd a pain in New York in the winter as well.
posted by Windigo at 6:57 PM on July 22, 2008

I live in Boston and it's definitely friendlier NOT to have a car around here. As for prohibitively expensive, it certainly depends on where in the city you live. There are some "up and coming" neighborhoods in the gentrification process that are definitely affordable.

I also lived in Providence, both with and without a car, and it's definitely manageable. Providence is a great - if also totally weird - little town. Everything I needed was accessible by bus - groceries (both Stop & Shop and Whole Foods), movies, the mall, downtown. Another bonus for being such a small town - I could walk from one end of town to the other in forty five minutes. And it's definitely affordable. Boston & NYC are easily accessible for those times when you really need to have something verging on an actual cultural experience and TF Green Airport is also right on the busline.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:59 PM on July 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

To address the OP's description of wanderlust, the US is not the place to explore without a car.

Like everyone's already mentioned, there are cities of various sizes and price points that one can easily live on foot and public power alone. However, in a vast majority of the cases, you'll be restricted to the city itself - especially for the smaller cities, and those outside the NE corridor.

If you want to travel... see a bit outside your local haunts, a car is really the only economical solution in the States. I don't mean to belittle the country, nor do I care to comment on the causes. It just is what it is, and the US will remain car-centric for some time.

Verboseness aside, if you want a more walkable city than Portland, you're probably going to pay a premium for it. In the meantime, save up a bit for tickets to the outside world. (Even Amtrak can be an adventure.)
posted by whycurious at 7:00 PM on July 22, 2008

NYC and SF are the best for living car free.

Boston trumps NYC any day of the week, any week of the year in terms of walkability. New York is fucking big as you will quickly realize once you try and go without mass transit (which is ludicrously expensive per trip, by the way).

To give you some perspective, Boston is the size of Central Park. And forget about living there if you're not pulling in six figures. "Oh, but you can just live in [insert borough here]." Sure you can. And then you are tied to the subway like an umbilical cord. Unless you don't mind walking for hours and hours and hours and hours... And Boston trumps San Francisco because it doesn't have those insane fucking hills But none of that matters, since Boston, New York, and San Francisco are all cities of millionaires, and you're not printing your own money.

The basic rule of thumb is, the older the city, the better the walkability. Any city founded after the invention of the automobile is right out. That basically means cities in the Northeast U.S., and Chicago. Chicago is a great city, but it's also really big and you will absolutely require the El unless you trying to compete in a triathalon and want to get in shape.

My SO and I were looking for that "perfect city" after becoming Boston refugees. We currently live in Portland (Maine) which is extremely walkable, has all the kitch and charm of Boston, but costs about a third as much to live here.

I've heard such good things about Toronto, not to mention that Vancouver B.C. is stunning.

Of course you pick the two cities that are nearly as expensive as NYC to live in. Sorry to be the one to break this to you, but if you really want an affordable, walkable city, you need to think smaller.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2008 [5 favorites]

Seconding Philly. I just moved out of Philly to Ann Arbor, MI, which prides itself on being rather walkable/public transit friendly. Let's just say I miss Philly. I could go 6 months in Philly without going in any form of vehicle with tires, whereas in the 3 weeks I've been in MI, I've discovered that I can't even walk to the grocery store.

I'd recommend center city west or society hill.

posted by singerdj at 7:01 PM on July 22, 2008

I lived without a car for four years in Chicago. While there were times when I wanted one, I was fine most of the time. Just live within walking distance of the L.

And gucky, I did carry bags of groceries a few blocks in the winter. It wasn't fun, but it was doable.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:09 PM on July 22, 2008

I've lived in Chicago; It's definitely possible to go without a car, even in winter, but it isn't "preferable to Portland" by any stretch of the imagination, which is what the OP is looking for. I think.
posted by Justinian at 7:17 PM on July 22, 2008

The east-end neighborhoods of Pittsburgh are very manageable without a car. Squirrel Hill, Shadyside or Oakland are all pretty easy to live in without cars and have pretty much all the services you'd need within walking distance. I've never done without a car but my wife lived in Squirrel Hill for many years without one and managed just fine. Housing in those neighborhoods is expensive for Pittsburgh but a fraction of the cost of SF or NYC. The bus system is pretty complete even if the drivers are generally surly and usually late. The weather sucks here but not much worse than New York or Philly and better than Chicago.
posted by octothorpe at 7:29 PM on July 22, 2008

I'll say Pittsburgh isn't bad, in the neighborhoods octothorpe mentioned, but - IMHO - it's too hilly, and the public transit isn't quite good enough, to really qualify as pedestrian-friendly. I wouldn't really recommend living in Oakland - it's too student-swarmed, and there isn't much to do that isn't swarmed with undergrads. Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, though, are reasonably doable.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:54 PM on July 22, 2008

I'm not looking for 'doable' so much as 'preferable'. In other words, not bad doesn't mean good or even great.

I've lived in Pittsburgh (without a car). It's doable, but come on now. If you had to live without a car, would you really choose Pittsburgh? I've also lived in Dallas and Houston. Those were awful.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:18 PM on July 22, 2008

Thanks for the tips on Chicago and Philly. Both pique my curiosity.

Also, Civil_Disobedient makes great points about cities of millionaires. They're phenomenal in terms of walkability, but who can afford them? Well... the millionaires can. Grin.

For whycurious: My wanderlust isn't about travel. It's about living. I tend to move to a new city every few years and will probably continue to do so until I find the place to stay. Who knows... Portland might be it.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:22 PM on July 22, 2008

Listen, if what you really want is to live in NYC, are you sure you can't afford to do so? I and most of the people I know live happily in Brooklyn or Queens on very modest wages. Poor people have lived in this city for many generations and will go right on doing so, despite what you may have heard.

Would you be willing to live with roommates? Are you able to budget and make sensible choices about your spending? If so, I think you should re-consider New York. Small cities are great places to live, but if you want to be able to get a change of scenery without a car, this is the place.
posted by Mender at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2008

I second Eugene. And would recommend Davis, CA.
posted by peep at 9:00 PM on July 22, 2008

The West End of Vancouver BC (downtown peninsula area) is a perfect place to live without a car. Its population density is actually higher than the average density for Manhattan island, which gives you an idea how walkable everything else. Do some googling about Davie and Denman streets.
posted by thewalrus at 9:20 PM on July 22, 2008

I've lived in Vancouver (Canada) for 12 years without a car, and Duesseldorf (Germany) for 6.
posted by lastobelus at 9:48 PM on July 22, 2008

The people I know who live in "the city" that make modest wages all tend to have two attributes in common:

1. They don't live in Manhattan.

They live in outer Brooklyn, or Queens, or Staten Island, or the Bronx, or Jersey City. Which is fine if you work or hang out in Brooklyn, or Queens, or Staten Island, or the Bronx, or Jersey City. But it's not when where you really want to be is in Manhattan. So instead, you spend a couple hours every day shuffling to and from the place you really want to be, and have to twist arms to get anyone to come out and visit you. It also means you aren't walking, which was the whole point of the question. Then there are borough-specific drawbacks: Brooklyn (can be far depending on the neighborhood, can be nearly as expensive as Manhattan if you're in a "cool"--i.e. close to Manhattan--area... and the subway lines aren't the greatest), Queens (really far out, subway lines even more sporadic), Staten Island (suburbia, and you don't even have a subway line), the Bronx (buy reinforced doors for your apartment) or Jersey City (now you're not even in New York any more, have to rely on the PATH instead of the subway, and it's nearly as expensive as being on the Island).

2. Most of their income is going to rent.

...and worse still, that's for an apartment the size of a shoe box, with each room split to squeeze more people than the unit was ever designed to hold ("That kitchen has a window, ergo, it's a bedroom!"). So you're back to living like you did in college with strangers as roommates, sharing an overcrowded area that you're dumping most of your disposable income into just for the luxury of being able to say you live in New York. As someone once said, much better than I...
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:13 PM on July 22, 2008

I've lived in Vancouver (Canada) for 12 years without a car, and Duesseldorf (Germany) for 6.

Headline says it all.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:20 PM on July 22, 2008

The French Quarter in New Orleans. It is a city within a city, ten square blocks. Grocery stores, restaurants, Farmers Market, Flea Market, a hardware store next to an art gallery and one of the oldest cathedrals in the United States. The music is great and so are the neighbors. It is a true neighborhood in all sense of the word, within walking distance of just about anything you need. Cabs are plentiful and for $1.25 you can ride the oldest streetcar line in America.

I lived there for a number of years, moved out 20 years ago, miss it everyday.
posted by JujuB at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2008

College towns. The better ones have great public transportation, are walkable, are affordable, have many of the amenities of larger cities (museums, great book stores, community theater, plenty of chain retail, lots of mom and pop shops, good restaurants) and that's before we've really discussed all the possibilities that go with the college itself, which can provide lifelong learning, culture, art exhibits, sporting events, etc. College towns can very much feel like the urban experience - sans skyscrapers, high crime rates, ridiculous housing costs, noise, etc.

Just a thought.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2008

Not really cheap (although probably cheaper than NYC or SF) - but I live in Palo Alto, CA and I almost never drive. Living in the little downtown area, I can walk to groceries, a pharmacy, two movie theaters, dozens of restaurants and bars, two or three decent parks, and, hell, the world headquarters of Facebook. Oh, and the Caltrain station, which is how I get to work.

The cost of living isn't low, but it's so nice not to need the car. The last time I used it was when the train broke down last week, but that's unusual.
posted by crinklebat at 11:58 PM on July 22, 2008

The trouble with many (most?) "walkable" cities, outside of San Francisco or New York, is they are walkable for routine daily life only. Some of them fail the first time you want to stay out after a certain hour that isn't what you call late. Others fail when you want to do something like go to a concert or a beach or something like that.

Yes, New York is expensive. But the salaries are high as well. I assume San Francisco is similar, but have no direct knowledge. My knowledge of Los Angeles is considerably out of date, but I am skeptical. In New York, you can get everything without a car.

Duesseldorf: Not only walkable, but the public transit is the most affordable I've ever enjoyed. A very pleasant city indeed.
posted by Goofyy at 5:20 AM on July 23, 2008

I've lived in Philadelphia for eight years without a car. I walk to work, to the grocery, to the bar - everywhere. I would say that 75% of my friends do not own cars. I do use PhillyCarShare when I just have to drive to the suburbs or the beach - but that's only once or twice a month. For four years before carsharing came along, I got by just fine sans auto. Philadelphia is also a very affordable city.
posted by jrichards at 6:49 AM on July 23, 2008

Jersey City's downtown neighborhoods are super walkable, with great access to daily necessities and transit. Plus, due to a quirk of '80s development, they are also a short stroll away from a giant suburban style mall and a series of big box stores (Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc - you can even walk to Home Depot if you don't mind crossing Holland Tunnel traffic) - most of which deliver. JC is like living in one of the NYC boroughs except rent is a bit lower because of the Jersey stigma. And you can get Taylor ham.
posted by yarrow at 7:48 AM on July 23, 2008

I love Atlanta, there are dense pockets of walkability. You just need to know where to live. Virginia Highlands through L5P is a great area. There are tons of pubs, coffee shops, hard ware places, nice eateries, banks, and a big ol grocery store all within a 1 mile square radius. I know you can find little studio apartments there for less than $600 mth. They will be in very cute historic buildings, that come with all the issues historic buildings come with.

The issue is of course where would you work. That part of town has marta stops all over if you can't actually find work within walking distance.
posted by stormygrey at 7:54 AM on July 23, 2008

I think Gerard Sorme's got it.

College towns seems like a good option. Find a small city with a huge state university with some kind of public transportation at least within the city.
posted by WizKid at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2008

Boulder, Colorado for sure...

Walk score link
posted by joshgray at 10:35 AM on July 23, 2008

Of course, within any city, the walkability depends on the exact neighborhood. Singerdj says Ann Arbor isn't so great for him, but I can easily walk or bus to anything I need from where I live, right downtown. There are two grocery stores plus a twice-weekly farmer's market within a block of my apartment. Main Street, with restaurants, bars, live music, etc. is right here. I also live a five minute walk from the main bus terminal, which has routes in all directions to get me directly to any place I'd care to go. I still have a car, but I'm seriously considering getting rid of it.
posted by whatnotever at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2008

Civil_Disobedient, isn't quoting Faze on the subject of New York kind of low hanging fruit?
posted by JaredSeth at 11:40 AM on July 23, 2008

College towns seems like a good option. Find a small city with a huge state university with some kind of public transportation at least within the city.

Exactly. I managed pretty well without a car in Bloomington, Indiana, though I was relieved to get one eventually because there wasn't any realistic other way to get out of town.
posted by tangerine at 3:22 PM on July 23, 2008

isn't quoting Faze on the subject of New York kind of low hanging fruit?

Sure, but he's right--and what's more, he's actually lived in several different parts of the city and isn't just talking out his ass... at least, for the most part (I wouldn't call the outer-boroughs hell-holes, for example, but there is a shitload of wasteland in the surrounding area.)

I'd also second, or third, or fourth the recommendation of finding a medium-sized college town. The only downside is that they tend to run cyclically to the ebb and flow of college students, so good luck finding a pizza joint that's open after 11pm in July. If you live in a touristy area on the coast, that can offset the student diaspora every Spring.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:57 AM on July 24, 2008

Affordable and good transit/walkability? Out of all the places I've lived, definetly Chicago. It has pretty much everything one would need and is very affordable, without the 'trapped' feeling you can get in some college towns that are totally walkable but have virtually nothing outside their borders.

@parmanparman: Glover Park is pretty walkable. And there's excellent bus transit running through it. However, i'd have to disagree with you on saying it's the only neighborhood with bad transit links. Have you ever been to chunks of upper northwest? the bungalow neighborhoods over in northeast (north michigan park, riggs park?). Really poor walkability and nothing close by - in essence, suburbia within the city.
posted by waylaid at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2008

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