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best US cities without a car


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I just returned from trip to Seattle, Washington. I found cheap flights and decided to explore this city.  I think it's easiest to live without car in this city. I think in the U.S., there are two categories of cities for carless travel. First, there are the larger, older U.S. cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco, and second are cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and even Los Angeles, which have begun building or enhancing public transportation systems and bike lane networks in the last decade

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You don't want a car in New York City or Boston

I've lived in boston for the past four years exclusively using a bike

Generally, the east coast cities like Philadelphia, Boston, NYC, and Washington have pretty good public transportation and are easy to get around without having access to a car. Philadelphia is very w

7 hours ago, WilliG said:

I just returned from trip to Seattle, Washington. I found cheap flights and decided to explore this city.  I think it's easiest to live without car in this city. I think in the U.S., there are two categories of cities for carless travel. First, there are the larger, older U.S. cities like New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and San Francisco, and second are cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and even Los Angeles, which have begun building or enhancing public transportation systems and bike lane networks in the last decade

FWIW, Los Angeles was established in 1781 (before Chicago), is the second largest city in the U.S., had an electric streetcar system three years before New York opened its subway system, and L.A. has been enhancing its public transit system since 1993.

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On 11/4/2018 at 2:28 PM, samiamslp said:

Does anyone know anything about living without a car in Milwaukee, Urbana-Champaign, or Memphis?

 Thanks in advance!

 

Re: Champaign-Urbana, you probably need a car unless you live on campus or in downtown Champaign. Public transit is decent for a smaller city (by U.S. standards, at least), but I'd still recommend bringing a car.

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15 hours ago, anthrobserver said:

Which UC schools are the most accessible without a car? I'm specifically thinking of applying to UCLA and UC-Irvine this coming year, but wanted to get a sense of how realistic it would be for me to live there without having a car...

Depends on what you want to do in Irvine/OC. IIRC, there aren't any trains like LA. Buses are crappy in Irvine. Wanna go to Newport Beach from UCI? Takes the same time to get there if you rode a bike. 

UCLA and the surrounding areas (West LA, Santa Monica, Hollywood) are pretty accessible without a car though. Still a slog to get anywhere though (hope you're aware of the traffic down there). You'll be taking a bus and then transferring to the Metro Orange Line usually.

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16 hours ago, anthrobserver said:

Which UC schools are the most accessible without a car? I'm specifically thinking of applying to UCLA and UC-Irvine this coming year, but wanted to get a sense of how realistic it would be for me to live there without having a car...

I grew up in Sacramento, so UC Davis for sure--even if you live in Sacramento. UC Berkeley as well for nearly all of the Bay.  For UCLA, not sure, but imagine it will depend on how close to campus you live and/or how close to a transit line.  Not sure about Irvine. 

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Hello!! I have aspirations to attend grad school next Fall in Boston. I wanted to hear from other car-less folks what it is like to navigate that city (especially in the winter). I visited Boston this past summer and I did not have too much trouble navigating. 

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On 12/15/2018 at 5:52 PM, futcounspsych said:

Hello!! I have aspirations to attend grad school next Fall in Boston. I wanted to hear from other car-less folks what it is like to navigate that city (especially in the winter). I visited Boston this past summer and I did not have too much trouble navigating. 

It is the same as the summer. The only trouble --and that was major!-- was during the historic winter with absurd accumulation of snow. The metro and the system in general is most probably the best in the US, but perhaps a bit poorer that most western European areas. People use the bike a lot here too, even in the winter. 

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On 12/13/2018 at 11:27 PM, anthrobserver said:

Which UC schools are the most accessible without a car? I'm specifically thinking of applying to UCLA and UC-Irvine this coming year, but wanted to get a sense of how realistic it would be for me to live there without having a car...

Idk about any of the other UCs, but I’m currently completing my undergrad at UCI & have commuted to school by bus & train all 4 years. If I want to go off campus in Irvine, I’ll use the buses, & it works out fine.  The buses usually come every 1/2 hour - 1 hour, & the buses vary in which time they stop running. Also, UCI actually has their own free buses on campus, & they even have special ones that go to the Irvine Spectrum & the beach (I think these off-campus buses you pay for), but idk if grad students have to pay for these buses. Overall, I’ve gotten really used to public transport, so I do think it’s doable. Certainly, life would be easier with your own car, & perhaps the other UCs have better public transport. Hope that helped!

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Who knows how many of them are just hanging around this forum, but worth a shot: People who have lived/are living car-free at Stanford: How do you get by? 

How useful do you find public transit?

How easy is it to get to/from a reasonably-priced grocery store?

How trapped do you feel in the Palo Alto bubble (and how do you deal)?

How often do you get out of the city - by public transit or by bumming rides off friends?

etc..

I am heavily considering accepting an offer from Stanford but am not a huge fan of Palo Alto. I also don't drive now and would like to keep that up in grad school, but as great as Stanford itself if, I imagine that Palo Alto gets real bubble-like if you don't have a car to escape now and then. Would love to hear perspective from people already getting by without a car.

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On 3/26/2019 at 3:15 PM, DevoLevo said:

I am heavily considering accepting an offer from Stanford but am not a huge fan of Palo Alto. I also don't drive now and would like to keep that up in grad school, but as great as Stanford itself if, I imagine that Palo Alto gets real bubble-like if you don't have a car to escape now and then. Would love to hear perspective from people already getting by without a car.

My sister went to Stanford for undergrad without a car. She got around just fine, but highly recommends investing in a bike at the very least just to get around campus. For any needs involving getting out of Palo Alto (or really campus) she relied on friends that had cars, sucked it up and Uber/Lyft’d, or if she had to, navigated the public transit system to get into town.

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I moved to Durham, NC for work about four months ago and have found it very easy to get around without a car. Mostly I bike, and use my car only when the weather is awful or I need to do a big grocery run. The city is fairly small, especially the downtown area. The only issue is that if you want to get anywhere else in the Triangle (i.e. Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Carey, etc.) you definitely need a car--intercity travel is on highways or not at all, and public transit isn't great. 

I used to live in the East Bay across from SF. San Francisco itself doesn't count as a small city (~800k), but Berkeley and Oakland might, and they're super easy to get around and between via bike and BART.

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On 3/16/2006 at 10:29 AM, Guest Mnemosyne9 said:

Lawrence, KS is an interesting case. Having lived here for four years, I can attest that you can probably get to class without a car, if you live in an apartment complex on the campus bus route. I have done it for three years, going by bike for one because I didn't live within walking distance of a bus stop. However, the public city buses are notoriously difficult and do not intersect with campus much at all. (One specific route does, but that's it, for the whole public system. I believe that bus only goes downtown, as well, not to West Lawrence. Correct me if I'm wrong.) Campus buses aside from those serving the dormitories only run every half-hour, as well, so it can be frustrating. Having to wait thirty minutes if you miss your bus can be a real pain.

 

As for getting groceries, going anywhere outside the city (including to the airport in Kansas City), and getting basically from West Lawrence to East Lawrence or Downtown, you need a car. No question about it. I take the campus bus every day, never drive to class or work (which is also on campus) but I have a car because you simply can't get to the store or run simple errands on the bus.

 

Re: Bikes, some people try it, and I did for about a semester, but it's not easy. There are only a few miles of bike lanes, which drivers generally ignore. Biking downtown is usually okay, but outside that small area, forget it. The city is car-based, and the streets (and driver attitudes) reflect that. Sidewalks are usually present, but often only on one side of the street and are not always kept in good condition.

 

In spite of all this, Lawrence is the most pedestrian/bus/bike friendly city in Kansas! I'm not joking. I am, on the other hand, moving to Oregon. And leaving my car behind.

14 years later, bus system is a lot better but there are so many freaking hills! Townies walk everywhere. There isn’t a good way to get to KC without a car though, that is still not a thing

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I actually think Boston is pretty hard without a car - the T is limiting at best. 
 

The T functions well for the core downtown area, but does a very poor job serving the residential neighborhoods. If you want to travel from South Boston (différent from the South End) to East Boston? Practically impossible. Dorchester to Allston? Might as well give up. Boston is a much larger area than what surrounds the Commons, and if you only stay in the downtown, you aren’t getting an authentic experience, as almost all the born and bred Bostonians live in the outlying neighborhoods. 

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I noticed that a while back in this thread someone was asking if Binghamton is a good place to be without a car. Yes, it is very possible! I am finishing my undergrad degree there now and I've lived here for 4 years. Binghamton University has their own us system, the "blue buses", which are completely free for anyone with a BU campus ID. There are also many county buses that are all free with a campus ID as well. If you are living within the most populated student housing areas, transportation shouldn't be a problem at all. (Most of these buses are easily accessible from downtown binghamton, which is where the majority of students live anyway)

 

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