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No Car? No Problem! 5 Major Cities Where You Don’t Need One

A view of a Chicago train stop at dusk.
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Living the Car-Free Life

Things millennials like: freedom, technology, avocado toast (allegedly). Things millennials don’t like: waiting, phone calls, driving.

A 2014 survey conducted by The Rockefeller Foundation and Transportation for America found that 54% of Millennials would consider moving to another city if it has more — or better — options for getting around, and 82% said it is important for their city to offer opportunities to live and work without relying on a car.

Redfin recently analyzed several sources to determine the top cities to live in if driving’s not your thing. They listed San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Minneapolis, Miami, Seattle, and Oakland in their top 10. MYMOVE interviewed residents in five of these cities to determine whether car-free living is all it’s cracked up to be.

1. San Francisco

Commute times are among the most voiced complaints about living in or near San Francisco. One resident explains how simple it was to call it quits with his car and use that time for something more enjoyable.

Writer Roy Steele says, “I sold my car years ago and haven’t looked back. I even commuted south on the peninsula for a few years and had options ranging from public transit to an employer-provided shuttle bus. It was easy, efficient, and fast.”

In addition to utilizing ride-sharing businesses such as Uber, Lyft, Chariot, and Scoot, Roy also mentions “car-sharing” as a favorite option.

“Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare, Maven, City CarShare, and GetAround have fleets of cars in neighborhoods all over the city. If you need a car for an hour or a day, there’s a service to meet your needs.”

All provide the flexibility of a car without the monthly insurance or car payments.

2. New York

Among the benefits of living in The City that Never Sleeps are the reliable transportation options available day and night. A 2014 Wired article named New York “America’s #1 City for Commuting on Public Transit.”

Emile L’Eplattenier is a native New Yorker who hasn’t sat behind the wheel of a car in more than 15 years. As a veteran New York real estate agent, he asserts that New Yorkers do not need a car to live happily. Owning one can grant an extra sense of freedom, he admits. But he’s quick to point out that driving in New York City is not for the faint of heart.

If you do want to drive, he notes, “You need to live in a neighborhood that is not a nightmare to park in. That means 99% of Manhattan is out.”

3. Boston

Ben Friedman, co-founder and head of operations at All Set, has lived in Chicago and Boston, and he believes neither necessitates car ownership. He identified the commuter train system in Boston as being particularly good, although the local subway was less reliable.

However, because of the size of the city, it is possible to bike or walk most places easily throughout the year.

“Boston is a big tech hub,” he says, “so there are numerous startups offering alternative transportation options. There are shared car services, community shuttles, shared bikes, and on-demand services.”

4. Chicago

As the third-largest city in the United States, it makes sense that Chicago offers robust public transit.

Eric Bowen is a digital marketing manager for a company that identifies Internet and TV service providers. He has lived in the Chicago area since graduating from college and has not found it necessary to make an investment in a car.

He explains, “I pay $100 each month for unlimited rides on all Chicago Transit Authority buses and trains.”

This allows him to travel anywhere he needs to be downtown or in neighboring communities.

He adds, “I have calculated the cost. Between monthly car payments, insurance, gas, any repairs, and even car rentals, and Uber fees for unexpected trips, this method is far cheaper for now.”

5. Miami

Miami is a hub of international travel. As such, the city has evolved to accommodate large numbers of visitors who do not have access to a private vehicle.

Amira Celon recently moved to the city’s South Beach neighborhood. She says, “I can get Uber or Lyft anywhere I need to go for a very cheap price. It is much easier if you go out at night. It also prevents [having to pay] high valet prices or trying to park your car.”

She adds, “Most apartment buildings here don’t have parking, or they have valet or paid parking spots so it’s not worth really owning a car.”

Each of these cities uses a combination of public transportation and new businesses that cater to consumers who want the freedom of a car without the additional stress and cost associated with owning a vehicle. As these services continue to expand, it is likely more cities will become friendlier to those who wish to forgo owning their own car.

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