I live in San Francisco where I’ve had the luxury of living car-free for over 15 years. My brother lives in Los Angeles. Although there are things I love about the city, one of my biggest complaints is how much time we have to spend in the car when I’m there. So I’ve been surprised to meet a lot of people there who say that you can live in Los Angeles without a car. Really?
You Can Live in Los Angeles Without a Car If You Have To
First let’s address the fact that this question is a question of privilege. Some people in Los Angeles do not have a car because they simply can’t afford to have a car. Perhaps they do have a car but then it breaks down. It may take time to fix it. Therefore, they learn to make do. They live in Los Angeles without a car because they have too.
For example, my brother used to work at some really fancy restaurants in the Malibu area of Los Angeles. Some of his coworkers would get up at 4 am to bus to work. While the transit system in LA is improving, it’s still not great. Therefore, it would take three buses and a couple hours for some of these people to get to work. Yet, they did it day in and day out. Why? Because they had to provide for their families.
Some Parts of Los Angeles Are Easier Than Others for The Car-Less
That said, if you simply want to choose to live in Los Angeles without a car, then you might want to get picky about where you live. Los Angeles is definitely a car culture city. Most things are pretty far spread out from one another. However, if you choose to both live and work in very specific, limited areas then it becomes significantly easier to go car-less.
For example, I spent time visiting my brother in the Venice Beach / Marina Del Rey area. There are a lot of things within walking distance of where I stayed. Of course, there’s the famous beach and boardwalk for entertainment and exercise. There are also lots of shops and restaurants. I could easily take care of my daily activities without a car. Personally I like to walk so that was my mode of transport in the area. However, a lot of other people choose bikes for getting around more quickly.
Be A Green Commuter says to try to choose from these four places if you want to live car-free in LA:
- Santa Monica, which is near where I was in Venice Beach
- Downtown LA, which is expanding services and opportunities
- Koreatown, which has easy public transport to Hollywood and Downtown LA as well
- Hollywood, which again has good public transit for LA
Weigh The Costs of Car-Free Life Carefully
My brother now lives over an hour outside of LA. And yet, several of his car-free LA friends come to visit him regularly. How do they do it? Lyft and Uber. Those are not cheap car rides.
Likewise, if you go out at night in LA then you might decide to take a cab or ride share home. Even distances considered “short” in LA are pretty far apart compared to dense urban areas like San Francisco. Those car ride prices add up.
Finally, if you commute regularly on a bus or subway in LA, then you have to consider fare costs. All of these might add up to a cost higher than that of simply getting a car.
Therefore, you want to think carefully about all of your options before you decide whether or not you personally can live without a car in Los Angeles.