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Carless in Seattle – Exploring the Possibility of Living Car-Free in the City

In a busy city like Seattle, living car-free seems unideal. However, as a recent Seattle Magazine article revealed, it is possible. In fact, more Seattleites are choosing to live without cars—or at least limit vehicle use only when necessary.

Reasons Behind Car-Free Lifestyle

In the article penned by Virginia Smith, you will be interested to discover that a considerable number of your fellow Seattle residents choose to go around the city sans cars. There are a number of reasons that compelled some of the city’s denizens to change their commuting habits, and one of these is traffic congestion.

Another reason is parking. In areas like Capitol Hill, parking spots are scarce and therefore it takes a long time for motorists to find a spot. More often than not, the quick commute by car is offset by the time it takes to find a parking space. In addition, renting parking spaces can be pricey.

Age is also a factor in the shift in transportation habits. Unlike older generations, most millennials consider owning a car as a burden. Studies have found that those in their 20s and 30s are less likely to drive and buy cars. While car-free living is deemed a ‘millennial trend,’ even some non-millennials prefer other ways to get around the city.

Getting Around the City

According to Peter Hanh, former director of the Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle is among the five U.S. cities where most people go to work by choosing either of the following options: public transit, carpooling, biking or walking. The four other cities are Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Those who live car-free make use of public transportation to go where they need to be. There are several apps that make commuting hassle-free. One such app is OneBusAway, which provides the user real time information regarding bus tops and the incoming buses.

Many ride bikes, with some bike owners equipping their rides to easily carry stuff like groceries. Interestingly, though bike commuting in Seattle has gone up since 2000, there are significantly less female bike commuters than men. There are a number of reasons women choose not to go around town in bikes.

Getting around the city was made easier by car-sharing services such as Zipcar, Car2go, Lyft and RelayRide. If for whatever reason the individual needs to travel by car but does not own one, getting a taxi or using a car-sharing service is the solution. Meanwhile, some residents just borrow cars from family members or friends. Others do own cars but only use it when absolutely necessary, like for work.

Car-Free Convenience

Having a car may be inconvenient most of the time when in the city, but so is not having one. As the article pointed out, car-free living is more convenient in some places. Individuals who reside in areas with walking access to public transportation, schools, parks, grocery stores, and the like would find a car-free lifestyle easier to sustain than those who live elsewhere.

Capitol Hill, University District and Downtown are among the best places in the city to live car-free. As for the worst places to live car-free, these are the areas on the edges and outskirts of Seattle, such as Arbor Heights and Magnolia.

The Idea of Car-Free Seattle

Though more and more people are choosing not to have cars in the city, a car-free future remains unlikely for Seattle. There will still be people who will need and buy their own vehicles. In fact, those who live car-free are sometimes reminded of and wish for the conveniences that come with having a car.

Seattle residents don’t disregard cars as an option to get around. But for the city’s new breed of commuters, cars are but one option. With many other options for travel, driving a car will only be chosen when needed.

Photo credit: Micah Sheldon/ Flickr/ CC BY

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