TAKE THESE CITIES FOR A SPIN
There are lots of benefits to owning a car, not the least of which is being able to travel whenever and wherever you want. But that flexibility doesn't seem to sway many millennials, who increasingly are moving to big cities in part to avoid the expense and responsibility of car ownership and the hassles of traffic. Even with gas prices falling, AAA pegged the average cost of owning a car in 2015 at about $8,700 a year, or $725 a month. If you count yourself among those who would prefer living without a car, here are 10 cities where getting around is a snap without owning your own wheels. They range from large metropolitan areas with extensive infrastructure to smaller cities where public transit doesn't reach every corner, but the cost of living is much lower and the downtown promotes walking or biking.
New York City has so many people and so much going on that a well-functioning public transit system is critical. In Manhattan and many areas in the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, you are rarely more than a 10-minute walk from the closest subway station. Perhaps this explains why more than half of New York City households don't even own cars, by far the largest percentage in the country, according to a study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, which cites data from 2012. The Citi Bike program is thriving, and there are many walkable neighborhoods. Little Italy, Chinatown, and NoHo receive the highest ratings on Walk Score.
In San Francisco, an extensive bus system and several rail services -- the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit; the city's subway, known Muni; and street cars -- add up to provide some of the best public transit in the country. Despite the hilly terrain, San Francisco is easily navigable by foot. Among the most walkable neighborhoods, according to Walk Score, are Union Square, North Beach, and Chinatown.
Boston's insufferable rush hour traffic is often blamed on the city's lack of an identifiable street grid. Beantown's tangle of streets make driving rather difficult, but luckily public transit, known as the T, is top-notch. The city is also easily walkable and bike-friendly -- just keep an eye on where you're going. Boston drivers are notoriously aggressive and it's difficult to see around corners in the warren of curved streets. Boston's most walkable areas are Chinatown, Bay Village, and Beacon Hill.
The nation's capital is tiny compared with some of the metropolises on this list, but it has a public transit system (Metro) that rivals them, allowing 38 percent of households to forego car ownership, according to the University of Michigan research. It's not just public transit; D.C. is both pedestrian- and bike-friendly (try the Capital Bike Share program). Walkable neighborhoods include U Street and Dupont Circle.
The City of Brotherly Love is another hospitable place to live without a car, as the one-third of households that don't own a car can no doubt attest. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, provides public transit within the city, but Philadelphia is also one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the country. The most walkable neighborhoods include Avenue of the Arts South, Center City West, and Rittenhouse Square.
Chicago's central location makes it a major transit hub for all forms of transportation -- rail, highway, and air travel. The city's public transit is no slouch either, with the "L" and commuter rail lines, known as Metra, moving residents easily to just about anywhere they want to go. The city is both bikeable and walkable, as well. Walk Score identifies the West Loop, Near North Side, and East Ukranian Village as the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.
Minneapolis has plenty of public transportation options, but the city really shines when it comes to walkability and bike-friendliness. A University of Minnesota study found that more than 400,000 residents in the metropolitan area bike or walk to work each day. Their routines are aided by terrain that's relatively flat, making both walking and biking a breeze. If you plan on walking, try living in Lowry Hill East, Lyn-Lake, or Downtown West.
Depending on whom you ask, Portland is either paradise or the rainiest, cloudiest place you can live. But one thing is for sure: It's among the most convenient cities to live in without a car. TriMet serves the metropolitan area with bus, light rail, and commuter rail service, but what really sets Portland apart is how bike-friendly it is. More than 23,000 people commute to work on two wheels, the highest rate of any major city in the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey. The most walkable areas are downtown, the Pearl District, and Old Town Chinatown.
In Baltimore, you can get around town via the Charm City Circulator, a bus that runs every 10 minutes for most of the day, seven days a week, and transports 4 million people a year. The best part: It's completely free. Baltimore is also moderately walkable, with the most pedestrian-friendly areas being downtown and Mount Vernon.
Madison is a small but lively city where nearly all of downtown is walkable. It's been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, with more than 5 percent of commuters traveling by bicycle. In addition, the city benefits from affordable, efficient public transit. Living much beyond downtown's borders, however, may require a car for most errands.