22 Cities Where You Can Live Without a Car


Take These Cities for a Spin

There are a lot of benefits to owning a car, not the least of which is being able to travel whenever and wherever you want. But all that freedom doesn't come free. Even with gas prices falling, AAA pegged the average cost of owning a car in 2018 at about $8,850 a year, or $740 a month. If you count yourself among those who would prefer to live without a car, here are more than 20 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 downtown access promotes walking or biking.

Related:20 Bike-Friendly Cities for a Vacation

New York

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 own a car, by far the largest percentage in the country. Though auto ownership has been on the rise in recent years, the new Citi Bike and NYC Ferry programs are thriving, and there are many walkable neighborhoods like Little Italy, Chinatown, and NoHo.

Related: 52 Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

San Francisco

In San Francisco, an extensive bus system and several rail services add up to provide some of the best public transit in the country — including the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART; the city's subway known as Muni; and the photogenic street cars beloved by tourists. Despite the hilly terrain, San Francisco is easily navigable by foot. Among the most walkable neighborhoods are Union Square, Lower Nob Hill, and Chinatown, according to Walk Score, which ranks San Fran as the nation's second most walkable large city.

Related: 20 Free and Cheap Things to Do in San Francisco
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Boston's insufferable rush hour traffic is often blamed on the city's lack of an identifiable street grid. The tangle of streets make driving rather difficult, but luckily its public transit, known as the T, is among the nation's biggest and best, linking a vast metropolitan area of commuters extending from New Hampshire in the north to Rhode Island in the south. The city is also easily walkable and bike-friendly, provided you 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.

Related: Best Things to Do in Boston
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Washington, D.C.

The nation's capital may be tiny compared with some of the metropolises on this list, but it rivals them with a public transit system (Metro) allowing 37.3 percent of households to forego car ownership in 2016, according to calculations by Governing.com based on Census survey estimates. It's not just public transit; D.C. is both pedestrian- and bike-friendly (try the Capital Bike Share program), with walkable neighborhoods including U Street and Dupont Circle.

Related: 23 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Washington, D.C.


The City of Brotherly Love is another hospitable place to live without a car, as the 30 percent of households that don't own one can attest. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA, provides public transit ranging from commuter rails to and trolleys to standard buses and subways 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 its “L” trains 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, with Walk Score identifying the West Loop, Near North Side, and East Ukrainian Village as the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

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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 from 2015 found that more than 400,000 residents in the metropolitan area bike or walk to work each day. Their routines are aided by the relatively flat terrain, which makes both walking and biking a breeze. If you plan on walking, try living in Lowry Hill East, Lyn-Lake, or Downtown West.


Portland, Oregon

Alternately renowned and maligned for its liberal communal spirit, Portland is also among the most convenient cities to live in without a car. TriMet serves the metropolitan area with bus, light rail, and commuter rail services, but what really sets Portland apart is how bike-friendly it is, with the fifth-highest percentage of residents commuting by foot or bike of any U.S. city. Almost 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 almost 8 percent of commuters traveling by bike or on foot and the most pedestrian-friendly areas being downtown and Mount Vernon.

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Madison, Wisconsin

Madison is a small but lively capital city and university town 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 4 percent of commuters traveling by bicycle. In addition, the city benefits from affordable, efficient public transit utilized on average by 10 percent of residents. Living much beyond downtown's borders, however, may require a car for most errands.

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The Pacific Northwest's largest city has a rapid transit line called Link Light Rail connecting the airport to downtown and several other centralized neighborhoods, while the rest of the waterway-strewn metropolitan area is covered by three separate bus lines and two commuter rails. The hilly terrain doesn't deter the city's many bike commuters, and one of their most unique transit amenities is the WSDOT ferry system, which connects the downtown core to many more rural settlements across Puget Sound. The most walkable neighborhoods include Pioneer Square and First Hill.



Visitors and residents can get around the Mile High City easily and inexpensively by using the Regional Transportation District's (RTA) rail and bus lines, including a free shuttle along the length of the 16th Street Mall in downtown. Denver also has some of the best infrastructure for bicyclists in the country between its flat terrain and dedicated bike lanes. The most walkable neighborhoods here are Capitol Hill, Five Points, and of course downtown.



Miami ranks fourth among Walk Score's ranking of the most walkable U.S. cities, which helps explain how almost a fifth of households get by without a car. Its public transit includes commuter rail, buses, a rapid transit system called Metrorail, and a free elevated “Metromover” servicing downtown attractions. Miami's most walkable neighborhoods include Little Havana and Wynwood-Edgewater.

Related: 20 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Miami

St. Louis

Walkability in St. Louis may depend on in which neighborhood you reside, but is still convenient enough to permit a solid 18 percent of households to get by without autos. The MetroLink and MetroBus systems make it easier to get around the more centrally located you are, while bike commuting is on the rise thanks in part to the city's recent addition of many new bike lanes. The most walkable neighborhoods beyond downtown include Benton Park and Benton Park West.

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Austin, Texas

Texas' most politically liberal city is also its most accessible without a car, thanks to their Capital Metro bus lines and commuter rail. Pedicabs help residents navigate the lively downtown nightlife area, while miles of bike trails and shared lanes helped Austin rank 13th on Bicycling's 2018 list of the best bike cities in America. The neighborhoods with the best Walk Scores are downtown, the University of Texas-Austin, and West University.


Boulder, Colorado

This scenic and eminently livable university town boasts a walkable core and solid bus service for a city of its size, but where Boulder really shines is in bike-ability. It ranked as America's 12th best bicycling city and earns an 86 bike score from Walk Score, with more than 10 percent of commuters going by bike. Boulder's best areas to live without a car include Whittier, Gloss-Grove, and University Hill.


Arlington, Virginia

You don't need to live within D.C. city limits to do fine without a car, as residents of this highly educated (and expensive) suburban county know well, particularly the 12.7 percent of households without a car. Their highly ranked public transit system includes four lines of the Washington Metro and the regional Virginia Railway Express, while a network of walking and bike trails combined with the Capital Bikeshare rental locations give residents other options to get around auto-free. The most walkable neighborhoods are Town North, South Davis, and Heart of Arlington.


Fort Collins, Colorado

This city within the Denver sprawl doesn't rank highly for walkability alone, but it's exceptional among suburban, non-coastal cities for bike-friendliness. It ranked as the third-best bicycle city in the nation, with multi-use paths and over and underpasses across major intersections encouraging more than 5 percent of commuters to bicycle to work, and slightly less than 5 percent of households to go without a car. The most walkable neighborhoods here are Old Town, University Park, and downtown.

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Oakland, California

Rapidly distinguishing itself from the gentrifying forces invading from across the Bay, Oakland nearly rivals San Francisco in public transportation, with its local AC Transit routes and BART headquarters connecting residents to the East and South Bay. Oakland is also stepping up its bicycling infrastructure to serve the 2 percent of bike-bound commuters and 16.7 percent of households without vehicles. Its most-walkable neighborhoods are downtown, Koreatown-Northgate, and Temescal.


Cambridge, Massachusetts

Home to Harvard and MIT, this highly educated city across the Charles River from Boston is well-served by the same MBTA subway and bus routes, despite the still-heavy commuter traffic. There's also a thriving and diverse contingent of bicyclists, comprising 8 percent of commuters, to which the street infrastructure is just catching up. The most walkable neighborhoods are Harvard Square, Area IV, and Riverside.

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Long Beach, California

Southern California in general and the Los Angeles metropolitan area in particular aren't renowned for their walkability and public transit, but Long Beach bucks the trend. Ten percent of households manage without a car, likely depending on Long Beach Transit's 38 bus routes, the free Passport shuttle in downtown, and connections to neighboring transit networks through LA and Orange Counties. The most walkable areas include downtown, Saint Mary, and Franklin School.

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One can get pretty much anywhere you'd need to go without a private vehicle in Hawaii's biggest city, which is why 17 percent of households don't own one. Oahu's, shall we say, limited geography combined with more than 100 TheBus routes make it easy to reach different neighborhoods and most major towns across the island. The most walkable neighborhoods are downtown, Waikiki, Ala Moana, and Kaka'ako.

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