Tag Archives: Carless in Los Angeles

End of the Car Age: We Can Always Hope


“Cities around the world are coming to the same conclusion: they’d be better off with far fewer cars. So what’s behind this seismic shift in our urban lifestyles?” Stephen Moss investigates

Source: End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile | Cities | The Guardian

Why? Because cars hugely degrade the civilized environment. So read this Guardian story.

I’ve thought a lot about this – and the paradox of freedom – which is how cars have always been marketed. Tell me, looking at this photo of L.A. freeways, this is freedom?






Well, if so, save me from that method of being free. Some gems from the story:

“In many cities, the era of the suburban commuter, along with the era of the car, is drawing to a close.” – we can only hope this could become the ideal in places like Los Angeles, as well. (Which in my mind is always perfect for biking.)

On the future of the smart phone vis a vis car ownership: “Consumers will, so the theory goes, use their smartphones to check ultra-detailed travel news, locate car-club cars or bikes, check for parking spaces,call up Uber drivers, and arrange shared rides. Who needs a personally owned car?”  — I’ve found this is true in my now 2 years plus of car-freedom in Los Angeles.

Truth is, I’m not very optimistic that the vision shown in this article will become a reality here in California, at least in Southern California, at any time in the remote future — but I have hope for the Millennial generation, who appear to be much more interested in changing the car culture than the Baby Boomers and older are.

The Guardian story is a long one, but worth it.

Trump and Bernie are resonating for the same reason, IMO

The Six Things I Like Best About Being CarFree — A Six Month Update

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

The Blogger, with chariot at night.

I’ve now been car free for six months – that’s right, car free in L.A., living without owning a car in Los Angeles. Here’s a status report, and my favorite things about this major lifestyle change.

  • Saving money! Absolutely, my favorite. My last car, the 2005 Scion Xa, cost just about $400 a month to own and operate over the period of time I owned it (almost exactly 8 years). So that’s $2,400.00 right there. I did have transportation expenses, though, so I must subtract those. Metro fares: $280. Car rental: $200. Bicycle expense (a new seat): $25. So let’s adjust: $2,400 – 505 = $1,895 I’ve saved so far. And, that doesn’t even account for the sale of my used vehicle, which was $6,000 (thank you, CarMax!). So I’m really ahead $7,895.00.
  • Keeping fit! I lost about 15 lbs. doing WeightWatchers earlier this year and have been able to keep that off since going CarFree with very little effort, which I attribute to all the walking and biking I do now. My default modes of transportation in preferred order are: foot, bicycle, train or bus, taxi, rental car or ZipCar or other car share service. I live in Southern California, so it’s quite rare that any particular day is not a good bike day.
  • Not Having to Find Parking! There was a time, when I first lived in L.A., probably the early eighties, when it was fairly easy to find street parking in almost any neighborhood and there were very few restrictions on parking. That world is gone! Parking had become very difficult and most often expensive (if you just succumbed to the valet or a garage) but now I’ve never had to pay to park my bike against a pole.
  • Never Having to Deal with Angry Drivers/Road Rage! There are a lot of angry drivers out there, sometimes they’re armed, sometimes they’re just fracking crazy and dangerous. I’ve yet to meet a raging urban walker or a raging bicyclist (though hey, it’s a crazy world, perhaps they exist. Yet they don’t have 2-ton weapons at their disposal).
  • Not Having to Remember Where I Parked My Car, or Worry About that (Insert Expensive Thing Here) I Left Inside It! There was always this nagging feeling that the apocalypse was there, just out of focus, that total disaster could happen at any moment and this Thing I depended on (the car) would be utterly destroyed or taken from me on a whim. To not have this object to worry about at all is a great freedom all its own.
  • Finally: Exposing the Myth that “You Need a Car to Live in L.A.!” No, you don’t. You don’t need to own a car to live in L.A. What the people who say that really mean is that THEY need a car to live in L.A., i.e., they’re not giving advice, they’re talking about themselves. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in the city who don’t own cars. If you step out of yours for a few moments, you might meet the real city.

A great resource for me has been Chris Balish’s book, “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.” It’s been my roadmap for much of this journey. Thank you, Chris!

Los Angeles Without A Car – Update

Rapid Bus 720 to the beach

Rapid Bus 720 to the beach

Yesterday, I had to get to an appointment in Beverly Hills, which is over the hill and far away from where I live, and also not terribly convenient via public transport – meaning in my case, at least, that there is no direct line there, there’s a transfer or two involved.

But never mind – I do take the Rapid 720 bus down Wilshire, and generally I find that it is pretty rapid, at least, when I’ve needed it to be. After my appointment was over, I decided – on the spur of the moment – to take the bus west all the way to the end, which in this case is the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. (We were/are having Santa Anas, which means the weather is hot and windy and full of fire danger – but it’s also quite pleasant if you like hot, dry weather, which I do).

So I loved being able to go to the beach on what was really a whim, and not have to worry about driving myself in traffic or about (my most hated thing) trying to find a place to park and paying exorbitant parking lot rates at the beach. (I saw one sign, it was a $12 fee. . .)

I got there stress-free and read my book on the way. I didn’t go in the water; it was about 5 p.m. when I arrived so I just walked down the strand and watched the gymnasts and yogis for a while. (see photos – not mine, but this is where I was, you get the idea)


And yes, there was lots of eye candy there, though not as crowded as these pictures might suggest. I stayed down on the strand until it got dark, then had a small dinner in downtown Santa Monica before heading back home on the bus.

I can’t say that the return trip on the Rapid 720 was quick. There was a lot of Friday night traffic — I still have to remember to stay later than 8 p.m. to probably have the best chance of open streets.

To complete my journey I take the Red Line subway from Koreatown back to its end at the North Hollywood Station, where a crew was filming a scene for NCIS. Right – so we emerged from the subway to spotlights and extras. Just a very typical day in L.A., sunset at the beach and TV production — never a dull moment. Still grateful after all these years to all this place home, and can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever been bored for a single moment!

I also love that my total cost for this entire day of travel was $5. No gas, no parking, no driving. Love that!


(these photos are from Flickr: thank you Dani)

Update on Car-Free Living in Los Angeles

Pedestrians and bicyclists take over Wilshire Boulevard during a recent CicLAvia

Pedestrians and bicyclists take over Wilshire Boulevard during a recent CicLAvia

So it’s been four months now in my car-free L.A. experiment. Other than three weeks in August when I was in NY (of course, I was also car free there!) I’ve been here the whole time, in L.A., in Valley Village, basically the core of the summer as we often describe it (or as the Beach Boys did, from “July to the end of September,” Beach Baby).

So how’s it working? I’m happy to report all the walking and biking has certainly kept my weight steady – I’d lost about 20 lbs. since March and have been able to maintain that. I do realize the biking portion of the program has really been assisted by a) warm/hot weather and b) the extended daylight of summer. Will my willingness to ride places be compromised when it gets dark at 5 p.m. in a month or so? I have good lights, I could use more reflectors and reflective clothing. I also like these things that light up your wheels.

Do I still worry about how my decision will be perceived? (Are you a loser? Are you too poor now to have a car???) Honestly, yes, still a little bit – but much less. I guess I’ve become the weird old guy on the bike.

The reaction from a couple of my friends who I thought would be shocked that I sold my car was really rather mild — and while I wouldn’t say hugely supportive — was not unsupportive in the least. Others are extremely curious about how I get places and do things. Almost without exception, people here in L.A. understand why someone would want to get rid of the car — the source of so much frustration and irritation here, not to mention the money pit aspects.

Anecdotally, I pick up that more and more people are trying public transport here — of course, that’s a middle class person’s luxury problem. But the truth is that L.A. and the Southern California regional area have made great strides in the past decade-plus on its public transport infrastructure, and it’s working better and just a whole lot more pleasant than it used to be.

More of that, please!

Easy Things You Can Do On the Road – to Fight Climate Change

We're not that far from these . . .again . . .

We’re not that far from these . . .again . . .

On my morning walk today, I saw that gas prices were again north of $4 per gallon here in Los Angeles. While happy that I’m now car-free and don’t have to pay anything to fill up my chariot (actually that’s not entirely true; since the bike runs on human muscle-powered energy, I could say that my grocery bill is also my energy bill), I do feel for everyone who does buy gas — here in SoCal, that’s practically everyone.

What to do when you just can’t not drive? You want to be part of the solution on climate change, but what can any one person do? (At times it really does seem ridiculous to me to be the lone bicyclist on a street of multi-ton vehicles, any one of which could easily pulverize yours truly.) Well, there are things you can do to mitigate greenhouse gases and help your filthy, dirty car to be more efficient.

This is an easy list. Probably most people know about these tips and try to follow them already. One that surprised me (or that I just didn’t think of): taking superfluous items out of your trunk, to decrease weight/increase fuel economy. And of course, when I had a car, I was remiss regarding tire pressure. I blame that on just being lazy. Of course, tire pressure is also crucial for bicycles, and it’s really easy to see the benefit of proper inflation when it relates directly to your poor ass!


Reinventing Los Angeles: Water and Transport

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Los Angeles City Hall. Photo by Jimbolaya

Earlier today I saw a Facebook post warning about traffic jams on our freeways as a result of a messy oil tanker truck fire.

I then went to sigalert.com to verify this information and I realized I hadn’t gone to this site since I gave up my car in June. There was no need for it; bicyclists are not usually subject to traffic jams, and certainly not traffic jams on freeways.

In the attached article, writer Jeff Turrentine remarks on his culture shock moving from Brooklyn to L.A., and on the overwhelming insertion of automobile life into almost every aspect of how we go about our days here in Los Angeles. I recently spent a month in New Orleans, and upon returning, I also was surprised at how easily I became aware of the tremendous assault on the environment (and Southern California is truly a beautiful environment) the “car” has. From noise, to pollution, to vast amounts of space necessary for roads and parking lots, etc., it’s almost as if we exist to serve this status quo of machinery.

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In addition to the Southern California water situation (in a nutshell, we don’t have any, it comes from elsewhere) and plans to make that more sustainable, he talks about the resurgence of projects in public transportation, biking and walking infrastructure and what has had to happen politically to get there. A lot of the programs, such as the extension of the Purple Line Subway to UCLA, have a completion date of 2035, when I, gulp, if I live that long, will be 80. But heck, I see people much older than that riding the subway. So I’m looking forward to it.

Michael Woo, my former L.A. City Councilperson and current dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona said this about the reluctance of Inland Empire City Fathers and Mothers to the idea of public transit/density issues: “Many of them believed that low-density living, automobile dependence, a culture based on private backyards instead of public open spaces simply reflected the L.A. version of the American Dream. They were reluctant to embrace transit or density as part of the solution. To them it all just seemed like going backward.”

That says a lot about why things evolved the way they did. Still, as even car and backyard lovers don’t like sitting in gridlock much at all, everyone realizes some things must change, and we’ve finally found that there’s political will here to do it (and that will extends into Republican Orange County, as well as that Inland Empire). The end result will be a much more livable Southern California, perhaps more garden-like, as the earlier boosters liked to claim.

Now if they could just do something about that pesky seismic problem. . .

10 reasons to salute L.A.s transportation future — liveable city, here we come

Meredith Portnoff and Jim Arnold (Jimbolaya) in front of City Hall at CicLAvia 2012.

Meredith Portnoff and Jim Arnold (Jimbolaya) in front of City Hall at CicLAvia 2012.

As I embark on my second car-free experiment – or maybe it’s car-light, seeing that I am driving to Santa Monica for some work-related meetings during it – it was heartening to see the Los Angeles Times put this slide show together on reasons to love L.A.’s promising transportation future.

I especially love the shout out for Union Station. Every time I’m walking down those halls I wish I had on my fedora and a nice broad shouldered double breasted suit – or some nice open-toed pumps, depending on the day. But I digress.

As for my car-free experiment, it’s a place in life I’ve been leaning to for quite a while. I actually have convinced myself that it’s perfectly reasonable to live the life I currently lead in Los Angeles without owning a car, and I’ve proved it on several previous car-free periods.

It’s cutting that cord finally (which would mean selling the car) which I haven’t quite been able to do.

And I admit, it’s all about peer pressure and societal assumptions – it has nothing to do with being able to get around or not. It’s a lifestyle choice. And of course, if it didn’t work out, I could always buy another one.

L.A. transport has certainly come a long way from the days when I first lived in the city, where the unreliable buses were part of the Southern California RTD (rapid transit district, or reason to drink, you take your pick). Since then, among other improvements, Metro has built subways and light rail, with more on the way, started their Metro Rapid bus routes, the Orange and Silver Line busways, etc. Although Angelenos will have a hard time believing it, our city has mass transit coverage right up there with New York and San Francisco.

Add to that walking, biking and the occasional cab, and it’s actually an option. I suppose it helps having grown up riding the bus, walking and biking. Those things I still do! Sometime in 2013, definitely.

Find the Walkscore where you live.


CarFree Week: Getting to the Dentist


Today is Day 2 of the Car Free Week test run, which is basically to see if I can live without my car in Los Angeles and to see what that would truly be like.

I’ve been car lite for a number of years, off and on, so a lot of the strategies of walk, bike, bus, train, and combining all these modes, are well known to me and I’ve employed them in the past, both here in L.A. and in San Francisco when I lived there.

Of course, today would be the day where it rained like for the first time since last spring, although it was merely sprinkles. Not an issue. In fact, I’m loving the cloud cover.

My dentist, Dr. James McFadden, has an office in the pink and black building at the corner of Melrose and La Cienega in West Hollywood. I currently live in Valley Village, near Magnolia and Radford. Ugh. Probably one of the more difficult commutes of this week to do without a car.

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If I were using the car, I’d go over the hill at Laurel Canyon. [Note: this map if for public transport options the entire way. I modified it for my bike through Hollywood and WeHo.]

But I wasn’t. I was using my bike, the Red Line train, and the bike. My route getting there was the Chandler bike lane to the North Hollywood Station, then the Red Line to Hollywood/Highland. I took various streets, but mostly Orange Drive, south to Melrose. I crossed south over Melrose at La Brea to the first east-west street south of there, Clinton Street, and took that west on the bike to where it emerges at the intersection of Melrose/LA Cienega. Voila.

Coming back, I took Clinton all the way east to June Street where it ends at the Country Club. Took June north to Willoughby, then east again to Vine, which they’ve made into a more bike-friendly street with share lanes. I took that north for the few blocks to the Hollywood/Vine Station under the W Hotel and then took the train back to NoHo, then onto the Chandler bikeway back to where I live (just east of Laurel Canyon Station).

Thoughts: West Hollywood is not an easy place to get to with public transport, but it’s doable. Many maps will tell you the best bike route east-west in Hollywood is on Willoughby, but I prefer Clinton as it’s a nice neighborhood and few cars. Between June and La Cienega there are lights at every major intersection you need to cross except for Highland, where it’s fairly easy to get across because of the boulevard in the middle of the street, and “Keep Clear” signs for cars which seem to be followed. I didn’t like the bike options from the Hollywood/Highland station, but perhaps I just don’t know the route yet.

Looking at my calendar for this week, this is the most challenging car-less trip I have planned, that I know of for now. Perhaps someone will ask me to come out to Santa Monica or West L.A., but it hasn’t happened yet!