Tag Archives: Living in L.A. Without a car

End of the Car Age: We Can Always Hope

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“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?

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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

Gimme My Three . . . feet, that is.

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So today’s the day, motorists in California need to give bicyclists a three foot buffer when passing. 

Commuters arriving North Hollywood subway station.

Commuters arriving North Hollywood subway station.

It’s the law. Though I suspect, like many traffic laws including the no cell phone use law, it will be widely ignored and most people will be ignorant of it until it’s pointed to them in one way or another.

As a cyclist, I like the sentiment behind the law, i.e., our society thinks that cycling is valuable and good, and cyclists’ lives are worth something. Most (but not all) motorists don’t see/don’t care/shrug when presented with a bicycle on “their” streets, so we have a long way to go.

What would be even better than this? Dedicated bike lanes, bike paths that are actually separated from the roadway — I actually support removing traffic lanes and turning them into bicycle lanes — which, of course, most drivers, at least in a place with congested streets like L.A. would simply balk at.

They (the drivers) feel that the roads are theirs, and why should they share with either pedestrians or cyclists? Here’s a reality check, my dear drivers: there’s nothing in any law or in any tradition older than 100 years or so saying that the road is just for you and your internal combustion engines. So learn to share – whether it’s with a horse or a bicycle or a kid on a skateboard – we all need access to roads.

Car-Free for One Year (and counting . . .)

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I sold my car on June 7, 2013. I can hardly believe it’s been a year. Some of what I’ve learned:

this. . . has changed into. . .

this. . . has changed into. . .

  • That I could really do this, that I could really live (and for a year!) in Los Angeles, California, without owning a car, and survive and thrive.
  • how stressful driving is; I didn’t really realize this before I got rid of the car, and it became clear to me because I felt so much calmer not having to worry about the car, about traffic or parking or road ragers or whatever it was.
  • That strangers speak to each other in public space, this is all lost when people are closed up in their cars– and we’re poorer for it.
. . . this

. . . this

The pros:

  • biggest one is saving money! My car cost approximately $400 a month to own and operate, and I had a relatively cheap one – a Scion XA 2005.
  • I stayed very lean and healthy with all the walking and biking I’ve done, and will continue to do.
  • I read on buses and trains – so I’ve gotten a lot more reading done. I have a Nook and the Kindle app – so I’ve joined the Dark Side, though I still love book-books.

There are cons, so what are they:

  • From where I live (Valley Village) it takes forever to get to the beach on public transport. I’m really looking forward to the finishing of the Expo Line to Santa Monica, though even that will take time. It’s a long way regardless. Not that I go there every day or even every month, but I want it to be easy, when it’s not. Even if you have a car.
  • There are crazy, insane people, and lots of them, on public transportation and there’s just no way around that. It’s messy. You learn to spot them and stay clear.
  • Los Angeles is so big, while there are always public transport options for almost anywhere you want to go, it could take you forever because of all the transfers you have to make. For instance, next week I have to go to Santa Monica for a business meeting. It will take 3 buses and nearly two hours to get there from where I live. I’ll make it a day trip and work/hang out there all day, coming back at night. Again, this isn’t a trip I make very often at all. This kind of trip might make more sense to Zipcar or Uber (notice how I’m using those words as verbs??)

Finally, I have to remember to acknowledge the middle class privilege part of the car-free equation: I’ve CHOSEN to do this, not need to financially: rediscovering the conveniences and problems of public transport is something poor people have no choice but to acquaint themselves with daily. Then again, it’s not “slumming” for a year, this is a permanent change (at least as long as I live where I do), for financial, health, environmental and just plain “keeping my sanity” reasons. Still, let’s not forget that half the people I see on the trains and buses would likely die and go to heaven to sit behind the wheel of their own nice car in gridlocked freeway traffic (with the AC on, of course).

Must go now – have to pack the saddlebag and get off to work.

Going car free? Check out Chris Balish’s How to Live Well Without Owning a Car

Living in L.A. Without a Car: Airport Connections — and Connecting

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photo by Victor L Antunez

photo by Victor L Antunez

I love cities where the urban planners have had the foresight to make the airport fairly painless to get to (thinking of Heathrow in London, right away).  Believe me, this is not usually the case, especially in the U.S., what with our still crazy dependence on the private automobile making us anything but independent (the very thing it was supposed to do, for all of us, was to make us our own sovereign masters of travel. But don’t get me started. . .)

I recently took a trip from LA to New York, and since it was relatively last minute, the best deals were from LAX (which I try to avoid) even though I live much closer to that easy Burbank Airport. So that was not an option this time.

This post would be more accurately described as the various ways to get to and from the airport, and certainly not specific to car-free folks – cause you’d have to be crazy to drive yourself to the airport for anything other than a weekend getaway. Right? Or am I just crazy, not realizing that people throw good money away on long-term parking fees that add up really fast?

Maybe they do. So OK, then perhaps this will be enlightening, or maybe it won’t.

I was gone for 20 days. So if I drove myself, I’d have that convenience, perhaps, and let’s just estimate the long term parking charge at $6/day, so that would cost $180, plus gas and whatever  your time is worth.

I’m sure there are people who do this and don’t blink an eye. I’m not one of them.

The other ways I know of to get to the airport include 1) asking friends for a ride 2) taking a cab 3) taking one of the shuttle services 4) taking public transport.

This trip my plane was wheels up at 6:15 a.m., so I didn’t even consider asking a friend for a lift. I live in the close-in Valley, so I figured a cab would probably be somewhere in the $80-100 range, again, not really what I wanted to pay for this.

I generally dislike the shuttle services – because they pick you up so far ahead of time – this trip because of the early early hour there was no viable public transportation option (unless I wanted to go very late the night before, and stay overnight waiting for my plane – ummm, no thanks.)

So I did take Super Shuttle – they picked me up at 3:35 a.m. for that 6:15 flight. It cost about $38, which included a 10% tip and a 10% discount (I found a discount code on the internets that actually worked). Oddly, there was no traffic on the 405 at that hour so we got there in about half an hour – before even the TSA is open. I always assumed they were there 24 hours a day, but apparently not.

Coming back, I was able to make use of my preferred method – FlyAway Bus, Red Line Subway, Orange Line Bus. It cost $10. I took the FlyAway from LAX to Union Station, the Red Line subway all the way to North Hollywood, and the Orange Line Busline one stop to Laurel Canyon, which is about 2 + blocks from my house.

Prior to leaving NYC, my father asked me, if cost wasn’t an option, wouldn’t you rather just take a car? (As in, I think he meant, a taxi) I had to think, would I? I think no, not really. Because it’s not all about the cost. It’s about the ability to actually do this kind of a trip using public transportation options. Since I’m a writer, I really see the value in the “closeness” to my fellow passengers — because I don’t experience too much of anything new in a closed up car all by myself. The subway is a never-ending panorama of life in the Big Orange, including its ugliness and unconventionality. I’m constantly striving to fill up that depleting well inside. Being an integral part of the city (and immersed in it) is a way to make that happen.

Sold my Car: Car Free in Los Angeles

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I finally did it.

Last week I sold my Scion to Carmax in Burbank and walked off their lot as a car-free man!

Buh-bye, little Scion

Buh-bye, little Scion (parked at Dad’s in MKE in 2009)

For those of you who’ve been following my increasing use of my bike, my feet and public transportation over that past few years, this probably won’t be coming as a huge surprise – but it’s still a rarity (to be car-free —  in Los Angeles, anyway) so I opted for this kind of mass explanation.

I gave up the car for many reasons:

  • Financial – my particular car cost me about $5K per year to own and operate, which is actually a low figure as far as autos go. These continue to be tough times and that will make a huge difference to my budget.
  • Environmental – I want to part of the solution, not a part of the problem, in any way that’s available to me – and this was one.
  • I don’t need it – I work from home; I’ve also figured out through enough trial and error and “dry runs” how to live the rest of my daily life quite easily without owning a car.
  • I don’t like to drive and I don’t like to park. Honestly, I’ve not enjoyed this process for years and years now. In L.A., it’s a nightmare! I’d rather leave it to the pros (like cabbies and train and bus drivers).

There are a few other reasons but these are probably the biggest. Having just spent the last month car-free, visiting relatives in New Orleans, it seemed like a good time.

Spontaneity will suffer, yes: we’ll have to make plans, anathema to some, I know. Also, note that I didn’t say that I’d never drive a car, I just won’t own one. There’s now a bunch of car-sharing options (like Zipcar) which makes much more economic sense to me than owning something which sits idle almost all the time.

True, I’ll have to forego those midnight, madcap trips to the beach to frolic in the sand and the waves – unless I want to spend the bucks for a cab out there – but the truth is those kind of nights ended long ago.

I intend to blog more about this as the process unfolds so make sure come back. Or, maybe you’ll just see me walking past you on the sidewalk as you sit behind the wheel, idling away in a traffic jam!

Here’s a great book which really helped me get to this place: Chris Balish’s How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.