In Which Cities Do You Live Well Without a Car?

The only Spanish-speaking destination where I’ve rented a car is Puerto Rico. On our honeymoon, we arrived in San Juan and then drove in a clockwise circle around the island. We saw El Yunque park, beaches, hot springs, the phosphorescent bay, and the Arecibo radio telescope. That was a different form of travel than I’ve used in seven other Latin American countries and in Spain. On trips, I’ve received rides from friends and family from time to time. Far more often I walked, took taxis, colectivos (shared taxis), buses, subways, and trains.

My favorite large Spanish-speaking cities have great public transportation: Santiago de Chile, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, San José – Costa Rica, and Mexico City. In my experience, a well thought out metropolis has light rail or a subway, complemented with a system of good, frequent buses. When Evan and I lived in Santiago for a year, we had no need for a car. Our grocery store was four blocks away, we had ten restaurants and twenty shops within eight blocks of our apartment. We rode the subway, took buses, walked and occasionally hired a taxi. That showed us how we wanted to live.

When we returned to the US, we looked for a city with key businesses near the housing. Central Madison fit the bill. Our town is great for walking and cycling. Although, our public transportation could be improved with more regularly scheduled buses and the development of light rail.

Urban centers that allow us to circulate, perambulate, and navigate without the automobile are best for us and our environment. Bless the planners who make it possible.

What is your favorite city for mass transit, at home or abroad? What is your favorite mode of public transport? My answers are Santiago de Chile and subway!

Please leave a comment below, I’d love to know your opinion.

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! ¡Olé! –Rebecca

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Cerro Blanco, Santiago de Chile

Muchas gracias for subscribing to my blog! P.S. If you’re an email subscriber, check out Fake Flamenco to see the header photo of a cool classic car interior. -R

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13 thoughts on “In Which Cities Do You Live Well Without a Car?

  1. I’ve been happily without a car for over a decade now, often in places where it’s been a challenge. I had no problem when I lived in New York–having a car would have seemed much more trouble than taking the subway anyway! But in the Upper Midwest, there have been times I’ve had to bum a ride from a friend or just bow out because buses didn’t go where I needed to be. Now I live in Arizona, and it’s a similar situation.

    That said, not having a car has simplified my life in so many ways. I work from home and take public transport when I can or need to. I walk much more, which I really enjoy. I don’t have to deal with maintenance and car related bills. I plan trips strategically and get caught up less in consumerist culture, because recreational shopping isn’t as easy when you don’t have a vehicle. I figure it’s good for the planet, good for my financial bottom line, and good for my health. And, I’m much happier for it! But I do find, at times, it’s easier to get to the other side of the world than it is to get to the other side of town without a car. Interesting paradox.

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    1. Yes, perhaps we need to map transportation deserts (much of the Midwest)! I really admire that you live without a car. The exercise is fabulous, I agree. I aspire to do that again. May need to buy one of those megatire bikes to cycle around in winter. : ) Rebecca

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  2. Yes, yes, living without a car is my ideal as well, and one of the main reasons i choose not to live in the USA. I lived and very happily navigated Edinburgh, Scotland, Wuxi, China, Bangkok, Thailand, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and now Colombia by mostly walking (me gusta caminar!) and taking either trains or buses. The 8 years I spent in the Arabian Gulf were totally car oriented as dictated by the sprawling pattern of development, extreme heat and lack of mass transit options.

    After almost a century of car domination, it’s been interesting to watch American cities trying to repair the development mistakes of the past. Building mass transit systems now–from scratch–is far more expensive than it would have been to simply maintain and expand the systems that were once in place and were destroyed by the auto and tire manufacturers. The light rail system perpetually under construction in Seattle (where I lived for 16 years before leaving the USA) is costing taxpayers $1 billion per mile! Pay now or pay more later as the saying goes, as citizens there are reluctantly doing.

    I also believe the dominance of the car makes populations less healthy–witness the high obesity rates in both the USA and the Arabian Gulf–and robs people of opportunities to interact with others who may not be from their own socioeconomic group, which benefits all who live in multicultural societies.

    Sorry for hogging the thread. This is a topic that really resonates with me. Happy cycling in Madison!

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    1. I agree that mass transit is so important for many reasons: fewer carbon emissions, better health, and improved socializing – both for families and among classes as you mentioned. I’m sad that most US cities lost their awesome trolley systems through auto manufacturer lobbying. Our small city is bursting with new residents and we can pay now for infrastructure and reap the rewards. That’s my hope.

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  3. I grew up in Philadelphia and went everywhere by Mass transit. MUNICH was just putting in its subway system in the 60s when I lived there. They simply augered it through the soil under the city. 50 years later it works wonderfully and conveniently with no disruption to traffic or the beautiful and very old city.

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  4. Paris, France – considered by some the best public transit in the world. When I was 10, I went everywhere on the metro: school, movies, parks. I could always get to within a few blocks of my destination. Groceries were typically across the street.

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  5. I live in cork, in Ireland, where buses are frequent, but if I need to go outside the city, the buses don’t go as often. I like the way in the US most stores, and businesses are within walking distance or on a public bus route. at least in the US cities I’ve been to they were.

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