Looking for the best locations for non-drivers

Anyone else here misplaced (at least partially) because they don’t drive? What areas are best for those who reject the “car culture” in your country? Portland? London? Toronto? Phoenix? San Francisco? Boston? These are all areas that have big mass transit systems, some very highly rated. I live in the US in Philadelphia which isn’t bad for non-drivers but I personally need a warm climate. Also, how do you cope, especially if you don’t live in a downtown area of a large city? Even if you do, how about if you need to go outside your local area where it would be a hardship to take a limo or taxicab? Right now, other members of my household drive me around but only for “important” things such as doctors appointments and shopping, since I’m not actually in the city. For an emergency, I take a taxicab. Much of the time, I do without going where I want to go. I hate this. Maybe we can help each other somehow.

Boston, Montreal, and New York City are three cities where it’s easy to get around without a car. But none of them are noted for a particularly warm climate.

Portland’s pretty good transit-wise, and is a nice place to live,with a relatively low cost of living, but for six months of the year, it’s raining, and for four of those months, it’s pretty cold. The worst part of not having a car is walking three blocks in the rain to the nearest bus stop, or standing in the rain waiting for the (of course, late ^%^#) bus.

San Francisco is widely regarded as very transit-friendly not only because of the multiple transit systems in place (some of them redundant, which is actually a good thing for the frequent transit user), but because the city itself is so compact. The weather is also famously pleasant, with mild winters, beautiful falls and springs, and the A/C on in the summer. The only drawback is that everybody else likes it, too, and so rental prices are insane. If you can stand living in 1/8 of an old Victorian for $2000 a month, sharing a bathroom with twelve other people, then you could enjoy living in SFO.

Don’t even think about living in Phoenix, which is the worst city in the world, and will be the worst city in the entire solar system when we colonize other planets.

Boston’s weather sucks (big time). London is hideously expensive, making SFO look cheap. Can’t speak to Toronto, but be warned that it’s full of Canadians.

I’ve heard lots of things about Phoenix, but never that it’s a good location for a non-driver.

San Francisco and most of the Bay Area are fantastic for non-drivers. The ocean side of San Francisco is known for more fog in the summer than the bay side. The rest of the Bay Area is much warmer than San Francisco in the summer. It gets “cold” in the winter-- it almost snowed two winters ago. I think it has snowed in San Francisco 4 or 5 times since 1960.

I have a drivers licence, I just didn’t have a car for several years. There is a huge ZipCar presence in San Francisco so I just took one anytime I needed to go someplace transit didn’t go or if I had to haul stuff around.

You might also look at rural towns. While most residents drive to bigger cities for a wider variety and cheaper shopping, you don’t really need to. And these towns are compact enough so you can walk all over.

Honolulu is a breeze to get around using public transport. The bus system is fantastic. So if it’s a warm climate the OP is after, look no further.

Albuquerque is okay, but the bus system still paled compared with Honolulu’s, at least back when I lived there. A bicycle is handy for use in getting around.

Key West. Pretty bikable. And warm.

London’s pretty good. Your options are:

Tube: Old (very old in parts), hot, dirty and packed in rush hour. But it’s relatively cheap especially with an Oyster card (an electronic ticket), easy to use, and has lots of stations.

Bus: Slow but cheap (can use same Oyster card as Tube system). Can be devilishly difficult to navigate and not always easy to get from A - B. There are plenty of apps however that will help you work out a route. The top deck of a double-decker bus is a great way to travel, sight-see and people-watch if you’re not in a hurry.

Black cab: Legendarily knowledgeable drivers. Plentiful except at peak times but not cheap. Good for short journeys. Excellent app called Hailo which will summon a cab to you via your phone. Will show the cab working its way towards you on a live on-screen map.

Boris bike: Unofficially named after London Mayor Boris Johnson; properly called Barclays Cycle Hire after the sponsors. Instant access to a bicycle using an electronic key or via a credit/debit card. Racks of these bikes are available across London, but concentrated in the centre. Nerves of steel may be required. Bike lanes on the increase, but this ain’t Holland!

Instant car-hire: If you need a car occasionally there’s Zipcar which is a kind of instant car hire scheme.

Shanks’s Pony (walking): I find London a very walkable city. Get a good paper or audio guide book and enjoy!

Chicago, but again, not particularly warm except for maybe 4-5 months per year.

I’ve visited San Francisco a few times, usually in the winter, and actually found it very uncomfortable in terms of how moist it was outside; it was hard to stay warm. It actually made me miss the cold and dry winter here in Chicago.

I’ve been living in Boston for about 5 years now. There has never been a time that I’ve needed to get somewhere that required a car or taxi. Public transport shuts down between 1:00 am and 5:00 am(?), but that is very rarely an issue for me.

You’re going to laugh, but there are large parts of Los Angeles that are quite walkable. My neighborhood has a walk score of 80. Third Street in Santa Monica has a walk score of 91. If you’re careful about which neighborhood you choose, you can do just fine in L.A. without a car.

I live in the suburbs of Montreal and I don’t have a car. The local bus service is pretty good where I live. It’s not hard to get downtown.

The most logical places have already been named. Ironically, housing costs are often really high in these places. Which is no biggie if you are wild and carefree and don’t mind having a roommate (or two). And then there’s employment. I live where I do because this is where I was able to find a job. The not-having-to-drive thing is just a fortunate perk. If I had this as my search criterion for a place to live, I might still be looking for a job.

All that said…Richmond, VA is AWESOME for someone who doesn’t drive. Not Richmond metro, though. Just Richmond proper. I do drive, but it is a luxury not a necessity. I live in a very self-contained neighborhood–where all of my shopping and foraging is concentrated along four walkable blocks. I work within walking distance of where I live. Buses and/or feet can get me to all doctor’s appointments. I don’t need anything else (though I do appreciate being able to leave town every once in awhile).

Richmond, VA has a good public transit system for a city its size. But even if the buses all broke down and my car was stolen, I would still be able to handle life because the city is so compact and walkable. This makes it a vastly superior to a place like to Miami, which is sprawl city and not at all pedestrian-friendly (if only because the heat is killer).

It kind of seems counter-intuitive, but smaller might be more up your alley. If you can find a place where you can work and shop close to where you live, it may not matter what the public transportation picture looks like.

Washington DC belongs on the list, though I won’t claim anything good about the weather. It’s easy to live without a car here, even well in to the outskirts.

I can’t think of anything outside metro access you’d need to drive to, except maybe some ethnic restaurants in the deep suburbs…and maybe Costco. Some people use zip cars, but even that isn’t really a “need”.

Santa Cruz, CA.

Lived there for 7 years with no car; never had a problem. You can get to the airport by taking a bus to San Jose and then taking a train to the airport. Easy-peasy. The city is so compact that nearly everything is in walking or easy busing distance.

Downside: Housing is expensive as hell.

I pretended I didn’t have a car for a year.

t a n g e n t : I got out of a lot of errands (“Take you to the airport? Sure, on my handlebars…” “Pick up softener salt? Hope two pounds’ll be enough…”)

Anyhow, Madison, WI has more bike paths than I knew of, and I got almost everywhere. And a couple of times when it would started raining/snowing, I’d pull over and put my bike in the rack on the front of a bus.

Moab, Utah.

Hong Kong. You’d be crazy to want a car.

Both places are expensive, but Sydney and Melbourne Australia both fit your requirements.

Melbourne has trams, busses and rail. I don’t live there but I suspect bike paths are a go, too.

Sydney has mainly busses and rail, but in some places limited light rail. Also ferries. Also bike paths.

Both have inner city suburbs that are really, really easy to walk. Both have Zipcars, too.

I have lived (and next year, am voluntarily living again) without a car. It’s easy. Right now I drive roughly once every couple of weeks or so, to the local farmer’s market on weekends if it’s raining. If it’s not I walk with my granny cart. I drive to Bathurst (about 3hrs away) twice a year or so to go to my son’s school and I take the pets to the vet.

My son’s finished this year, and I can do all the other things ad hoc with a zip car. I never drive to work (traffic+parking, no thanks). There’s a major grocery store in walking distance and many other shops and entertainment. I do 80% of my shopping at the farmer’s market anyway (dairy, meat, veg, wine, bread and eggs.) If I need other things like cleaning supplies there’s a medium grocery on the way home, I just pop in on the way from the train.

I like not having to drive everywhere, it’s good.