About eight months ago I made one of the biggest — and best — decisions of my life: I moved from the suburbs into the heart of the city (Seattle). I’ve driven since I was legally allowed. I still cite the day I bought my first car as one of the proudest of my life. That said, the moment I decided to sell my car and get around town without it has been no less than liberating — both in terms of my minimalist lifestyle and financially. So how how can you get around without a car, too?
Part of the reason I could sell my car was because I chose an apartment right in the heart of the city. I can literally walk to almost everywhere I ever need to be. If you’re moving to a city and are unsure just how close you’ll be to drugstores, major office buildings, transit centers, parks, or nightlife, check out Walkscore.com. Type in your future address and Walkscore will give a number between 0 and 100 that measures the walkability of that address. The scores range from Walker’s Paradise, which means your new apartment is in an area where daily errands do not require a car, all the way down to Car Dependent, meaning almost all of your errands will require a car. Walkscore also provides a Street Smart Walk score, which generates a score based on walking distance to amenities like groceries, restaurants and bars, shopping, coffee, schools, parks, books, entertainment, and banking.
Take the Bus
If you don’t feel like walking everywhere, or your neighborhood Walkscore is less than ideal, consider taking the bus. Get familiar with your local bus system and learn how to transfer — often, you can take two buses for the price of one. If you’re moving to a new area and aren’t sure if transit is for you, Walkscore has just the site for you — check out Transit Score to see if your new neighborhood is bus-friendly. Scores range from Rider’s Paradise – which means your new home is in the heart of world-class transportation — all the way down to Minimal Transit — where it will be only possible to get on a bus. Transit scores are offered for over 140 cities across the world.
Hail a Cab
Sure, a cab is more expensive than walking (free!) or a bus (which might also be free if you beg your employer enough), but a cab is often convenient and faster than both. If you have an iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, or Palm, make sure that you have Taxi Magic on your phone to catch a cab on-demand. Taxi Magic is a free online taxi booking service that is integrated with taxi dispatch systems in dozens of major US cities. Just book your taxi from the app, and then track the arrival of your taxi. You can even charge the ride to your credit card right from the app, or expense the trip with an e-receipt. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can also use Taxi Magic via SMS — just check out TaxiMagic.com for more info, or a list of supported cities.
Borrow a Car
Your own two feet can only get you so far, and getting much farther without paying an arm and a leg is difficult. Renting a car or using a car sharing service can let you take that much needed escape to the mountains for the day, or make that much needed trip to Ikea. Zipcar is a popular choice available in most cities, and applying online is fast and easy. Once you’re all set up, you can manage your rentals right from your smartphone. Other emerging options include RelayRides, which offers neighbor-to-neighbor car sharing (but you have to live in (Boston or San Francisco) or GetAround, which also offers peer-to-peer car sharing on demand but is available in all major cities. Of course, you could always just beg your friends for a ride when you need to do some serious shopping, too.
If you’ve bit the bullet and sold your car, how do you get around town? Let us know your tips and tricks in the comments.