The Best and Worst Places in the U.S. to Live Car-Free, According to CityLab

published Sep 28, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Ryan DeBerardinis/Shutterstock

We all know the benefits to living car-free — it’s more environmentally friendly, it forces you to get more exercise, and it means less money spent on cars and all the expenses that go along with them. But not all parts of the U.S. are equally easy to live in without a car. Many factors, including infrastructure, weather, and density, determine how amenable a city is to public transportation or bicycle commutes.

At CityLab, Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander have analyzed the country’s 382 metro areas to develop what they call a Metro Car-Free Index. This ranking system uses four variables: “the share of households that don’t have access to their own vehicle, the share of commuters who take transit to work, the share of commuters who bike to work, and the share of commuters who walk to work,” writes Florida.

Credit: Mission Bicycles

So what did they find? First, the largest car-free clusters are in the Northeast, from Boston to Washington, D.C. and in the Pacific Northwest, from Seattle to Portland. The most car-dependent metro areas are in the Deep South. The most car-free large metro area turns out to be San Francisco, and the least car-free is Birmingham, Alabama.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the smaller metro areas that do the best on CityLab’s ranking are mostly college towns — like Ann Arbor (University of Michigan), Eugene (University of Oregon), and Boulder (University of Colorado) — which tend to be walkable by design. The large metro areas ranked the least car-free are, Florida notes, almost all places where traffic is not a big problem so getting around by car is particularly easy.

To see the full lists and find out where your city ranks, head over to CityLab.