Monday, December 26, 2005

Carless in Seattle

I'm having myself a little thought experiement. Could we live without a car?

Of course, really the question is "could my wife + 3 kids live without a car, in Seattle". It requires a great deal of tact to explain to someone why you are taking away their car, and why they'll like it. And I don't have a lot of tact...

We live in the suburbs now, but suppose we lived in the city? My understanding of city life is that things are easier to walk to than to drive to. And that buses in Seattle are very good.

Remember that we're talking about TWO newborns and a very active 4 year old.

Anyone reading this that has lived carless in the US with a family? Any advice?


Travis said...

Jay, I live in a very urban area of Chicago. No family, just a single guy. I take the train to work, I walk to the grocery store, there are tons of taxis outside my door. I don't really *have* to drive anywhere. In fact, after our first big snow, I didn't drive for three weeks. But, I have family in the suburbs. If I want to go see them, I can either spend 2.5 hours taking trains there or an hour driving. There's another grocery store that I like to go to instead of the one that I can walk to (they have a unique selection with more organic items). Etc, etc. I'd love to give up my car, but it's nice to have when I need it. What I've thought about doing instead is downgrading my car from my 2003 Civic to a two- or three-thousand dollar old car that I can own outright. Good luck with the new twins :)

Jay Bazuzi said...

Thanks for your thoughts.

If I can get down to 90% car-free in the city, I can even use FlexCar to fill in the gap. It's a great idea, if there are cars near you.

James Adams said...

That is a good idea, although I don't know if there's a FlexCar lot near where you live. I can't think of one, anyway.

Jay Bazuzi said...

James: I'm quite sure I can't live where I am now without a car. I would have to move in to the city (Seattle, that is), so that the infrastructure is there.

James Adams said...

Well, as someone who lives in the city, I can say it does have its advantages, but it does also have its disadvantages. The busses are great. Getting to and from work for me is easy, because I'm a 5 minute bus ride away from the Montlake Station on SR-520. Since I'm up on the hill, there's a good number of grocery stores, and I'm even down the street from the Madison Market, which is a co-op grocery store. The main problems, though, are cost, space, and noise. Basically, space is at a premium in Seattle. This means that many amenities aren't standard. You don't get, for example, a dishwasher and washer/dryer in your apartment standard in Seattle. Houses are a different story, but getting a house in Seattle will, in most cases, mean getting an older house, which has its own problems. (Some of which I'm sure you're familiar, like lead paint and poor energy efficiency.) Now, because space is at a premium, that means that everything is inherently more expensive. Additionally, the nicer, more modern places will cost significantly more money. For our two-bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill in a new building with a washer/dryer and dishwasher in the unit, we're paying $1650/month. Granted, that's not so bad with myself, my girlfriend, and a friend all living there, but I think you see my point. Everything's more expensive as a whole.

Also, another side-effect of the limited amount of space in the city is noise. It is VERY noisy in the city. We're lucky, in that our apartment is quite well soundproofed, but I've lived in a lot of places all over Seattle, and they are not all like that. It certainly depends on the neighbourhood, but it's something to keep an eye out for.

But on the other hand, I am living in the city, so it's obviously got some good points. Inevitably, however, some compromise has to be made when living in the city. For us, the compromise is money. But it certainly does work for us.

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