Living Car-Free in LA #3: Making the Choice
by Jessie Holzer, Planner, Alta Planning + Design
When I gave up my car a couple years ago, I was ready. I had thought long and hard about this commitment and was excited about “going car-free.” Despite my enthusiasm, I had a lot of expectations about what I would be sacrificing and many of those were accurate. I don’t make spontaneous trips to see my parents in Orange County anymore. I no longer drive to the grocery store when it is “raining.” I definitely stopped making regular trips to Costco and other big box stores. My travel behavior changed when I went car-free, even for someone who didn’t drive that much in the first place, since I gave up conveniences that I previously put little thought into. That being said, with a little extra planning and a willingness to adapt, I still am able to get everywhere I need to and would like to be, and haven’t really had to give anything up besides the car itself.
I am now the self-proclaimed queen of linking trips. Since biking and taking transit can be much more time intensive in LA as compared to driving (assuming there is no traffic!) I am constantly mapping out where I need to go and looking for opportunities to combine errands. When I am at my office in Downtown LA during the day, I go to grocery stores in the evening that are off the Metro Gold Line, my route home. When I am getting my hair cut in Silverlake I try to schedule a dentist appointment in adjacent Los Feliz. If I have a meeting in Santa Monica I see my friends out there since it is a long trip from my home in Pasadena, regardless of which mode I choose.
I often will go to a store that may not be closest to my house, but is more accessible by train. For example, the Target in Downtown LA is located off the Metro Red Line. This used to be easier for me to get to than the Target in West Hollywood, which was geographically closer to my old apartment in Hollywood, but was more difficult for me to get to without a car.
I also go grocery shopping more regularly since I can’t carry as much and I choose my mode based on the quantity of food I need. When I just have to pick up a few things I bike to the closest grocery store about 1.5 miles away and throw everything into my panniers. When I am planning a big meal with a lot of ingredients I don’t have I walk to the train station to get to the store since I can carry several large bags that wouldn’t fit on my bike (this grocery store is farther away, but by taking the train I don’t have to walk very far). If I need to make bigger purchases I bike to a Zipcar, which fills in the gaps when biking, walking, and taking transit just aren’t feasible.
I don’t deny that having a car is incredibly convenient. I’d be lying if I said there were never times I got frustrated by trying to get somewhere fairly nearby, but it was up a steep hill, after the bus stopped running, or 100+ degrees that day. However, by putting a little more thought into my trips, on most days getting around through a combination of biking, walking, and taking transit provides me with a comparable level of mobility as driving does.