In light of recent U.S. Census Data that suggests car-lite and car-free households are on the rise in Los Angeles, we’ve compiled a list of the best locations in the region where minimal car use (car-lite) or never needing a car at all (car-free) is possible. Though there are many subtle lifestyle adjustments to reduce car dependency which don’t require packing up and moving, by far the best opportunity to make a significant change is when selecting a new place to live or work.
Whether you’re a new or future resident unfamiliar with the lay of the land or a longtime Angeleno looking to escape a grueling commute, keep reading. For our regular readers, please don’t forget to tell us what neighborhoods you think should make the list by commenting — this is a post we want to be helpful to those who already live here and those moving to our region.
The list is by no means scientific and we recognize that no neighborhood will be a one-size-that-fits-all. We made our choices by taking into account factors such as access to transit, pedestrian-friendliness and bike access (using scores from walkscore.com), local amenities and connectivity to other neighborhoods. Give it a few years and this list may very well change as Metro continues to build the transit system with funding from Measure R, the sales tax increase approved by local voters in 2008.
5. Culver City
Culver City wouldn’t have appeared on this list prior to 2012, but thanks to the opening of the Expo Line last year, the city has joined the ranks of one of regions top transit-oriented locations.
Its appeal to the car-free crowd will only increase when the Expo Line is extended to Santa Monica, which is expected to open in 2016. For now, Culver’s transit options work best for those who work or go to school in the east, where the Expo Line currently connects them to the University of Southern California and Downtown Los Angeles.
To the west, Metro Rapid Line 733 connects Culver to Venice and the beach and Santa Monica; alternatively a bike lane on Venice Bouelvard does the same for two-wheelers. The Ballona Creek Bike Path also runs on the outskirts of Culver, leading bicyclists to Marina Del Rey and the beach bike path that runs south to Hermosa Beach and north to Santa Monica and Will Rogers Beach. The city’s proximity to other Westside neighborhoods makes on-demand transit like Lyft or Uber reasonable options for an evening out, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus and Culver City Bus serve the city and surrounding areas.
Downtown Culver isn’t lacking things to do either: gastropubs, restaurants, a movie theater and historic landmarks are all within at most a 10 to 15 minute walk from downtown, along with adjacent residential neighborhoods. Grocery stores and smaller markets are scattered around the the central district and are fairly accessible by walking and biking, depending on your exact location.
The factor hindering Culver City from becoming a true car-free city is its lack of north-south bus routes connecting it to nearby work and entertainment centers like Beverly Hills, Century City and West Hollywood. There are a few options, but they’re not as convenient as they should be.
Transit Score: N/A*
Walk Score: 84, Very Walkable
Bike Score: N/A*
* scores unavailable.
The city of Pasadena is located about 11 miles northeast of downtown LA. For its residents it provides a functional mix of both urban and suburban. The city has six Gold Line stations, three located in the median of Interstate 210 and three south and near Old Pasadena and it’s an 18-minute to 29-minute ride to Union Station from those stations.
Although the city has been very slow to develop a decent bike plan — much less implement it — there are plentiful cycling opportunities in the area, including many of them on quiet residential streets. With better bike connections to Gold Line stations, Pasadena may have been even higher on our list. To the city’s credit, it has given away bike vouchers.
If you’re an apartment dweller, there are plenty of options here as well — the city has been on an apartment and condo building boom since the Gold Line opened.
The Gold Line, of course, serves the region’s transit hub at Union Station and also continues to East Los Angeles. The Gold Line is also being extended 11.5 miles east to Azusa (the Gold Line Foothill Extension project, forecast to open in 2016) and a separate project will allow Gold Line trains to run through downtown L.A. (the Regional Connector project, forecast to open in 2020). Pasadena is also served by several Metro bus lines, Foothill Transit and the Pasadena ARTS bus, which focuses on connecting neighborhoods to the Gold Line and commercial areas. The Metro Local Line 180/181 and Metro Rapid Line 780 buses run west from Pasadena to Eagle Rock, Glendale, Los Feliz and Hollywood
By far the city’s most car-free friendly business and entertainment district is Old Town Pasadena (Del Mar and Memorial Park Gold Line stations), with a secondary nod to the Lake Avenue business district; there is also the Hastings Ranch area in eastern Pasadena, which is more of a traditional suburban environment and has its share of big box stores. With an array of stores, coffee shops and restaurants with outdoor seating, pubs, movie theaters, parks and the occasional parade or event, you’ll pretty much be set for an afternoon or an evening out. When it comes to filling your refrigerators and cupboards, Pasadena has a handful of major grocery stores and at least three are within a block or two of a Gold Line station, including the giant two-story Whole Foods on Arroyo Parkway.
Transit Score: N/A*
Walk Score: 68, but most of the city is easily walkable
Bike Score: 71, Very Bikeable