Here’s What It’s Like Living In Los Angeles Without A Car

When people hear that I was living in Los Angeles without a car for a year, they can’t believe it. Well, the good news is, it’s not impossible. The bad news-it’s not the easiest thing to do and takes planning.

At the time, I had just relocated from Barcelona to Los Angeles and the initial shock was still subsiding. Barcelona is quite a compact city with a whole lot packed into just around 39 square miles. It’s very well connected with an extensive metro system, bike lanes, and long distance trains and buses so most locals don’t own a car (parking is also insane and a whole other topic of discussion). Los Angeles on the other hand is extremely car-centric although this stereotype is slowly changing due to an extensive metro expansion. L.A. is often listed as the city with the worst traffic and longest commute times in the country. This is partly because the city is gigantic at over 500 square miles-that’s not including L.A. County, or Greater Los Angeles as we like to call it.

How I managed to get around

During this carless year, I was freelancing and working from home, so I didn’t have a daily commute (a dream, I know). Most people in Los Angeles commute an average of 55 minutes one way and it’s ranked as the most stressful in the country. To quote the great Elon Musk, L.A. traffic is “soul-destroying” and I don’t think any Angelino will disagree.

I knew I wasn’t going to have a car, so I specifically chose to live in Koreatown because it’s well connected by public transportation and honestly just a really rad neighborhood. Koreatown is one of the more walkable districts in L.A with trendy dessert shops, restaurants (hello Korean bbq), coffee shops, bars, and grocery stores in close proximity. Thankfully, the electric scooter trend is no longer just a thing of the westside, which makes moving around k-town even easier. The scooters are perfect for getting where you need to go from the metro or bus stop (they’re really far apart).

Koreatown metro station at Wilshire/Vermont

I had everything I needed within walking distance, but of course I didn’t just stay in Koreatown. My location was very well connected with the Downtown and Hollywood metro lines, so I used them frequently. I preferred the metro, but when that wasn’t convenient, I would also use the bus. The Dash bus, which connects metro lines, as well as the express 720 bus came in the most handy for me. Either way, I avoided heading out to West LA because it took so long.

Public transportation in L.A.

Surprise! L.A. does have a public transportation system (they’re trying ok). The sheer size of the city makes getting around difficult and time consuming, even in a car. But in all honesty, the metro and bus aren’t that horrible. Yes, you will come across people talking to themselves here and there, and it’s not the cleanest, but there are many students and daily commuters heading to work as well. I often see security guards and police officers patrolling the trains and stations, which at lease makes everyone feel a bit safer.

I didn’t have high expectations of the metro at first since I was coming from Barcelona, but I was actually impressed. The hours of operation aren’t too shabby and it’s the same price no matter how far you go on the same line, which is crazy. For example, a trip from Downtown to Long Beach is just $1.75 and that’s 20 miles! I’m not a huge fan of the bus though mainly because it doesn’t have its own lane in most places and is stuck in traffic all the time or delayed.

The verdict

I was very, very lucky to live near the metro, so public transportation worked for me and my lifestyle at the time. Now I have a 14 mile commute every day, which is just not convenient using public transportation. So there’s a multitude of factors to take into account when deciding if you should ditch the car. I admit, it doesn’t work for everyone.

However, the public transportation system in L.A. has made huge improvements over the last few years and there’s a lot planned for the future (like expanding the Koreatown Line, yay!). These days there’s a mix of options available in addition to the metro and bus like scooters, bikes, rideshare apps, and convenient pay-by-the-hour car rentals to get around town, which is a huge plus. From my experience, if your daily commute is over 30 minutes by car, or you live in Downtown and love going to the beach every weekend, just get a car. But if you really don’t want to battle the L.A. traffic, live in a well connected district like Downtown, Santa Monica, Hollywood, or Koreatown and it can totally work for you!

Sound off in the comments and tell me if you use L.A.’s public transportation system (I know we’re the minority here).

Featured image: Olenka Kotyk

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