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Old 11-02-2010, 03:36 PM   #21
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In many cities there is Zip car where you can rent by the hour. All inclusive of fuel & insurance.
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Old 11-02-2010, 04:54 PM   #22
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I enjoy this topic. I have been car-bound, with-a-car in a walkable neighborhood, and car-less in a somewhat walkable neighborhood and spent a fair amount of time in each of these lifestyles.

Traveling abroad has given me some perspective on USA transportation. In general, the USA just does not have the population density, even in larger cities, to have convenient public transport everywhere. And combine that with a wealthy population who mostly can easily afford their own cars, and that is why going car-less is often not so convenient. Also, union laws in many state prevent expansion of public transport (e.g., bus drivers making equivalent of $76/hour in California and they can't be fired). And many (most?) communities have laws against private transport collectives. Additionally, it is mostly lower class people on public transport in the USA, and I have found this is a big turn-off for much of the population, especially women (my last public transport experience 1 week before I left the USA -- there was a "Rainman" on board who told me my mom was crazy, among other things, and me and one other large guy almost ended up having to throw him off the bus). OK, it is what it is.

Given that, I have found it difficult to be completely car-less and still live a normal life. The hardest part is not doing things like shopping, but rather seeing my friends. They often live in residential neighborhoods, suburbs, etc. They want to get together at the last minute in an adjacent city, and they can do that with a car. Or there is a barbecue in the evening at a friend's house in the suburbs, 20 miles away. Sorry, but cabs in a high-labor-cost country like the USA just don't work for that. And neither do bikes. Even a motorbike is a stretch for most people.

So I think if you want to live to a high standard of living, you have to have access to a car sometimes. Either through a share, outright ownership (maybe of an older model with liability-only insurance), be able to rent quickly, or a service that allows you to rent by the hour.

If I were the OP, and in town 3/4 of the year, I would own a cheap car and live in a walkable neighborhood. I would choose a hot and dry climate and leave during the hottest months. Oftentimes, such a climate is not too expensive to live in because everyone else is stuck there 12 months per year (e.g., Tucson) and don't value the climate as highly.
Excellent post. On point 2-climate, I agree that it is completely cost effective and often better to live in an attractive hot and sunny place, however you define that, and get out of there in mid-simmer.

Seattle, where I live, is completely different. It is great during a short period of summer, and unreliably nice in fall. But if you weren't able to just put up with the weather the rest of the time you would likely need to spend at least 6 months of the year away.

Re car, I live in a very walkable neighborhood- not just one or a few of anything you might want, but a huge selection of everything. (Other than national type middle class stores, auto stuff, etc.) My bus service to downtown is frequent and quick, and mostly socially acceptable people ride the route. In fact I usually enjoy my rides on this route, or a university district route, or several others. But some routes are like riding a prison bus, totally beyond the pale for any sane unarmed person.

So I own a car, even though I drive less than 5000 miles/year. I walk to most medical appointments, always walk to get my groceries or if I am going to Uwajimaya I take a bus. Almost every practical thing I do is easy to walk to, and reasonably safe even late. And if my friend comes here, we have lots of attractive social opportunities right here in the neighborhood. But I will continue to own and drive as long as I think I can, for just the reason kramer mentions- social access. There is physical possiblity, and then there is social probability. I lived in Boston, right off the old Huntington Ave Green Line, and I owned a beater car which did not run in cold weather. If it had died I would have let it go. But it got me up into the mountains, and up to the north shore, and it let me offer these type trips to dates too.

Mainly this life would have been socially feasible without a car because it was a student type life- most everyone lived downtown Cambridge, or Boston Back Bay or The Fens (where I lived) or on others of the well-served subway routes. Professors and more established people didn't try to live without cars, then or now.

Also, a walk score has to be looked at pretty carefully. If you want easy access to 10 movie theaters, lots of live music, and an interesting street life, all high walk score places are not created equal!

Ha
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Old 11-02-2010, 10:21 PM   #23
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I have lived in Long Beach, CA (Los Angeles suburb) for most of my adult life, much of the time with no car (currently I can borrow one when I need it, or rent one). As long as you are comfortable cycling, you don't really need a car here. You can find good cycling routes just about anywhere here. Walking everywhere would be tougher, since there are only a few light rail routes, and the bus system is inadequate. For long distances, you can ride to a light rail station and take your bike on board if you do not want to ride the whole way. Weather is almost never an issue.
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:36 AM   #24
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santa barbara/goleta is also a good bike area. there's a bus line that runs from goleta
(north sb really) through the middle of downtown sb back every 20 minutes or so.
i lived there w/ no car for three years. s.b. is pretty bike friendly due to UCSB
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Old 11-03-2010, 04:33 AM   #25
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Thank you for sharing - great link.

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At least for this part, I can suggest Get Your Walk Score - A Walkability Score For Any Address. It's not perfect, but it does a reasonable job of pointing to highly walkable neighborhoods.
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Old 11-03-2010, 08:41 AM   #26
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Thanks for all the responses, especially the walkability site. We would really like to be able to walk to things like the library, a few restaurants/grocery stores, etc. like we can here.

We will have a car, We just would prefer not get it out if we don't have to. Driving here can be insane (I have seen worst in other cities but now that I am retired why fool with it?) If you put your blinker on, instead of people being polite and letting you through, they go faster and cut you off!

The garden seems to conflict unless we spend the summers where we "live". Are there any good "walkable" places up north?
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:06 PM   #27
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Look at the residential areas in zip code 97210. Branch library, lots of restraunts, great public transit.
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:32 PM   #28
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We decided on PV from Mid-November through mid-May where the daytime highs are 85 and lows are 65-70 with cooling Pacific breezes and low humidity (45% to 65%) and then PNW for the summer. We find the desert too cold at night so that ruled out Palm Springs and Arizona.

In spite of the bad press, it is safe as long as you avoid the border areas. We leave a car down in Mexico but the city is very walkable with good public transit (50 cents) and reasonable plentiful taxis ($5). But then it is not for everyone.
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Old 11-03-2010, 12:49 PM   #29
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I have lived in Long Beach, CA (Los Angeles suburb) for most of my adult life, much of the time with no car (currently I can borrow one when I need it, or rent one). As long as you are comfortable cycling, you don't really need a car here. You can find good cycling routes just about anywhere here. Walking everywhere would be tougher, since there are only a few light rail routes, and the bus system is inadequate. For long distances, you can ride to a light rail station and take your bike on board if you do not want to ride the whole way. Weather is almost never an issue.
I spent a couple of months there last winter. I lived at an rv park at the mouth of the LA river. I didn't have to drive around at all, I could walk or bike everywhere. Nice bike paths you have!
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Old 11-05-2010, 04:29 PM   #30
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Thanks for the new suggestions. We will definitely look up zip code 97210 (the portland area) though we really don't want to live in a big city again. We were hoping for something more like a college town.

One question where is PV I have been raking my brain trying to figure what that stands for.
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Old 11-05-2010, 06:48 PM   #31
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Thanks for the new suggestions. We will definitely look up zip code 97210 (the portland area) though we really don't want to live in a big city again. We were hoping for something more like a college town.

One question where is PV I have been raking my brain trying to figure what that stands for.
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Old 11-05-2010, 10:47 PM   #32
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Portland isn't really a big city, as cities go. What you should think about is a sense of neighborhood, that brings a city down to human scale. Are there community centers, for example, with well attended activities; coffee shops where neighbors meet? The zip code I mentioned I am sure is not the only place that meets that criteria but it is a good example of what I think you are seeking.

Great public transportation and near-by shopping requires density.
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Old 11-09-2010, 12:03 PM   #33
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Take that Walk Score website's results with a grain of salt. I compared my present address with a previous one. My current address is a mile from the center of Geneva Ill which has all the things I want to do and a train station if I want to go into the city. The walk score for it was 28. My previous address was a subdivision in Peoria Ill that was about a mile from the mall. Score for it was 68. The problem is that Geneva is very walkable with streets with no traffic. The Peoria address was close to the mall but I had to cross 6 lanes of traffic at a signal that only gave us time to get halfway accross. It was NOT pedestrian friendly.
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Old 11-09-2010, 12:18 PM   #34
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Take that Walk Score website's results with a grain of salt. I compared my present address with a previous one. My current address is a mile from the center of Geneva Ill which has all the things I want to do and a train station if I want to go into the city. The walk score for it was 28. My previous address was a subdivision in Peoria Ill that was about a mile from the mall. Score for it was 68. The problem is that Geneva is very walkable with streets with no traffic. The Peoria address was close to the mall but I had to cross 6 lanes of traffic at a signal that only gave us time to get halfway accross. It was NOT pedestrian friendly.
Absolutely, it is almost useless. Another thing it will never tell you aside from traffic imposed barriers is crime. There are plenty places where you could theoretically walk to the store, or walk downtown, if you dared. But if you were smart, you wouldn't dare.

I think there is no substitute with living somewhere to know what it is really like. In spite of living in this general area, and coming to my specific current neighborhood at least weekly over many years, it wan't until I had lived here several years that I felt I began to get the lay of the land. One small example- since I have had this apt I have noticed a grimey soot builds up on the window sills (I keep windows open at least a little, most of the time). I could never figure it out. I am pretty far from the Port, no RR within several miles, at least 1 mile from the freeway. I asked long time tenants, and they had the same experience but had never really thought about it.

Then 2 weeks ago I visited a RE Open House one street down- almost directly upwind from me. The agent mentioned a boiler that supplied heat and hot water for the whole complex. I asked, gas?- He said no, oil I think, or maybe coal.

Ha
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:49 PM   #35
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My current address is a mile from the center of Geneva Ill which has all the things I want to do and a train station if I want to go into the city.
I love Geneva and many of the towns along the Fox River. But I wouldn't consider being one mile from downtown Geneva as "walker friendly," at least not in February. I'm less than one mile from the downtown area of my town, a closer suburb of Chicago, and feel the same way about it. Despite being able to see the Chicago skyline from the roof of my single story home, there is little conveniently accessable by walking, especially in winter. We can get to entertainment, shopping, medical care, etc., easily and without much driving, but a car is essential most of the time.

The last "walker friendly" place DW and I lived was years ago on the NW side of Chicago. Our flat had the CTA bus stop, a large park, a variety of stores, several neighborhood bars and some good restaurants within one quarter mile. Actually, the bus stop was about 100 yds from our door. We could actually look out the kitchen window and see the bus coming in time to run down and catch it! And we could get to Ohare and Metra stations easily. I'd consider going car-less if we ever moved back into the city.

I do agree with you on taking all the walk scores with a grain of salt. As Ha says, you need to live someplace or at least know folks who live someplace, to get a real idea of what it would be like to be car-less there.
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Old 11-09-2010, 10:53 PM   #36
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RE: walk score

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Absolutely, it is almost useless.

Ha
Not exactly useless - I think you can use it to fairly reliably rule out some places. A low walk score is probably a legitimate problem. A high walk score comes with all the caveats you and others mention, you need to verify it with a visit or some ground reports from locals.

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I'd consider going car-less if we ever moved back into the city.
Me too. There are quite a few of those zip-car rental places around the city now, and I think that can really work out if you only need a car occasionally. Maybe 2 or 3 times a month? More than once a week and it gets questionable, you'd have to run the numbers. It would be nice to be free of car ownership ( I'm in the process of shopping now). DS and DIL are in the Jefferson Park area, so they have lots of transportation nearby, but they still use both cars regularly. There are some hours that driving is preferable to public transit. We even ran into a couple scary characters in broad daylight on a weekend on a recent trip around the city.

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Old 11-09-2010, 11:31 PM   #37
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RE: walk score



Not exactly useless - I think you can use it to fairly reliably rule out some places. A low walk score is probably a legitimate problem. A high walk score comes with all the caveats you and others mention, you need to verify it with a visit or some ground reports from locals.
You are right; I meant it in the way that you say- first screen could be high walk score, then winnow these candidates.
However, most of us can likely guess what neighborhoods have true walkability, just from casually checking them out over the years. Thus, if not exactly useless, the walk score is unnecesary while also being insufficient.

Ha
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:27 AM   #38
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We looked online at at the area with zip code of 97210 and the area looked nice being so close to that forested area but the houses looked really old and EXPENSIVE! The condo looked more reasonable but we would really like a free standing house with room for a garden. Are there any other areas around Portland that you'd suggest that aren't so expensive?

Also, for the person who mentioned PV. Is Mexico safe? We have never been there but have always "heard" that it's great by the resorts but don't wonder far from them. We probably couldn't afford the "resort" life.
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Old 11-11-2010, 12:25 PM   #39
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We looked online at at the area with zip code of 97210 and the area looked nice being so close to that forested area but the houses looked really old and EXPENSIVE! The condo looked more reasonable but we would really like a free standing house with room for a garden. Are there any other areas around Portland that you'd suggest that aren't so expensive?
Absolutely. Eugene.
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Old 11-11-2010, 07:19 PM   #40
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Public transit is very good in Portland but the best is in well established neighborhoods. Your budget is something I don't know. Note, however, that the RE free fall is coming later to Portland so prices, when you are ready to move could be quite different. Right now there are a couple attractively prices quality condos/co-op units listed (2323 SW Park Place, 1620 NE Broadway St and 2335 NW Raleigh Street). New doesn't mean better, or construction without problems. Newer housing can be found around the Max stations in the Orenco neighborhood near Hillsboro BUT some structures I hear have had problems with building envelope integrity (poorly flashed, they leaked) and I am not sure where their neighborhood grocery is located. PM me if you think this area would work for you and I give you a hand.

It has been a long time since I lived in Eugene. Their public transit is good too, because of the presence of the University. Eugene has very reasonably priced performing arts events as well. You are more likely to find a single family dwelling at a price lower than Portland's in Eugene, and if you are convenient to the U and find the right structure, rent a room to a student. Eugene is a town where when people buy a house they put down roots, you will likely get to know your neighbors very well. Oh, Eugene has NO snow removal equipment. Snow is a rarity, not worth the investment.

In both Portland and Eugene Fred Meyer (Kroger) and Safeway are the major grocers. You may want to search for a home either a short bus/streetcar ride away or be a walkable distance.

For myself I like a city that has good air service making Portland more attractive. That said, Eugene is on the main N-S Amtrak route.
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