Category Archives: walking

Which U.S. City Is Really The Best For Getting Around? Hint: Not LA

Detroit doesn't always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

Detroit doesn’t always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

It seems like every other day there’s a new “top cities” list. There are the top cities for foodies, the happiest cities, the best cities for families, and even the weirdest cities. And of course, we care most about the best cities for transit — walking, biking, public transportation, and traffic flow.

While it’s hard to compare lists, we thought it might be useful to see if there are any notable similarities or differences on these “best cities” lists.

Here are five lists from the past few years. Let’s see how they compare.

Livability’s Top 10 Best Downtowns
Livability ranks America’s best places to live, work and visit, based on a wide array of criteria. This particular list, created in 2014, looks at cities; downtowns, based on population growth, the ratio of residents to jobs, income growth, home vacancy rates, affordability of housing, and the vacancy rates of retail and office spaces. We like this list because it is includes some lesser-known cities in lieu of the major U.S. cities seen on most lists.

  1. Fort Worth, Texas
  2. Providence, R.I.
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Provo, Utah
  5. Alexandria, Va.
  6. Frederick, Md.
  7. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  8. Bellingham, Wash.
  9. Eugene, Ore.
  10. Birmingham, Ala.

Top 10 Best American Downtowns, ranked by Top Tenz
Top Tenz, a site solely dedicated to top 10 lists, included the usual favorites in this list from 2012. But this list deviates from the norm with its inclusion of Detroit and Milwaukee, both of which appear do not appear on any of the other lists we looked at for this post.

Detroit in particular is a noteworthy choice — it seems to wind up on more “worst cities” lists than those that rank the best. But Top Tenz calls Detroit’s downtown “one of the most architecturally impressive in the country” and notes that the city has been revitalized in the recent years following intensive development.

  1. New York City
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Chicago
  4. San Francisco
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Miami
  7. Boston
  8. Seattle
  9. Detroit
  10. Milwaukee

Continue reading

Comments Off on Which U.S. City Is Really The Best For Getting Around? Hint: Not LA

Filed under advice, bicycling, cars, cities, urban planning, walking

The Results Are In! How You Told Us You’re Getting Around In 2014

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

More than any other mode of transportation, our Curbing Cars readers get around by walking.

By Micheline Maynard

Back on New Year’s Day (a mere month and three days ago), we asked our Curbing Cars audience to tell us how you planned to get around in 2014. We got a terrific response and now we’re sharing the results with you.

We’re ambulatory. Most of us still use cars, but not as much as we use other types of transportation in the mix of the ways we get places. The number one way Curbing Cars readers get around is on two feet. Almost 80 percent of respondents say they get around most frequently by walking. That was followed by public transportation, used by 69.7 percent; cars, used by 58.1 percent and other modes of transportation, which included running, Zipcars or car sharing programs, and taxis.

Several people told us that they use of a mix of transportation in a single day. “I walk to work every day, bus in bad weather, bike for some errands in spring/summer/fall. use my car mainly for weekend shopping and for getting out of town,” replied one survey participant.

In fact, I’m doing more walking this winter in Phoenix, where I’m a Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State. I walk to school every day from my home downtown, and I’ve walked to the farmer’s market, the movies, to drinks and dinner, and to the Phoenix Opera in the month since I’ve been here. Even though I walked frequently in Ann Arbor, I am doing even more daily walking here. (And of course, the weather is much better…)

We’re pleased with our choices. People seem to be pretty satisfied with the mix of the ways they get places. About 60 percent of you said you were happy with your transportation mix. About 24 percent said they’d like to change it, and the rest said they would like to change it, but couldn’t for various reasons. Continue reading

Comments Off on The Results Are In! How You Told Us You’re Getting Around In 2014

Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, car sharing, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, Poll, public transportation, Uncategorized, walking

Dream Warmly, Anne Is Advised From Houston

It isn't likely Anne will see cows on her commute, as David Lippert does in Houston.

It isn’t likely Anne will see cows on her commute, as David Lippert does in Houston.

By Micheline Maynard

Curbing Cars readers are offering Advice for Anne on whether she should keep her 1998 Honda Civic or go car free. David Lippert and his family went car free in Houston, and here he weighs in with some suggestions.

Hi Anne,

It sounds like you have some of the key ingredients to go car-free. Our regular activities are school, work, groceries.

Even when we had a car, we made choices to minimize the loss should that happen.

I took the bus to work downtown.  My daughter has always used the school bus and groceries had to be walking distance or take a bus there and a cab back.   My wife is a stay a home Mom.  These life choices were less about ideology and more about fear of being stranded.

These are some tips for helping you to make your decision. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under advice, walking

Should She Keep Her Car Or Go Car Free? Your Advice For Anne

By Micheline Maynard

Ask, and ye shall receive! Our reader Anne in Ann Arbor, Michigan, asked Curbing Cars last week to help her decide whether she should keep her 1998 Honda Civic, or take the plunge and go car free.

Anne's 1998 Honda Civic

Anne’s 1998 Honda Civic

Your advice has come flooding in. Here’s the first response, from John Lloyd. (We’ll be featuring more Advice for Anne this week.)

Dear Anne,

Great question!  The fact that you’re asking whether to keep your car is a wonderful indication that you have freed your mind from the tyranny of the automobile.  I have been living “car light” for the past 3 years, and driving my car less and less every year.
Like you, I have an older car (a 2000 Toyota Corolla), and I only fill the tank a couple of times a year.  I’d love to go completely car-free, but I live in a car-dependent suburb and like knowing I have the option in an emergency.  If we had a Zipcar available nearby I’d feel better able to let the car go completely, but since we don’t, I’ve hung on to it. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under advice, cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

Help Anne Decide Whether To Keep Or Give Up Her Car

Anne's 1998 Honda Civic

Anne’s 1998 Honda Civic

By Micheline Maynard

People are cutting back on driving, and many are giving up their cars all together. We’ve told some of those stories here on Curbing Cars, like Andrew Hartford in Austin, Texas, and Lauren Steele, in Columbia, Mo. Now, one of our Curbing Cars readers wants some help in deciding whether she should keep her car, or cut the cord.

Her name is Anne (she asked us not to use her last name) and she lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ann Arbor has an extensive public transportation system, and it’s also a very walkable city. But it gets its share of snow and ice, and some parts of the city aren’t as accessible by transit and foot.

Here is Anne’s story (and that’s her 1998 Honda Civic above). Once you’ve read it, please send Advice For Anne to our email address: curbingcars@gmail.com. We’ll publish your responses and Anne will tell us what she’s decided. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

In Michigan, Redesigning A Campus For People, Bikes And Cars

In our latest student-written story, Curbing Cars intern Matthew Varcak at Central Michigan University looks at plans to redesign the campus for every kind of transportation use.

By Matthew Varcak

If you say Mount Pleasant to anyone in Michigan, the first thing they might name is Central Michigan University – a university that nearly doubles the city’s population from September through May.

CMU is a public school, whose campus covers 871 acres, and has 17,771 undergraduate students. This year, CMU had the NFL’s No. 1 draft pick, Eric Fisher.

Mount Pleasant also has a sprawling casino, resort and water park run by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, an ample public transportation system, and a picturesque small town atmosphere.

The city and the university, however, aren’t known for being bicycle or pedestrian friendly. But some people are trying to change this. They are redesigning the campus with an emphasis on how it will be used by people, bicycles and cars.

CMU’s 2013 Campus Master Plan, which sets the direction of the university for the next century, features plans to make the campus more accessible for bikes and pedestrians. (See the master plan at the end of this article.) Continue reading

Comments Off on In Michigan, Redesigning A Campus For People, Bikes And Cars

Filed under bicycling, cars, public transportation, student stories, walking

Do We Really Have To Get Rid Of All The Cars?

photo(14)By Micheline Maynard

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about something I spotted on The Atlantic Monthly’s website. It’s called, “The Case Against Cars In 1 Utterly Entrancing GIF.” You can take a look at it here.

Basically, the animation shows a street full of cars, flashing to their drivers seated on the road. Then those people are grouped, and loaded onto a streetcar. The point of the GIF is to show how public transit reduces congestion.

Since Curbing Cars launched this summer, I’ve been struck by the polarization in the discussion over transportation use. At one end are people who think cars are evil and to be avoided at all costs. At the other end are those who love automobiles and think the people who despise them are crazy.

There’s very little discussion about the middle ground, which is where I think many Americans are heading, and will be heading in the next few years. That is, cars as part of a mix of personal transportation, but not the only option. It’s what the Livable Streets Coalition calls “driving light,” and which others call “living car light.”

That seems to make perfect sense, and yet, as with many moderate points of view, that thought seems to be getting overlooked. Continue reading

Comments Off on Do We Really Have To Get Rid Of All The Cars?

Filed under cars, Curbing Cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

In Columbia, Missouri, A Decision To Curb A Car

Lauren Steele on the bridge she crosses each day in Columbia, MO.

Lauren Steele on the bridge she crosses each day in Columbia, MO.

In our first story by a student writer, Curbing Cars presents this tale of trading driving for walking.

By Lauren Steele

Walking out of the Ragtag Cinema in downtown Columbia, Missouri with a friend last August, our conversation quickly went from Silver Linings Playbook to an Ashton Kutcher film from a few years back.

“Dude, where’s your car?”

My smug chuckle was quickly gagged with a lump in my throat and the realization that my friend was not quoting the movie.  My car was gone.

We interrogated some car-towing witnesses and took a cab to a sketchy gas station, where I was reunited with my Pontiac. After writing a $160 check to retrieve it, I made a resolution—my car was getting curbed.

I had a few transportation options, such as the free shuttles that ran from my apartment complex, riding a bike, or walking. As a small-town farm girl and a dedicated runner, I considered each choice with a certain dogged stubbornness.

The shuttle seemed like a lazy option and I didn’t want to wrap my schedule around its pick-up times. My bike was a rusted out piece of unreliability, and the hills of Columbia beat most cyclists, leaving them pushing their bikes and hoofing it.

If I was going to have to walk, I figured I might as well go all or nothing, and walk the whole way. Plus, Columbia caters to pedestrians with lots of trails, great sidewalks and crosswalks that don’t favor drivers. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under cars, student stories, walking

New York, New York, More Than Ever, A Big Transit Town

By Micheline Maynard

Fewer vehicles, more transit in New York City.

Depending on your view of New York City, it’s a walker’s paradise, a traffic nightmare, or a place where it pays to ride the subway.

Now, the city has come out with its annual Sustainable Streets Index report, and the results show The Big Apple is mirroring the rest of the country in the way it gets around.

Since 2003, citywide transit ridership has grown 9.5 percent, while citywide traffic has declined 3.9 percent. Subway and bus ridership is growing, while driving remains essentially flat.

The changes are most noticeable in the Manhattan central business district, which is the area below 60th Street (the southern border of Central Park). Over the past 10 years, transit use here is up 11.3 percent, while car traffic has declined 6.5 percent.

Meanwhile, there was a 4 percent increase in cycling during 2012, before Citi Bikes arrived on the scene. There has been a 58 percent increase in year-around cycling since 2008, and an 86 percent increase in people cycling during the winter. (As a side note: New York City gets snowstorms, but not the hammering that cities like Chicago and Boston are accustomed to getting.)

Continue reading

Comments Off on New York, New York, More Than Ever, A Big Transit Town

Filed under bicycling, bike sharing, cars, Driving, public transportation, walking

My Transportation Diary: Living Without A Car In Houston

By Micheline Maynard

How often do you see cows on your commute?

How often do you see cows on your commute?

When you think of Texas, you think of pickup trucks and Cadillacs, right? David Lippert doesn’t. He, his wife and his child are managing to get along without a car.

Dave is able to fill his transportation needs by walking and riding the bus. He goes to work, shops at Walmart, and handles everything else car free. He even gets to see livestock during his commute.

Here’s Dave’s diary.

“Monday – Friday.  7:30 am – walk to West Road and Greens Crossing, 66 bus south, transfer to 108 downtown at Shepherd Park and Ride.  Get off at Jefferson Street.  ~50 minutes. $1.25

 5:00 pm – 108 north to West Mt. Houston.  Fiesta grocery store, Walgreens and taco truck at transfer point and used occasionally as needed.  Bus 66 N to West Road and Greens Crossing.  1.5 hours $1.25

Cross busy street carefully.  Walk to apartments. Continue reading

Comments Off on My Transportation Diary: Living Without A Car In Houston

Filed under My Transportation Diary, public transportation, walking