In most areas of the country having a car is a necessity. However, in Chicago one has always been able to get away without having a vehicle, and it’s only getting easier to do so.
I’ve been a resident of the greatest city in the Midwest for 13 years and I just got my first car. I owned a home before leasing or owning a car and didn’t give it a second thought. I was even a landlord before considering having a car to fill my empty parking spot.
Between the CTA and Metra, Chicago has one of the best public transportation systems in the country.
The El is an easy way to get from almost any of the 77 city neighborhoods into the Loop, and almost every major street has bus service. Car sharing services such as Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare have been available for over a decade and continue to grow. In just four years the divvy bike share system has gone from 75 stations and 750 bikes to 620 stations and 6,200 bikes, and data shows that 42% of divvy rides are for work commutes.
Many argue that Uber and Lyft make it easier than ever to go car-less, and in the grand scheme of things those are relatively new to the market.
So how can it possibly get easier for Chicagoans without a vehicle? The transit-oriented developments are beginning to multiply. Several years ago incentives were offered to builders who developed multi-unit dwellings within a specified distance from transit stations. This program allowed developers to dedicate fewer parking spots per unit than the law previously acceptable. The initiative generated so much positive development activity that the specified distance from a transit station was quickly doubled, and the number of parking spaces was brought down further if developers agreed to build in alternative transit options such as zip car parking or divvy stations.
There are now literally thousands of units available (and many more on the way) for carless Chicagoans to choose from that are mere steps from El stations. If a resident of a TOD (transit oriented development) needs to rent a zipcar to go play golf in the suburbs they probably do not need to leave their building to do so. If a person needs to travel between two points that are not on the same train or bus line quickly and cheaply there is guaranteed to be a divvy station close to both the departure point and destination.
In Chicago you can always get where you want to go, and unlike many other cities you can do this while avoiding huge car and insurance payments along the way!