Living Car-Free in LA: Social Events

by Ryan Johnson, Planner, Alta Planning + Design

During my seven years in Los Angeles living car-free, I’ve often surprised friends or new acquaintances when I show up for a conference, happy hour, or another social event without a personal automobile. “Wait, you didn’t take the I-10 to get out to the Westside?!” they’ll ask. After I got over the initial disappointment of not being able to join the endless conversations about which freeway combinations folks used to get from point A to B, I eventually took pride in knowing that I’d be one of the few bar-goers not driving under the influence. I realized that perhaps the best benefit of living car-free in this city is that I never have to deal with the decision of whether or not I’m physically capable of driving home after a couple drinks (and I never get tagged as the designated driver!).

I’m sure all those drivers at the tavern are leaving their cars and taking taxis, right?
I’m sure all those drivers at the tavern are leaving their cars and taking taxis, right?

Rather than seeing it as a burden, my wife and I love taking the bus, a rideshare vehicle, or (gasp) walking to a bar to meet friends. We don’t have to worry about finding parking in a popular commercial district, the meter money we save can pay a couple extra dollars for the tip, and we get some fresh air on the way home. It’s even better when we get a few friends to join us on the trip, making the ride to and from the gathering part of the fun.

Traveling to grad school prom the responsible way
Traveling to grad school prom the responsible way.

I have seen some positive signs of change in recent years as far as the methods people use to get to and from their social events. More people are using apps like Uber and Lyft to hire a very inexpensive chauffeur for the evening, enjoying the curb-to-curb service. Transit bar hops are growing in popularity, which are effective ways of encouraging hesitant people to try transit for the first time. And Metro, the local transit agency, even offers free, all night rail service on Christmas and New Year’s Eve! This service has been a nice gateway for partiers to experience a long night on the town while avoiding the inevitable traffic congestion, police checkpoints, and other stresses of driving home on major holidays.

Metro Gold Line pub crawl stop in South Pasadena.

While there are many reasons to living car-free in Los Angeles (e.g., economic necessity, environmental consciousness, personal health), my own favorite reason may simply be the peace of mind knowing that I’m never part of the intoxicated driving problem in our country. (Note: It is also dangerous and illegal to ride a bicycle while intoxicated, so please leave the biking to a sober friend as well!) Arriving at a bar or other social meet-ups via public transit, walking, taxi, or in a rideshare vehicle also removes most of the stress of getting to your destination in a city as congested as ours. And while designated drivers should be celebrated as heroes, wouldn’t you rather be a designated walker?

It’s great to have a responsible friend to bike you home from the pub!