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Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary The Triangle Area
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Old 04-13-2012, 11:41 PM
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Is it easy to live in Raleigh without a car especially in the downtown area? How about the rest of the Triangle?
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Old 04-14-2012, 01:54 AM
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No. Public transit here is very sparse. Very difficult to live car-free here. I miss the great public transit in NYC after living 22 years in Raleigh.

Another area would be a better choice.

The interstates are unlighted and poorly designed.

Even the so-called downtown does not have concentrated services.
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:58 AM
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I agree with ^. I am an old pro at living without a car, 12 years now, and I tried to do it in Raleigh but the city is uncoordinated. I did it for a year, but I moved back to Carrboro, where the buses are free and they actually have a downtown with a super market.

I will say, however, that if you pick up a 50cc scooter the city is very doable. There are so many nice back roads to zip through that people in cars miss.
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Old 04-14-2012, 06:53 AM
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I would generally agree with the previous two posters, although I'm perhaps a bit more sanguine about it. I, also, had the experience of living without a car for a little more than a year a few years ago near downtown Raleigh. At the time, going "carless" was not a choice I made voluntarily, but just a matter of circumstances and my level of poverty at the time. Before I lost my car, I dreaded it, and I thought that being without a car in Raleigh would be horrible. In truth, though, it wasn't horrible, and it was actually a lot better than I had anticipated. As the other posters mentioned, public transportation in Raleigh isn't great, but I still found it useful, and I rode it a lot all over the place while I was without a car (and in fact I've continued to ride it from time to time even since I've had my car back). Between the CAT buses, riding my bicycle, walking, taking an occasional taxi, and bumming rides from friends and acquaintances, I found I was able to get just about everywhere I needed or wanted to go without too much hassle. It was okay. But, that being said, I was absolutely overjoyed when I got my car back, and having at least access to a car is a tremendously valuable resource for a quality lifestyle in Raleigh. So, Hamelin Delacroix, to answer your original question: "[i]s it easy to live in Raleigh without a car especially in the downtown area...?" Yes and no. It's easier than you might think, and easier than some of the negative people would have you believe. And Raleigh is a great city to live in, in my opinion, even if your transportation situation isn't ideal. But it's not as easy (or at least not as convenient) to live car-free in Raleigh as it is in many bigger, denser cities with better public transportation systems. I agree with crzchn that having a scooter would help you a lot, or at least a good bicycle. Oh, well.

The key to living a decent car-free life in Raleigh, and also in the other cities in the Triangle, in my experience, is where specifically you live, and where specifically you're commuting to work, school, or other daily activities. Locations in Raleigh and throughout the Triangle actually vary enormously in terms of their accessibility to carless transportation. I found when I was without a car that there were some places that I could get to very easily and quickly, and others that were nothing short of a colossal hassle. I had the good fortune of living in a fairly accessible place (inside the Beltline, just northeast of downtown) and also working in a fairly accessible place (near Meredith College). So, my daily commute was fairly doable, which made my life easier. People I knew who had to try to commute without a car to some more far-flung place way up in far North Raleigh, or somewhere out in the small towns on the semi-rural fringes of town, or other places harder to reach without a car had a much harder time and a much more miserable experience.

Good luck!
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Old 04-14-2012, 08:33 AM
Location: Chicagoland
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After a lifetime living in suburbs, we'd also like our next place (most likely the Triangle area) to allow us to use a car much less. The most walkable places are the large older cities like San Francisco, NYC, Chicago, Boston, Philly, Seattle - but they're all incredibly expensive (at least the most walkable areas).

Unfortunately, most newer cities like the Triangle's have grown based on suburban development, thanks to generations of cheap plentiful gas. But there are some pockets in the Triangle area that are better than others in terms of walkability as previous replies have mentioned specifically. I suspect the OP has seen these websites, but in case he/she hasn't:

Raleigh Rentals, Apartments, and Neighborhoods on Walk Score
walkinginfo.org: Walkability Checklist

The first especially has been helpful for us, best of luck...
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Old 04-14-2012, 11:24 AM
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Chapel Hill has free buses.
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Old 04-14-2012, 01:39 PM
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You certainly can't choose an apartment off of Strickland Road and expect to get around easily without a car. But as tompope said, if you chose your home carefully and have a job that's close by or accessible by bus without a transfer, it's possible and not too bad.

By my estimation, the best place for going carfree in Raleigh is as close to the intersection of Oberlin & Clark as you can find. From there, it's a very short walk to the Cameron Village Harris Teeter, and a very short walk to oodles of bus routes that run along Hillsborough Street that take you directly to all sorts of places all over the triangle. Also plenty of interesting shops, restaurants, and bars within a 1/4 mile walk from there too.
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Old 04-14-2012, 03:17 PM
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Downtown Raleigh has the free R-Line to get you places in and around downtown "proper". Then there's the main city bus terminal at Moore Square (Capital Area Transit I believe) from what I hear gets you anywhere around town. My neighbors take it to work everyday in RTP, North Hills, etc.

There are a bunch of proposals on the table for rapid transit through downtown planned for the future but we'll see.
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Old 04-14-2012, 04:37 PM
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Though I know you didn't exactly ask this, I should also bring up ... would you want to travel outside of the Triangle, whether on business or pleasure, or do you anticipate staying in the area most of the time? If you just want to generally stay within the Triangle, and aren't the type to do much venturing, it's indeed do-able, depending on where you work or socialize, and yes, you'd be better off residing in Downtown Raleigh or Durham, or Downtown Chapel Hill. Downtown Cary might be feasible as well. Buses in the more far-flung areas are very much a challenge, though if you check your schedules, and don't mind playing "musical bus lines", as well as not being in a hurry to get where you're going, you might be OK with some areas outside of the Downtowns. Pick-up and drop-off times may be limited, though.

However, if you're expecting a D.C. Metro-like situation, or one similar to those in many other metropolitan cities, no ... we're not even close to that level. And public transportation of any sort outside of the Triangle, even if it's JUST outside the Triangle, can be spotty. If you want to travel to cities just outside of the Triangle, you will most likely need a car, though I have heard of people van-pooling. And if you're envisioning taking a bus to the beach for a nice day trip, as far as I know, that's not do-able.

If you want to go to Charlotte, however, you do have AMTRAK, and I believe a bus line or two goes there. Traveling to Richmond is very much possible via bus or train, as well, and you can certainly continue the non-car travel up to DC and beyond via bus or train ... and yes, airlines as well. You can usually grab a bus or taxi to the air, bus or train terminals easily enough. I've had to grab a bus on several occasions when people were unable to drop me off at the terminals. The city buses are usually clean and comfortable.


I just thought I'd bring this up, in case you're the type who likes to explore.

Last edited by gazania; 04-14-2012 at 04:51 PM..
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Old 04-15-2012, 05:38 AM
Location: Durham, NC
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I absolutely agree with all the caveats shared here. That said, I know people who have done the car-free thing, with (as others have said) careful planning around options and location.

The Raleigh advice in the Cameron Village area strikes me as sensible. Durham's downtown areas are worth a look, too, as is Chapel Hill.

In Durham, we have the Bull City Connector, a free bus service (Mon-Sat) from downtown to Duke, which passes a Whole Foods Market (and in the next year or so, a Harris Teeter) along with other shopping, restaurants, etc. Downtown, Trinity Park, and Burch Ave., are all a close walk to the Bull City Connector; Old West Durham, Watts-Hillandale, and Old North Durham a further walk or easy bike ride.

There is also the city bus service, which is getting more and more robust under better management and which has a nice downtown bus station near the popular American Tobacco complex. If you end up working for an employer like state gov't or major universities you can get a free GoPass if you live or work near downtown or campus; if you are on Medicare, a Durham bus pass runs $18/month, and a regional bus pass including Triangle Transit and Raleigh CAT is $34/month. Double both of those if you are not a Medicare beneficiary.

Bus service is (to me at least) getting easier to use thanks to real-time vehicle locator systems that let you use your smartphone or send SMS from a regular cell phone to get real-time bus status. Definitely takes the worrying/uncertainty out of transit use.

We also have a couple of Zipcar stations in Durham, including one right up the street from me at the Kings Daughters Inn. Chapel Hill has Zipcar as well. I don't know whether non-university affiliates can rent through them, but WeCar (a similar service from Enterprise Rent-a-Car) operates on Duke's campus, too.

For regional transportation, Amtrak was mentioned earlier, and does operate out of downtown stations in Durham along with Raleigh and Cary. There is also the Megabus, a private bus service that has 3x daily trips from downtown Durham to Charlotte and to Washington, DC.

In terms of other services, besides the aforementioned grocery shopping: if you end up getting medical care through Duke, which is the predominant source of health care in Durham, many specialty appointments are at the main campus hospital, although you'd want to pick a PCP who had good access of main bus lines. There may be PCPs at the Duke South/hospital area, I've never checked. There is a bus stop near my PCP's practice on Pickett Rd.

Northgate Mall is in walking or easy biking distance from downtown. It's nobody's favorite mall around here, and has frankly struggled, but does have a first-run movie theater, major department stores (Macy's/Sears), an Office Depot, a CompUSA and the like, making it reasonable for some routine shopping. You'd need bus service to get to the Target/Walmart-style big box stores or to Southpoint, the popular but suburban shopping choice. A Costco, Home Depot and Petsmart are about a mile and a half north of Northgate and accessible via transit as well, but aren't yet an easy walk/bike due to the nature of the roads and I-85 separating them.

The real key is knowing where your job, if any, will be. The more transit connections you have to make, and the more you depend on lines (like Triangle Transit) that don't run on Sundays, the more challenges you would see, IMO.
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