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Unpopular opinion: You can live in Seattle without a car, you just don’t want to

A South Lake Union streetcar with an advertisement for's same-day delivery service passes by an Amazon office building in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

If you live in Seattle, you don’t really need a car, according to KIRO Nights Gee Scott and Drew Barth.

Of course, that unpopular opinion depends on where you live around Seattle.

“If you live in Seattle, yes, you can live without a car,” Gee said. “If you live on the outskirts of Seattle, you can’t.”

So what counts as the “outskirts?” According to Gee, places like Tacoma, Renton, Everett, Auburn, or Snohomish.

“But those are other cities,” Producer Drew argues. “Where do the outskirts start? Where do you start to feel like if somebody asked you to hang out, you are at a disadvantage without a car?”

According to Drew, Seattle’s outskirts begin around Mountlake Terrace, or Lynnwood at the furthest. And as far south as SeaTac. He argues, however, that none of this would be an issue if the Seattle region got its act together 40 years ago and started investing in extensive mass transit then.

Carless in Seattle

While the region does boast a decent mix of mass transit and private transportation systems — with buses, bikeshares, ferries, a growing light rail system, rideshares, carshares, and more — traffic continues to plague the area with commutes adding up to hours. On top of that, local drivers aren’t known for being too great either.

Experts predict a massive change in transportation habits within 10-25 years when driverless car services could replace private car ownership. Rideshare and carshare services may be ahead of that curve.

More than 9,000 Seattleites reportedly ditched car ownership in 2016 in favor of services such as Car2Go or ReachNow. Rideshares have also changed things locally. Uber and Lyft are on track to offer 31 million customer trips over 2018. It’s a service that Gee favors.

“I am looking forward to the day of being done with the car,” Gee said. “I think the day I go without a car is when Uber and Lyft come up with a deal. The deal would be something like $599 a month, unlimited rides. That way I get rid of my gas, and I just take Uber every day.”

How about $299 a month? It’s not exactly all inclusive, but that is how much Lyft is charging for a monthly program. Users get 30 trips costing up to $15, and pay the difference if the ride runs over (that’s about a $150 savings). Lyft has been pushing the program in Seattle.


Bikeshare company Lime might straddle between the carshare and rideshare companies with its own, new product in Seattle. Lime is launching a car-on-demand service similar to its free-floating bikes. Customers find a parked car using their smartphone, unlock it and ride away — just like their bikes. The cars are small Fiats. They cost $1 to unlock, then 40 cents a minute after that.

“At the end of the day. It comes to what I’m saving on car insurance, gas, car payments,” Drew said. “If you can get that to a point where the rideshare evens out, it gets tempting to abandon your car.”

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