November 07, 2011

Car-free in Phoenix? Impossible! (well, not really)

by: Eddie Jensen


Today’s post is by my friend and fellow central Phoenix advocate Edward Jensen.

Having lived and learned in central Phoenix for the past decade, Edward Jensen is a midtown Phoenix resident and an advocate for alternative transportation. He is on the Downtown Voices Coalition’s Steering Committee where he works to advance bicycling and alternative transportation. A 2011 alumnus of ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, he is presently a technology and IT consultant for his new firm, Downtown Technology Company. His blog is, he is on Twitter at @edwardjensen and has a Facebook page at

Imagine not having a car in Phoenix. It seems almost impossible to get around, doesn’t it? Phoenix is so sprawling: the city measures over 100 miles at its widest point.

But a few brave friends and me, we don’t have cars.  We’re car-free people.  And we’re care-free people too: We enjoy not having to worry about rising gas prices or the negative effects that cars and gasoline have on the environment.  We enjoy being able to take public transportation and getting things done while we are taken from one place to another.  We see things on the human scale, not automobile scale.  Even at the depths of Phoenix’s infernal and seemingly endless summers, we’re out standing at our bus stop, light rail station, or bicycling around.

I don’t have a car.  In fact, I’ve never had a car growing up.  It’s just something that I never really needed and something that I’ve definitely not wanted.  And, living in the heart of midtown Phoenix near the Heard Museum light rail station, I’m enabled and empowered to travel to many places.  I can hop on light rail and in eight minutes, I’m in the heart of downtown Phoenix.  In twelve minutes, I can be to Camelback and stop at cool places like Smeeks, Practical Art, or Central Music.  Plus, there are a lot of locally owned coffeehouses near light rail stations.

Because I know of a few others who are car-free (or car-lite), I’ve joined with a few others to create a Facebook page in which we share hints, tips, and advice for others who are already car-free or considering joining the club. It’s called Car(e)-free in Phoenix.  The name really shows off that we’re car-free and also care-free.

If Facebook isn’t your thing, I’ll share a couple hints here for how to be car-free in Phoenix:

Google Maps is your friend.  About a couple years ago, Google Maps integrated Metropolitan Phoenix transit data into its maps so you can now get transit directions around town.  A word, though: some of the transit data is missing.  So check for the latest information.

Get a smartphone/tablet computer. With the time you’ll be spending on light rail or on the bus, you can do things. And while you can work on things or read a book, it’s a good thing to have a smartphone. The transit information from Google Maps is easily accessible from iPhones, Android-powered devices, or BlackBerries.

Go and explore. If you have a free day, take public transportation, your bicycle, or whatever means of non-car transportation and go exploring. Alight from the train at a stop you’d normally skip and see what’s in that neighborhood.  Or take the bus to a place you’d normally drive to.  Or ride your bike to somewhere different and interesting.

Have a sense of humor. You’ll probably get frustrated right away because things aren’t going the way you’d thought.  Everyone just misses their train or bus.  So shrug it off and wait for the next train or the next bus.  Or even walk to where you’re going (if it isn’t far away).

It’s sometimes a challenge not having a car in a car-dominant city.  Getting around sans automobile isn’t always easy.  But it is possible.  And when you’ve mastered the challenge, you’ll feel good.

Photo Credit: Photo from

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10 Responses

  1. Jonce says:

    Amen Eddie!

  2. Donna says:

    And as I tell people, I get more exercise because I use public transportation than if I used my car. I run to catch the bus (deliberately cutting it close), I walk/jog to the nearest light rail stop (.6 mile), and when I’m really lazy, and between buses, I try to see if I can walk home to my normal stop arriving there before the bus. It is a mental challenge. Just it’s too bad that the buses don’t run as late as the light rail so I could do more things in the evening especially on the weekends.

  3. Will Novak says:

    Nice post. I think for most people being car free in PHX, or really most US cities is a pretty tall task. But if we can shift more couples and small families in PHX to a single car household I think that would be a terrific step, we need to get past every single person having their own car.

  4. I ride my bicycle to work everyday, and my family of four and I are planning to be a single car household by the end of the year. Phoenix is a very bikable city, flat, with many routes to choose from, good integration with bus racks and light rail, and the incredible if grossly underused canal path system. People with vision such as yourself and Taz are incredibly important to help remind the humans who live in this valley of the benefits of human-scaled living.

  5. Laura Stone says:

    Partner and I have professional jobs, and share a single car. Our central city location makes this possible. I applaud Eddie and other car-free souls, but we’ve got a lot of work to make this sustainable.
    How does this work for the single mom who has just received a call that her child MUST be picked up at school. Now.
    Or the busy family with kids in after-school soccer, violin, origami classes?
    Or the car-free who might like to visit a State Park?
    Or when anyone needs to go the emergency room at 1 a.m.?
    We are getting there, but still have a long way to go to make accessibility work across all economic and across the metro area.

  6. Good post. I agree with some of the comments above. For one-person households, car-free may be an option. For most families, moving from the model of one car per adult to one par per household is probably more realistic. That’s a goal I’m working toward one step at a time.

  7. […] Rock! What does this mean? Besides two car-free-oriented blog posts (check out Eddie Jensen’s guest post if you missed it), Paul and I have committed to going from car-lite to car-free for the week. […]

  8. Nicely put! My sediments exactly – after going car free, I noticed how the the city opens up and you’re able to truly experience what’s around. Other cities in the world have huge biking communities; Copenhagen for example comprises 1/3 of the city with biking commuters. Phoenix definitely has the potential to be the next biking city on the map!

    @Laura – to your point, not having a car in emergency situations can be difficult. However, I do think there are solutions to some of the issues you mentioned. For example, what if people had more community vehicles that could be checked out /rented for emergencies or errands for large items? If we had more community-related options, to alleviate the pressure for individuals who feel solely responsible to coordinate 20 things during the day, we would be able to have a collective neighborhood. This also translates to other areas you mentioned, such as children activities – carpooling to these events or having them hosted in a more centrally-located area.

    By focusing on experiencing life with one another, we can consolidate our efforts and limit time on the road.

  9. […] featured two such people who have chosen the create a car-free lifestyle in our full-of-cars city, Eddie Jensen and Nicole Underwood. Their stories, along with those of others who have chosen this path, inspired […]

  10. nice post. thanks for sharing

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