You Don't Need a Car in L.A.

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The Greater L.A. area is clogged with cars, and the average Angeleno wasted 81 hours in gridlock in 2015, according to Inrix, a company that studies traffic. Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/Getty

I've never been good with cars. I can't change a tire or replace a spark plug. I've backed into my parents' garage door and put diesel in my father's minivan. (It took regular, and we had to drain the gas tank.)

For 11 years, however, I didn't have to worry about driving. I lived in New York. But last summer, I moved to Los Angeles, a city where an enema is considered a meal and a car is considered a second home.

The Greater L.A. area is clogged with cars, and the average Angeleno wasted 81 hours in gridlock in 2015, according to Inrix, a company that studies traffic. Mortified by the prospect of being imprisoned in a Prius, listening to "California Love" until I'm filled with hate, I held off on buying a car. I'm still holding out, and I've discovered something surprising: You don't need a car in L.A. Since mid-2013, the city has installed more than 45 miles of bike lanes and finished the new Expo Line, which now connects downtown to the Santa Monica Pier (yes, L.A. has a subway). Los Angeles also has many more Uber drivers than it did three years ago.

Every day, I walk, use public transit, bike and pay strangers to drive me around. Like a growing number of people, according to a survey from Los Angeles County, I work from home, which makes being carless much easier. My neighborhood, Santa Monica, is incredibly walkable. Plus, ride sharing is fast and cheap (sometimes disturbingly so).

Freed from the burden of owning my own car, I never have to worry about potential DUIs or finding parking. Lyft is my limo. I get around for roughly $400 a month, or $4,800 a year, less than half of what the average sedan owner pays annually to own and operate a car.

I have been tempted to lease a white BMW, like everyone else in Santa Monica. Not out of necessity but for respect. Even with the growing number of East Coast transplants—who tend to define status more by who you know or what you wear—not having a car carries a terrible stigma. It's such an important status symbol that people talk about it on Tinder: "If you drive a Prius, swipe left," one woman wrote. We didn't match.

Which is why I was nervous last December when I met a young woman downtown. It was our first date, and I didn't want to tell her about my, ahem, problem. But as we tried to find a restaurant, she turned to me, obviously concerned.

"I have something to tell you."

My mind raced: Does she have a gluten allergy? Has she pledged fealty to Islamic State (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?

"I..." she stammered.

This is bad, I thought.

Finally, she blurted it out.

"I don't have a car!"

I smiled.

"Have you ever accidentally put diesel in a Chevy Venture?"

No, she said. It was a Nissan Sentra.

You Don't Need a Car in L.A.