Top 5 Portland Neighborhoods for Car Free Living

Good places to live in Portland without a car, a compendium of Census data, Walkscores, transit stats, and city surveys on the Portland Afoot wiki, is a great starting point for someone considering going car free in Portland.

Perusing it got me thinking about my own experience. Much of the time without a car, I’ve lived all over this fine city (I’ve called the following Portland neighborhoods home for at least one year-long stint: Reed, Creston-Kenilworth, Buckman, Goose Hollow, Hosford-Abernathy, Mt. Scott, Richmond, Downtown, and Boise). So I consider myself something of a car free Portland authority. I not so humbly submit to you my:

Portland NeighborhoodsTop 5 Portland Neighborhoods for Car Free Living

  1. Downtown
  2. Nob Hill
  3. Goose Hollow
  4. Pearl District
  5. Sunnyside (aka Belmont Neighborhood)

The key elements for car free livability for me are a full service grocery store within easy walking distance, transit, and eating and drinking establishments. (The first two are the reason I can’t place the Boise neighborhood, where I currently live, among this company, though it’s in my top 10 for drinking establishments!).

What are your criteria for car free livability? I know those who bicycle can rely less on transit and close grocery stores. Which neighborhoods would be in your top 5?


  1. Yeah, my current neighborhood is TERRIBLE for car-free living.

    The closest grocery store, and the closest drinking place are each a 1.3 mile walk away. The closest “eating place” is 1.0 mile away, only one transit option within one mile, and it only runs during weekday rush hour; the second-closest doesn’t go all the way downtown on the weekend.

    I liked when I lived in Sunnyside neighborhood. (Living only two blocks from both the Horse Brass and Movie Madness didn’t hurt matters…)

  2. I like Ed H’s avatar.

  3. Downtown Resident says:

    Check out for a fun way to test your address for walkability. Where I live, 13th and Burnside, received a 100.

  4. Ed H. – When I moved out of outer SE I sold my car, so every since I’ve made sure where I lived met most or all of my car-free amenities requirements.

    Heather – I do too.

    Downtown Resident – I scored a 100 on Walkscore when I last lived downtown too. It’s pretty damn cool to have virtually everything you could want within a block or two of where you live.

  5. Belmont/Sunnyside wins hands down. Not only can you walk to every possible service, including one of the last (great) video stores in the city–Movie Madness– but the #15 bus, as everyone knows, is the best in town.

  6. I have to defend Sellwood and Moreland. We have two grocery stores (New Seasons which is awesome and QFC which is a grocery store), metric tonnes of great restaurants and shops, and two halfway decent-ish bus lines, the #70 and the #19. And depending on where you’re walking from, you can catch a #33 with only a little effort. Plus we have the Springwater Corridor Trail, which is, like, a bike highway to downtown. And an amusement park! And lots of other parks, large and small! Sellwood is the bestest neighborhood in the world (to me, your mileage may vary).

  7. BrianM – I’m a fan of Sellwood and Moreland. I could live there contentedly if I never needed to visit other parts of town (in particular North Portland). One of the reasons I like downtown so much is because it’s an easy bus ride to either North Portland or Sellwood/Westmoreland.

  8. We live in Parkrose Heights, a little over a mile from Gateway Transit Center. I have an Xtracycle, and I think we could live car-free here quite happily if my husband didn’t have to travel to Columbia Blvd at 6:30 a.m. for work. As it stands, we have just one car for a family of five.

    If there were any ZipCars out this way, that would make it easier to be a non-car-owner, if not car-free.

  9. I’ve been living in/near N Mississippi car free for 5 months now. The closest grocery store is probably Whole Foods on 15th or, for a kinda-sorta-secretly free max ride, Fred Meyer on Lombard.

    The only time I go elsewhere is to SW for work and even then I bike.

  10. I lived car-free in the Mississippi area for over a year, and was car-free in Humboldt for nearly one. Both are excellent – a short bike ride or decent walk to both New Seasons and the Alberta Co-op (and also Cherry Sprout market), a shorter walk to Safeway. Tons of places to eat/drink within walking distance, post office, a few frequent-running bus lines AND the yellow max line, etc!

  11. My favorite neighborhoods are:
    1. Overlook
    2. Boise/Mississippi
    3. Alberta
    4. St. Johns
    5. Hawthorne/Belmont
    I live in Overlook. Busses, MAX line, walking distance to Killingsworth and Mississippi, less than an hour walk to the Pearl, Lloyd, and Alberta St. Four breweries within walking distance, and many, many bars and restaurants. I almost never use my car.

  12. Hi Dave,
    Good info man…thanks! I’m in the process of moving to Portland and have been doing a lot of research. For those who are into outdoor dinning….like myself, this article is pretty good as well:

    See yall in Portland!!

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