Austin Local Life

The 5 Best Austin Neighborhoods for Car-Free Living

In spite of its high population, its many city-wide green initiatives, and its reputation as a destination for recreational outdoor activities, Austin remains a fairly car-centric town from a transportation perspective. 

However, as Austinites become more environmentally conscious and as more people move to the Lone Star Capital from pedestrian-friendly metropolises like San Francisco and Chicago, a growing number of residents support methods of transport that don’t involve driving a car. If you’re looking to live in an area that makes getting around Austin without a car feel possible (and even fun), then these five neighborhoods are among the best.

Downtown Austin

Walk Score: 92

Transit Score: 68

Condominium buildings in Downtown Austin
Downtown Austin is by far the most accessible neighborhood in the city.

It stands to reason that the epicenter of Austin’s business, commerce, and entertainment industries also features numerous methods of traveling in and out. Downtown Austin is by far the most accessible neighborhood in the city for those using public transit; the CapMetro bus system’s express lines (like the 801 and the 803) include stops in the downtown district, as do the Metro Express routes leading to farther-flung neighborhoods and suburbs (like the 980 and the 981).

The MetroRail train also carries in commuters from suburban areas like Leander and Lakeline, with its final stop just east of downtown.

In addition to public transit options, Downtown Austin commuters can make use of the neighborhood’s many bike and scooter shares. The neighborhood boasts the most extensive network of bike lanes in any ATX region, and bike-share programs like B-Cycle place a particularly high quantity of stations in the downtown area for that reason.

Scooter shares are all the rage in Austin these days, and while you can find Lime and Bird scooters scattered throughout the city, you’re all but guaranteed to locate available scooters downtown.

Holly

Walk Score: 81

Transit Score: 47

A view of Austin, Texas from Ladybird Lake
Holly’s walkability makes it really stand out as a top choice for car-free denizens.

A charming neighborhood located in the center of the mega-hip area known as East Austin, Holly strikes a perfect balance between a serene, residential enclave and a hot spot for restaurants, bars, and independently-owned shops. Holly’s walkability makes it really stand out as a top choice for car-free denizens; in addition to its many local eateries and stores (like La Barbecue, Juan In A Million, and Cycleast), Holly is within walking distance to the H-E-B supermarket on East 6th Street, and very ambitious pedestrians can even walk down East Cesar Chavez St all the way to Downtown Austin or down Pleasant Valley Road to East Riverside.

Walk Score also gives Holly a lofty rating of 92 for its bike-friendly nature. Cyclists clearly benefit from well-delineated bike lanes on streets like East Cesar Chavez, and the neighborhood’s central location offers plenty of opportunities to explore the city as a whole on your bike. 

Holly doesn’t have the same range of bus-route options as Downtown Austin, but it does benefit from the presence of bus stops for the 300 route on North Pleasant Valley Road. The 300 is a rapid-frequency route that takes Holly travelers south to South Lamar and Westgate or north to Crestview. In terms of local routes, the 17 provides a straight (and very efficient) shot from East Cesar Chavez Street in Holly to the heart of Downtown.

Hyde Park

Walk Score: 78

Transit Score: 55

The Triangle's dining complex is located on the northeast edge of Hyde Park.
Hyde Park is a popular spot for bike and scooter shares.

A quaint residential neighborhood filled with historic homes and tree-lined streets, Hyde Park attracts homebuyers seeking quiet environs as well as students and workers in need of an easy bus commute. The 801 CapMetro express route is one of Austin’s speediest, connecting Hyde Park with Downtown Austin in a brisk 20-25 minutes during rush hour. More local routes, like the 7, also pass through Hyde Park and allow for an approximately 30-minute bus commute downtown.

Thanks to its location directly north of Downtown Austin, Hyde Park is also a popular spot for bike and scooter shares, and its serene streets and sidewalks make it a particularly scenic area for taking a ride. Cyclists can reach downtown in 15-20 minutes, making biking a major commuting practice among Hyde Park residents.

Rosedale

Walk Score: 70

Transit Score: 44

Red bikes at a B-cycle station kiosk in Austin, Texas
Rosedale relieves the pressure for residents to own their own personal cars. (Photo by Steven Frame / Shutterstock.com)

Austinites craving a more tranquil style of living but who don’t want to sacrifice their urban conveniences tend to view Rosedale, a peaceful enclave north of the University of Texas campus, as an appealing option. Rosedale also relieves the pressure for residents to own their own personal cars, thanks to its walkability and its access to transit. Walk Score says that “people in Rosedale can walk to an average of 2 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in 5 minutes,” which is a pleasant perk for those who like to keep their daily expenditures local.

While Walk Score gives Rosedale a score well above average for its walkability, it offers an even higher score (81) for its bikeability. The largely residential streets make for slower traffic speeds and generally safer cycling conditions, and cyclists can easily plan routes from Rosedale to the UT campus, Downtown Austin, and South Austin via the bridges and waterfront biking paths.

In terms of public transit, the 3 line up Burnet Road is Rosedale’s main pathway to the Downtown transit hub. The 803 rapid route from South Austin also goes to Rosedale, albeit with slightly longer walks to many of the neighborhood’s businesses. 

Zilker

Walk Score: 76

Transit Score: 47

People biking along Barton Springs Rd.
Zilker is an ideal spot for commuting professionals in need of a quick and car-free ride downtown.

A rapidly growing South Austin neighborhood with remarkable access to greenspace and a vibrant bar and restaurant scene, Zilker is an ideal spot for commuting professionals in need of a quick and car-free ride downtown. The 803 express CapMetro bus courses directly through Zilker, taking South Lamar Boulevard and Lavaca Street right to the heart of Downtown. Pedestrians living in Zilker near the Colorado River can also easily walk to Downtown via the picturesque Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge.

Cyclists and scooter enthusiasts will appreciate Zilker’s abundant supply of both because Zilker is home to the eponymous Zilker Metropolitan Park. Bike and scooter shares are regularly positioned throughout the neighborhood to serve park visitors. Also, the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail runs through Zilker on its southern border, providing clear pathways for cyclists to travel along the river unencumbered by car traffic.

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