A transit planner looks at the top 50 cities with the most zero-car households:
If I then look across the whole list and try to identify factors that seem to explain, in different mixtures, each city’s presence on the list, it seems there are three: age, poverty, and dominant universities.
It looks like the most common path to low car ownership is to be an old city. Many big cities on this list seem to be ranked by the sequence of urban settlement: northeast first, then midwest and south, then west coast … An American city that reached its present shape by 1940 is going to be similar in form to a lot of European cities of the same age, both in the range of urban ideas expressed in the city’s design and in the transport modes for which it was optimized.
Urban form determines whether owning a car is essential, or just helpful, or a nuisance. Obviously, urban forms that make car-free life easy are found most reliably in cities built when nobody owned cars.