Gram: True it does depend on the individual as to whether or not you can go carless. I do it in Columbus, but that's not for everyone. Many people don't have a choice, which is why I called it a prison. Although, I have had friends who were suddenly forced into being carless.
Though it can be inconvenient they somehow adapt.
I'm also big on convenience and independence in transportation. Here in Saigon I have a motorbike I can roll right up on the sidewalk, park and walk in a place. It's incredibly efficient and I can get across town in seemingly terrifying traffic (it's actually not) in about 10 to 15 minutes max. I pay $50 bucks a month for it, and gas is about $5 bucks every two weeks.
It's better than a subway train (non-existent here), and way more efficient than a bus.
When I leave here to return to the states I just turn it in. No hassles.
My friend from Columbus (attorney ironically) was in town last week, was initially terrified to even cross the street in the thicket of motorbikes. Eventually he got his own motorbike here.
I bring it up because I recall my friend lamenting the fact he was trapped by all these belongings and a slave to the car.
I'm by no means suggesting self-organizing chaos with a family of four piled up on a motorbike for American roads, wouldn't work there too much road rage (there is none here), and too regulated.
What I am saying is there should probably be a lot more experimentation with transportation solutions and it should not be a partisan issue, which it has become.
You never know what might work. I'm shocked it works so well here.
JM: Unfortunately, those "second thoughts" are just that--thoughts. I'd love to have enough public transit options to go carless, but it is completely not an option for anyone in a profession where you might need to get up and go somewhere quickly and unexpectedly.
I recognize the fact that car ownership is a money pit, even with it completely paid off. Fuel, maintenance (both routine and occasionally extraordinary), insurance, and the occasional ticket add up to a lot. Recognizing a pit and escaping it are different things.