Golf Car Cities Attract Residents, Reduce Pollution and Cut Transportation Costs
By Mary Sicard
By Mary Sicard
Towns and cities across the country — from Peachtree City, Ga., to Lyons, Colo., — are allowing personal golf cars and other alternative vehicles in designated areas. These vehicles expand transportation options and lower transportation costs while protecting community environments — three goals of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, formed by the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Because golf cars are being used for neighborhood transportation in communities such as The Villages in central Florida, whose residents own more than 50,000 golf cars, they also have given birth to a new class of vehicle known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), which are emissions-free and street-legal in most states on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less.
In addition to their environmental benefits, golf cars and NEVs also significantly cut transportation cost, the second largest household expense for U.S. families. In many cases, it allows families to get rid of one automobile entirely. “We’ve recently sold one of our cars and now have just one car and a golf car,” says Mike Zipes, a resident of Sun City, S.C., according to a Fox News report.
Zipes made that transition in 2012, after South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley signed a law extending the use of golf cars from within two to four miles of an owner’s residence on roads with speed limits of 35 mph or less.
David Rast, a city planner with Peachtree City, Ga., a planned golf car community outside Atlanta with a 90-mile network of multi-use paths, says that being a golf car city helps them attract lots of young families and seniors. The city promotes itself as a place where residents can “Discover life at 15 mph.”
Although much of the multi-use network infrastructure in Peachtree City was installed by developers, the city assumes ownership and maintenance once it’s built. They also enact ordinances that regulate alternative vehicle usage, registration, age limits, safety equipment and more.
Rast believes that the growing number of seniors will only reinforce the trend toward alternative transportation. “We even have one community for people 65 and older with a secure underground golf car parking garage with charging stations,” he says.
Among its many accolades, the city was chosen by CNN/Money Magazine as one of the “Top 10 Best Places to Live in the U.S.” in 2005 and 2009 and one of the “Best Places to Retire” by U.S. News and World Report in 2007.
Rast says that being a golf car city helps attract retailers, too. “Businesses love it once they come here and see the activity on the streets,” he says.
Rast also notes that the use of golf cars has had a very positive impact on air quality and noise pollution. “After all, we’ve taken 10,000 automobiles off our roadways,” he says.
In addition, allowing golf cars creates a more livable environment, according to Rast. Growing numbers of people prefer communities that foster interaction, support green initiatives and integrate shopping, recreation and dining into their lives.
Viera, Florida, resident James Bruzza, a retired Wall Street broker, is among them. Bruzza says he keeps his car parked in his garage most days. “My NEV just seems to fit into this type of community and lifestyle,” he says.
While the exact number of golf car cities is unknown, the trend is growing, and fast. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, all but four states now have laws that allow golf cars or NEVs to be driven on public roads.