Are Golf Carts the Future of Urban Transportation?

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 04, 2023

Back in August, David Zipper wrote an interesting piece for Slate arguing that urban areas should embrace smaller personal transportation options, like the golf cart.

Learnard said that most residents still commute by car, but that the carts have replaced automobiles for many short trips to a restaurant, school, or friend's house. "Golf carts are a quintessential part of the quality of life here," she said. "You put the family in a golf cart and go to the park or the splash pad. Or you go out for ice cream, or with your spouse to get a cocktail." The golf carts have proved popular with teenagers; many use them to get to and from high school. Residents frequently personalize their vehicles with souped-up radios and jerry-rigged storage. "It turns out you can do a lot with a couple milk crates and bungee cords," Learnard said.

With palpable enthusiasm, she reeled off a list of golf carts' advantages over cars: They provide accessibility for residents who aren't able to drive; they enable local shops to expand parking capacity (golf cart spots are significantly smaller than those for cars); the electric models are quiet and don't pollute. She is even convinced that they have made her town friendlier. "If you're on your golf cart and you see your neighbor doing yardwork, you're going to pull over and chat," she said. "You're never going to do that if you're in a car."

Bikes and ebikes share many of these advantages and infrastructure built for bikes can often be used for carts and vice versa. Zipper followed up with a recent thread on how he saw golf carts being used in The Villages, FL and Peachtree City, GA.

The weather was awful when I stopped by The Villages, a fast-growing 60+ community in central Florida, but I still saw a ton of golf carts.

Put up some plastic sheets, and you're protected from the rain.

The Villages was designed for golf carts; they can be life savers for those otherwise unable to drive.

Many roads have separated golf cart paths, and local streets are slow (with many roundabouts) so golf carts comfortably mix with car traffic.