I went this route, bought a condo closer to downtown for very roughly the equivalent price to buying something in the suburbs + owning a car. I bike in the summer everyday, bus in the winter, car sharing and the occasional car renting for out-of-town or holiday drives. I also have owned a car before.
- Transit is very painful in the winter. Getting to work already sucks, but doing groceries and stuff sucks. There's no way to mitigate that. Any concept of wanting to do something like taking night courses, go shopping or visiting friends extends the torture way beyond what I can bear. It's definitely a good incentive to save money, though.
Visiting friends and family, who generally made the opposite decision to live further away and own a car, is painful. I decided a while ago taking 3 busses over 2 hours to get over there is now out of the question (I'm getting too old for this shit), arriving at a gathering in sweat after biking 25km under heat isn't exactly fun. So car sharing it is, but is it always worth the 30-40$ it tend to cost for 6 hours + 50km to visit someone? Plus the steak and beer you bring? I'm the loner type so I'm ok with very occasional visits, but doing this regularly is not sustainable as it will cost as much as a car.
You can't benefit from some types of purchases, eg. Costco and IKEAs are out of the way so you need to consider the cost of car sharing to your pick ups, etc.
Taxes and condo fees eat up hefty chunk of my monthly payments. This is money throw out of the window, whereas living in the suburb for a similar price, more of it goes to the mortgage and the car, which is more productive.
- From April to October, I commute by bike, and it's a joy. I have access to showers, stop by various groceries on the way back. I keep a few bus tickets for rainy days, but I usually still choose to bike in the rain. Car sharing for visiting friends/family is my only expense. Fun. If you enjoy biking, this is the major redeeming factor. When I had a car, I tended to pick the path of least resistance...
Summary: If I had extra income, I'd definitely buy a car and stay where I'm at. Would I sell my place, get a car and move back in the suburb with rushhour traffic or huge bike commutes? Sigh... I can't say I want that either.