Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Future Watch: suburbs without cars.

This article focuses more on the environmental aspects of this trend, but think instead of the economic aspects. A place that doesn't rely on cars gives families a lot more spending money each month, amoung other benefits.

New York Times
In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL Published: May 11, 2009

...Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here...

...Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called “smart planning.”

...Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

“All of our development since World War II has been centered on the car, and that will have to change,” said David Goldberg, an official of Transportation for America, a fast-growing coalition of hundreds of groups in the United States...

...In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting “car reduced” communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said. In previous bills, 80 percent of appropriations have by law gone to highways and only 20 percent to other transport.

...In Europe, some governments are thinking on a national scale. In 2000, Britain began a comprehensive effort to reform planning, to discourage car use by requiring that new development be accessible by public transit. “Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document...

There is no reason why any of our communities need to wait for the government to take the lead when it comes to reducing our economic dependence on gasoline and automobiles. Local communities and even individual neighborhoods or developments can start their own electric trolleys, electric trams, and electric bus service. Communities can review zoning barriers to starting home or garage businesses, can set up community gardens and set up neighborhood farmer's markets so that residents can sell the excess from their victory gardens and their community gardens - along with the arts, crafts, and products from their homes businesses, even.

But sitting around waiting for somebody else to take the initiative is a poor strategy, class.

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