Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Car Free Society?

Recently, there was an article in the New York Times about a suburb in Vauban, Germany where cars are basically outlawed. Street parking, driveways, and home garages are forbidden within the community. If you do have a car, you have the option of purchasing a garage space on the outskirts of the community to park it a mighty premium. From what I gather, this community is wildly popular among the eco-friendly and executives alike. This community works where it is, because it happens to be located along a tram line with a direct link to downtown Frieberg, and connections to the commuter rail. Compared to the United States, it is widely known that Germany and the rest of Europe have a very comprehensive and successful public transportation system, that makes living car free for entire communities possible.

Can it work here? In my opinion, it can in limited locations across the country. Indeed, you can find people almost anywhere that don't have cars, either because they can't afford one, or choose not to have one, and they get along fairly well. But for an entire community? I say, this won't happen on a large scale in this country until we start thinking about the common good, with a look at the long term, and start putting some real emphasis on creating a viable public transportation system, that actually goes somewhere. I am not talking about just Fort Collins, but the country as a whole. People have to be mobile, and to go without cars, there needs to be a way to get from point A to point B in a relatively short period of time. We are starting to see signs of life on this front, but we have a long way to go. Of course, this will also require more compact development patterns. Indeed, in Vauban, single family homes are not generally permitted. Basically the community is a TOD project, but taken one step further.

To further this goal and concept, I think we also need to get away from the idea that homes must face paved public streets. Why does a street have to have 30-50 feet of asphalt to function as a public street? Why can't homes face "green streets"? Instead of asphalt, why not landscaped courtyards? This would also serve as a place to play for kids that is close to home...and allow for smaller lots and denser developments. I have been pushing this concept for years with some success. A current project that I am working on is attempting to do this. I have blogged about Midori before, with more coming soon. The battles I face in trying to do "green streets" is how do we address the homes without a paved street, how to get utilities to them without a front door, and the real issue of fire access. Of course, people also have to get away from the idea that they have to have a garage attached to the home. There are some communities that have been successful at this, including co-housing communities, and many of the communities built by The Cottage Company Interestingly though, many other builders who try to build off the concept of The Cottage Company include attached garages now.

I would love to find an infill piece of ground to create a car free community in Fort Collins. Anybody want to join me on this?

1 comment:

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