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Thread: Planning a new city

  1. #1
    Apr 2007
    Saint Pauls, NC

    Planning a new city

    I'm working with a group exploring the possibility of building a new city on a large tract of private land. The plan differs from most in that only certain areas of the city will be car-free. Private alternative/electric vehicles will be permitted within the rest of the city.

    I've found some great models for car-free cities like the J. H. Crawford Carfree Cities but nothing on that scale for dual-use.

    Are there resources I'm missing?


  2. #2

    Jul 2006
    Calgary, AB
    How big a "city" are you proposing? A full-sized city, or an "Edge City"?

    If you are going to have streets where cars are secondary, do lots of research into woonerfs. The book Livable Streets by Donald Appleyard might be a good starting point.

    I'd be wary of incorporating even private electric vehicles or car sharing into your city if you can help it. James Kunstler would agree -- the infrastructure you have to provide for any sort of cars will end up driving how your city is designed, and if it's designed around cars, aren't you "selling out"?

    One of the key concepts of Carfree Cities is public transit. So it's important to lay out your city so that even if you don't have transit in it at the start, you can easily incorporate it later.

    Have you thought about how your new city will connect to the rest of the world? I'm not trying to poke fun at your concept, but how do people visit your city from the outside world? Or deliver materials? Will you have parking at the borders?

    Good luck with this -- don't get discouraged too early. I'd like to hear more about what you've come up with so far.

    Some other books you might like, but you've probably already read:

    Asphalt Nation: Jane Holtz Kay
    CitiesPeoplePlanet: Herbert Girardet

  3. #3
    You mention Carfree Cities, which I think is a great book. You're right--one of its key flaws is that it is (mostly) uncompromising. I really think a dual use city is not only more achievable, but more desirable than a completely car-free city.

    Nonetheless, the book has a companion website and discussion group (http://www.carfree.com). I suggest you check it out (in particular, the lists of print and web resources). Joel Crawford also has a forthcoming Carfree City Design Manual. Perhaps that will give more attention to dual use possibilities.

  4. #4
    Apr 2007
    Saint Pauls, NC
    Thank you both for the comments and references.

    As far as the size of the city, my initial thoughts are to build the infrastructure and zoning for around 100,000. The size is dependant on what is needed to achieve the primary goals -- which brings me to the "selling out" part

    The first goal is to build to provide better quality of life, which definitely includes less use of cars. The second goal is to promote alternative energy.

    What I feel is the largest obstacle to adopting alternative private transportation here in the US is the lack of infrastructure to support these vehicles. Hydrogen and charging stations will never be abundant enough to make owning an alternative vehicle a viable option without an incredibly massive amount of corporate investment.

    The idea here is to build not only an efficient modern city, but also to build a captive market for alternative vehicles by not allowing gasoline cars.

    The questions then are -- how large would the population have to be to provide enough of a market for alternative vehicles and infrastructure? How close would this city have to be to others for the technology to spread? And yes, how do you manage the physical division between the gas and alternative worlds?

    I would like to think public transportation from nearby cities would help spread the "parking lot effect" but you're right DPP, even with the car-free concepts, it's something not easily addressed.

    Deliveries to the city would, at least initially, be by standard rail shipping container or delivery trucks using the "undercity delivery" model. One or more central hubs would act as a transfer for residential or smaller locations. This would fit into the common structure for services such as US Mail, UPS, and FedEx. My thought is that the design would keep industrial sites near the perimiter allowing direct deliveries. Most of the hurdles then would be for food services and retail deliveries.

    ... looking for Livable Streets now.

    Any thoughts on these ideas are greatly appreciated.

  5. #5
    The 'captive market' for alternative vehicles sounds like an interesting and extremely ambitious concept, but my gut feeling is that trying to 'force' people to use alternative cars by denying them choice might just mean that nobody would move there. I'm not an expert on this area, but I'm guessing significant tax incentives on manufacture and use would be a more effective way to encourage the uptake of cleaner vehicles.

    Also, 'Car free' may not necessarily lead to a 'higher quality of life'. In the 1950s and 1960s huge parts of city centres in the UK were made car-free, and this contributed to draining the life out of the place. Cars provide activity, safety/passive surveillance, ease of movement through the city, easy access for disabled people and they normally increase the viability of local businesses.

    A former employer of mine used to remind us all that 'traffic congestion is a symptom of success' in cities. Traffic means people are trying to get places and do things, and that the economy is working.

    The trick is to maintain a balance between vehicles and other road users in order to maintain life, activity and the quality of the street. The key techniques for this are keeping vehicle speeds low, and providing alternatives (high quality walking routes, public transport and cycle lanes/parking, and making sure that land uses are not spaced too far apart so that walking is an option.)

    The book 'Great Streets' by Allan Jacobs is a great book which explores the qualities of good city design in detail.

    And yes, good luck. Would be very interested to hear if it works out.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Mar 2005
    London, UK
    I strongly echo CJSHARPE’s points. If you observe high quality of life locales, it’s not that they are completely or even largely car free. Rather, they are simply NOT built around the car. Narrow streets, limited parking, etc. The idea is to allow some ‘vehicular traffic’, which is basically necessary anyhow (ambulances, delivery vans, etc.) but to make routine vehicular use (to shop, to go out, etc.( unnecessary due to density/proximity and inconvenient (charge heavily for parking, limit traffic flow, etc.)

    Let me show you some places not built for, but accommodating cars, which remain very pedestrian friendly due to the qualities I mentioned above.

    This is Camden. You can park on the street. It costs the equivalent of 8 USD per hour. That’s correct 8 USD/hr. Given that there is everything a person could possibly need within a 3 minute walk, someone living off this street does not need a car, except on rare occasions.

    This is in Tenerife. You can drive on one side of this square, but nto the others (car side not shown). Not a problem at all.

    Another favourite spot in Tenerife. This place, near a beach, is too far for us to walk to (with small children). We drive. Cars are accommodated, but only just.

  7. #7
    I have to echo what both cjsharpe and luca have said--my feeling is that a completely carfree city would be neither successful nor desirable. A huge amount of attention needs to be given to cars so that they can have convenient access, but at the same time not interfere with the urban fabric (including pedestrian traffic, transit, etc.). In a sense, I think successful areas SHOULD be built around the car (i.e., it takes a lot of work to push the cars out of the forefront).

    But I think the original poster recognizes that. sjordannc is just looking for resources on making this work.

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