Near the center of Houten, The Netherlands
Reduced auto usage was a goal in the design of this new town.

I believe that the carfree city as outlined in the reference design is the ideal form for a carfree city. However, a number of compromises with the reference design are certainly possible and would yield cities considerably more livable than today's auto-centric cities. Some of these compromises are described below.

Peripheral Parking

There is no intrinsic reason why the parking lots for cars and trucks must be in the utility areas. It is quite feasible to build garages around the perimeter of the districts, thereby allowing fairly quick access to cars by residents and workers. The biggest disadvantage is that the green space adjacent to the districts is filled with vast parking lots, ugly concrete parking structures, or very expensive underground garages. It also leaves unsolved the problem of road access to these parking facilities. Ready access to an automobile would also encourage automobile usage. Such a city would work but would not offer as high a quality of life as the reference design.

This model also allows the establishment of shops around the periphery of the districts rather than at its core. This has the disadvantage of damaging the natural central focus of the districts.

Finally, it would be possible to build houses with garages and direct road access at the periphery of each district. This would provide for a sizable number of dwellings with direct automobile access and parking. The resulting traffic reduces the quality of life for the entire district and makes the green space less attractive.

Underground Streets

With some relatively minor changes in the district topology, it would be possible to put narrow, one-way access lanes and quite a lot of parking in the basements of a long row of buildings. Such a form enables the construction of a city without surface traffic but with a fairly high capacity for automobile movement and parking. The disadvantages are that the costs would be quite high, although probably within the means of wealthier nations, and that the environmental problems of the car are not addressed except for noise, which should be fairly well contained. Such a scheme also reduces the level of pedestrian traffic in the streets and impairs the development of a sense of community.

Lower Density

If people are prepared to accept walking times of up to 10 minutes, it is possible to achieve densities much lower than proposed in the reference design. Doubling the maximum walk results in district densities only one-quarter that proposed by the reference design. My own belief is that a denser city is a better place to live as long as there is no car and truck traffic. Clearly, however, density adjustments are possible, and a variety of densities could be accommodated in the same city - the outer districts could be much less dense than the more central districts.

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About the book: Carfree Cities

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