Phased district development, starting from the center

It is useful to make small-scale trials when attempting something new. While the reference design is for an entire city, it is possible to begin with far smaller implementations.

It would be possible to begin with a carfree neighborhood large enough to require that the difficult issues (freight transport, passenger transport, density of occupation) be addressed. This first neighborhood could later be expanded, or other neighborhoods could be built adjacent to it. It certainly is not necessary to build an entire new city from scratch in order to test the carfree concept.

Several major tests must be conducted before construction of new cities and the adaptation of existing cities can begin.

Testing Livability

A carfree neighborhood with several thousand residents is sufficiently large to serve as a test bed for carfree living.

Compact Development

Concerns about density will have to be addressed. Is it possible to build dense cities which are highly desirable places to live? What difficulties arise in ensuring livability?

A Test with Peripheral Parking

One way to test the carfree neighborhood concept is simply to build a good-sized neighborhood with all its parking on the periphery. This is a good test of how a carfree neighborhood would work in practice. Unfortunately, the large area that must be devoted to peripheral parking puts open space at a greater distance. (I do not consider a parking lot to be open space!) If multistory or underground parking garages were built instead, there could be at least some open space immediately adjacent to the neighborhood.

An additional disadvantage of a test with peripheral parking is that stores must be located on the perimeter in order to allow access by delivery trucks. This prevents the natural development of a neighborhood center in the middle of the neighborhood. This is not an insurmountable obstacle, however. Stores could be clustered in one area of the periphery, so a nucleus would develop at the edge rather than in the center. Implementation of the reference design requires that centers (and metro stops) be in the middle of neighborhoods in order to optimize walking times. A nucleus at the edge is a reasonable approximation for prototyping, although the peripheral location of the nucleus limits the size of the neighborhood.

Testing the Transport Concepts

The ability of rail systems to serve virtually all transport needs must be tested and proven. This can probably be done with a tram system, which can be implemented (possibly in an existing neighborhood) for a fraction of the cost of an underground metro. The tram does not have sufficient capacity to support really heavy ridership but is adequate to the task of testing the concept in a medium-sized city. The following points need to be made regarding such a test.

Clear Right-of-Way

The tram must have an unobstructed right-of-way at all times if high average speed is to be maintained and schedule delays are to be avoided. Trams must always have priority over cross-traffic. Conflicts with pedestrians must be prevented; this is best accomplished by avoiding curves, which can hide one tram behind another.

Moderate Speeds

Trams running on the surface should not exceed about 30 MPH (50 km/hr) for noise and safety reasons. This will provide appreciably slower service than underground metro service, but it is still possible to achieve acceptable average speeds.

Pleasant to Use

The tram has one large advantage over a metro: a tram is very pleasant for the riders, who get plenty of daylight and a nice view of the city.

Metro Freight

It may not be possible to achieve a full test of the metro-freight concept using trams, but it should be possible to test at least some aspects of it. Specifically, it may prove difficult or impossible to move full-size standard shipping containers on normal tram systems. It should be possible to move standard air-freight containers aboard a modified tram, which is probably sufficient to test the metro-freight concept. A freight consolidation facility would be built at the end of the line. Inbound freight would be sorted by destination neighborhood and loaded into containers for delivery to the neighborhood depot. Outbound freight would be consolidated at the neighborhood depot and forwarded at the consolidation facility. Because of the small scale of such an operation, operating costs would be somewhat higher than in a full-scale city. In addition, in a full-scale carfree city, companies delivering significant quantities of goods and materials to the city would adjust their operations to ship in containers, eliminating the need for additional handling.

Building the First Lobe

The first full-scale lobe need not be built as part of a completely new city. Rather, a large addition to an existing city can be built using the carfree model provided that fast transport can be offered between the new lobe and the existing city core. The city should already have a good public transport network in place, so that residents of the carfree addition will have access to all parts of the city. A fast-growing city of 300,000 to 1,000,000 with a large undeveloped area reasonably close to the city center is the most suitable site.

Site for Full-Scale Trial

A full-scale trial of the carfree city should probably be conducted in open country, on a "greenfield" site. While it is possible to integrate a carfree city into an existing built-up area, the complexity of the issues requiring solutions is considerably greater. It would thus be simpler to build a completely new carfree city.

The city must control about 100 square miles (250 square km), but it only needs to build on 20% of this land. The city should not become merely a bedroom community for an existing city but rather a city in its own right. The pattern of existing uses in the areas which will not be built up needs to be compatible with the needs of a nearby city. It is likely that some of these uses would change as a result of the city's presence, and it is necessary to ensure that these changes do not degrade the city environment.

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About the book: Carfree Cities

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