Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Metro DC Car Free Day, September 22nd

This year, Car Free Day for the Washington metropolitan area, sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, will be September 22nd.  From the press release:
This year metropolitan Washington area commuters, residents, and students who pledge to go car free or car-lite on Car Free Day, Tuesday, September 22 can join the team that best fits their preferred way to travel—and qualify for drawings for great prizes. Commuter Connections invites participants to choose #teambike, #teamwalk, #teamrail, #teambus, #teampool or #teamtelework when they register at, to show how they travel, and post stories about the benefits of alternatives to driving alone on social media. Travelers trying a new mode for the first time—and those who already travel car free—can take the pledge.

Commuter Connections, the region’s commuter transportation network coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, organizes the annual event in the metropolitan Washington area to encourage travelers to try a train, bus, bicycle, car or vanpool, or walk instead of driving alone. Celebrated in 1,500 cities in 40 counties, World Car Free Day is an annual event that challenges everyone who drives a car to try greener, more efficient transportation options that can be integrated into their daily lives.

Kids in the Vauban district of Freiburg, Germany.  Image from the Fused Grid blog.

It happens while researching on a completely unrelated topic, I came across this article, "Car-Free Housing Developments: Toward Sustainable Smart Growth and Urban Regeneration Through Car-Free Zoning, Car-Free Redevelopment, Pedestrian Improvement Districts, and New Urbanism," from the UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy (2005), by James Kushner. The abstract alone is pretty powerful:
European car-free and car-reduced housing projects in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scotland that discourage, prohibit, or ignore automobile ownership by residents, have received limited and skeptical reception by some politicians, public sector planners, and academics. Based on a tour of these projects, they should instead be models for a policy to achieve sustainable urban life. The projects present an improved quality of life due to superior open and green spaces. In addition, the projects integrate the best elements of "green architecture," seeking to use less electricity and water through the use of building materials, insulation, and special elements such as green roofs, solar generation of power, and the reuse of surface water. Three characteristics of these projects merit further study and support their replication as models for urban housing development: (1) residents of car-free housing projects strive together in search of an ecological community, reinforcing community goals and practices, with residents relying primarily on walking and bicycling rather than driving or even public transit; (2) the model ecological community educates and reinforces a lifestyle of environmental sensitivity and protection; and (3) the projects accommodate the demand for living in attractive, accessible, ecological communities and serve as the best antidote to the destructive increase in the automobile dominance of cities. In both developed and developing communities, car-free living can be extended as a residential choice through a number of urban revitalization mechanisms such as car-free zoning, new urbanism, car-free redevelopment, and pedestrian improvement districts.
While I have advocated for car free multiunit developments, or at least multiunit residential developments where car ownership isn't preferenced, and shared parking, car sharing, bicycle parking, and sustainable mobility is prioritized (see the introduction to this 2006 blog entry, "Comments on Proposed EYA Development at Takoma Metro Station, Washington DC"), and I have written about Vauban, Germany in response to an article in the New York Times, "Germany Imagines Suburbs Without Cars," in the US context I have to admit that I too have been shaped by a car-centric paradigm and haven't thought seriously, even as a counterfactual, about creating car free residential housing developments.
A number of the abutting property owners along the alignment of the S-Line Streetcar in Salt Lake City agreed to have the streetcar's logo painted on the side of their buildings.

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