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A new neighborhood in Cambridge; carfree?

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  • rauch@mit.edu
    A large tract of abandoned railyards in Cambridge, Massachusetts is being rezoned as a residential neighborhood. The site couldn t be better located: it s one
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 1, 2001
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      A large tract of abandoned railyards in Cambridge, Massachusetts is
      being rezoned as a residential neighborhood. The site couldn't be
      better located: it's one mile from downtown Boston, and has a light
      rail stop already in it. There's also a subway stop at its edge. It
      could be home to 10,000 people.

      I want to propose that this area be developed as a carfree
      neighborhood (with some parking in garages at the edge a la Vauban).
      Even if not accepted, this will get exposure for the carfree idea
      among local planners, and possibly the public if we can get media
      coverage.

      You can see more about it at:

      http://www-swiss.ai.mit.edu/~rauch/northpoint

      The current proposal (from the landowner) is high-density but with
      conventional car access. I've talked with the head of an influential
      neighborhood group; he is receptive to the idea and letting people in
      city government know about it. Cambridge government, if you're not
      familiar with the area, is more progressive than most American
      cities' when it comes to planning, and planners there are more
      receptive to the idea of pedestrian-oriented development than is
      usual in this country. But this idea will of course be somewhat
      radical for them.

      I'll write more about it in a few days, but right now any help would
      be appreciated. I'm going to present an initial written proposal to
      the city Planning Board by Tuesday morning, and will be giving a
      short presentation on Thursday evening. It will focus on reasons why
      a carfree neighborhood is the best use of the land. At the web site,
      you can see a summary of my argument. But I could use help with:

      - Statistics on how much land can be saved or how many more housing
      units can be constructed on the same area by developing carfree -
      since the area is experiencing a serious housing crunch and needs all
      the new housing it can get

      - Anything on how this could save the city money

      - Suggestions for slides

      - Advice if you have experience dealing with city planners

      If you live in the area, it would also help if you could show up for
      the hearings, the first being on September 6, with 2 more in
      September.

      In the coming weeks, we'll develop a more detailed vision of what a
      carfree neighborhood here might look like. It may be assigned as a
      project in an urban planning class. But we could use help in that
      phase as well, as we show what it might look like down to the
      building footprints and parks.
    • rauch@mit.edu
      Thanks for the suggestions. What we could also use is references to studies that document the high cost of the car in dense urban environments, whether to
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 3, 2001
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        Thanks for the suggestions. What we could also use is references to
        studies that document the high cost of the car in dense urban
        environments, whether to residents or city government.


        --- In carfree_cities@y..., rauch@m... wrote:
        > A large tract of abandoned railyards in Cambridge, Massachusetts is
        > being rezoned as a residential neighborhood. The site couldn't be
        > better located: it's one mile from downtown Boston, and has a light
        > rail stop already in it. There's also a subway stop at its edge.
        It
        > could be home to 10,000 people.
        >
        > I want to propose that this area be developed as a carfree
        > neighborhood (with some parking in garages at the edge a la
        Vauban).
        > Even if not accepted, this will get exposure for the carfree idea
        > among local planners, and possibly the public if we can get media
        > coverage.
        >
        > You can see more about it at:
        >
        > http://www-swiss.ai.mit.edu/~rauch/northpoint
        and parks.
      • Louis-Luc
        ... ... One more fundamental reason to set the new neighborhood carfree: - It has always been carfree (as far as we know, a railyard has trains, not cars, so
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 3, 2001
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          > A large tract of abandoned railyards in Cambridge, Massachusetts is
          > being rezoned as a residential neighborhood. The site couldn't be
          > better located: it's one mile from downtown Boston, and has a light
          > rail stop already in it. There's also a subway stop at its edge. It
          > could be home to 10,000 people.
          >
          ...

          One more fundamental reason to set the new neighborhood
          carfree:
          - It has always been carfree (as far as we know, a
          railyard has trains, not cars, so it is carfree), and
          it must continue to be carfree to avoid losing more of our precious land to
          the automobile (enough is enough).
          BTW, the same reason should be told when talking about converting virgin or
          wood lands to housing areas.

          This point of view should give more strength to our argument when combined
          with all reasons given in the other responses on this thread.

          I walked Cambridge when I've been to Boston 3 years ago. It's time to settle
          a carfree neighborhood, with pedestrian access to prestigious Harvard
          campus?

          Louis-Luc
        • T. J. Binkley
          ... Would these help? http://www.vtpi.org/0_land.htm Pavement Buster s Guide The Pavement Buster s Guide is for planners, developers and community activists
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 4, 2001
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            >... What we could also use is references to
            >studies that document the high cost of the car in dense urban
            >environments, whether to residents or city government.


            Would these help?
            http://www.vtpi.org/0_land.htm

            Pavement Buster's Guide
            The Pavement Buster's Guide is for planners, developers and community
            activists interested in reducing the amount of land devoted to parking and
            roadways. It describes how zoning laws tend to oversupply parking and
            roadway capacity, discusses the full costs of this additional pavement, and
            describes specific strategies that businesses and communities can use to
            reduce parking and traffic demand.

            The Trouble With Minimum Parking Requirements
            Minimum parking requirements are usually based on peak parking demand under
            suburban conditions, which results in generous and often arbitrary
            standards. These requirements increase the supply, reduce the price, and
            increase the total cost of parking. Free urban parking is one of the
            largest external costs of automobile use. To prevent spillover problems,
            cities could price on-street parking rather than require off-street
            parking. Compared with minimum parking requirements, market prices can
            allocate parking spaces fairly and efficiently. Posted with permission.

            Parking Requirement Impacts On Housing Affordability
            Zoning laws require residents to pay for a generous amount of parking,
            whether they need it or not. This policy raises housing costs, reduces the
            maximum potential density of development, and reduces developers' incentive
            to build affordable housing. It is unfair to small and lower income
            households who tend to own fewer than average vehicles, and often forces
            poor families to subsidize the automobile parking of their wealthier
            neighbors.

            Land Use Impact Costs Of Transportation
            Automobile oriented transport requires more land for roads and parking than
            other forms of travel, and encourages low-density urban expansion (sprawl),
            which increases per capita land development. These impose a variety of
            costs, including increased costs for road facilities (including the
            opportunity cost of land used for roads) and public services used by
            drivers, environmental and aesthetic costs from reduced greenspace, and
            higher per capita municipal and utility costs to serve lower density
            development. Since many of these costs are borne by society as a whole,
            benefits of increased driving and sprawl do not necessarily exceed total costs.


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