Car-Free Community

Car-Free Community

Here in Phoenix, the car is king. Wide straight roads, miles of suburbs stretching at least fifty miles east to west, brutal summer temperatures, and a lack of a real urban core mean that people drive a lot.

Almost five million people live here and the population is growing faster than almost any other city in the country. Suburbs are becoming more densely populated. They now offer employment opportunities, industry, hospitals, concert halls, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and access to the airport and university campuses through light rail and bus service.

Is this growth sustainable in a desert that is depleting its groundwater?

Possibly. If we live a different way. Two miles from Arizona State University, the powerhouse that underpins the inner suburb of Tempe, an innovative housing development is going up. This rental community is designed to offer almost everything residents need without getting into a car. In fact, cars will be banned. That is, residents will not be allowed to own cars, or at least bring them into the complex. The idea is that residents will bike, ride share, or travel by the light rail (tram) which stops a few steps from the low-rise development.

Will it work? I hope so, but I know I love my car. I’d be in a real fix if I had to part with it.

Still, as a New York Times article noted as the New Year turned, humans have lived successfully in the arid Southwest for millennia.

And since I moved here, I’ve seen communities change the way they plant landscapes, commit to growing more trees, which lower the temperature, and create lush perma-culture food gardens in the tiniest of plots.

The new car-free rental development is called Cul de Sac. I wish it well. I hope it is not as its name implies, a dead end.