Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars

with 7 comments

New York Times   

Vauban is a suburb of Freiburg in Germany near the French border. It is car free. People give up their cars to move there. It is a very useful antidote to the sort of thinking that insists that the only way to absorb another million people is to widen the freeway and add more low density, car oriented development. It accommodates 5,500 people in one square mile – and 70% of households do not own a car. They get around by walking, cycling and a tram (though there is a car co-op if they need one). 

Here is a slide show 

In California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village on the outskirts of Oakland, accessible without a car to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and to the California State University’s campus in Hayward.

There is nowhere like this even contemplated here – least of all South of the Fraser where most of the next 1m people to move here will be living. It is simply impossible to conceive something like this being proposed here because we do not have anything resembling adequate transit in most of our suburbs. We make a big song and dance about how people who live in downtown Vancouver do not need to own a car – and how the number of cars entering downtown in the morning peak has fallen. Avoiding mentioning that more people live in downtown and work elsewhere, or that most of those will be driving to newly relocated workplaces in “office parks” in the suburbs. Even places that have had the good fortune – or political favouritism to get lots of rapid transit – Burnaby – have developed both office parks and big box centres widening existing roads to encourage more traffic to them.

Some of the better suburban development around our two universities – well served with transit since the introduction of the UPass – might have followed this pattern too. But again the “standards” that are most stringently applied to all new developments are to ensure that there is plenty of parking for residents. And not much expectation that they will be people who work or study at the university: the generation of revenue being a much more important consideration.  

And of course out in Delta, Surrey or Langley a development that relied on transit would simply never be thought possible. There is almost no transit – and none proposed for the next thirty years. We are going to be too busy building freeway expansions to even think about this idea, even though the reality of peak oil (it now takes the equivalent of one third of a barrel of oil to get a barrel of usable fuel out of the tar sands) means that internal combustion engine vehicles are not going to be affordable long before then.  


Written by Stephen Rees

May 12, 2009 at 8:09 am

7 Responses

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  1. zweisystem

    May 12, 2009 at 1:13 pm

  2. Fantastic concept! Incredibly frustrating that there isn’t the political will to even attempt something like that here. It bothers me even more that there will likely be another 4 years of stalemate on these issues.

    Sean Stiller

    May 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

  3. Four years of stalemate? Try 40. Now that the STV has failed again the Legislature will be filled exclusively by members of the major parties for at least a generation.

    We have two full generations of people who still believe in unlimited growth, that peak oil is a myth and that climate change is only a minor problem that won’t get in the way of increased consumption in the future.

    I don’t think we’ll see any meaningful change until my pre-school children reach middle age and grab the reigns of power. By then things will be so bad that not acting will be tantamount to mass suicide.


    May 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  4. This has got nothing to do with provincial politics. Local governments have the power to go forward with car free developments without any provincial help. The Olympic Village was a great opportunity to do this. Unfortunately, planners who think the grid is king nixed making the Village car free.

    Richard C.

    May 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm

  5. We had a very similar development here. Unfortunately despite Freiburg being close by our local officials decided on a watered down version with road through the middle. But that’s Ostfildern.

    Andy in Germany

    May 15, 2009 at 6:26 am

  6. […] [Via Stephen Rees’s blog] […]

  7. […] takes transit or cycles and there are no garages. I think she was referring to the article about Freiburg in Germany, recently reviewed here, in the New York Times. There is nowhere like that in the US. […]

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