Automobile Dependence, Break The Habit

8 08 2007

Urban Core International BlogIn keeping with this week’s transportation theme, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing automobile dependence and ways to break the habit. Many people own a car or truck because of convenience, but none of us like the side effects – traffic, increased travel time, increased emissions, and smog. In today’s post we analyzed a few of the ways to reduce automobile dependence. Note that not every idea works in every situation, but certainly a combination of ideas can help us all in someway.

Automobile dependence is a result of the segmentation of residential, commercial and industrial zoning. Naturally, one way to fight that is to change zoning laws and traditional methods of planning. Two types of development / land plans that come to our minds are the TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development) and the TOD (Transit Oriented Development.)


TNDs are specifically designed to be compact, pedestrian-oriented developments. The neighborhoods are internally oriented, which helpsCut from a New Town support the local commercial industry, lessening the need to leave the community and hence lessening the need to get back in the car. There are many aspects of the TND that help to reduce automobile dependence. Firstly, traffic signals are set to shorter intervals. This creates more frequent gaps in traffic for mid-block pedestrian crossing. The density of a TND and the close proximity between zoning types also makes the neighborhood more walkable. One interesting design technique used in TNDs is the reduction of the curb radii. This helps to make cars slow down more when turning, but has the added bonus of shortening the amount of time a pedestrian has to spend in the street in order to cross over.

FruitVale VillageTODs share similar benefits to TNDs using similar design strategies, but base their neighborhoods on public transportation such as a trainBART system. Some similarities include pedestrian friendly, walkable design, high-density development, and of course the integration of various zoning types. These “Transit Villages” focus on the train system to reduce automobile dependency as much as possible. Some of the most interesting transit oriented development can be seen in California, where the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has been instrumental in partnering with developers to create smart, well designed TODs. Personally, we were impressed by FruitVale Village, a mixed use TOD featuring several hundred thousand square feet of retail, office space, and affordable rental apartments all centered around the BART train station. The great zoning mix give residents easy, pedestrian access to shops and businesses in an area once described as having a shortage of friendly streets.

Some might wonder, what can we do in already built out areas that don’t have the room for redevelopment? Are there options available besides creating new developments? The answer of course is yes.

One creative solution, which is actually a design credit in the LEED rating system for sustainable developments, is to incorporate bicycle racks and showering / changing facilities on the ground floor of buildings. The bicycle racks make people feel more secure leaving their bicycle unattended, which in turn makes them feel more comfortable riding a bicycle around.

ZipcarWhat about those who need a motor vehicle? One interesting solution we saw is Zipcar, a company that will rent you a car by the hour or day. They feature cool cars like the Mini and VW Jetta, and include all gas, insurance and designated parking spots in their price. Members of Zipcar are provided with a Zipcard, which when placed near the door of the car will unlock the car. From there you simply start the car, go where you need to, and return the car to the designated parking spot when you’re done. This type of business makes car ownership hassle free, and reduces the need for owning a car alone.

All of the solutions discussed in this entry are viable in different communities and for different people. We all know the side effects of automobile dependency, and most of us only have to spend about five minutes in traffic before we start wishing there was another way. With so many viable solutions around, the only step left is to find the one that’s right for you and make the change. Like they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and reducing automobile dependency is certainly no exception to that rule.

Co- Authors: Josef Newman + Aaron Newman, Urban Core International


Seaside Revisited: A model town, 25 years later.

1 03 2007

Stefani from our Boca office came across this awesome SeaSide slideshow on

Seaside is one of the most amazing and first TND’s ever created and built. The community was designed by DPZ Duany Plater-Zyberk one of the most respected and creative architectural firms and master planners in the world. Seaside is considered to be a “legend” of the TND’s and one of the most influential communities in the New Urbanistic world.

Thanks to the Slate for the awesome story and Stefani for finding it.

Seaside Revisited A model town, 25 years later.
By Witold Rybczynski
Posted Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2007, at 7:17 AM ET
Disclosure: The Seaside Institute recently awarded Witold Rybczynski the Seaside Prize for “significant contributions to the quality and character of our communities.” Seaside Slide Show