Magazine article The Futurist

Reinventing the City: Planning for a Post-Automobile Era

Magazine article The Futurist

Reinventing the City: Planning for a Post-Automobile Era

Article excerpt

The car has made major cities nearly impossible to get into, around, and out of, yet the automobile population keeps growing - and traffic jams increasing. To get people to give up their cars, cities try to make mass transit more attractive, but so far it hasn't worked.

A new solution is to reinvent the city in order to reduce people's need for personal transportation. "Transit villages" - communities built around reinvigorated rail transit stations - could have most of the amenities that residents want within walking distance of their homes. Easily accessed trains would transport them elsewhere when necessary.

Recent examples of communities implementing the transit village concept are documented in Transit Villages in the 21st Century by Michael Bernick and Robert Cervero. Two such examples are in Washington, D.C.'s, close-in suburbs of Rosslyn, Virginia, and Bethesda, Maryland.

When Rosslyn was developed, it was a mix of scattered commercial sites. When the Metro subway station was built, linking Rosslyn with the rest of the D.C. metro area, the suburb reinvented itself, adding more than 6,000 residences, 7 million square feet of office space, and 1,654 hotel rooms within a 10-minute walk of the station.

Meanwhile, Bethesda turned itself into a transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly community after a Metro station was built in the downtown center. The area surrounding the Metro is now jammed with restaurants and luxury apartments.

To create transit villages, communities must identify a realistic, market-based site, say Bernick and Cervero. Housing should be ample, complemented by neighborhood services, local jobs, and places to gather. And, since cars will still be a part of the foreseeable future, plentiful shared parking spaces must be available near the rail stations and entertainment centers.

"Transit villages have an important role to play in the coming information age," the authors conclude. …

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