Sunday, July 10, 2005

Is it time to develop a car free subdivision?

Traffic calming circle near St. Joe's Hospital.

Is this a golden opportunity for some developer to plan a car free neighborhood in Bellingham, WA.?

Demand for residential real estate is at an all time high. People are concerned about traffic from new development. Even the mayor recently said,

"When people complain about growth, the're usually not talking about people." "What they are talking about is cars."
July 1 Herald.

I say, if a subdivision was planned for folks who don't want to drive, it would still sell in a hot market. That's my guess at least.

Just say "no" to the automobile.

Turn the streets over to people, bicycles, public transit, emergency vehicles and, maybe, deliveries.

Why not?

The market is selling so fast, even this "perceived inconvenience" wouldn't stop it.

If the real estate market was almost dead, it would be another story, but this market has plenty of "give" to it.

Of course the city would have to make some changes also. Zoning that requires parking would have to be waved, changed or worked around.

It's something to think about.

Is this a radicle idea?

Not really.

Bellingham already has one neighborhood where automobiles are highly restricted. Can you guess where that is?

It's Western Washington University.

Much of the campus is "roadless." It's a roadless area.

Like wilderness?

Not unless one is thinking of wild parties at the dorms.

Much of the campus is pedestrian plazas. There are some buildings you can't drive to.

High Street, which runs in front of the Viking Union, is blocked off during the day. Turned over to pedestrians, bicycles, transit, emergency vehicles, deliveries.

Parking isn't that easy to find on campus, but there are a lot of bike racks and Western enjoys the most frequent bus service of any area in Bellingham; except for the transit terminal that is downtown.

Western is hard to negotiate by car but it remains a popular place. So popular that an enrollment ceiling must be imposed.

Limited state funding, rather than anti growth sentiment, brings the ceiling, but lack of roads hasn't killed Western.

Some say this will work for young students, but older people must have cars.

I don't know about that. Many friends in my age range (around 50) still bike over mountain passes. Also there is the bus.

Another "less car" kind of planning has come to our city as well.

Some areas near downtown allow apartments to be built with less parking required than before.

Less parking per unit.

This is a new zone designed to help preserve historic buildings and promote living with less cars.

Some people gripe that these developments are causing "overflow parking" along nearby streets. They also gripe about overflow parking from Western.

I guess people never stop complaining.

Maybe these folks should just stop driving if they are going to complain about traffic.

Are you part of "traffic?"

I live on a busy downtown street and don't really notice whether people are parking or not.

They've always parked here.

I haven't noticed any difference since new apartment buildings were built nearby.

Of course retailers tend to complain if they think there isn't enough parking in an area.

Maybe someday retailing can kick the car addiction also.

It seems like nothing will keep houses from selling, but retailing is a different story. Competition for retail customers is fierce in this city. Parking might be harder to do without.

The housing market is hotter than the hamburger market. They've built so many restaurants.

Someday, even retailing can kick the car habit. Especially in areas of high pedestrian concentration, but for now, someone could propose a car free residential area, at least.

If people will pay a fortune for cracker box houses, maybe they will do with out cars. They're that desperate to live here and maybe they'll discover they can do it.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your blog. I share many of your ideas. I live in Bellingham & am thinking about buying a bike to get around (especially to work on the Guide Meridian). I'm greatful for your maps & will use them. thanks

Frances deVries