209 comments

Less Cars, More Money: My Visit to the City of the Future

.

In my role as Mr. Money Mustache, I do my best to be your one-stop-shop for Lifestyle Guru ideas. So over the years we’ve covered not just the Money side of life, but also the even more important stuff like health and fitness and the psychology of better, happier living. 

But there’s one single area of life where all of these factors come together with an almost Nuclear Fusion level of synergy and effectiveness. And because of that, if I could have one single wish in the world, this is what I would wish for. It’s a change so massive that it would make every person on the planet better off and fix most of our problems in one grand sweep. And it’s probably not what you’d expect:

That we immediately switch to building our cities and countries around people, instead of cars.

(and then fix all of our existing ones too, so that our entire world is built around person-friendly living.)

The benefits of this are way bigger than almost anyone can imagine. We’re not just talking about eliminating a bit of pollution or a few traffic jams or car crashes. No. This is about far richer, healthier, and most importantly more fun living for everyone. 

To put even conservative numbers to this, we’re talking about a life boost of over $20,000 per person per year, which compounds into well over two million dollars per adult lifetime.

On a nationwide scale, this would boost the wealth of the United States by about seven trillion dollars per year, which would compound into about 770 trillion over the next five decades.

Which happens to be more than the current total amount of human wealth on the entire planet.

City design dictates the biggest numbers in the world.

You will have a house that is both cheaper and more beautiful and spacious. Your body and brain will be healthier and stronger and sexier and cost a lot less time and healthcare dollars to maintain. 

And all of our wallets and investment accounts, both public and private will be absolutely overflowing with surplus income, reduced expenses, and fuel an investment and prosperity boom like the world has never seen.

“WTF?”,  you may ask 

“Isn’t city planning just a stuffy thing that your city council does in the background while we’re all off living our lives?”

Well, yes it is right now. And that’s the whole problem: cities are built by people whose primary job is to maintain the status quo and prevent disruptions. And those committes are elected and encouraged by crusty old companies and organizations, and plain old grumpy neighbors who just don’t have the vision to see what they are missing. 

.

I’m convinced that if everyone could see through the smoggy haze of the status quo, we would all agree that this idea of a radical change is not only the best idea, but the only reasonable idea to even consider. 

So our job is to learn and explain just how big and how easy this is. And what it boils down to is pretty damned simple. 

Let’s start with this picture 

Whoa, that’s a bit of a surprise.

 So for the same amount of space you can have an entire pretty nice two bedroom apartment, or you can have just enough space for two (small) cars to park and pull out. But it gets even crazier than this. Check out this random intersection here in my own city:

A big intersection is about 250×250 feet.
On a good traffic day, you’ll blow right through it.
But this is actually 1.5 acres of wasted space, enough to house about 200 people in resort-like comfort!

WHAT?! So every time you have two big car roads intersect, which happens hundreds of times in every big city, you are wasting enough space to build a luxurious, resort-like living area with about one hundred two-bedroom apartments and still have room for a pool, a dog park, a grocery store, a couple of restaurants, and so on.

This is just the beginning of the insanity, because I have only shown you two parking spaces and one intersection. The reality is that our entire cities are made almost entirely of stupid, expensive wasted space like this. 

Most of the city of Phoenix is OBSESSED with cars. Infinitely large parking garages, parking lots, and of course roads. But most of it is wasted (I took these pictures during a long exploratory walk I took in the middle of a work day.)

And the problem is so extreme that the only reason we think we need cars to get around, is because we have wasted most of our space on accommodating cars, which spread everything out so far (and made everything so loud and dangerous) that nobody feels like walking or biking!

Cue the Complaints

.

Whenever you propose any great new idea, you’ll always get a bunch of smartasses who like to complain and resist change, without even bothering to think it through.

Most of them boil down to, 

“But how are we going to keep driving our cars just as much as we do now?”

Which is ridiculous – because the whole point is that as soon as you cut out all the huge wasted spaces we create to accommodate cars, you are suddenly FREE from needing cars so much!

Instead, you can just weave a brand new city, with a bunch of variations of this beautiful resort which also include offices, grocery stores, climbing gyms and every other amenity.

 And yes, you’d still have some roads between them, but they would be mostly for deliveries, emergency vehicles and people who need mobility assistance.

I hope you’re not going to make me ride the bus?

Checking out one of the 60+ Electric Bikes at the HQ of the country’s first car-free neighborhood.

I am all for public transit in theory, but to be honest I don’t usually have the patience for it. I don’t do lineups, and I don’t like to stand around waiting passively for my transportation to arrive – when it’s time to go somewhere, I just want to go, and go now, and get there fast. So my own personal choice is to take a bike for short distances (under 2 miles) or an e-bike for larger ones (up to about 15 miles). 

Although this is often news to car drivers, bikes are much faster than cars for urban transport, plus they give me exercise and thrill, which is way better than being stuck at the red light with the cars.

 If you take this already-superior method of urban transport and cut out the 90% of the land that we waste on accommodating the inferior cars, then you end up with a revolution: everybody gets where they are going ten times faster, at much lower cost, and has much more fun doing it.

And sure, there will also be light rail and faster buses. And sure, you can still hop in an Uber or even bring your own car into a city like this.But the point is that it will just happen much much less often.

Okay I’m convinced, but how can we actually accomplish this?

Mr. Money Mustache can talk a big game with all these fancy words and pictures, but the truth is that I’m way too impatient to put up with all the bureaucracy and complaints that arise when you try to actually change a city. I’ve been doing my best here in Longmont, and I have gotten just about nowhere. We’re still just stacking on more and more layers of ridiculous car shit where I live.

Thankfully, other people are much more patient and effective than I am at affecting change, and one group has made such incredible progress that you can now go LIVE in their first creation: a 1000-person car-free neighborhood called Culdesac Tempe. And as I write this, I am staying in a hotel right nearby, having spent the past two days touring and visiting and interviewing the founders*. 

Clockwise: Culdesac office replaced their own parking lot with a mini-park. Culdesac head of marketing Blythe Ingwersen and co-founders Jeff Berens and Ryan Johnson showed me around and lent me a nice Porsche e-bike for a tour of the city!

While we were at it, my Phoenix-area-house-fixing friend Tracy Royce and I also hosted a meetup for an enthusiastic group of our readers/viewers right there in Culdesac’s emerging central plaza.

.

Culdesac is Awesome and Could Change Everything

If you only look at the financial spreadsheet, you would think this first Culdesac project is just going to be a highly profitable 1000-person cluster of apartment buildings, spread out across 17 acres of land. And while financial sustainability is indeed a key reason why this model will succeed, the money is the least exciting part.

.

When you look at these pictures compared to a normal housing complex, the main thing you will notice is that all the space that would normally be wasted on parking lots, is instead used for beautiful walking and gathering areas.

The next big upgrade is that they mixed in the amenities for daily life right into the neighborhood, rather than forcing all the future residents to get into their cars to drive out to find them:

  • Grocery store, similar in style to a small-ish Trader Joe’s
  • Fantastic gym (which I got to tour – it is a beauty!)
  • Coworking space 
  • Dog park
  • Pool
  • Outdoor kitchens and shade structures and garden areas galore
  • Semi-fancy Mexican restaurant with ample patio space
  • And lots more retail space also in the construction plans

I was also impressed with just the feel of walking the Mediterranean-vibed spaces between the buildings, even at this early stage when everything is still under construction.

Due to the hot desert climate of the region, everything is built around providing shade, breeze, and reflecting heat during the summer, while also maximizing the joyful fact that there is no winter there (the coldest month of the year still has an average daily high of 65F/18C, which means palm trees, leafy gardens and fruits and flowers forever.)

With a setup like this, and 999 new neighbors to meet, I would rarely feel the need to leave the place. Which really cuts down on my desire to use a car. But on top of that, Culdesac has strategically placed itself in Tempe, a city right in the center of the Phoenix metro area, within walking distance of the main university and right on a light rail stop which allows you to reach almost everything (including the airport) for FREE, since an annual pass to the transit system is included with your rent. 

But of course, you can also get around on foot, bike, e-bike, scooter, or hop into one of Culdesac’s fleet of rideshare electric cars for a trip to the mountains or whatever else you might want to do that’s outside of bike and transit range.

It’s insane. In fact it’s so good that I am going to attempt to move there myself at the end of 2023, enjoying my first escape from Colorado winter and celebrating the fact that my boy will be a legal adult at that time.

 But even this is just a pilot project because Culdesac has much bigger plans.

The Culdesac Master Plan

An early sketch from Culdesac’s architecture firm, Optico Design. Isn’t it amazing what you can fit in a single Big Box shopping center parking lot?

From my conversations with the founders, I think they want to do this:

  1. Start with this small-scale community of rentals, just because it’s faster
  2. Use this to get the word out and learn from the experience before going bigger
  3. Move up to a larger-scale communities which will also include homes for sale
  4. Go REALLY big, and make an entire section of a city, then eventually an entire town which grows into an entire city
  5. Meanwhile inspire the rest of the United States to go the same way, once they see that this type of neighborhood is both more desirable for people, and less costly (therefore more profitable) to build.

So How Can We Benefit From This, and Support it?

We need MORE of this!
  • If this article gave you any surprising new information or changed your perspective at all, you’ve already made a difference. Because your choices around housing and transportation will probably shift at least a little bit away from cars, which will change our future demand and development patterns to be at least a little bit better. Congratulations!
  • If you’d like to be one of the first residents of this first neighborhood, sign up right on their website at https://culdesac.com/ . There is a waiting list, but it moves faster than you would think – especially if you have a flexible moving date.
  • If you’d like to make your own city a better place to live, just start emailing your own city council, or even better, sign up to serve on your own local planning board or city council yourself, as the heroic gentleman from Twitter did above. The things to push for are: approve more housing and more bike paths, but eliminate minimum parking requirements and above all stop wasting money on road expansions! Every dollar spent on accommodating cars subtracts many dollars from the future wealth of your city.
  • If you are a major investor ($10M+) or land owner (20+ central acres in a high-density city) looking to invest in and boost this effort, email the team directly at investors@culdesac.com – more info on their about page.

And Then What Will Be Our Payback?

This whole change is exciting, and it is immense. 

Understanding these ideas around city planning is the economic and social equivalent to being a doctor, and finding a 35-year-old patient in a hospital who is suffering from every chronic disease, but then discovering that they have been following a diet of Coke and Donuts for their whole lives and never been out on a walk, once. 

In other words, the changes are so obvious, and the amount of win/win synergy so great, that every step we take towards making our cities better, and every car trip we eliminate, will absolutely explode our personal and national wealth upwards for generations to come. 

The stakes just couldn’t be higher.

Are you in?

Further Reading:

Another collaborator in the overall effort for car free cities is a bank-founding multi entrepreneur local friend named Kevin Dahlstrom. His recent Twitter rant on building car-free cities from the scratch gathered a shocking amount of very positive feedback and interesting comments.

* Despite my positive raving about this neighborhood, I have no financial or business connection with the project or any of the team members. I am just really excited about their work and want them to succeed!

  • Neil April 7, 2023, 12:28 pm

    Damn that is exciting! Pedestrianism FTW!

    Reply
  • Jimmy Marks April 7, 2023, 12:35 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. This would create more beautiful, spacious, and healthy living spaces for everyone. While some may resist change, the benefits of building cities around people instead of cars are too significant to ignore.

    Reply
  • CL April 7, 2023, 12:43 pm

    Yay! I’m thrilled to read about a city of the future, and I look forward to hearing more when you spend the winter there. I gave them my email address so I could hear more in the future.

    Reply
  • CamGans April 7, 2023, 12:44 pm

    Awesome, this is like your old school posts that got me hooked from years ago!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2023, 4:28 pm

      Thanks Cam, although it’s funny – I get the opposite criticisms these days too where people say, “YOU SHOULD BE WRITING ONLY ABOUT PERSONAL FINANCE LIKE IN THE OLDEN DAYS”

      Reply
      • eyesonthehorizon April 9, 2023, 4:24 pm

        Very glad you’re still irrepressibly driven to see Americans rediscover how to live well, despite all the other stupid things we could be doing with our wealth & fancy technology. I periodically see people call for the MMM forum to become more like “all the other personal finance sites” in not digressing from financial topics & just shake my head – if we wanted to be there, we would be!

        Reply
      • Lewis April 10, 2023, 8:35 pm

        Personal finance is about way more than just “personal finance”.
        How we live with our time and money, how the world around us works and influences our lives, and how government and industry spend our money – these things are all connected. Our tendency to want to draw boxes around everything instead of seeing endless, interconnected systems is part of why we spend colossal amounts of energy doing things that make our world less resilient and pleasant.
        I’m an urban transport planner and you’re speaking my language here. Thank you!

        Reply
  • AnotherEngineer April 7, 2023, 1:28 pm

    Stamp of approval from this bike-commuting transportation planner/traffic engineer! So many in the profession don’t recognize the link between land use and transportation and our bureaucracy makes it very difficult to make strategic changes for those that do. Even ambitious dense/mixed use land use plans often require expensive and risky rezoning and NIMBY ire. I would love to see governments leading the way on this (and there is small movements with eliminating parking minimums, etc), but in our current reality, big changes to development have to come from developers and investors. I hope this is successful and above all makes a lot of money to attract imitators and convince other cities to change their development rules. And good for your to put your money where your mouth is and move there!

    Reply
    • Lewis April 10, 2023, 8:43 pm

      I’m a transport planner in New Zealand. We got a mandate to eliminate min parking requirements a couple years ago and that’s just now coming to effect so I’m looking forward to some better outcomes although there will need to be a lot of zoning changes, etc to get actual good outcomes but it’s a good start to remove that barrier. I’m also interested to see how CA’s SB743 (traffic LOS can no longer be used as an environmental effect for assessing developments, to be replaced with VMT) implementation works out in the long run.

      Reply
  • Stephanie April 7, 2023, 1:30 pm

    Is there a reason they don’t seem to include anywhere on the website the one piece of information most people would absolutely need to know, the price?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2023, 4:27 pm

      Good point Stephanie – I believe that part is coming soon, as the first batch of apartments open up and are ready for rent (right now you are only signing up for the waiting list rather than an actual apartment).

      Since I was there and asked the same question in person, the answer is basically “market rate” – in other words, when a new apartment goes up for rent, the builders typically conduct a price survey of what would be a competitive price at that moment, and then they start advertising at that price.

      Just like any other supply and demand sensitive thing, these prices will then fluctuate based on the demand level until you lock it in with a lease. During my tour, it was a hot time for rentals in prosperous Tempe so the rent was around $2.50 per square foot per month, or a little under $2k for a large 1-bedroom apartment.

      Note that at Culdesac you get a few extra perks included in that rent: internet access that works across the whole 17 acre campus, gym, pool, and unlimited transit pass along with credits for bike and carshare as well.

      Since the idea is to go car-free while living there, you can possibly subtract about $800/month that most people spend on car ownership, from your total cost of living.

      Reply
      • Michael B April 10, 2023, 7:20 pm

        > Since the idea is to go car-free while living there, you can possibly subtract about $800/month that most people spend on car ownership, from your total cost of living.

        Ironically, I would probably pay a premium to live in a place without cars. You could imagine it would end up being *more* expensive if enough like-minded people are drawn to this place.

        Reply
        • MKE April 28, 2023, 10:37 am

          The rare “car-light” developments and places where walking is easier in the United States come at a premium price, often an extreme premium. American traffic engineers and city planners use this as an argument against reducing car use, as everything becomes “too expensive.” IF the place in this post is successful, within a few years the places will sell for a fortune. Then traffic engineers will point to it as a failure.

          Reply
    • Alain Chautard April 12, 2023, 3:40 pm

      I found the pricing info for Culdesac Tempe: Studios from $1340/mo, 1 bedroom from $1380/mo, 2 bedrooms from $2180/mo, 3 bedrooms from $2990/mo.

      Reply
  • CC April 7, 2023, 1:55 pm

    I’m an American attending a university in Sweden, and the city where I live is designed very similarly to what you describe. I live in a student apartment building which has 0 car parking spaces but an indoor bike parking room that accommodates about 50 bikes. About 100 meters away is a movie theatre, with a gym and health clinic on the floor above it. The next block over has a pharmacy, a mall, a supermarket, several shops and restaurants, and basically everything you need within a 10 minute walk. Three large parks are also within a 10 minute walk. Several of the roads here dedicate more space to pedestrians and bikes than they do to cars. It’s a good life.

    I’ve wondered why the US isn’t built this way, and recently learned that’s because the auto industry lobbied against good public transportation and similar infrastructure, because they wanted to force people to buy cars. I hope the founders of this new Arizona development won’t be defeated by entrenched interests who want to block progress.

    Reply
    • Alain April 12, 2023, 3:48 pm

      Mostly because of distances, I’d say. The US are huge compared to Europe (and still mostly empty – to the point that cities spread horizontally to infinity rather than vertically – except San Francisco and Manhattan that are peninsulas).

      In Europe, streets have always been very narrow because initially built just for humans and horses. This makes Europe perfect for biking + walking only. The countries and cities are much smaller, too. And since the population density is also way higher in Europe, they have all incentives to keep it human-friendly.

      Also, the US are the 3rd oil producer in the world. Europe, with the exception for Norway, has little to no oil. In other words, the US were incentivized to push for oil consumption (good for the economy – with a 1900s mindset obviously). Europe, not so much, since oil is imported and as a result more expensive.

      Reply
      • Anna April 19, 2023, 7:16 pm

        I think the size of the country doesn’t paint the full picture. First, there’s Russia and other massive countries like Ukraine and Turkey. They have excellent transit. China has excellent trains and so do lots of South American countries.

        “In Europe, streets have always been very narrow because initially built just for humans and horses. This makes Europe perfect for biking + walking only. The countries and cities are much smaller, too. And since the population density is also way higher in Europe, they have all incentives to keep it human-friendly.” – this is just over-simplification. Let’s look at Boston that developed around the same time as most European cities that before 16-17th centuries weren’t even much to speak of. “Countries and cities are much smaller” – are we talking about area or population? If the former, Kansa City is so huge because of cars, not because of people. Let’s not forget about London, Paris, Moscow, Kyiv.

        Reply
        • Alain April 29, 2023, 6:30 pm

          I was talking about the area. And for cities, not for the country as a whole. Paris is the size of a neighborhood in Los Angeles, for instance. Sacramento is 3 times the area of Paris for just 350 000 habitants. The population density in cities is a lot lower in the US because there just seems to be unlimited space to expand horizontally and also because public transportation doesn’t seem to be a priority at all. So roads take as much space as needed, as MMM said in this article.
          I don’t like it, but I don’t have to commute so I can’t even complain too much about it.

          Reply
      • Ylva April 21, 2023, 3:05 am

        I think this does not apply to Sweden: Sweden is a quite scarcely populated country. Also it has historically been very rural, so therefore there are not a lot of roads existing today that were originally built for horses (historically there were not many roads at all).

        Reply
  • NigelFr April 7, 2023, 2:19 pm

    Looks like someone has visited the Netherlands. Anyway congratulations on having “discovered” how a lot Dutch towns and cities are organised. Has anyone thought of a snappy name for them? “Normal “is what we call them.

    Reply
    • Gareth April 8, 2023, 2:25 pm

      I was I. Den Haag, Amsterdam and Arnhem last week and still saw plenty of cars. Whilst The Netherlands has it far better than the US or UK even in terms of bike friendliness the cities are not car free?

      Reply
    • Gareth April 8, 2023, 2:29 pm

      I was in Den Haag, Amsterdam and Arnhem last week and still saw plenty of cars. Multi lane roads go right through Den Haag and many streets are choked with on street parking. And bikes! Whilst The Netherlands has it far better than the US or UK even in terms of bike friendliness the cities are not car free by any stretch of the imagination. 100% car free is novel and amazing!

      Reply
      • Tony April 9, 2023, 6:52 pm

        I’m not sure car-free living will ever be possible on a large scale of if that’s what people want, but rather cities built around people not around cars.

        Reply
      • Jaap April 10, 2023, 12:52 pm

        There are 2 cities and 2 islands that i know of:
        Giethoorn, Orvelte, Vlieland and Schiermonnikoog.
        Good luck pronouncing that last one ;-)

        Reply
      • Anne April 14, 2023, 10:55 am

        Not car free but the attitude toward cars is totally different. My husband interviewed for a job in Denmark 10 yrs ago. The boss (pretty high in the company)and his wife picked us up for a dinner and I was shocked when they pulled up in a Ford Focus hatchback AND it was the only family car AND they both worked! There was no ego/status linked to what you drive for them🤩 Very eye opening for these young Americans

        Reply
  • Mel May April 7, 2023, 2:28 pm

    Thanks for this article!!!! Over 10 years ago I was passionate about this topic and studied a combination of social science and urban planning. I tried to gain work in urban planning (both government and private) but no one could understand the concept of designing cities around people and the value of walkability. I wish I had had this article to pass to them. Great to see this style of urban design happening in car oriented country like America.

    Reply
  • Teri H. April 7, 2023, 2:46 pm

    Great article. I would just be a bit concerned about the “claustrophobic “ effect like living on a small island. With a car you can get up and go wherever you want.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2023, 4:19 pm

      Yes, but a bike allows you to do that even less claustrophobically (and usually at higher average speed if you’re in a city). This is why we cyclists call car drivers “cagers”.

      Reply
    • Andres April 9, 2023, 12:46 pm

      You can get up and go where ever you want – as long as it’s not rush hour or the 1-3 hours before or after rush hour (if you live near a job center). Oh, and there’s gotta be parking, I need somewhere to store my car while I’m there obviously – along with the hundreds of other people who decided to drive there. And ideally free parking, I’m certainly not going to pay to store my car. Wait, are there any dirt roads?? Yeah, I’m not gonna scratch my car all up and ruin the suspension just for a hike in the wilderness. Screw it, maybe I’ll just wait until bedtime and drive to a Walmart. Freedom!

      Reply
    • Copz April 27, 2023, 12:42 pm

      Vancouver Canada: I live in a part of the city where, if I chose to, I could live my entire life with excellent medical care, restaurants, every shopping need, and even be cremated, all within about a five block radius. Excellent bike lanes, waterfront parks, many grocery stores, and on and on. I can walk to the ocean, bike to the mountains.

      I bike and have no desire for a clunky, slow, expensive car (traffic and parking is lame). If I want to get out of this paradise, I can always rent a car for the short period I need it… much cheaper than ownership. I would pay significantly more tax happily to reduce road infrastructure and convert some to light rail.

      Nothing about any of this seems remotely “claustrophobic” to me.

      Reply
  • John W April 7, 2023, 2:49 pm

    Pete, great post! Have you read this recent Slate article about Paris? They have been implementing some of these same ideas for the past few years. We were just there last month and it is so different (better) than the last time we was there ~19 years ago.

    https://slate.com/business/2023/03/paris-car-ban-bikes-cycling-history-france.html

    Reply
  • Fred Lee April 7, 2023, 3:06 pm

    I’ve wanted an option like this for too long. Tempe doesn’t work for me because, well, Arizona. But it’s got to start somewhere and I’ll be excited to watch and wait to participate in something similar in the Pacific Northwest.

    Of course as a bike enthusiast, my bike garage is about the size of the 2-car garage you referenced. So I might have to cut back a bit. Which I suppose contributes to the savings.

    Reply
    • Julie April 7, 2023, 3:36 pm

      I agree with you Fred Lee. It averages 90-100+ degrees in Tempe over 6 months of the year. No thanks. In the Pacific Northwest I take walks daily except for when it is 90+ degrees outside or below 20 degrees, so almost daily.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2023, 4:56 pm

      Yes! The idea is to get these changes happening everywhere in the developed world (especially the US where we need it most), so that everybody can have the weather and the location that works best for themselves.

      I’m a solar-powered individual so deserts work well for me. I could surely learn to deal with the Phoenix heat, but I also have a lot of people to visit in the summers these days (in Canada and on the US East coast), so it’s also possible to skip as much of it as I like. And the bonus is that winters in Phoenix are PERFECT.

      Reply
    • Em April 7, 2023, 5:06 pm

      I was born and raised in Phoenix and when Culdesac was first being built, my first thought was that it’s a great concept but this is not the right market. The metro area is a huge grid system 80 miles NS by 80 mile EW, and it’s near-impossible to get by here without a car. And that area of Tempe is not very safe, nor within walking/biking distance of much of interest. I’m curious to see the market it appeals to and how it fares long-term.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2023, 8:10 pm

        I’m not sure what you mean by “safe” but we biked there from downtown Tempe, the absolute center of the metro area, and it was ten minutes of beautiful scenery and easy riding. Also next door: the entire light rail network, the town lake canal system, beautiful Scottsdale, and the gigantic international airport. I could not imagine a MORE bikeable area and I have biked in every city I’ve ever visited, worldwide!

        Reply
  • I live in Tempe April 7, 2023, 3:11 pm

    So excited to hear you might be spending more time in Tempe, MMM! I’ve been hoping to see this city become ground zero for an American urbanist revolution for a decade now. We’ve made a lot of progress, but the bad decisions persist (for example, the city recently removed a bike lane on McClintock that had previously been converted from a car lane). I’d like to recommend you check out Bike Saviours (an incredible non-profit bike repair shop that helped me build a bike from parts with almost no prior knowledge).

    Reply
    • Heath August 14, 2023, 11:59 am

      Woot! Fellow Tempe resident here, and I’m happy to see the shout-out to Bike Saviours who I regularly use for their bike tools and friendly expertise. As a non-profit, their objective is to teach people in the community how to build and maintain their bikes and they do a fantastic job of it. I’ve referred so many people their way, and regularly donate my old/used bike parts their way.

      Reply
  • Ellen ortiz April 7, 2023, 3:34 pm

    Agree 100%! I got to meet and hear a lecture from Andres Duany, a brilliant city planner, and I’ve been convinced of the power of great planning ever since.

    Reply
  • Ryan Erickson April 7, 2023, 4:19 pm

    Don’t take this the wrong way, but this sounds very much like a senior retirement living community…

    Reply
    • AnotherEngineer April 7, 2023, 8:39 pm

      Well, we need more senior retirement communities built like this! My parents live in one that requires 10 minutes of driving on narrow mountainous roads to get to anywhere. A walkable, full-service neighborhood can yield full, social lives well past the age when seniors should give up driving. Car dependency = isolation and lost opportunities if you can’t (physically, medically, or financially) drive.

      Reply
      • Desiree April 8, 2023, 8:06 am

        I’m a 51 year old registered nurse and have been Fi for three years now thanks to stumbling onto MMM about 8 years ago. I have always lived in a multigenerational household, on the farm as a child and now In a small city with my grandma, adult son, roommates teenager and grandson sharing my big home with me. In a few years, when my big family no longer needs to live with me I would love sell the big house and find a intentional walkable community. I believe we all are healthier and happier in multigenerational environments with daily exercise and strong social connection built into daily living. I prefer less city and want to own my dwelling. Guess I’ll have to join or start a commune?

        Reply
  • Ny Money Hawk April 7, 2023, 4:54 pm

    Very cool!

    Hopefully more neighborhoods like these will catch on.

    We can do this in the U.S. and I would guess some places in Europe would be very amenable to this as they are a bit less car centric and more accustomed to public transportation.

    Also I think the newfound popularity of the e-bike is kind of a game changer in terms of making it possible to go without cars.

    Reply
  • David April 7, 2023, 6:52 pm

    I am 1,000% for what you are proposing but done differently (because e-bikes don’t cut it in Portland, Maine in the middle of a New England winter). The done differently is this. Imagine a city where private passenger vehicles are banned and only robotaxis are allowed (a few short years from now, for example, NYC south of 125th Street). Goodbye gas stations, parking garages, repair shops, etc. and hello robotaxis, urban air mobility (electric and quiet), and parks and community gardens, bike paths (warm weather) and walking trails, placed where all those gas stations and parking garages and repair shops were all those years. Yes, my friend, I know that you are Canadian and have a different weather sensibility, but as a long ago Southerner more sensitive to weather, I am less adventurous than you. In any event, the same general outcome, and coming to a city near you this decade! But even sooner. You are the best! I love your postings. More often please! You have changed my life my friend. God bless you.

    Reply
    • AnotherEngineer April 7, 2023, 8:46 pm

      Bikes work great in the winter with thoughtful design and decent maintenance. Oulu, Finland gets 10% bike mode split through the winter. I’ve biked through Wisconsin and Alaska winters. Anyway, the robotaxi future has some benefits over today, but still has the geometry problem of cars in cities. There may be less parking required, but all the roads would still be needed, plus dropoff/pickup areas, charging and maintenance stations, etc. Also, profitable AVs and urban air mobility are decades, not short years, away. (Source: I’ve led a statewide AV plan.)

      Reply
      • John Mottl April 11, 2023, 8:20 am

        I’ve cycled all my life and had a 6 mile commute with almost 2,000 feet of net elevation gain each day. I’d ride in 3-4 days a week over about 33 years. I’m a bike advocate,,, I Love bicycles. I’m retired now and recently cycled just a short 7 mile trip in Calgary , Alberta.
        Studded snow tires on snow-crust, and some ice and slush (while it was snowing (at maybe -5 C.)… urban pavement on a good commuter bicycle
        It was the worst bicycling experience of my 60 year life riding bicycles.

        Reply
    • Hannu April 10, 2023, 12:20 am

      Bikes with fat or studded tires work great in winter conditions, and by varying levels of electronic assist you can control your body temperature. For road maintenance you either need good packed snowcover or then brush away the snow immediately.

      Reply
    • Kevin Klinkenberg April 10, 2023, 8:29 am

      The #1 city for bike commuting in America is Minneapolis.
      Weather just needs to be considered and solved for, like anything else.

      Reply
    • Jon from The Fire Guild April 13, 2023, 4:24 am

      David,

      I’m in Portland, Maine and would love to talk about this (I helped write the article here on Sedera.) Email me here:
      jon (at) thefireguild.com

      Reply
  • Jen April 7, 2023, 7:45 pm

    Love this. I have a kid that likely won’t drive (epilepsy) and have been looking for places to live where they can thrive car free. I was wondering if we would need to emigrate but if options like this keep on coming up we could have other solutions.

    Reply
  • JC April 7, 2023, 8:08 pm

    I bought a couple lottery tickets back when Powerball was $2B solely for the chance of winning that money and purchasing 10 sq miles of farmland to create a zero car city of around 100k folk. It would be a linear city that is perfectly set up for a fantastic walkable life within 10 mins of every residence. I too think this would accelerate the wealth of the US so fast that folks would basically retire by 40 with millions and could just work on creative pursuits to make their neighborhoods better. Healthcare, insurance, transportation, and infrastructure cost would be so low that you couldn’t help but become fabulously rich.

    Reply
  • Liz C April 7, 2023, 8:53 pm

    There are many paths to good cities and good living in them.

    After rearing my kids in a “colonial suburb” in New England, I relocated to an urban neighborhood in a large city in the Upper Midwest. I bought a duplex in a very nice urban neighborhood, live in one flat and rent out the other. My neighborhood isn’t as condensed as Culdesac, but it is highly walkable — 6 large supermarkets within a mile of my home, plus lots of other commercial and public space.
    Being right next to downtown, transit is excellent, though I often walk the 2 miles through parks to work. [I’m not a cyclist.] After not needing to drive at all for 2 years, I got rid of my car, and don’t miss it at all.

    I hope Culdesac is successful … Tempe is not for me, I need snow and cold and love my city’s arctic climate.

    Reply
    • Lisa June 19, 2023, 11:51 am

      Interested to know which city. I’ve just visited Madison Wisconsin and was surprised how much of the city is bike friendly, walkable and how many huge public parks they have. I was so jealous! I kept thinking, why aren’t all cities developing this type of infrastructure?

      Reply
  • Fernando April 7, 2023, 10:28 pm

    Just a quick note about transit. Trains can be highly efficient if they are very frequent, which happens in Europe. Not just bikes has some videos on it.:
    https://youtu.be/muPcHs-E4qc

    Reply
    • Tony April 9, 2023, 7:02 pm

      I took the Orange Pill some time from Not Just Bikes and my eyes have been opened. Because of Jason, I visit Amsterdam for a week last summer, and now I hate living in North America! Especially as I don’t see how things can ever change because the current car centric way of life is not so much a part of people’s reality, that people will fight to preserve it.

      Reply
  • Raisin mountaineer April 7, 2023, 11:50 pm

    I read this with interest and look forward to when they actually start advertising rents. Affordable rent is a huge issue, in Phoenix and elsewhere. We live in much cooler Northern Arizona and would not ever intend to live in the serious desert environment— and….

    The whole article took me back to happy days in South Minneapolis, when I had no car, but had access to a good bus system and a classic old English three-speed bike. I rode the bike six months out of the year and took the bus the rest— and when a big purchase came up, my housemate who had the one car out of the four of us would take us wherever it was (usually out to a suburb). Everything I needed day to day— work, college, groceries, church, recreation— was within easy reach.

    The town we live in now still has that for those who live close enough to the center (as we do) but the temptation to sprawl and have “acreage” and “privacy” is an ongoing blight. I find it interesting that here, at least, the desire for isolation seems to parallel a fear of others and an anger about (for example) people who wish to reduce our use of cars and fossil fuels.

    I don’t know where this all goes. In the meantime, I wish Culdesac well. I could nitpick (and perhaps I have) but I think the concept is solid and hope it will increase especially as folks get older.

    Reply
    • Cody April 17, 2023, 1:28 pm

      Rents are on the website now:

      Studios from $1340/mo
      1 bedrooms from $1380/mo
      2 bedrooms from $2180/mo
      3 bedrooms from $2990/mo

      Reply
  • Jon April 8, 2023, 12:46 am

    Exciting. I’m following them on Youtube to see how it turns out.

    One thing that I haven’t liked about being stacked on top of one another is listening to your neighbors having sex or fighting, etc. If apartments were built correctly to make it sound proof I think places like this would be more livable. Having said all that. I do enjoy living on a half acre and wish I had even more space. But really, I don’t need that much space. I could live in a smaller plot of land with our 4 kids, especially if it was closer to the outdoors. As really, as nice as it is to have song birds outside my house, most of the time we spend inside except to go out and play outdoors occasionally.

    Reply
  • ..sb… April 8, 2023, 1:49 am

    I like it. Currently living in Singapore and they’ve basically figured it out, although by necessity as the country is a small island. Dense living, lots of public transport (generally less than 7 minute wait for bus or MRT train), highways hidden underground where you need them, first floor retail in many of the apartment buildings, covered sidewalks to block the rain and sun. They design buildings to maximise breeze off the water, encourage rooftop and hanging gardens, and are on a push for vertical indoor farming. Next up they need to designate more bike lanes but it’s overall quite impressive.

    Reply
  • Mel April 8, 2023, 2:03 am

    Wow that’s damn cool and innovative! Hope it takes off!

    I am scratching my head though when it comes to getting your car to your house so you can pack it for a road trip, or whenever you want to escape the city?

    Reply
    • Cody April 17, 2023, 1:40 pm

      Lots of options. I wonder if they have some sort of temporary permit for bringing your car through certain streets (I imagine they have something in place for this, just imagine moving furniture, etc..).

      I don’t know if this community already does this, but they could potentially also utilize special, low-speed vehicles for this purpose (specialized golf carts, or something like a Japanese Kei truck).

      For something like a road trip, you can probably get everything you need in 1 or 2 trips with a bike and a bike-trailer (the community might even have some available for use/rental).

      Reply
  • Finn April 8, 2023, 3:31 am

    Folk will also need to push for more local infrastructure. You mention this in your blog post but not the recommendations for ppl sitting on planning committees.

    Communities like this still need to give ppl jobs. That means more companies in the vicinity or good links out of it. In America, which doesn’t invest heavily in public transit to the extent European cities do, but is vastly larger in area and more spread out in its architecture, you run the risk of creating food, health and work deserts without those features.

    I think you’re also forgetting that you once ran a small car for major errands. I think you may no longer do so. Others would need to, so eliminating minimum parking requirements entirely is going to skew the appeal of these neighbourhoods toward certain demographics. The retired, potentially ppl working lower wage jobs, ppl working from home.

    Reply
  • Pamela April 8, 2023, 3:40 am

    Canadian raised but living in Amsterdam NL and London U.K. for 20 years where there are no cars necessary. I love the lifestyle the design of these cities has afford me. Every time I go home to Ontario to see family and I think how wonderful it would be to be closer to them, it’s the driving around in a car and wasting so much time getting anywhere, that is always the factor smashing that fantasy from my mind. Nope, that’s not how I want to spend my time.

    This video https://youtu.be/jN7mSXMruEo also recently made me realise the impact of the ever larger vehicles in the US causing even more urban sprawl.

    Reply
  • Kristi April 8, 2023, 4:32 am

    For anyone who wants to know more about these kind of issues, two fantastic and eye-opening YouTube channels are Not Just Bikes and City Nerd.

    Reply
  • Margot McCann April 8, 2023, 7:06 am

    Love the idea of a city designed for people. I live in Ottawa as you have too I think. I live 10km from work, bike path all the way. This year I tried winter biking for the first time (I’m in my mid 50s) and although I’m in good shape physically the winter biking was tough. I found there were some conditions like freezing rain that made it impossible . And the commute time was doubled on my fat tire bike so leaving work at 5 (pitch dark) was a long slow trip home in the dark. Anyway, I was very healthy from the fresh air and exercise but I doubt most people would be willing to do it. We hope for an improved transit system as a longer term way to reduce our dependence on cars. Working from home also could be a game changer for cold climates.

    Reply
    • Kristi April 9, 2023, 5:34 am

      Ironically, in Scandinavian countries, people commute by bike all winter in sub-zero conditions. I’ve seen video of cyclo-tracks covered with snow, with tons of people cycling away. The difference is they’ve built safe infrastructure and maintain and plow it, so people feel safe.

      Reply
  • Tim April 8, 2023, 7:48 am

    Wow, what a fantastic project. I’ve been dreaming about designing and living in this kind of place since this post of yours (dang, 4 years already!): https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2019/02/27/how-to-create-reality
    I have never owned a car, always got by on foot/bike/public transportation. I’ve recently moved from a big city to a small town, mostly to have my own space and escape cars, and unfortunately it turns out this small town is less bike-friendly than the city was. And now I want to move to Culdesac!

    Reply
  • Francesco April 8, 2023, 9:10 am

    I guess you’ve never been in Europe or old cities not built for cars. It’s a nightmare to park, to drive and to do anything and you still need a car to get around.
    I think you americans live in a dreamland and don’t recognize it. I’d give everything to have those large parking places and 8-lane roads here in Rome !

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2023, 6:45 pm

      You never need a car to get around. It’s just a matter of designing your life correctly, even in the US I have never needed a Car anywhere I have lived.

      Reply
      • Mary K April 9, 2023, 11:49 am

        The difficulty I see is everyone here is young (or youngish) and healthy (or able-bodied). I remarked to a colleague that I saw all these Acorn (brand) stair lifts in the estate sales my husband and I attended. A physical therapist, she nodded sagely and said, “It’s coming for all of us.”

        I don’t see where this is planned for in your designs. And what happens when you need an ambulance or fire truck?

        Reply
        • Francesco April 9, 2023, 6:05 pm

          Perfect question Mary.
          MMM and the FIRE and most of the FIRE movement adepts think they’ll be in good shape until they’re 90? Think again. And I know many members of FIRE community with some sort of disabilities thar prevent them of biking around.
          Sorry to say but even your last ride will be in a car- a hearse!

          Reply
          • Karl April 14, 2023, 8:00 pm

            You know they didn’t invent old people after the car

            Reply
          • Anna April 19, 2023, 7:25 pm

            That’s where transit comes in. How are you going to drive if you’re disabled? You’ll rely on public transit unless you plan to rely on someone else to always get you around. And even for that, loading / unloading someone in a wheelchair is a project. Much better to rely on high quality public transit.

            Reply
        • Liz C April 9, 2023, 6:27 pm

          I wish I was “young or youngish” — I’m in my mid-60s.
          And while I’m normally very fit, 2022 brought on some health issues that got serious. (Daily medical treatment in January, surgery 2 weeks ago. FYI, I’m going to recover completely.)

          I still don’t need a car in my life.

          Local public transit isn’t near European standards, but it’s good enough. For medical appointments, I use ride hail services. I could still walk for food shopping; at the worst, I had friends drive me. There are so many online order and delivery services that I could have used instead.

          As far as emergency vehicles … if a “no car” neighborhood is planned correctly, the sidewalks will be wide enough for emergency vehicles. Nobody would complain for a rare true emergency.

          I admit, my way of being car free takes some money … even with lots of ride hails, I spend far less per year on transportation than almost all car owners. It also doesn’t work for everyone … there were ways to get around before cars, even for people with limited mobility.

          Reply
        • Richard April 10, 2023, 11:50 pm

          Driving cars is a privilege of the young and healthy. The elderly and less mobile around me mostly get around on electric mobility scooters or via public transport.

          Eliminating cars increases options and safety for the less mobile.

          Reply
        • Suzie April 11, 2023, 12:10 pm

          I’m genuinely befuddled by the attitude that the elderly or disabled can ONLY get around by car. My elderly grandmother hasn’t driven for ten years because she’s so old it’s unsafe for her to drive. (Eyesight and general disability.) I know more than one person whose disabilities make it legally impossible for them to ever drive. How are they supposed to live if the whole world is a neverending cartopia? They use public transport and occasional taxis, like normal people.

          Some people DO need cars. Some people CAN’T use cars. Doesn’t mean that everywhere has to cater to them both.

          Reply
    • Ben April 8, 2023, 9:02 pm

      Francesco, you have it great in Rome. I live in Montreal, and cars are a needless, dangerous polluting bother. Our metro (subway) is very reliable, frequent and fast and there are wonderful bike paths that go almost everywhere. I personally prefer skateboarding to and from metro stations since it’s easy to just carry the skateboard on the train and pop back on it afterwards.

      That said, there is a huge massive disgusting traffic jam covering the whole city all the time and it stinks and is painful if you ever have to drive for any reason, but more and more streets are being pedestrianized and we can dream about ditching cars altogether. Whenever you can ditch cars do so, it’s better for you and the planet.

      Reply
  • Bumblebee April 8, 2023, 9:35 am

    I am originally from Phoenix and one of the reasons I left 10 years ago is because I really disliked the car-centric culture and the soullessness of the vast Phoenix suburbs. I lived abroad first and then moved to an East Coast city and haven’t had a car in 10 years (and I love it!). I miss my family and friends there but ultimately prioritized my health and lifestyle by moving to a location that wasn’t car-dependent.

    My parents still live in the Phoenix area and their health is deteriorating to the point where driving isn’t feasible anymore. They are basically stuck at home or dependent on friends driving them around. Culdesac could be a game changer for them. I’m actually visiting them later this month and hope I can convince them to take a tour. This type of intentional urban planning can also be really beneficial for people with disabilities or who aren’t (for whatever reason) able to drive anymore, beyond just personal preference. Plus the social, mental, physical, and financial benefits are immense!

    Reply
    • Bumblebee April 8, 2023, 11:13 pm

      I wanted to add — MMM, I recommend you reconsider your stance on public transit! I think your current perspective is based on the limitations of most North American public transit systems. You mention not liking the lineups and waiting, but with proper investment, this would be minimal, and mass transit would be quite efficient (and currently is in many parts of the world!). Plus public transit can be a great option for disabled folks or those who cannot operate their own transportation, whether it be a car, bike, scooter, etc.

      I absolute agree with your stance on bikes, but it should be a “both and,” not an “either or!” If we’re envisioning the world with the urban planning we want to see, let’s imagine having boundless multimodal options, like taking the subway across the entire city and then grabbing a bike share for the last mile. Advocating for cities to invest both in bike lines and increased mass transit is beneficial to all in the long-term and they both work in tandem to reduce expensive and isolating car-centric culture.

      Reply
      • Liz C April 9, 2023, 6:35 pm

        Agree 100%.

        An ideal transit system would be:
        – walk a maximum of 1-2 blocks from your start, and the same at the destination.
        – wait no more than 5 minutes, out of severe weather (covered shelter)
        – few or no transfers, minimum wait time at transfer points
        – a good app to help with complex route planning.

        I have the first and last of these. Bus frequency on my closest routes is 15 minutes, ok but not great. I can get to some places with no or one easy transfer, but many places in my city have awful routes. [Over an hour for what would be a 12 minute car ride.] It’s getting better, but very slowly.

        As far as apps go, I use and like Transit.

        Reply
  • Doug April 8, 2023, 10:06 am

    Serious question, where do the people who work in the shops and stores live. I can imagine this community is not cheap. I am thinking of Prospect in Longmont. Beautiful, walkable, but crazy expensive.
    Can the barista who works in the coffee shop afford to live there?
    Your trash gets hauled away, and the sewage disappears. You get to live in a rich nice community. Good for you, same for them.

    Reply
    • Ben April 8, 2023, 9:05 pm

      Great question Doug. Culdesac is definitely going to be very expensive and exclusive, and yes in a bad way. The people who work in it’s stores will live in other, worse neighborhoods. However, they will be able to take the light rail (or bike) in to work, and hopefully it will inspire more new neighborhoods in more places. The rich have the disposable income to try new things, unfortunately the poor have to largely take what they can get until they save enough to escape. So I wish it was more inclusive, but just look at it as a start.

      Reply
    • Luke April 12, 2023, 6:47 am

      Looking on their website, studios are available from $1340/month. Assuming a barista makes $15/hr, that’s $2395/month after taxes if they work full time.
      That’s a fair chunk of their income in rent, but not impossible. They could also share a two bedroom for $1080 each.
      Given their internet is paid for, their gym is paid for, and there’s no car payment (assuming they to carless), that leaves $1055 a month free for other bills and groceries.
      If they were to commute to the job, they’d have to include gas, insurance, car payment and car maintenance – and I’m not sure they’re going to find their own place for a heck of a lot cheaper elsewhere.

      Reply
      • ChrisT May 23, 2023, 2:26 am

        Don’t you mean $1055 per month for other bills and groceries AND investing? They wouldn’t have car-related bills, but would still have food, probably utilities, cell phone plan, renter’s insurance, possibly health insurance, clothing, incidental household items, and hopefully at least a few bucks for entertainment or hobbies. I couldn’t find where their gym and internet are paid for – only a mention that the development includes a gym, along with a Mexican restaurant, and other retail space. So, gym and internet would be additional costs, unless I missed it. I’m not familiar with the overall cost of living in Tempe, but my hypothesis is that it’s on the higher end. $1055 a month would seem to leave very little for investing. So, the cashier could potentially afford to live in Culdesac, just wouldn’t be as likely to be able to enjoy FIRE like the folks following MMM’s blog. Doesn’t seem like a good trade-off for them long term.

        If you’re correct that they couldn’t find a cheaper place to live anyway, then they’re just SOL no matter where they live.

        Reply
  • Maryalene April 8, 2023, 10:58 am

    I love the idea of car-free communities, but don’t see them going mainstream for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with planning commissions and city councils (sat on both for about a decade and, believe or not, we really do want walkable communities). Still, we can dream!

    Reply
  • Kirsten April 8, 2023, 11:06 am

    Years ago, I took a permaculture course, and found all of the urban planning bits the most interesting… it’s been awhile, but I remember reading some of the book “A Pattern Language”, and thinking that the author was on to something. Homes and communities that have been built with inate human nature in mind (intentionally or not) feel the best and are the healthiest. That’s why you get a certain “this feels good” feeling n the oldest human cities and villages and quite the opposite when in expansive car dominated grid pattern American cities. International communities exist (Muir Commons in Davis, CA was one example given in my class), and groups like the City Repair Project based in Portland OR are doing some amazing work trying to bring neighbors together with “placemaking” projects, but I’m hopeful this can be embraced on a broader scale.

    Reply
    • Kirsten April 8, 2023, 9:26 pm

      *intentional community (not international! Damn autocorrect!)

      Reply
  • Adam April 8, 2023, 11:51 am

    It’s a very interesting concept, I’m sure it’s been thought of, but how good is access for emergency vehicles?

    Reply
    • Cody April 17, 2023, 1:20 pm

      I just called them. So the main ‘street’ (In this picture – looks like it is called ‘Primary Paseo’: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/culdesac-architecture.jpg), was deliberately planned to accommodate emergency vehicles, including firetrucks.

      For some of the smaller sidestreets/paseos, if an ambulance is unable to fit, they would park as close as possible (either inside or outside of the community) and then use standard methods (rolling stretcher, etc..) to bring patients back to the vehicle. This is pretty standard with big apartment complexes, etc..

      Based on the real-life the pictures ( https://culdesac.com/blog/post/details-details-details ), it does indeed look like the walkways are quite wide.

      Reply
  • Leilani April 8, 2023, 11:55 am

    Great story! I have been so frustrated with my city lately and their disregard for the safety of cyclists. The vision and action towards building a car-free neighborhood, amidst the car-loving toxicity of the U.S., is a refreshing reminder that there’s hope in the dark, as Rebecca Solnit puts it.

    Reply
  • Caterina B April 8, 2023, 12:02 pm

    The major concern I have with ANYTHING in Arizona is WATER! Where does their water come from and how will they be able to provide water into the future? Arizona already has big supply problems and recklessly continues to build out in the desert. This issue will become worse and already has forced some people to leave their desert houses. It will result in ghost communities. Who can say it won’t happen in the city of Phoenix, too?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2023, 6:43 pm

      Believe it or not, this is not a big problem in Phoenix and most other big desert cities. They have plenty of water for domestic use. It’s agriculture that uses the lion’s share of fresh water – about 80% of it in the Western US. Then our other industrial uses, then our houses are down near the bottom.

      One major improvement in places like Phoenix and Las Vegas versus the rest of the country is that they have managed to mostly eliminate suburban lawns. A single patch of lawn watered in the desert will use more than an entire household, so as soon as you remove that you have made the whole city more sustainable.

      Alas, here in the Denver area the lawn with the big sprinkler system still seems to be in style, despite the fact that our summer climate very closely resembles a real desert. The grass will die within a week or two if you leave it unwatered, which I think would be a great idea in most cases. There’s lots of cool stuff you can do with river rocks and native flowers and Yucca plants that takes almost no water to sustain!

      Reply
      • Heath August 14, 2023, 12:38 pm

        Very accurate, MMM! I’ve got a good friend who works for whatever they call the “water” department of the city of Mesa (right next to Tempe), and whenever I bring up the metro Phoenix water supply issue, he basically says “we’ll be fine, but things will have to change with respect to agriculture in the southwest and lawns/golf courses”.

        I worried about it for years, but a bit of research and several articles in the NYT helped calm me down. Here’s one: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/05/22/climate/colorado-river-water.html .

        TLDR: We’re going to have to continue to evolve what we raise/grow/eat to balance the demands on our planet, especially considering climate change (to the surprise of practically nobody reading MMM)

        Reply
  • Kelly Monaghan April 8, 2023, 1:02 pm

    Please forgive me for giving vent to one of my pet peeves.

    It’s FEWER cars, not LESS. Fewer is used when referring to things (people, cars, buildings, bottles of beer) that can be counted separately. Less is used when referring to things (sugar, coffee) that come in bulk.

    Of course, your usage is rapidly becoming the standard now, which drives irascible old English majors like me nuts. But that’s how language works, which is why we no longer talk like Chaucer or Shakespeare.

    On a more positive note: Terrific article about a consummation devoutly to be wished. Have you looked into forest gardens?

    Reply
  • Zach April 8, 2023, 2:27 pm

    Don’t forget our friends who wrote Happy City, the original culmination of this realization. Putting the person first, the bike second and the car last is the center of their discussion, and we’re seeing it around the world!

    Reply
  • J d April 8, 2023, 5:11 pm

    This not exactly an exciting new concept. It’s called being Amish.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2023, 6:40 pm

      What would you say are the similarities? Culdesac seems fairly high tech to me with modern apartments, campus wide wifi, app based electric car and scooter sharing, and all the other stuff that comes with being in the center of a large city. The only thing the residents are giving up, is car parking lots.

      Reply
      • Emma April 9, 2023, 6:22 pm

        MMM, I love your passion for this topic, but I never got why cars are so bad in your view? I never understood your hate for cars. If you don’t like them, just don’t have one. Or have a electric something…Americans love cars and they always will and that’s not changing anytime soon I hope.
        And besides, when you’re like 70, how do you think you’ll move around? Biking or just walking with a cane?

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2023, 12:31 pm

          Emma, as I’ve written many times before, I LOVE cars! But only for the things they are actually useful for: carrying you and your friends hundreds of miles at 75 miles per hour through the mountains or the plains, carrying all your backpacks and coolers and bikes on the back to get somewhere far away.

          They are just completely ridiculous and stupid inventions for getting a few miles around a city. Because of the space, noise, cost and pollution factors mentioned in this article.

          Walking and biking is faster and better.

          And at 70, 80, 90, or 100 years old? Of COURSE I’ll still be biking and walking! Those are the activities that allow you to retain your mobility into old age. If you depend on a car for transportation when you are young, you’ll soon find you depend on a car (and soon afterwards a wheelchair) for the rest of your shortened life.

          Cars wreck cities and they wreck people.

          Reply
        • Richard April 11, 2023, 12:10 am

          Emma, many elderly people lose the ability to drive a car later in life.

          In my community, they commonly use electric mobility scooters or public transport to get around.

          Reducing car dependency increases options for the elderly.

          Reply
  • SillyBuns69 April 8, 2023, 5:36 pm

    This hit me very hard(in a very good way.) I’ve been working towards buying some test land out west and experimenting with fully self sustaining village design. I’ve been at this for about 5 years now, while trying to survive the insanity of city life. My plan is to take their idea even further and automate as much as possible, including income and energy generation. I’ve got most of the skills needed from taking many jobs and researching constantly. Hoping to see more people adopt a car free lifestyle and actually start working towards it. This article came at the perfect time for me. I’m quitting my soul crushing job tomorrow and might be starting at the local bike shop soon. I’ll have plenty of time and energy to build my business and self sustaining village. You’ve been a massive inspiration for me when times got tough and I doubted my vision. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Reagan April 8, 2023, 6:21 pm

    When I read the description it made me think about Rome — and really all the cities that were built before cars would be like this, where you could have what you needed provided by the people living around you. I would like to live in Rome. I know, there are cars there now, but now that I’ve seen the “true costs of commuting” I can’t unsee it. I have a commitment to Houston for the next ten years and hopefully over that time the concept expands so that I can do this but in a place that has deciduous trees and wood fires in the fall.

    Reply
  • Ray April 8, 2023, 8:41 pm

    On quick scan, I didn’t see any info about public school locations. Or vocational stuff for that matter. And community college. Are they in the amenities section?

    Reply
  • John Alderete April 9, 2023, 11:40 am

    I recommend linking to Charles Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming our lives through urban design, in the Further Reading section. It grapples with all of these issues, engages in lots of research (e.g., how people use spaces once they are freed up), and looks at other clever examples of inspired people, like people living in single family homes spontaneously removing the fences surrounding their lots and building community that way.

    Reply
  • Dawn April 9, 2023, 11:48 am

    Sounds like many European cities, including Ljubljana, where I live. We still have too many cars, but we also have many parts of the city that work just like this. (In fact, it’s hard to find anyplace to live that isn’t a ten-minute walk from a grocery store and a few other amenities, such as hair stylists, cafes, restaurants, etc.) We’ve also been expanding our bike lanes, car sharing options, and car-free zones. Other European cities are making similar improvements on what were generally already more pedestrian- and bike-friendly urban plans. I hope that this project works well in Tempe and that more U.S. cities get on board.

    Reply
  • Ty April 9, 2023, 2:33 pm

    I would say Vancouver Canada has benefited from similar urban design ideas where you don’t need a car to live here but still be able to reach all amenities. I get around by bike to get to work and do errands here in Vancouver, even with its hills. Its high ranking on the livability scale is pretty world renown. We own a car, but rarely gets used.

    Reply
  • Jon D April 9, 2023, 2:49 pm

    I was in Rome and I LOVE their car culture. If you drive a moped scooter in Italy, you get special traffic-bypassing privilege; such as driving on the centerline to bypass gridlock. It is perfectly safe because everyone is aware of it. Most city streets are primarily WALKED, with cars being a secondary form of transport. If you want to travel far, the train is less than $20, it goes 170mph, and is very enjoyable to travel on. Also, the cars are almost all manual transmission…. This has nothing to do with efficiency, but it is a very cool part of the culture. After spending a week there, walking over 10 miles per day, and riding around the countryside on a vespa, coming back to the USA felt sad. Everything is so spread out, and if I want to go 100+ miles, I’m forced to drive. Trains are incredible. Imagine taking a 170mph train and a folding bike to San Diego for the weekend. I’d be there a LOT.

    Reply
  • Amir April 9, 2023, 3:37 pm

    I live in Madrid (Spain) now it’s the city center is much like you describe it. It was built centuries ago (started 500 years ago and evolved in tiers). Obviously, it was not designed for cars. There are still cars moving around, but it’s clear that they are the 2nd grade citizens here. Most transport is on foot and a super efficient metro system. Then, the medium and long range rail lines. Most people living here don’t have nor need a car.

    Reply
    • Paul Kelsall April 10, 2023, 1:55 pm

      I also live in Spain (A Coruña) and I was thinking the same as you Amir.

      This video is good summary of Spanish cities from the perspective of someone from a North American”

      ‘Pedestrianized Streets Are Good, So What Are We Even Doing?’
      https://youtu.be/7BRvk-_wM6U

      Reply
  • Tony April 9, 2023, 6:30 pm

    In my city in Canada, people were protesting against the concept of 15 minute cities proposed by the municipal government. The protesters believe it is part of the plan but an authoritarian global world order power(s) that aim to confine people to geographic prisons and ban cars.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname
(not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers – after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won’t make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!

connect

welcome new readers

Take a look around. If you think you are hardcore enough to handle Maximum Mustache, feel free to start at the first article and read your way up to the present using the links at the bottom of each article.

For more casual sampling, have a look at this complete list of all posts since the beginning of time or download the mobile app. Go ahead and click on any titles that intrigue you, and I hope to see you around here more often.

Love, Mr. Money Mustache

latest tweets