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!

  • Nicolo April 9, 2023, 7:19 pm

    Google Barcelona superilla to find out about this metropoli-wide urban project. Or come visit Barcelona to see it yourself

  • Frank April 9, 2023, 8:21 pm

    We have many cities/neighborhoods that are close to this pedestrian ideal – retirement communities. Yes they have cars at each house, but one can and does get around by golf cart/bike, they have community facilities and shopping. One does not have to leave the larger communities for most living needs. Why retirees love living in these communities. The denser sections of these retirement communities (apartments/condos vs SFH) are very close to the Culdesac ideal.

  • Tracy April 9, 2023, 9:30 pm

    Sounds like the 15 minute city…for some reason people don’t like it when others own their own houses with yards. Why would I want to pay rent and live all cramped together in an apartment when I own my own place and can have a garden and a dog in my backyard? I really don’t understand some people. I can’t wait to move where I live on a couple of acres and my neighbors are far away!!!

  • Greg April 9, 2023, 10:10 pm

    Great article. It reminds me of why I love the website https://www.walkscore.com/. It is a great starting point when figuring out where to live or stay when going to a new city.

  • Alan April 9, 2023, 11:54 pm

    I hope the “dog park” is kid-friendly ;)

  • Tyler April 10, 2023, 12:12 am

    On the wait list! We currently spend 1400 a month on housing+transport
    (no car) so “Market Rate” is worrysome.

    “Market rate” can mean a lot of things, if it means 2500, and the grocery stores/restaurants are marked up this could easily turn into 13k a year increase in expenses or 300k loss. All of this is assuming it’s targeted at work for life folks. If that’s the case I may need to go back to work for a bit…

  • TheBigSmurf April 10, 2023, 12:21 am

    Everyone moves to cities like this, no more houses everywhere. And the space between the cities would be 100% nature, uninterrupted nature. With trains interconnecting the cities and stops in the nature to go hiking, moutain biking, …

    The only thing worrying me and preventing me to live in such a model is living in an appartment. I hate noise from neighbours (like hearing people walking in the appartment above all day long). There is still a lot of progress to be made to noise-insulate appartments.

  • OrdinaryBob April 10, 2023, 5:17 am

    We moved to Tampa 4 years ago, and got rid of one car. We bike to dinner, doctors, dentists, concerts, sports events, and just because we feel like it. Read Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 10, 2023, 12:26 pm

      Wow, even in Tampa! (Where other people often write in emails and comment that you could never bike in Florida because it’s too hot, humid and car-centric).

      Nice work Bob and thanks for the inspiration!

  • Brett Bim April 10, 2023, 6:36 am

    This feels like a retelling of Jane Jacobs book Death and Life of Great American Cities, 50 years later. Maybe this time will be different and we’ll actually do something about the mess we created when we decided the car was critical to being alive.

  • Dharma Bum April 10, 2023, 7:17 am

    That’s a very ambitious plan!
    I believe it was initially hatched, or at least documented, by a dude named Thomas More in 1516, and described as “Utopia”.
    I give you a lot of credit for having the character and fortitude to lead the charge for changing the world.
    It’s a tough job. Real tough. Gutsy.
    I cannot quite put my finger on it, but something about human nature, or the human mind, or whatever you want to call it, there’s something about MOST humans (well, mostly males, I suppose), that LOVES CARS beyond anything else in life. Faster, more powerful, sexy, sleek, aerodynamic, hefty, trucky, lifted, rumbly, glitzy, obnoxious, noisy, leather seated, sound system outfitted, trailer hauling, alloy-rimmed, low profile tired automobiles. Mustangs, GTOs, Lambos, F150s, Rams, Ferraris, Buggatis, Mercs, Bimmers, McLarens, and yes, even Teslas.
    Many many people value cars over life itself.
    Better than owning a house. Better than getting married. Better than having kids.
    The last refuge of the low life. The solitude of isolation within the confines of one’s own wheels.
    Surround by a crushing, choking, congestion infested sea of disgusting humanity, one can find peace and contentment by shielding themselves and separating themselves from the “other” by sitting in their car.
    And listening to Joe Rogan.
    You’re a brave and tireless warrior MMM.
    Campaigning for carless streets and densified residential neighborhoods.
    While humanity itself seeks more and more separation and isolation in cars and in single family dwellings on big lots as their own personal utopian ideal.
    Utopianism has always been a tricky strait to navigate.

  • Marcelo April 10, 2023, 8:06 am

    It seems great! My only concern while checking the 360 view they provide on the website is the possibility of noise. Not that you don’t already have it in big dense cities.

    A neighborhood with several commercial buildings and residential ones intertwined seems like it would be pretty noisy to sleep at night. I lived in a very dense urban area for 3 years, I loved biking or walking everywhere, the downside was the noise. But we managed it generally by using white noise from a fan when we went to bed.

    • AnotherEngineer April 13, 2023, 7:11 pm

      Sure if it is an entertainment district it may be loud when the bars let out. But this approach spreads all those uses out and doesn’t concentrate them. Also, consider that it may not be the people that are load, but the cars.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTV-wwszGw8

  • Brian April 10, 2023, 8:12 am

    The importance of having the example of Culdesac in the US can not be overstated. I got into FI about 7 years ago and became very interested in biking/walking vs. using the car for everything. I’m now on the bike and pedestrian advisory commission for my city of about 500k people. What you learn is that pointing to European-style bike/ped infrastructure as an example of what to strive for often meets “that’ll never work here because of x, y, and z” response. We need US examples of how to overcome zoning issues, how to address the emergency vehicle access issue, how to secure financing for a project that doesn’t provide at least 2 parking spaces for every dwelling unit, etc.

  • Kevin Klinkenberg April 10, 2023, 8:36 am

    I love that you’re writing about these issues. My career has been in the urban design/planning/architecture world, and so I basically came to your site the opposite way. Finding info and people regarding financial independence grew out of my interest in urban design. So it’s kind of funny how these two paths intersect, and how people can find each other. They are completely symbiotic.
    culdesac Tempe is a terrific project, and let’s all hope it succeeds. My good friend Dan Parolek’s firm designed it.

    I would submit this as a path for people who are really interested in this: instead of spending a lot of time trying to be on Boards and Commissions, go out and become a developer yourself. That may sound big and scary to some, but in reality all the things you have written about for years are what it means to be a developer. Do a house hack. Buy or build a small rental property. Rinse and repeat. Become invested in your own community beyond just living there. If we had a few thousand more people doing that (who really loved walking and biking), we would find a much quicker path to solving these issues, and we’d have resources to do it. I don’t mean to discourage getting involved with municipal government – that’s fine and all – but it’s not how I’ve seen change made most effectively in our country.

  • Ben D. April 10, 2023, 8:42 am

    Does New Urbanism have a theory as to why cars are so popular in old cities that were not designed for them and have thriving pedestrian/bike/public-transport cultures? A number of commenters have noted here that driving and parking a personal vehicle is a nightmare (and unnecessary!) in places like Rome, Montreal, Boston, and New York… and yet millions of people still do it! How does New Urbanism explain this?

  • Lee April 10, 2023, 9:05 am

    Great article! I worked with Ryan and some of the team a few years back. They’re all really bright people. I’d love to see this spread to more cities across the US.

  • Mary stone April 10, 2023, 9:30 am

    Downsizing movie takes this concept to the extreme

  • Ria glas April 10, 2023, 1:03 pm

  • Kathy O April 10, 2023, 2:10 pm

    I would love to to rent an apartment like this for a couple months. Will they have short term rentals?


  • R. John Anderson April 10, 2023, 3:01 pm

    Great piece. Cul Du Sac and others are building places worth caring about as an alternative to places where you need a car for almost all of your daily needs. Over the last 60 years of suburban development, many municipalities have approved a pattern of development that spreads civilization on the land so thinly that the property taxes on houses at 4-8 units to the acre don’t generate enough in property taxes to fund resurfacing the streets every 15-20 years. If they can’t fund street resurfacing, they certainly are not paying into schools, firefighters, cops, parks, sewers, etc.

    There is a big financial consequense for the town or city if the development pattern can’t pay its way.


  • Ben April 10, 2023, 4:30 pm

    Have you visited Mackinac Island in norther Michigan? It is a tourist spot where cars are not allowed. It is a very unique and fun place to visit in the summer, lots of people cruising around on bikes or horse carriage.

  • Alan April 10, 2023, 5:56 pm

    I Hope that dog park is “kid” friendly :). It looks like their target demographic is young working professionals. Nothing wrong with that. If this community had a strong daycare type program, and more family type stuff I would be more interested. I look forward to the evolution of all this!

    • Abbie April 26, 2023, 10:29 am

      As a mom of four who makes the kids walk/bike as much as possible – I agree, designs like this don’t seem to allow for space to play, explore, then schools (pre through college), as well as jobs they can walk to when they are teens.

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 26, 2023, 11:54 am

        I think you might find Culdesac pretty kid-friendly if you could walk through it in person as we did in a tour. Unlike the basic architectural diagram which only shows the one “dog park”, in reality the ENTIRE PLACE is one big park. It’s all gardens and paths and little fun features for gathering and sitting and hosting cookouts and such.

        As for schools and jobs: when you’re in a city on a light rail, these things are typically much closer than they would be if you were in a suburb. Tempe in particular is packed with nice stuff.

  • Arc April 10, 2023, 6:03 pm

    Thank you ! Thank you !

    Please spread the word and fight for this future. I live near the freeway because this is all I can afford and the pollution is killing us slowly.

  • Lewis April 10, 2023, 8:54 pm

    Thanks for this post!
    I’m a multimodal transport planner / engineer. You opinion here reflects what most actual urban planners would agree is best practice but you’re right about there being a barrier at the decision making level, for many reasons. Not least of which is that most decision makers and upper management have always driven everywhere and don’t know the joy of car-free/lite living. Although most people say their favorite places happen to be car-free/lite. Another barrier is that all people suffer from status quo bias so there is always a huge negative reaction to anything seen as being at all inconvenient to a car. We also decisions being way too influenced by old school traffic models which predict chaos.
    I’m glad you’ve given people a way to progress because we need more regular people calling on electeds to support these changes. In fact, I’d love to see more of your readers and other people who have broken free from car-dependence running for local elections. This will make a big difference.
    Also check out CA’s SB743 which requires cities to use vehicle-miles travelled (VMT) as an effect instead of general traffic level of service (LOS) when doing environmental reviews of developments. Check out this presentation for why it’s important: https://opr.ca.gov/docs/743_February_2016_Webinar.pdf

  • Colin H April 11, 2023, 6:35 am

    This is so exciting! I have been a major proponent of human-focused-cities for a while now, and its so exciting to see a project like this in the USA, where it seems like these things just dont exist. I really hope we see more of this in the future.

    My one concern though: Is there anywhere around this neighborhood where you could park a car if you already have it? Im all for walkable cities, but I dont love the idea of *completely* giving up my car. Even if it would only be used for out of town trips, I would still want to have the option.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2023, 7:31 am

      They definitely discourage people from doing this, because there is already a car share lot right on site which will probably be cheaper than keeping your own car. But in theory you COULD rent a parking spot anywhere nearby (or risk it by leaving the car out on a random neighborhood street). If there’s one thing the Phoenix area has an abundance of besides sunshine, it’s asphalt parking spaces for cars.

  • Todd April 11, 2023, 7:14 am

    This idea was perfected a long time ago: New York City. I live there part time (mostly in Chicagoland). In NYC within two blocks of our apartment are four going on five grocery stores, dozens of coffee shops, two dozen restaurants/bars, a big theater/performance venue, two parks (Riverside by the Hudson and Central Park), schools, shops, and the list goes on. You can get anywhere on the island (Manhattan) by walking (yes, you don’t even need the trains if you are a walker). AND NOT ONLY DO YOU NOT NEED A CAR, YOU DON’T WANT ONE! That said, I applaud this idea and fully support it. I hate having to drive when I’m in Chicagoland. Cities should be designed like NYC.

  • Chris B April 11, 2023, 8:36 am

    Let’s identify some of the barriers to success, not in a naysaying way but in a planning way:

    1) Hard to sell to car-dependent people because they already lack the fitness and agility to walk short distances or bicycle. Car dependency did this to them, of course, but now that the damage to their health is done it seems harder to adopt a muscle-driven lifestyle. The key to unlocking this problem is to sell people on the idea that their environment largely determines their fitness, and as they get more fit walking 300 yards at a time becomes easier.

    2) Living on a car-free island like Culdesac will involve some dependency on the local mass transit line and rideshare services for when you want to leave campus. Mass transit depends on politics, and rideshare services could develop into monopolies and jack up the prices. The solution is political advocacy for both mass transit and anti-monopoly regulations.

    3) In many places, the state legislature is dominated by rural districts and these rural representatives tend to sabotage their own cities (see Nashville’s attempts to buy their own mass transit being thwarted by rural legislators). The solution is that cities will have to finance their own infrastructure improvements and fight for their own independence. Financing routes that don’t go through state-wide “highway funds” will have to be established.

    4) People want what they are told to want, and we’re bombarded with ads telling us to want cars. Could businesses like Culdesac run competing advertising to convince people they want the opposite, or is that not economical? Maybe a better approach is for places like this to become known hangouts for healthy-looking people with lots of stealth wealth, free time, and friends. In that way, it becomes somewhat “exclusive” and status-conferring to live car-free. The new status symbol might be an instagram feed full of all the activities one is able to do when living this way, instead of a new SUV and spray-painted lawn.

    5) I think the work-from-home trend could expand to cover perhaps half of American jobs. For these individuals, it is possible to live in the suburbs and rarely drive anywhere. This greatly reduces the costs of car ownership, and lowers their desire to live absolutely car-free. However, it’s still wasteful because the suburban WFHer still has to pay for the expenses of a car that just sits and depreciates, and for the roads, and they have to live in a non-walkable place so they lack exercise and socialization. The solution might be an opportunity: Hybrid walkable communities tailored for WFHers NOT necessarily situated near mass transit and perhaps with an option to keep a beater car in some far-off gravel parking lot. Such a design might also ease suburbanites into the lifestyle before they cut the automotive cord completely.

    6) WRT comments about affordability, there is no reason a complex like this should be more expensive than a regular apartment complex or residential development. It’s simply replacing acres of parking lot with acres of sidewalks and patios. Yet, Americans are highly sensitive to the status of the neighborhoods we live in, and we are conditioned to want to avoid living near poor people at all cost! But if various versions of this idea are built at different levels of socioeconomic status, then we’re back to the barista or retail worker having to commute from Poorculdesac to Richculdesac. Richculdesac becomes a theme park that offloads the commuting to others and becomes too expensive for its residents to have free time – the whole point. The solution is that these developments can’t be too focused on luxuriousness. They are not resorts. The luxury is a lifestyle of fitness, connection with other people, convenience, and free time spent with neighbors.

    7) What happens when the grocery store (or bar, or clothing store, or bike shop) goes out of business? In that contingency, everyone is back to commuting or else they’re spending extra on delivery. Also in that contingency, it becomes a lot harder to sell the lifestyle. The solution is that the development needs to have sufficient scale to absorb business turnover. Maybe 1,000 residents is enough, or maybe these need to be built on the scale of 10,000 residents?

    • Suzie April 11, 2023, 3:10 pm

      Re: 1: I agree that cycling is a hard sell for a lot of people. I’m a keen anti-car type but am not currently cycling, and the thought of getting back into it is kind of scary as I am at electric cargo trike number of kids and that’s a whole different ball game to a single commuter on a regular bike. But there has been a lot of research around perceived safety (usually phrased as “Why don’t more women cycle?”) and I think that hopefully it would/will be a snowball effect once the initial infrastructure is in place. I live in London and various people are trying really hard to make cycling happen. There are lots of little oases of cycling infrastructure but if I’m going on a 5 mile ride then I’m afraid 100m of dual carriageway in five miles is enough to put me off the whole trip. We lack joined up cycling infrastructure with the result that it is seen as the preserve of male commuters, not mums popping to the shops on the way back from the school run.

      I am a bit of a wet blanket but I’m not unusual among my demographic. And my borough of London is not unusual in having various random cycle lanes dotted around that hop on and off the road and pavement and lead nowhere in particular.

      I hope very fervently that if one builds it they will come, but it’s a bit chicken and egg with there being no demand for it but also how can one show demand for something that isn’t on offer?

      Walking on the other hand… surely everyone believes they can walk really!

  • James Alford April 11, 2023, 8:38 am

    I would love a place like this. Lived in Barcelona for one month with our kids and we never needed a car to do anything. I remember as a kid visiting San Gimignano in Italy and I was blown away that the cars had to park outside the city and it was “car free” inside. It was so peaceful and not to mention how much clearer the air was.. especially when everyone was driving 2 cycle oil mix mopeds at that time in Europe. I live in farm country very similar to Tuscany and thinking of dropping in one of these cities in the middle of the farm land would be almost exactly like every other picturesque town in Tuscany. However because of local and state zoning issues around GMA, it would be almost impossible to get anything approved that is considered high density out in the country because it creates “sprawl” away from the main city and our county will not consider anything except single family residence on land that is at least an acre…. I hope this will change one day.. I have plenty of farm ground that would be fun to develop into a “car free” city.

  • Chérif April 11, 2023, 9:04 am

    I live in Lyon, the second or third biggest french city. They are building bike paths as much as possible and yes it s pretty hard to change car addiction but we see the benefits and we hope more and more people will join us cyclists.
    I totally agree with this new cities conceptions that should be spread as much as possible and beyond.

  • Joseph E. April 11, 2023, 9:09 am

    Dear MMM,

    Going to be in Colorado Springs this month, I’d love to connect, and show my appreciation for everything you helped me learn over the years. Is that possible?

    On the current topic. What if I want to own 3-20 acres etc… I love this idea; it sounds like a place I’d love to be able to bike to, but some people don’t like to live on top of each other. How do you feel about this?

  • Scott April 11, 2023, 9:40 am

    I love the idea. But, I wonder if the people who work at the businesses that support the Culdesac community, are also able to afford to live there (if they choose to). I checked out their site, but no pricing was available without registering to even see if they offer moderate-low pricing options. I think this is important for this direction of city building (see complaints about the “15 minute” cities).

  • Gooner CO April 11, 2023, 9:55 am

    I like the idea, but living in a 2-bedroom apartment as a family of 4, with neighbors above/below/beside, holds zero appeal. Unless their designs come with completely soundproof walls and ceilings, that would be a dealbreaker :)

    I also really dislike riding bikes, so hopefully the public transit would be good enough to get around. Having everything in walking distance does sound pretty delightful, though.

    Most people would still likely own at least one car even if they didn’t use it often, though, so where would it be parked? Underground? In a lot somewhere else and they’d have to travel to it? Having a few shops and restaurants like the Culdesac Master Plan would be nice, but most people would want to have some variety or need to visit other stores or restaurants sometimes, so they need a reasonable way to get there.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2023, 7:27 am

      This first Culdesac project is a medium-density apartment campus, which of course doesn’t fit everybody’s needs. But there’s nothing stopping this concept from working with other kinds of housing as well – the main idea is just to stop prioritizing the absolute worst form of transportation (cars) and give the other options a fair shake.

      In the case of Culdesac, the idea is actually that no, most people probably will NOT want to own a car at all. There is a car share lot right on the campus where you can walk up and grab a modern electric car for those rare times that you need to go somewhere outside of the easy biking and light rail range of the central-city oasis where the neighborhood is located.

      But really, for me this would be once a week or less – maybe for a hike in the mountains 30 miles outside of the city or something. In Phoenix, even the international airport is just a stop on the $2.00 light rail system. Once I’m inside city limits – of ANY city – I generally don’t use cars anymore because there’s usually a better way.

  • Bob April 11, 2023, 12:02 pm

    Fantastic!!! Anyone who doubts that this can work simply needs to visit Amsterdam.

  • Suzie April 11, 2023, 3:00 pm

    My son complained the other day that if we had a car, we would get home from the library sooooo much faster. The library is at the end of our street. The car park is opposite but the entrance is on a side-street. As we walked the UNBEARABLY, EXHAUSTINGLY EPIC ten minutes home, I narrated in real time what would be happening if we had gone by car.

    Walk to the car park, cross the car park and find our car, strap everybody in, fold the buggy and put it in the boot, I get into the car and start it up, inch out of the car park, along the side street, wait for our non-priority turn at the junction, drive along the road (we waved at imaginary us passing us), wait for another car to squeeze past as it’s not a full two lane road, I park the car in the drive and get out, I unfold the buggy and put the baby in because she can’t just sit on the drive while I deal with the big two, unstrap the big two, get to the door – and oh look, here we are at home in real life at the exact same time as if we had taken the car!

    I did exaggerate by about two minutes to really make my point, but how many random weeds would we miss stopping to inspect in a car? He still wishes we had a car (or a van, a REAL van, Mummy, like the plumber!) but I test drove some electric cargo trikes with him the other day and he was pretty impressed so fingers crossed we’ll make a bike-happy urban planner of him yet.

  • Blake April 11, 2023, 7:35 pm

    1) A previous comment mentioned the Amish communities, but WHY they don’t own cars is eye opening and honestly belongs just as much in this blog post. The TLDR summary is to maintain their personal connections with neighbors and close knit communities – which we all need for a rich life. I can imagine losing connection to our neighbors in these metal cages only contributes to the prevalence of depression and mental health issues in the developed world. For more detail: https://www.amish365.com/dont-amish-drive-cars/

    2) This is preaching to the choir, but when I think of all the developed areas people want to tour on vacations, the endless strip malls and plazas in the American suburbs somehow never make the list. Prime example here: https://goo.gl/maps/x6NLKowLeceD9BKX6

  • Luke April 11, 2023, 7:43 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you for being an inspiration for me for quite some time. I am on the City Council in Mount Rainier, MD (borders DC) and have been pushing for this kind of design since I laid out a 2019 vision for the city that you helped inspire. You can read about it at lukeformountrainier.org.

    Anywho, I was able to finally get us to budget for a consultant to help us redesign our city streets so that biking and walking are more of the preferred way to travel through our small town (that was originally designed as a streetcar suburb).

    We still have some hurdles to overcome, funding being the big one. But we hope we can take our plan to the feds to get funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to help pay for it. We’ll see but THANK YOU for continuing to inspire! It really helps when some of the slog of being elected official weighs on you.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2023, 7:19 am

      LUKE FOR MOUNT RAINIER! (lukeformountrainier.org) – thanks for your service Luke and I hope you get the votes and the dollars you need to keep improving your city.

      • Luke April 12, 2023, 5:35 pm

        Thank you for the thank you!

  • Alex April 11, 2023, 10:03 pm

    Great article. There are a lot of cities like this in Europe, specifically the Netherlands. City planning makes it easy to go everywhere by bike but hard to go by car (think: connected interwoven bike path and only a road surrounding the city for cars)

  • Ellie April 12, 2023, 12:14 am

    Urban planner (and Canadian) here! I love this idea. In my experience, generally (local) Canadian municipal governments would support progressive master planned communities like Culdesac. I especially love that it’s a purpose built rental! Zoning reform has come a long way in the last few years and that gives me hope for the feasibility of communities like Culdesac. Even in cases where there may be land use policy roadblocks, mechanisms exist for a developer to navigate the system (through Official Plan, zoning amendments and minor variances).

    What I’m curious about, is how the team of developers took this idea and made it a financial reality. I’ve been a long time reader, and one of my favourite parts of your blog is the way you’re able to pull back the curtain of these ideas and break things down. I would just love to create a community like this one day!

    Thanks for bringing attention to this issue and the importance of folks getting involved in local government. It’s crazy how a simple email or delegation at your local planning council meeting influences your elected officials!

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 12, 2023, 7:18 am

      Thanks Ellie, and yeah – good idea about breaking out more of the finances of better cities, as I learn about them.

      The Wikipedia article on says that Culdesac is projected to cost about $140 million to build, which is 220k per apartment. Founder Ryan Johnson said during my tour that the construction part of it is pretty typical, which makes sense because the apartments themselves just look like fairly standard modern high-quality apartments.

      The difference is that without the wasted space on car parking, you can fit more apartments AND more green space, parks and plazas into a given piece of land, plus people want to live there more so they are willing to pay more (and/or there will be less vacancy).

      And then of course from a city planner’s perspective, every development like this should feel like a GOLD MINE, because you are adding more people, property tax revenue and business revenue to your city while avoiding the need to add all the expensive, city-wrecking car infrastructure that normally comes along with more people.

  • Guillaume April 12, 2023, 1:32 am

    I’m so happy to see you keep writing these life changing articles Pete, thank you and I hope you’ll continue!

  • RexRingtail April 12, 2023, 9:56 am

    This seems specious. The economic calculations are presented with no supporting data that I can see, for example cars cost $3000 in health expenses? Given my total health expenses are about 1/6th of that, that seems unlikely. Also the land use calculations seem to be based on an elimination of roads and parking spaces, not a reduction. This… can’t physically happen if everyone converts to a cyclist tomorrow. Outside of the tech space, economic activity needs physical inputs. My own industry uses hundreds of thousands of tons of steel that is moved during the value add phase by trucks. So you will still need that infrastructure and most of your land use argument evaporates unless you’re willing to sacrifice any physical value add type of economic activity. Maybe we will all become bloggers.

    Also, just making new cities based on this model is not plausible. Cities exist where they exist for a reason, unsurprisingly. To the economically important real estate for transportation, manufacturing, etc is already taken. You could build a new city in the middle of nowhere, I suppose. But that is a huge cost outlay, not savings. Also not everyone wants to live in a 675′ apartment and SFH have been shown to reduce divorce risk, encourage higher birth rates, and reduce crime. The bike model doesn’t work when most people aren’t interested in super-high density Blade Runner type accomodations, even if they can take their e-bike (which has 12x as many fatalities per mile ridden than an automobile, btw, really skeptical of your medical cost data) and go to their local soylent dispensary and dopamine den.

  • Two Questions April 12, 2023, 10:20 am

    1. What would you do about the economic impacts of much of the auto industries death?
    2. Struggling communities have to commute to better facilities and/or opportunities as we stand now. In the interim would this model intensify that rift along with the potential privatization of “public” facilities because it’s almost like a micro privately owned society.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 13, 2023, 10:49 am

      Great questions!

      1) I think the auto industry is going to morph into the “electric transportation AND energy storage and generation” market, taking the direction that the soon-to-be biggest company in that area (Tesla) is already taking.

      This is something like a 10 *TRILLION* dollar investment over the next decade, mostly in manufacturing and with lots of full-spectrum human labor from excavator operators up to materials physicists. So I think we are headed for the biggest economic boom in history – the only problem for a while will be a surplus of jobs and a shortage of workers which means we’ll battle inflation for a while. And I think these conditions are already present in the market.

      2) From every case study I’ve looked at so far, car commuting is a money-losing trap that mostly happens because people don’t realize how much the car commute is costing them. For example, I was recently helping a teacher with her finances, and she currently commutes 50 miles roundtrip to a different school district across the entire metro area, because she had heard the salary at the local school would be about $10k lower.

      But, rent in the other area (also beautiful) is cheaper, so in her situation I would definitely move to somewhere within biking distance of the school.

      And on top of that, the car commuting is costing her MORE than the $10k of extra salary she is earning at the distant job!

      In most cases, it is better to think of car driving as a temporary emergency, and just spend your evenings searching for better job and housing situations until you can eliminate it from your life. Combine it with carpooling, at least switching from a Jeep to a used Prius, finding roommates or labor-trade-for-housing situations, and so on.

      There is not ALWAYS a perfect solution, but if you work on it daily and make it a priority, most car commutes can be reduced or eliminated. But very few people consider it the emergency that it is, and thus they don’t make it a priority.

  • BicycleB April 12, 2023, 8:06 pm

    This is one of my favorite articles in years. As someone who has been financially independent on a surprisingly small nest egg since shortly after arriving at this site nearly a decade ago, I can attest that what is possible is far cheaper, far more pleasant, and more ecological than most skeptics can believe. That’s even with the inefficient infrastructure that we have today. More projects like this will even further improve the opportunities that each of us has. I hope you give a followup report after living there a while.

  • Ákos April 13, 2023, 3:36 am

    Well, Klaus S**** deeply approves this! I mean, this sounds perfectly in line with the 15-minute city idea they are actually trying to force on some people to “remove outdated polluting city structures” and then erect the new, in line with the climate goals and so on.
    Now don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely with you with all the ideas listed here and it is truly fantastic, in the right hands. My only concern is, once Culdesac is built, the WEF “Pros” will come and put a big fence and surveillance cameras around it, and call it a perfect day.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 13, 2023, 10:38 am

      WOW! This is a truly bizarre conspiracy theory that I had never heard of until people started posting it in the Facebook comments to this same article, and now I think we need to do a new blog article on misinformation and wackjob conspiracy theories. They really are prevalent these days.

      The “15 minute city” is a great city design concept based in real architecture and human principles. But it has recently been co-opted by super confused people who believe that our government has the slightest interest in watching our daily lives and controlling us.

      Don’t get your news from 4Chan or your uncle’s reposts on Facebook, people!

      • Andreas April 19, 2023, 8:16 am

        Please do!

        I think it is due to a human condition that fears change. When something good comes along, that requires effort and work there are always these insane idéas about what and why..
        Instead of just asking oneself, “does this sound probable”?

        Just because it is written doesn´t make it so. Source criticism people!

        • Andreas April 19, 2023, 8:32 am

          Jesus I just googled this conspiracy and again stopped believing in humanity…

          What the actual fuck is wrong with people who believes in this crap?
          Is it genetic that we just loose our minds and go apeshit, after reading something online. To spread it online sure…but to actual go outside and protest in the thousands..insane and upsetting beyond belief. And these people actually get to vote..

          I am gonna move to a bunker in the forest, seems like the most resonable bet.
          “Other agressive states in the east” are not the problem, conspiracy nutjobs are!

          /end rant

  • Nathan April 13, 2023, 8:36 am

    I wish you would go on Joe Rogans podcast. I’m sure he’d be interested in talking to you and having your story and ideas on the worlds biggest podcast would be great.

  • Chris Jones April 13, 2023, 2:21 pm

    I’m just adding my name to the chorus of people saying “you’re describing hundreds of mid-size and large European cities!” I lived in Bolzano, Italy, a city of about 100,000 people, for a year, and it would have been crazy and incredibly expensive to own a car. We walked and biked and bused and trained everywhere, renting a car about once a month to go far away with the whole family to a place not easily served by rail.

    Our transportation was CHEAP (essentially unlimited rides in a region the size of Connecticut for about $400 for a year for a family of four; heavily subsidized by taxes, which is far cheaper than using tax money to pay for roads and parking lots) and abundant (helpful phone apps told you exactly which bus or train to catch, when, and where, and how to transfer).

    Building densely as described in the article can lead directly to massive savings of public funds that can be used to fund public transit and other useful amenities that increase health, reduce pollution, build community, and make life immensely better in other ways.

  • Greg April 13, 2023, 5:27 pm

    Hello –
    This is indeed a life changing concept for all of us. I’m eager to go see Culdesac Tempe and experience it. One thing I need help with though – what about all the people who make their living around cars? Car mechanics, auto dealerships, car factories, insurance sales people, auto repair businesses, auto body shops, etc. Is the thinking that they will shift to other professions as the economic landscape shifts?
    Thanks for such an eye opening article!

  • Sergej April 14, 2023, 3:08 am

    A good proposal in general. However how do you get all the important stuff delivered to you ? What about food etc. ? You will need trucks and cars to provide certain services.
    An other way would be to optimize cars and car usage. A smaller car which can sit 1-2 people and parks by itself in a underground parking garage would accomplish basically the same. Personal transport is needed and yes beyong bikes.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 14, 2023, 9:22 am

      There is a big delivery area at the edge of most apartment complexes and car-free neigborhoods like this one.

      You and others are right that roads are still very useful for things.

      My main point is that if we save the roads for the useful purposes, and eliminate most of the car-clown behavior where every single person is driving an entire truck just to get to the office or carry home a few grocery bags, we shrink down the waste. Less clown driving means smaller roads and parking lots, which means more people feel comfortable with walking/biking, which becomes a virtuous circle.

      I happen to know first-hand that this is possible because even in my own poorly-managed, car-based city of about 100,000 people, I’ve lived here 18 years and only chose to use a car for about 5% of my trips (the other 95% are on foot or by bike). The rest of the population of this EXACT SAME CITY has a cycling/walking rate of about 1-2%, which means 98-99% of travel is done by car. And as 48-year-old parent who works primarily in manual labor, I am not in some uniquely car-independent demographic.

  • Vincent Chirico April 14, 2023, 10:15 am

    These articles are a breath of fresh air. This housing crysis is a joke once you think of all the space taken up by parking alone. I have seen walmart parking lots the size of small towns. Cars really do suck

  • Amanda V April 14, 2023, 11:14 am

    As a structural engineer specializing in public transportation and on my town’s planning commission, I love all of this.

    I am currently trying to get low income housing built next to our bus hub with little to no parking. It’s a battle trying to convince people that it will work. (this is all nearby in Superior, CO) Will use Culdesac as a good example.

  • David Zetland April 15, 2023, 8:37 am

    I’m a bit late to the game here, but I want to comment on this excellent post.

    (1) As an American living in Amsterdam, I totally agree!
    (2) The issues you are raising have to do with the commons — the shared streets, parks, etc. — that cars disrupt
    (3) I’ve written a book on the commons and a paper on parking in Amsterdam that touch on these issues.

    The Little Book of the Commons is free from: https://www.kysq.org/lbc/

    The “High cost of cheap parking” is also free to read: https://www.kysq.org/lbc/

    Feel free to contact me for more :)

    — David

  • Teri Babcock April 16, 2023, 8:41 pm

    This may have been mentioned already, but:
    Author Charles Montgomery wrote a book based on the premise that we could design cities around optimizing happiness instead of car travel. Great read.



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!


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