501 comments

The Happy City and our $20 Trillion Opportunity

happycity-coverOne of the joys and frustrations of being an engineer who is also a hopeless dreamer, is that you can see the beauty of what the world could be, while also feeling the burden of every single thing that is in the way of achieving that beauty.

Envisioning this potential (and sometimes even having the opportunity to design some of it) is one of the greatest joys of being alive. But slamming up against the stubborn wall of society’s inertia, all day, every day, can lead to some displays of choice language.

If only we could grasp onto even a tiny fraction of the improvements that are hanging right in front of our faces, our society could bypass decades or centuries of pain, and billions of people could lead happier lives, starting this afternoon.

We can illustrate this problem perfectly with an example from right here in my home town. Take a look at this Google Maps satellite image of where Colorado Highway 287, (also known as Main Street) crosses over the St. Vrain Creek:

main-bridge

Colorado Highway 287 makes a lame leap across the creek.

It’s pretty boring, right? And that is exactly my point. It’s a boring, utilitarian bridge, in a blighted, shitty area of town dominated by parking lots, used car dealerships, traffic, and noise. When you drive along that part of 287, you don’t even notice you are crossing a bridge. It’s just part of the wide, flat road. And besides, you’re busy navigating the ugly, stressful terrain of dense traffic – passing through in a rush to get to somewhere nicer.

Now, I happen to bike right under this bridge quite often, because Longmont’s excellent St. Vrain Greenway path allows you whiz along through the whole town, bypassing all the trouble that the car drivers have to deal with above. Down on the bike path it’s just you, recharging your soul and your muscles, passing a few other cyclists and watching the crystal clear water as it flows over oval multicolored granite rocks, maybe a few ducks and geese building nests along the water’s edge.

In 2013, that Main Street bridge was partially destroyed, along with quite a few other things in town, by an enormous flood. So they decided to rebuild it. And I decided to follow along with the project, because hey, I’m an engineer.

What I learned is that building even the smallest, least noteworthy road bridge is a spectacular project. The engineering calculations alone cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The machinery involved would fill a football field, and the quantity of soil, steel, and concrete you need to move around is difficult to even comprehend. They have been working on this one insignificant bridge for over three years now, and I’m still waiting for the bike path to re-open.

Here's a peek under the bridge. Although you rarely look at this stuff, you definitely pay for it. Just post and beam like this consumes between 500,000 and 1 million pounds of concrete.

Here’s a peek under the bridge. Although you rarely look at this stuff, you definitely pay for it. Just that one post-and-beam support consumes between 500,000 and 1 million pounds of concrete – releasing equivalent pollution to about 150,000 miles of driving. I would need a bigger tape measure to estimate the whole bridge, but it would be many, many times more than this. Even a small bridge is a huge thing.

The total cost was estimated at 5.6 million dollars, which puts it roughly on par with, say, this 10-bathroom waterfront megamansion compound currently for sale in Florida:

25-O5421264-25

 

25-O5421264-18

And if you want a bigger bridge, like the flyovers with cloverleafs that get built every time two highways happen to interconnect, you can spend 100 times more.

How many megamansions will this cost us?

How many megamansions will this cost us?

Do you see the problem here?

This is exactly the same stuff I talk about in personal finance, except applied on a bigger scale.

The average American gets the most expensive car he can afford, and drives it as much as he can – for virtually 100% of trips out of the house. And yet he has a net worth of nearly zero, and subpar physical health, for most of his life.

The average American city builds the largest roads and parking lots it can possibly fund, maximizing the amount of available space for vehicles, in a noble attempt to reduce traffic and serve its citizens. But the result is that cities become nothing but wide, well-engineered, fast, deadly expanses of concrete. These are terrifying places for walkers and cyclists, which builds still more demand for more cars and more roads.

Let’s be clear here: I’m a capitalist, lifelong student of economics, pro-growth techno-utopian, and basically the opposite of a luddite. Efficient transportation is a huge wealth-builder for society, so we will always need bridges and fast roads. But these valuable resources will always be very expensive, so it makes sense not to waste them.

A transport truck full of factory components or food brings great wealth to Longmont when it crosses that bridge over the creek. The problem is the 400 single-occupant personal cars and trucks cramming up the rest of that road, full of people who are only driving because they don’t realize there is a better way.

Since even the most mundane bridge costs as much as a Mega Mansion, we are effectively building millions of mega-mansions mostly to to facilitate our clunky personal transport machines that are about 95% inefficient. And the whole reason we “need” cars in the first place is because we spread everything out by making our roads so big! It’s a circular problem.

Collectively, we spend almost half of our tax dollars on paving over our living spaces, or dealing with the consequences of the lifestyle created by that pavement.

The solution in both cases is so obvious, and yet almost nobody ever talks about it. In fact, many of us are still working to perpetuate and accelerate this stupidity.

Right now, as you read this, millions of people are passionately shopping around for new, better cars, and hundreds of American cities are planning enormous expansions of their road systems – new bridges, wider lanes, bigger parking structures. Politicians whine about our “crumbling infrastructure” and vow to rebuild it with emergency packages of deficit spending. Because we obviously need to build even more of it, even faster.

To Want Something Better, You Must Understand  the Core of Our Problem

Space for cars, or for people? Two ways to use a chunk of city land. (image credit: the happy city book)

Space for cars, or for people? Two ways to use a chunk of city land. (image credit: happy city)

When you’re born into a system, you come to think of it as normal. This was even true for me, growing up in an industrialized area and lusting after nice cars and motorcycles as I passed through my teens, feeling the frustration of heavy traffic jams and the joy of the open road.

But the quest for optimization led me naturally to bicycle transportation and minimizing car commutes, which led me to the study of urban planning, and the forehead-slapping realization that we’re doing everything wrong.

What it didn’t tell me, is how we got to this bizarre place. I mean, here are all of these relatively smart, wealthy people in this incredibly rich country, but our behavior is demonstrably self-defeating. What led us to this point, and how do we fix it?

Recently, I had the joy of reading a book about exactly this subject, from an author who has put much more thought and work into fixing it than I have. To put it moderately, it blew my mind.

Happy City, by Charles Montgomery, pretends to be a book about how cities are laid out, but you very quickly realize that it’s much more – a brilliant and thoughtful book about Everything that Matters – human happiness in the past, present, and future, and just how incredibly powerful our immediate environment is, in dictating this most important thing.

As you read through the book, which I have now done twice over the past six months (something I never do), you realize that city design strongly influences everything about our lives – our health, wealth, social networks, longevity, satisfaction and our tendency towards trust or violence which in turn even dictates how we will vote*.

And yet, for over 50 years we have been designing our cities in almost the most stupid, expensive, ineffective way possible. For example, did you realize that the following stuff is studied and well-documented around the world:

  • Building in the modern North American way (wide roads, big parking lots, wide lawns and plenty of space for every car) is the most expensive way that any group of humans have ever lived. We consume more concrete, water, pipes, wire, sidewalks, sign posts, landscaping, and fuel for this privilege.
  • But we don’t get any value for these dollars: we spend more time and money getting around than ever before, which leaves us with a chronic shortage of time to enjoy any potential benefits of dispersed living.
  • People who live in suburbs are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighborhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services, and places to work. This is because they have far fewer relationships with people who live nearby. And yet the overwhelming message of happiness research is that relationships with other people have the biggest influence on our happiness.
  • if 10 percent more people thought they had someone to count on in life, it would have a greater effect on national life satisfaction than giving everyone a 50 percent raise.

So we are getting a poor value for our money.

But how can it be a poor value if this is what people chose for themselves? It’s the free market at work, right?

Wrong.

This is the city Houten, just South of Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. You can't get around the city by car, because the roads don't connect in the middle. You'd have to drive out to the ring road to get across town. As a result, 66% of in-town trips are by bike. Also, a central train station whisks you to other cities if desired.

This is the city of Houten, just South of Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. You can’t get around the city by car, because the roads don’t connect in the middle. A car would have to to drive out to the ring road, and then back in the other side. As a result, 66% of in-town trips are by bike or on foot. Also, a central train station whisks you to other cities if desired. One of my life goals is that we – quite literally you and me – build a city like this here in the USA.

The book goes on to explain the history of suburbia, which I had never quite learned before:

  • Originally, we had big dense cities, small towns, and agricultural areas. The small towns were where people tended to be happiest.
  • Cities expanded to meet the desires of the workers: being close to work, but also having clean air and privacy like their small town counterparts. Housing was built at the edges in “street car neighborhoods” If you have ever walked around residential San Francisco, this is the basic feel.
  • When cars joined the picture, a consortium of GM, Firestone, Phillips Oil, Shell Oil, and Standard Oil bought up street car companies and shut them down. They also lobbied the government heavily and formed “Motorist Associations” to advocate for the rights of drivers – making driving more convenient and thus boosting driving demand for their products.
  • Cars were originally thought of as dangerous intruders in the city. If a driver killed a pedestrian with his car, it was a crime.
    The motorist associations pushed to change this balance: they sought to convince people that the problem of safety involved making sure people did not get in the way of cars.
    They invented the crime of “Jaywalking”, which is crossing a street somewhere other than a controlled crossing area.
    They pushed in the current legal arrangement, where if you kill a person with your car, it’s probably just a traffic violation. In some cases, it won’t be your fault at all as long as you were obeying the rules of the road.
  • Motorist associations also continually push for car-friendly policies like highway expansion, fighting against traffic tickets and speed traps, and even write articles like “Elon’s Carbon Con“, completely misunderstanding (or deliberately misrepresenting?) the entire life purpose of one of my favorite humans.

That last bullet point strays into politics, because you get into a battle of freedom versus regulation. I personally feel that if in doubt, you should err on the side of freedom. And in this regard, the book brought up its most stunning point:

  • Our current city planning method is not the result of free market forces at all. It’s actually an incredibly strict book of regulations which separates functions – residential, commercial, and industrial. It also defines setbacks, lot sizes, intersections, and parking requirements. It is all standardized in a group of standard, downloadable regulations that most cities purchase from Municode, while the road design comes from the Federal Highway Association’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUCTD).
  • This is a self-replicating zombie of a system: every new town simply downloads and implements the existing book of rules without thinking about it, because “This is how things work in America”
  • But that original book of rules was built from an almost comical chain of events. The oil companies and motorist associations. Special interests and racism, like a regulation in Modesto, CA which banned clothes washing facilites from the main street, which happened to be run by Chinese people. The desire of rich people to keep away poor people (which is easy to do legally if you just ban duplexes and apartment buildings, or specify a minimum lot size as many suburbs do.
  • Highway subsidies, like the way we build roads with public money, lower the perceived cost of building a dispersed city. Mortgage subsidies from the federal housing association that made it easier to buy new houses than to restore or rebuild existing more central buildings.

This sounds pretty grim, but I look at it with optimism: if we have built this relatively wealthy society even with the boat anchor of horrible living design hanging around our necks, imagine how much wealthier we will become if we shed that useless burden for the next stage of our journey?

In fact, some people are already working on the project. A group called Strong Towns, run by a fiscal conservative engineer named Chuck Marohn, teaches cities about the folly of car-based expansion. From his career as a city planner, he has learned that the honeymoon of developer dollars and easy borrowing quickly fades to become a hangover of massive maintenance costs and low tax revenue. A densely packed city puts a lot of people, business, and money close together. With a dispersed city you get lots of maintenance costs but very few businesses per square mile.

A movement called “New Urbanism” started up in 1993 to bring back some aspects of people-friendly design. There are now neighborhoods popping up with these better design principles in every major city. In Mableton, Georgia they are actually reclaiming big parking lots to build useful islands of denser development, as shown in the earlier picture.

But it has been a long battle, because in order to make a place that is pleasant for people, you literally need to change or disobey the existing suburban building codes.

Here in Longmont, there is a street called “100 Year Party Court” and another called “Tenacity”, named by some frustrated New Urban developers who were dumbfounded by how ridiculous the existing road regulations were: “Why are they forcing to waste space for THIS MUCH PARKING on the streetside – what are they expecting, some sort of 100-year-party?”

Thus, it is time to stop the madness and start rebuilding our ridiculous infrastructure in a smarter way.

The increase to our personal wealth may be larger than any other possible change we can make. We have about 9 million lane-miles of roads in the US, and over 5,000 notable bridges. It costs about $1 million per mile to make a single lane of road, which means we have at least $9 trillion of roads and $100 billion of bridges, before we even get into 500 million parking spaces, which cost about $4,000 each! 

By Mustachian standards, at least 90% – Ninety Percent – of this pavement is wasted. It’s just there to support the other sprawl, and because we have trained our citizens refuse to walk or ride a bike, even for short distances.

How To Fix It

The good news is that this can be fixed. The reason people keep perpetuating the pointless car model is that they are unaware there is any other option.

If you live in Orlando and want to go out for dinner, you see only a choice of driving, or a long, noisy walk alongside a six-lane road on a narrow grass shoulder. I was there last month and did the walk, noting that they had not even bothered with sidewalks. I could see how Orlandans would assume that cars are superior to walking, if this were their frame of reference.

Now that you know there is a better way, there are practical steps you can take as a citizen:

  • Stop supporting car sprawl with your money. If a potential house, job, or store is in an area that doesn’t support bikes or walking, simply don’t sign the contract.
    After all, would you buy a house in an area that was impossible to reach by road? Probably not, and in fact areas like this are generally called “Wilderness”  because so many people insist on roads.
    Reverse your priorities and insist on living somewhere designed for Humans. There are now thousands of places like this. It’s worth the small effort to find one.
  • If you’re starting or expanding your own company, do it in a walkable area. If the majority of your employees will have no choice but to drive to work, that’s a bad place to start a business.
  • Start voting against any road expansions in your region. Somewhat counter-intuitively, road expansions never alleviate traffic jams – they only make them worse.
    The only solution to traffic is to get people out of their cars. Luckily, this solution also costs less and builds the wealth of your local economy rather than draining it.  Road expansion is to a city like candy and cookies are to your body. It has also been described as “trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt”
  • Channel that money you would have spent on roads – 100% of it – into bike paths, road diets, parks, central city redevelopment and “upzoning”.
  • Fight the “Not in My Back Yard” tendencies of most people, who object to new buildings or higher-density living near where they live. What these people are probably afraid of is not the presence of more people, but the car traffic they would bring. So, support more density, but only if it discourages cars.
  • Push for the removal of minimum parking requirements for new construction. Every time somebody wants to create a new building or business, our traditional building code system forces them to waste a bunch of money and precious land on parking spaces, which sit empty most of the time.
    It makes much more sense to use that extra land for more businesses and housing, eliminating the vast distances that encourage people to drive in the first place. Car parking would be a niche market, built by private companies and charged out at market rates.
  • And of course, just start walking and biking wherever you can. In a dense city, and even in US-style suburban sprawl, a bike will get you there faster than a car most of the time. Sure, there are a few spots that are truly unsafe for bikes, but even right now, with today’s infrastructure, we could eliminate at least 75% of town and city traffic overnight.
    For example, here in Longmont, biking is safe and efficient to 100% of possible destinations, at least 350 days of the year. But bikes represent less than 0.5% of the traffic I see on the roads.
    Every time you drive within a town, you destroy a bit of the feeling of community. Every single time you walk, you build the community, and advertise the idea of walking to every person who sees you.

As I learned from this book, urban planning is far from just a geeky niche topic – it’s really the foundation of most of our wealth and personal happiness.

We can improve everything about our lives, if we all understand a bit about how to arrange our living spaces. So I’ll see you out there this afternoon, as we start making some arrangements.

 

* (people who have weak bonds with their immediate neighbors will trust them less – and will also disproportionately vote for things like nationalist, anti-trade, anti-immigration policies and be worried about terrorism – sound familiar?)

Here’s a cool passage on this subject from the book:

“Imagine that you dropped your wallet somewhere on your street. What are the chances you would get it back if a neighbor found it? A stranger? A police officer? Your answer to that simple question is a proxy for a whole list of metrics related to the quality of your relationship with family, friends, neighbors, and the society around you. In fact, ask enough people the wallet question, and you can predict the happiness of cities.”

  • Scott February 13, 2017, 2:01 pm

    Make all streets one-way, and convert the other lane to a bike path. How cool would that be! And then use highway funding to spread Sondors bikes all over the city to ease everyone into the idea of biking. Problem solved.

    Reply
  • Andy February 13, 2017, 2:05 pm

    I would love to live in a walkable/bikeable city myself. At the same time, I think of elderly and sick friends and relatives, my wife with our infant son and I’m curious how to include transportation for these people in bitterly cold and snowy winter weather (or extremely hot and humid) where biking or walking is simply not safe for a certain segment of the population. Do you have any idea how cities like the one in the Netherlands accomplish this balance?

    Reply
    • Kristina February 16, 2017, 6:22 pm

      From what I have read and seen pictures of, everything is usually still accessible by car, it’s just never the fastest or most convenient way between two destinations, so if you don’t have drive you take another way. Transit, or biking mostly.

      And as the writer of Frostbike found out when he first visited Oulu considered winter biking capital of the world… his ego took a serious hit when he passed a 90 year old that dropped her groceries in her basket and pedalled on home on her upright bike through the middle of winter. Good snow and ice control, no car traffic really takes the danger out of winter cycling and walking. Some cities have even heat traced some paths and squares to keep snow and ice at bay. Babies are kept warm in car seats under tent like canopies in cargo bikes, and when cities are built for smaller human scale distances, there is always a good coffee shop with a fire nearby to stop and warm up in.

      Anyone who wants to can still drive, but when it’s safe to do so and much faster and convenient, people who would never dream of biking anywhere in any winter do just that because it is the best choice, not necessarily because they even like biking.

      Reply
  • Wade February 13, 2017, 3:28 pm

    Does weather factor in at all? We live where the weather is downright awful for 4 months out of the year. Another 4 are iffy at best. So 4 months out of the year we have pretty good biking/walking weather.

    I bike the 4 nice months and 4 iffy months. The 4 terrible months are daunting to bike to work. Last winter I biked on my fat tire bike if it was 0 degrees or above. I chose not to do it again this winter. Snow, ice, wind..it created a high mental hurdle for even a dedicated biker.

    Reply
    • Kristina February 13, 2017, 4:42 pm

      I am in the Canadian prairies and winter biking infrastructure is a hotly contested issue!

      Winter biking does cut down the numbe of people who bike, and based on our winter bike counters 25% of cyclists keep it up on all but the worst days. Those worst days are not the frigidly cold ones, or the windy ones… they are the ones where we get a big dump of snow, and occasionally the big thaws that turn everything into heavy slush. Biking any distance in the snow is a slog.

      Successful winter biking involves snow and ice control – lots of it! This is where separated bike paths earn their weight in gold! The separation keeps cars (and their snow) out, and with a three foot windrow beside you you still feel safe. But unless your whole route is like this people stop biking because of that section that is just too sketchy, or hard, or even impassable.

      Also distance makes a difference, my daily bikeable circle shrinks from about 6-8k down to 3-5 k in the winter, but most of our regular stops are in that bubble.

      I love winter biking, but there was a bit of a steep learning curve. Now I prefer it to walking, or taking transit or even driving on all but those seriously new snow days before the pathway plots have been through.

      Reply
  • SK February 13, 2017, 4:48 pm

    I would love to know your opinion on planning for a city like South Lake Tahoe! I know you visit the lake for snowboarding, so does 3-5 million other people! Tonight there will be a meeting about the current traffic issues. Every Sunday we get traffic backed up from town to Sacramento. There’s been meetings addressing how they can collectively help to prevent long lines of vehicles trying to get out of town after the weekend. As a resident who was born here, I am afraid all the planning and money will result in making it easier for more cars to come and go (which as we know will quickly become just as congested). Even if half the locals took up the mustachian way, how does an extra 50k tourists in a given weekend not slowly destroy this gem in the Sierras?

    Reply
    • Feral Android May 14, 2017, 4:01 pm

      A high speed rail from Sacramento to South Lake and another to Truckee would be awesome. Then have the various resorts and casinos send out shuttles to the train depot. Make the resorts and casinos pay for it.

      I’ve stayed at the Casinos in S. Lake and didn’t need a car all week. We walked to the Heavenly Tram to board. Walked to the restaurants, movie theater and shopping. We only used a car to get up there from Sacramento and another day to drive to Kirkwood one day.

      Reply
  • PaulV February 13, 2017, 5:26 pm

    There are a couple cool things happening near me that are in this vein. I think some of the denser cities are starting to finally look for alternatives to the old, inefficient way to grow a city. Check out the Spring District in Bellevue WA. It is being built from scratch in an area that used to be a bunch of warehouses, right at one of the new stops on the Seattle light rail lines.
    http://www.thespringdistrict.com/

    Reply
  • Andrew Mullen February 13, 2017, 8:47 pm

    Great article! I actually posted the link on my city’s webpage to try to inspire officials and LaPorteans to embrace this type of thinking. I live in LaPorte, In which is a small town with numerous lakes in the city center each of which have lovely city parks built on them. We do not, however, have any kind of bike trail that connects them, or any bike trails at all now that I think about it. It’s all about the car these days which has driven many businesses from the once bustling downtown area due to lack of parking. I can see the potential and how all of this could come together, but it would require a drastic shift in thinking and I’m just not sure I want to beat my head against the wall trying to inspire and influence people here. I think a much better plan would be to move to an area with an already high concentration of mustachians. So, what is the most mustachian city in the US? Is there a top 10?

    Reply
  • Quist February 14, 2017, 4:29 am

    Hey MMM and all–a great short film recently released about urban planning and the future of cities, somewhat related to this piece:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs

    Broad strokes, but lots of interesting stuff in there.

    Reply
  • SisterX February 14, 2017, 9:34 am

    I work in a very safety-conscious industry (some national rating system dings points for unsafe work practices and injuries) so they’ve instituted this holistic safety practice including the idea of safety out of work hours. Preparation for each area’s most prominent natural disasters, etc. Well, they looked at statistics and decided that driving cars is one of the most dangerous things any employee can do so they strongly discourage it! For my office we’ve only got about four employee parking spaces, for those who must drive for whatever reason and they subsidize bus, bike, and train commutes. It’s wonderful. I don’t understand why more offices don’t put in place these simple practices. For parking in the downtown area a company can save a boatload of money to subsidize mass transit rather than paying for parking for employees, so there are all kinds of wins.

    Reply
  • Ryan Thomas February 14, 2017, 9:37 am

    I was just watching a great TED talk about this exact topic yesterday. It was recently uploaded and given by Jeff Speck: 4 ways to make a city more walkable (http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_speck_4_ways_to_make_a_city_more_walkable). Great complementary material to the post you have written.

    Reply
  • Joey Scherr February 14, 2017, 10:22 am

    Great article, I like understanding these things so easily taken for granted.

    Do you think you could explain this line for me?: “Collectively, we spend almost half of our tax dollars on paving over our living spaces, or dealing with the consequences of the lifestyle created by that pavement.”

    Not to call you out or anything, I just like to fact check some when I can.

    Reply
  • Mike Schluckebier February 14, 2017, 10:57 am

    Not sure if it’s referenced in Happy City, but the book Asphalt Nation lays out a lot of the history that you’re talking about (i.e., car companies and their grip on turning cities from walkable into only driveable). It’s a good read, too.

    Reply
  • Brian February 14, 2017, 12:10 pm

    MMM, if you want to see a fantastic example of urban (re)development, look up the Atlanta Beltline. This is a disused 22-mile railway loop around the city that is being converted into a multi-use footpath/bikepath. This has triggered a boom of development in older neighborhoods and previously blighted industrial areas. The rents are skyrocketing, so there is obviously a demand for a car-free, fresh-air lifestyle in car-crazed Atlanta. Check this out the next time you pass through ATL and you won’t be disappointed. There are some respectable breweries directly on or nearby it to boot ;-)

    Reply
  • Mary February 14, 2017, 12:13 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’m actually an urban planner (daily transit commuter/bike commuter) and new MMM reader ;) A few thoughts 1) I think you will find that the urban planning field is very closely aligned with many of the methodologies that MMM espouses. Good money management, after all, is just scrupulous planning. As someone that works on this daily (trying to improve our built environment) our biggest issue in America, frankly, is that we’re addicted to our personal vehicles mostly out of convention as you’ve explored in the post and secondly, this addiction is fueled by the lack of viable alternative – ie, our built environment for anything other than a car (mostly) SUCKS! We all need to demand more from the communities we live in. Although some (like you) are fortunate to live in area’s that embrace these multi-modal ideologies, many in America are stuck in sub-optimal locations that don’t facilitate all transportation options. As your first commenter mentioned TOD (Transit Oriented Development) is a strategy that will lead to more dense, multi-modal, and efficient communities. By nature, TOD is bike and walk friendly, and dense. I hope that we can continue to raise the bar in this country. Truly, access to good transportation options is something that benefits all segments of society. We should all have choices in how we get around – right now, there is more or less a monopoly on cars being our societal norm for transportation. The more we can change that, the healthier, and wealthier we will be!

    Reply
  • John February 14, 2017, 1:06 pm

    Were do you need me for this city building project? Me and my tools are there!

    On another vein, I’ve lived in several Walkable/bikeable cites: Miami Beach, Key West, and (downtown) Ketchikan, Alaska. The feelings of community I had there are nowhere to be found in the current suburb where I live now. Even though I’m married now we have no local friends, barely talk to our neighbors, and our general health has declined. I’m not a big fan of cities and want to early retire in a rural setting, but if I have to use a city, I’d like it to be as you describe.

    I hope people heed your advice and vote with their feet!

    I read a long time ago that the suburbs are the worst of all possible outcomes for happiness of a couple. The person who loves the city gets none of the life, the country lover feels too crowded. I can attest to the truth of this: While I hated the city, I liked our nightly grocery store trips and proximity to friends just as I liked the open space of the country. We are hemmed in by our yard and neighbors now in the burbs. Never again!

    Reply
  • Matt B February 14, 2017, 2:14 pm

    I have to give my city props. Minneapolis….. the most bike-friendly city in the United States according to some studies. More than 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street trails. I’ve worked in three different locations in the city the last decade and have no problem commuting year round. My commutes have been anywhere from 6-10 miles one way and mostly on off-street trails! There goes the “unsafe” argument. Minneapolis has the Midtown Greenway, which is a 6 mile bicycling transportation utopia across the heart of South Minneapolis. The amount of real estate investment that’s sprung up around the trail in the last decade has been unbelievable, and property values along the corridor have gone up 90 percent or more. My kids call it the “bike freeway” and we love biking as a family on it to get to other trails. Here’s a link to more info. http://www.railstotrails.org/trailblog/2015/october/16/minnesota-s-midtown-greenway/. Thanks for the write-up. KEEP ON PEDALING THE FREE WORLD!

    Reply
    • Lauren February 17, 2017, 9:11 am

      Yes! The twin cities are awesome for biking! So flat! So many bike trails! After years of bike commuting in Seattle and Denver, I cannot wait to get back.

      Reply
  • shaina February 14, 2017, 3:31 pm

    Hey MMM
    Have you heard of these places? Developed based on the principles of biophillia. I found this after reading The Nature Prinicple by Richard Louv. Arizona has a similar place. The communities are more focused on sustainability and community but exciting to see…..
    http://serenbe.com/
    http://agritopia.com/

    Reply
  • WageSlave February 14, 2017, 4:14 pm

    We currently live in a dense city: Chicago, Illinois, USA. But we just bought a home in the burbs; we’ll be moving there as soon as our kids finish the school year.

    We live in a relatively nice part of Chicago, though the really bad crime (e.g. drive by shootings) in adjacent neighborhoods is increasing. My own neighborhood has no shortage of “lesser” crime (break-ins, muggings, vandalism). Looking at city-data.com, the crime index for Chicago is over 2x the national average. The suburb we’re moving to has a crime index well under half the national average.

    And neighbors? In the city, I have a multiplex next door, and most of the residents love to throw obscenely loud parties, late into the night—always on a *Sunday*. I’m tired of trying to ask nicely that they quiet down; tired of calling the cops (who don’t do anything) when this happens. This may sound terrible, but I’m being honest: I want to live next to people who are “more like me”. I know it’s all well and good to celebrate culture and diversity, but when it clashes with my sleep, no thanks.

    Every time we visit our new home, we are so excited to escape the crime, noise and general dirtiness of the city. But I do feel a little bit of guilt because I recognize that this move is directly supporting the urban sprawl problem to which this post addresses. FWIW, I do take public transport to my job (and walk to/from the train on both ends).

    I’m all for more biking, but you have not convinced me that biking is safe. At this point, I feel face-punches are less a threat to my well-being than biking in these “car first” areas you have described (though I thoroughly enjoy recreational biking in designated areas). I’ll wait until there’s a critical mass of people biking around. Yes, I have read the post that attempts to prove biking is the safest mode of transportation. But I and many other commentators had a number of issues with your methods that at best dilute the argument, if not refute it outright. I am waiting for an update to that post that better stands up to statistical and intellectual rigor. In fact, as someone who is clearly immensely passionate about the power of the bicycle to dramatically transform our world for the better, I’m surprised you haven’t revisited that article, or even given a TED Talk on the subject. Why?

    Reply
    • MKE February 15, 2017, 7:31 am

      A coward dies a thousand deaths.

      Reply
  • Carlos February 14, 2017, 4:41 pm

    As a jaded strategic city planner I am well aware of these issues. The problem is that there’s a lot of cultural and social inertia in society and government. When we try to push ideas and solutions to help improve active transport, we are constantly shot down by car-centric engineers and decision makers.

    Reply
  • Alex February 15, 2017, 3:11 am

    The drawback of Houten is that it is a commuter town with little employment in the town itself.
    If you would like to design a town from scratch I would address that too.
    The people who live there are professional couples probably each with their own car and a daily commute.
    You might google “ochtendspits” and look at the pictures to see where they spend 1 to 2 hours each day.

    Reply
  • MKE February 15, 2017, 7:17 am

    http://carfree.com/
    This guy, JH Crawford, has done most of the work and research needed. Also a blog at http://carfree.com/cft/index.html and two books he has written on the subject. Very thorough. While I have not yet read The Happy City, I doubt it is as technical as the “carfree” guy. Either way, it’s not new.

    Reply
  • MKE February 15, 2017, 7:28 am

    Here is the blind spot: Cars kill 40,000 people per year, and no one cares. Think about it. I read this post and scanned the comments, and didn’t see anything on fatalities. WTF! MMM has a kid. Probably most of these posters have kids. The number one threat to the life of an American under the age of 30 is the automobile.
    Here is an exercise: Go to your nearest local paper and/or turn on your local news tonight. There will be a story about someone in your area getting killed in a car crash. Same thing happened yesterday, and the same thing will happen tomorrow. The drivers will not get punished. No one will give a shit. Everybody knows somebody who was killed in a car crash. Or to use the cutesy word we prefer – “accident.” Oopsy! Didn’t mean to kill you there!
    Sure, you have all these indirect ways cars kill people – obesity, depression, pollution, stress. What about the direct hit?
    About the only “freedom” cars represent is the freedom from personal responsibility and human decency.

    Reply
    • WageSlave February 15, 2017, 12:18 pm

      Right, 40k deaths plus how many near-deaths or crippling “accidents”?

      So why should I bike when being hit by a car poses such a great risk? The main point of this post and the above comment is that most urban areas are particularly ill-suited for anyone not in a car. Yet MMM also says biking is the safest form of transportation. If biking is so perfectly safe in its current state, why the long rant about city design? Seems like a contradiction to me.

      Reply
    • Primal Prosperity February 16, 2017, 7:30 am

      Hi MKE, I was going to post something similar about the dangers of driving. When I hear people say that they are afraid to fly, I remind them that statistically, the most dangerous part of their flight is the drive to the airport.

      Reply
  • Patrick B February 15, 2017, 7:56 am

    I live in Southwest FL. While in college (Florida Gulf Coast University) I was part of a research group tasked with developing new ideas for a new sustainable town that was to be built a few miles away.
    The town is called Babcock Ranch and they are just finishing the first homes now.
    babcockranch.com
    It’s a step in the right direction.
    – 75 mega-watt solar power generation plant to power homes and businesses
    – walkable and bikeable lifestyle
    – autonomous vehicle testing

    Reply
  • Tildin February 15, 2017, 8:18 am

    There are some like minded people out there working towards a similar ideal.
    Take a look a this community in Georgia.

    http://serenbe.com/

    Reply
  • Michael Loebach February 15, 2017, 9:16 am

    Excellent post. I do feel the need to defend (or maybe adjust your notions of) capitalism and economics. Our infrastructure building/planning bodies (politicians, DOT, etc.) aside, there is absolutely nothing inconsistent with supporting markets (better description than capitalism) and pointing out the inefficiencies of a car based society. All of the additional costs you constantly point out (smog, congestion, unhealthy lifestyles, loneliness) associated with a car based society are called externalities by economists. Essentially, the benefit of owning and driving a car is concentrated on the owner of the car, but the cost of owning and driving a car are partly concentrated and partly disbursed (with the associated costs mentioned previously being disbursed) among the rest of society (the cost has been externalized!). People need to be made aware of the additional costs so that they can then take that into account when making their transportation decisions. You can either do this via an information campaign (which is what I would describe your post as) and hope people will make the decision that minimizes costs, or you place a tax approximately equal to the societal costs being imposed on others. History has shown that a tax is more effective than voluntary compliance.

    Essentially, economists would call the car situation a market failure because the full cost of a driving a car is not actually reflected in the sticker price. Since the sticker price is lower than the actual price, consumers will over consume cars leading to the problems you are citing.

    Again, infrastructure building/planning bodies aside, your complaints about a car based economy are entirely consistent with support for markets. There is no contradiction, and no need to apologize. Economists created the tools for understanding these problems over a century ago.

    Reply
  • MandalayVA February 15, 2017, 12:23 pm

    Interesting that you mention Orlando–Mr. Mandalay and I are FIREing in June and moving there. However, we’ve chosen to live in an apartment in downtown Orlando, which is within very easy walking distance of shops, restaurants and the main branch of the Orange County library. Not only that, but the city’s public transportation system, LYNX, has a subsidiary called LYMMO, which is a FREE bus system that circulates through the main downtown area. It even runs late enough so if you’re catching a show at Amway Arena or Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center you can take it home. Oh–and it also has a bike-share called Juice. I suspect you might have been in the International Drive area of Orlando, which is exactly as you describe, but I can assure you downtown’s pretty cool.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 15, 2017, 12:48 pm

      Yeah, we made a visit to downtown Orlando and I agree with you – it was pretty nice. Not all that expensive either, so it would be an easy choice to live there if you worked and had friends there.

      Reply
  • Lucas of Ye Tiny Town February 15, 2017, 2:37 pm

    MMM,
    I am a planner by education and chose to be a systems techie by trade after seeing the boring and constricting nature of practicing urban planning on behalf of governments through internships. I want introduce a path that my wife and I have forged that runs very much counter to New Urbanist principles, mixed-use mania, and unwavering faith in the power of cities or bike lanes to solve society’s ills. Two years ago we moved to a tiny town 30 min. outside of a Virginia university city and bought a super affordable house with half an acre which we’re turning rapidly into a working homestead. With uber low costs of living, my wife quit her stressful social service job to focus on food production and starting side businesses. With a transition into tech, the beauty of telecommuting was introduced into my life and I’m slowly increasing days worked from home so that I can sneak off to make cuts on the table saw for my carpentry projects during 9-5. (We share many interests sir.) A rural transit line even runs through the tiny town so I mount my trusty bicycle and ride a mile to catch it into the city some days. Rural transit is uncommon but not rare. I hear CO does it well.

    While I miss the amenities and convenience of the progressive university city, I love the strong bonds we’re forging with cool people in the tiny town. Neighbors averted their eyes in the city and meet them in tiny town. I still commute but I feel that we are going to be well prepared (arguably better than apartment and condo dwellers) for whatever social and economic upheavals come when there’s no country left to borrow from to finance the concrete bridge pillars we don’t actually have money for or when those laughing at the peak oil heretics of the late aughts watch with terror as we predictably deplete the remaining fuel needed to run this big old inefficient system within a couple of decades. I have some faith in techno-wizardy but don’t think it can save us in the current game.

    I predict that insanely high rents in places that meet many of the criteria lauded here will push some makers, tinkerers, and innovators to small towns again that are basically blank canvases waiting to be remade as the last generation to really live and work in them in past decades is dying off. In fact, an automated car company just moved their HQ to another small town near mine citing that a major decision to stay in rural VA vs. go to Silicon Valley is that they don’t have to worry about talent poaching here. Availability of 50 mbps internet lines and views of the Blue Ridge Mountains don’t hurt either :)

    Reply
    • Marcia February 17, 2017, 12:31 pm

      Lucas,

      I would love to know the name of your tiny town in Virginia, if you are willing to share ? Hubby and I are looking at Virginia as our future home maybe. Thanks !

      Reply
  • Walter Hannah February 15, 2017, 3:47 pm

    I just moved to Livermore, in the eastern bay area, and I was shocked by the housing supply issue. I found a place to rent with a 6 mile bike ride to work, which is great, but I really wanted to have a ~3 mile bike ride. A lot of the homes in a 3-mile radius of my office are taken up by people who have 30-90 min car commute. So in other words, people who have locked themselves into a long car commute played a key role in locking me out of a shorter bike commute! For some, this might make the difference between relying on a car or a bike for their commute.

    Anyway, great article, as always.

    Reply
  • Lance February 15, 2017, 4:36 pm

    A lot of the west was settled by folks who traveled by wagon. When they arrived and started to settle the cities in the west they wanted dirt roads wide enough room to turn the wagon trains around so as you look out west you can see more grid cities with wider roads because of the folks from the 1800’s who headed west for land and gold.

    Reply
  • Jd Martin February 15, 2017, 7:36 pm

    Thoughts, in no particular order:

    1. I have been a big proponent of New Urbanism since the mid 90’s. I’ve been to many of the east coast examples designed by Duany et al. Problem: there’s so few of these places, that any time anyone tries to put something like this together prices go through the roof and only the wealthy can afford to live there.

    2. Having alternatives to everyone driving is a fantastic idea. If driving is like intelligence, as George Carlin would say, half of the drivers are below average in competence. I fully suspect many people who drive would rather be doing something else, as evidenced by the phone conversations, texting, and everything else besides driving. Since there’s no reasonable alternative in most places, people who suck at driving or who would rather not drive are forced to drive. Biking or walking cannot be the only solution – some people always want to ride, and some people are unable to do anything but ride. The most promising idea (I think) is the driverless car, that can be shared between people. Then you get the individuality of the ride but fewer cars.

    3. People don’t fight high density because of traffic – that’s just a ruse. People fight high density for personal reasons, some right and some wrong (or at least prejudicial). Some people assume high density will mean minorities or poor people. Some people assume high density will devalue their homes. A lot of people oppose it because, to be completely frank, lots of people in the United States (and maybe some other countries) just don’t know how to live as decent human beings. They raise hell, make noise, junk up their houses, litter, shoot fireworks, rev loud car engines, and generally act like jackasses. One of the reasons that exclusionary zoning exists (besides the racial and prejudicial reasons) is because you can’t trust Americans to act on behalf of the neighborhood. Nothing trumps personal property rights and individualism in the US, which means to hell with you, I do what I want when I want. That’s why some of the things that work in Europe are never going to work here until you have a paradigm shift regarding the value of the public sphere.

    Reply
  • Tatiana February 15, 2017, 9:05 pm

    Thank you so much MMM for being born :) I love my dear bike now thanks to you!
    talking about desirable places to live…
    I am curious to see if anybody here or you MMM have heard of the http://www.seasteading.org in Oakland California, their mission is to establish autonomous ocean communities to enable experimentation and innovation with diverse economical, social, political, and legal systems. They just signed an agreement with French Polynesian to start building the first world floating city by the end of this year! The city will not only be 100% sustainable but also restorative.
    And also what about freeprivatecities.com or startup cities?

    Reply
  • ben February 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

    One of the things that makes me crazy in Saint Louis, which is in many ways a great city full of great and potentially great traditional neighborhoods, and which has the potential to be a drop dead fantastic city, is the issue of schools. There is sort of this sociodemographic standoff concerning the public schools that affects housing choices and neighborhood safety, and based on my experiences it is common to almost every great migration city that segregated poor black refugees from the south into ghettos that persist to this day. There are public schools, but the poverty demographics and the related challenges that brings to the classroom can overwhelm the educational mission of the school. In STL, there are solid neighborhoods in which only the poorest kids use the public schools and almost everyone else uses private and charter schools, when the neighborhood school (and by extension the neighborhood, and the city) would be in far better condition – and probably comparable to suburban districts – if only ALL the neighborhood families used and supported the schools. I’m not going to lie – racism is a big part of it too – but the current conditions act as a deterrent to correcting the current conditions, as circular and stupid as that sounds. But it is frustrating because these traditionally built places exist, but because of poverty and vacancy and perception of safety (or actual safety issues) they just crumble while developers build more inefficient sprawl of the type you describe.

    Reply
  • AP February 16, 2017, 1:24 am

    Street parking is horrible. All DOT’s should gradually ween off our populations from free street parking as it consequently takes up a lane of traffic which could be utilized for better public space or dedicated bikelanes. Doubt it will happen in most cases as its likely a form of political suicide.

    Reply
  • Dan February 16, 2017, 7:30 am

    OK, MMM, my local bikeshop owes you a kickback. I just bought a new bike for myself and am committing to making all shopping trips by bike! Baby steps.

    Reply
  • Yves February 16, 2017, 7:47 am

    Hey! Fantastic article…. sounds like a book I should read!

    I never realised just how expensive public infrastructure can be/is! You’re example putting that simple bridge in monetary terms with the mansion clicked (I didn’t actually hear the click, but it made sense).

    How I live has been something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently and we (my wife and I) have had some interesting conversations on the topics of work/money/lifestyle and what we deem to be the important things in life (family/time/friends..etc)

    I think you’ve gained a regular reader here… I’ve read a few articles so far… interesting stuff.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts… oh, and hello from the east coast of Canada!

    Reply
  • Jeremy February 16, 2017, 9:54 am

    So glad you posted this and mentioned New Urbanism! I too have been fascinated by this topic because the way we design our cities has a great impact on our lives! I’m glad more people are realizing this. I recommend watching an old lecture by Andres Duany who explains these concepts very well. He popularized the term “McMansion.” Here’s the link to his lecture given decades ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMvwHDFVpCE

    Reply
  • Muhan February 16, 2017, 10:55 am

    Great article. I started reading MMM six years ago and took the message about cycling and living close to school/work to heart. Since then, I’ve moved to Miami (a city where everyone claims it’s impossible to live without a car) and have noticed something funny. Compared to my friends who have cars, I have a lot less road rage, am on time and also have more time (because I live closer to all the things I need to do). Not to mix correlation and causation, but I think this is also why I’ve been able to make friends, plug into the community, and enjoy a quality of life that is distinctively higher than many of them who moved around the same time. Very happy Strong Towns got mentioned; engineers who have a sense for economic value and give a fuck are going to save our cities: https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2017/1/9/the-real-reason-your-city-has-no-money

    Reply
  • Primal Prosperity February 16, 2017, 4:05 pm

    I’m a Civil Engineer and a Construction Project Manager (buildings, not roads), so I’m very aware of what it takes to build anything. Additionally, for a few years I was a Sustainability Program Manager and Energy Engineer for a large high performance buildings programs. I used to give presentations and training and one of the terms that I wanted people to be aware of, is “life cycle thinking”. I used to title that portion “what is greener, a hummer or a hybrid?” While, I didn’t want to deter anyone from advancing technology, I wanted to make sure that they understood that driving alone in a car is much more impactful than just the carbon emissions. Besides obesity and sprawl, the roads take enormous resources to build and maintain, it breaks up ecosystems, breaks up neighborhoods and causes segregation, causes storm water runoff pollution, heat island effect, etc…. driving is just not green at all, regardless of MPG.

    I’m much more a walker than a cyclist. I walk everywhere when the weather is nice, and only take buses when the weather is bad, or I’m in a time crunch. I can walk up to 4 hours on some days.

    I sold my car 4 years ago and LOVE it! Since then, I’ve worked with a “Complete Streets” campaign and a “Mayor’s Car Free Challenge”.

    Right now I live in a very urban area, but when I did live in Texas, in a more suburban-ish area, I would still walk to the grocery or bike to the library. People were constantly asking me if I needed a ride because it was so rare to see anyone walking. But I met a lot more people in my subdivision because of my walking. I think having a good relationship with neighbors provides FAR more safety than any fancy alarm system.

    Another great that I think you would like is “Big Box Swindle”, by Stacy Mitchell.

    Reply
    • LL February 20, 2017, 11:36 am

      How were the summers when you walked everywhere in Texas. I had to have my car fixed in the summer of 2011, so it was walking to the bus stop for like a mile because the closer one to my apartment was on a non-walkable road. Anyway, the mornings were not terrible, but having to wait for the bus during the evening was so terrible. 106 degree temperatures, hooboy!

      Reply
  • Steven Goodwin February 16, 2017, 5:20 pm

    I remember visiting St. Louis for a wedding and was amazed at how walkable and beautiful the city was and how it was laid out. I think they’ve done a great job balancing things out there!

    Reply
  • Eliza February 16, 2017, 10:18 pm

    I’m so glad you addressed this, urban planning is totally about liveability. There is so much research and evidence out there on what we could be doing and the benefits it would bring to our wealth, health and happiness. Having studied architecture and urban development I honestly find it depressing. We could be building vibrant, human centered communities, but instead we get roads and car parking spaces that take up huge amounts of urban land.

    Unfortunately it’s a ‘wicked problem’ that the vested interest groups, developers and banks are responsible for as much as policy makers and residents who opt for what they know. There was a study done in my city a few years ago that showed that the boundary for a special development area that allowed favourable development rights was relatively arbitrary, but not accidental. The boundary was drawn around parcels of land owned by developers with the best connections in the local government.

    Reply
  • Sean February 17, 2017, 12:53 am

    Love this article. I’ve been living in Europe for the last 3 years and have seen a huge swing toward pedestrian friendly cities. What’s interesting is seeing the before and after pics for each of these cities. In the 80s, Europe put America to shame in terms of traffic congestion and carbon pollution. Now, almost every city I have been to has returned to its roots and has a very good walking/ biking/ public transportation system. It can be done! I too often day dream of how we can convert our American cities to be more European. Going to pick up the Happy City book and learn some more. Looking forward to joining a MMM community when I get back to the states so we can rehab our own city. We have to start somewhere, might as well be with me.

    Reply
  • Sven February 17, 2017, 11:41 am

    Honestly very surprised that some of this stuff was news to MMM! I’ve thought about these problems quite a bit. A huge problem is the change in philosophy that will be necessary before people abandon the cars that they are enslaved to. I fear we won’t do that until petroleum in no longer viable.

    Secondly, its all good and well to create little islands of good cities, for example Portland, but I question how much good that really does unless it’s part of a total vision. My town is set up well for compactness, but it’s surrounded by 8 miles in every direction by spread out housing.

    Reply
  • David Herr February 17, 2017, 11:49 am

    There are three things that cities will have to improve before the urge to move to suburbs is quelled: crime, corruption, and schools. If your bike route takes you through an area where you will be assaulted and your bike stolen, forget biking around. If local government is corrupt, constantly increasing taxes and junk fees/fines while delivering bad service and constantly flirting with insolvency, people with income/assets above poverty but below super-rich will move out. If the schools suck like they do in Chicago, families who can will move out.

    Reply
  • CoupleofCents February 17, 2017, 12:14 pm

    I think you found your new life calling! Building a new city. This is huge. Let me know when I can put down a lease!

    Oh btw, I live in Mableton, GA. There were some ambitious plans to rezone/revitalize the downtown area of Mableton but I think the funding fell short. Mableton is still very much a car based town.

    Found an intersting article comparing Mableton to some others areas in Atlanta (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_eye/2013/12/10/why_cul_de_sacs_are_bad_for_your_health_happy_city_by_charles_montgomery.html).

    Reply
  • William Bloomfield February 17, 2017, 2:48 pm

    I appreciate this post’s recognition that our current system of expensive roads is not the result of the free market. I suggest that the solution to the problem must be a restoration of freedom and private property.

    One of the main reasons we have so many expensive roads is because they have been determined to be public goods, which has meant that no one cares what they cost because the costs are largely hidden and spread out among the population. While non-Mustacchians (most people) are not frugal, they are still more frugal with their own money than with other people’s money. As the French economist Fredric Bastiat recognized, people will always try to get more from the government than they give to the government: “Government is that great fiction by which everyone endeavors to profit at the expense of everyone else.”

    I am hopeful that a little freedom and some of our new technologies will aid us in shedding our expensive road-based infrastructure. Through MMM’s influence, I’ve been e-biking for my commute since August. It’s great! My brother has now joined me. Hopefully, we’ll gradually convince others that there is a better–and less expensive!–way. I see self-driving ride shares as something that should also reduce the need for car ownership and reduce the need for parking lots and traffic–especially if more of us walk and bike (or e-bike) for short distances, and save the ride-share for longer trips. And if we’re successful in recruiting more walkers and bikers, the infrastructure will gradually improve for walkers and bikers, making it even easier for these modes of transport.

    Here’s hoping!

    Reply
  • Mark February 17, 2017, 7:39 pm

    Mr Mustache,
    Cant forget James Howard Kunstler’s “the Geography of Nowhere”. Published almost 18 years before this tome.

    Reply
  • Cheryl February 17, 2017, 9:42 pm

    I think about creating a city like this quite often. I love European cities. Want to work together to make cities like this a reality in the USA? I guess I need an Urban Planning degree first. Any recommendations for an online degree?

    Reply
  • nathaniel February 17, 2017, 9:58 pm

    While I generally agree with your thoughts in this article and plan to read this book I am confused by a bit of your reasoning and hoping for clarification.

    “And the whole reason we ‘need’ cars in the first place is because we spread everything out by making our roads so big! It’s a circular problem.”

    Can you please clarify the sequence of events that you are saying occurred in the lead up to needing cars? Because, the way this sentence is worded it seems like you are saying that [first] we built big roads [second] we spread out [third] we need cars.

    I think a more correct sentence would be something like:
    “And the whole reason we ‘need’ cars in the first place is because we spread everything out [and then needed to connect them all with big roads]!”

    Thoughts?

    Reply
  • Beth February 18, 2017, 4:08 am

    I don’t usually comment, but here in London Ontario a local “builder” is creating a community called West 5 near my home. http://west5.ca/community-story/sustainability
    It’s a plan to create a energy conserving, walkable,bikable, sustainable community. Check it out if you have time.

    Reply
  • Chris February 18, 2017, 8:05 am

    Another devils advocate here — I’d like to hear your thoughts on electromagnetic radiation and the upcoming 5G concerns — related to living in a denser populated city and our health?
    Personally, I’m choosing acreage and no neighbors over a denser small town. Yes I will have to drive more – but I can be “unplugged” most of the time.
    Research may still be preliminary and controversial but I do think this is a down side to your proposed plans.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 20, 2017, 2:48 pm

      Hi Chris,

      Radio waves have been studied for over 100 years – the don’t harm living tgings at the levels found in our cities. What does harm us is for the most part is inactivity, stress and bad nutrition.

      Reply
  • Michael Banks February 18, 2017, 8:34 am

    I think this is sounds very cool but it all depends on what type of lifestyle you want. I am in Chicago and we have a large transit system where most people walk and take trains. If you work in the city just about everyone takes the train from the suburbs since parking makes it cost prohibitive for most people.

    The problem is when there is the suburban sprawl there aren’t many choices except to drive from point A to B. Starting from scratch in most metro areas will be an extremely difficult and expensive shift in transportation but if everyone is behind it could be done.

    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. 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