A Carfree Neighborhood in Cambridge: North Point
New: article about this proposal in the Cambridge Chronicle
Update (3/05): the developer is going ahead with a "car-light" plan beginning this
spring, the largest construction project in New England. We are looking for
help developing an alternative plan to show concretely the
that a carfree project would have. See also the news section.
Between Cambridge, Charlestown and Somerville, Massachusetts lies an area
known as North Point. For over a century, it has been the site of railyards
and other industrial uses. Now, this area, the largest remaining undeveloped
parcel in Cambridge, is proposed for complete redevelopment. This site
describes why North Point should become a car-free neighborhood, and what
it could look like.
New Carfree neighborhood in Freiburg
Street in Venice
There is an important option missing from the dialogue on future development
in Cambridge. It is generally assumed that new neighborhoods must be planned
to provide automobile access to all points. As the census statistics show,
a majority of Cambridge residents do not use cars daily. Although Cambridge
has made great strides in making its urban environment more livable, providing
car access in a dense urban area imposes high tangible and intangible
costs which must be borne by all residents, whether or not they use cars.
We propose that the North Point area be developed as a car-free neighborhood,
one which has only pedestrian access to most points, with some parking
located in garages on the edge of the neighborhood. The North Point area
is ideal for a car-free neighborhood: good public transport already exists,
and a significant fraction of area residents do without cars for most of
their transportation needs. We also believe that the North Point area presents
a historic opportunity to begin to turn the national planning agenda back
towards the quality of life of residents, and not just the convenience of
cars. We are looking for help in presenting the case for a carfree neighborhood.
This site shows what the neighborhood might look like; shows ways in which
planning new neighborhoods as carfree can help achieve city objectives such
as increased quality of life for residents and more affordable housing;
and lists costs to residents and the city associated with planning new neighborhoods
for the automobile which are eliminated when planning a carfree neighborhood.
Given these high costs, we believe planners have a choice: spend resources
on making the new neighborhood accessible by automobile, or spend these
resources in ways that much more cost-effectively improve residents' quality
- Spaulding & Slye
, the development firm picked by the landowner to plan North Point.
Only 38% of Cambridge residents commute to work in their