Complete neighborhoods

Andrew Price writes on “complete neighborhoods,” where peoples’ needs are close at hand:

I’m interested in creating livable, walkable, human-scale cities, and one of the most important elements to creating a livable city is the development pattern of your local neighborhood. We talk about car dependency being bad and limiting our freedom, but what does ‘transportation freedom’ look like? Waiting for a bus every time you leave home? Not so much. I believe that the most free mode of transportation is one that doesn’t require any vehicle to get around — thus, our largest gains with building livable, human-scale cities come from building foot-oriented neighborhoods. …

The best way to easily and affordable get people around is to reduce the distance they have to travel. If you move things close enough and make it comfortable to get around, people will walk.

Cities are divided into neighborhoods, and if you’ve ever spent time living in a walkable city without a car, you know that your quality of life is largely dependent on the amenities within your neighborhood — the walkshed of your home.

A good neighborhood will have enough variety of restaurants to keep you satisfied, along with schools, parks, grocery stores, walk-in clinics, entertainment, etc. If you were fortunate enough to work from or close to home, it’s the sort of neighborhood you could go months without leaving and not feel like you’re missing out on anything.

What I’m describing here is what I like to call a Complete Neighborhood. A Complete Neighborhood is one where, outside of commuting to work or having a “night out,” you can get everything you need within walking distance.

Pick a random neighborhood in Manhattan and it’ll likely be a Complete Neighborhood. (I know New York is an atypical American experience, but it’s the closest I can get to making this point without talking about foreign cities.) The further out into the outer boroughs and suburbs you go (unfortunately, you don’t have to go far) the less “complete” the neighborhood becomes, regardless of how long it takes to get into Manhattan via transit. …

Separating uses to a scale that requires a vehicle — whether it is a car, a bicycle, or transit — to get around for basic necessities is an artificial problem created by modern planning. Until we change our development pattern to build Complete Neighborhoods, any transportation infrastructure (whether widening roads to accommodate more cars or tunneling a subway line) is just wasteful spending.

Once we build foot-oriented neighborhoods, transit and cycling become productive investments.

Just as conservation requires context, it makes sense to me that a good life involves a “complete neighborhood” in this way.