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Cities, towns debate ways to reduce parking for cars, to leave more room for people.


A lot of cities have changed their streets and changed their kinds of development to reduce parking for cars, leaving more room for people. In Arizona, a new development takes that idea further, claiming to be America's first neighborhood built to be car-free. NPR's Adam Bearne has the details.

ADAM BEARNE, BYLINE: John Robert Rodriguez (ph) loves his new home.

JOHN ROBERT RODRIGUEZ: It's been absolutely fantastic.

BEARNE: In October, the special ed teacher moved to Culdesac Tempe. The development, which is being built by the real estate company Culdesac, is car-free.

RODRIGUEZ: I was more nervous before I moved here because looking at the transit maps, I was like, this is going to be such a hassle. Now, once I'm here, it's convenient because you don't have to be in the car, you don't have to be driving. And when you're not driving - like, on my way to work, I'm already working.

BEARNE: Raised in Florida, Rodriguez says he feels like the U.S. pushes people to be dependent on cars.

RODRIGUEZ: I traveled around the world a lot. And where I've gone, you kind of realize how much easier life is when you can get around, when it is an option to not have to get in a car.

BEARNE: Reducing reliance on cars is exactly why Culdesac CEO Ryan Johnson co-founded the company.

RYAN JOHNSON: In the U.S., we've been building the wrong type of housing for almost a hundred years now. We have not been building what people want and the kind of housing that makes people happy, and we're bringing those kind of neighborhoods back.


BEARNE: A promo video on the Culdesac website shows the kind of neighborhood Johnson's talking about, one where residents have many everyday necessities right on site. There's a small grocery store, a gym, even a restaurant and bike shop. It's all spread around a mixture of wide courtyards and narrow alleys between buildings that's a far cry from the typical urban sprawl found in the Phoenix area. But what if you want to leave?

JOHNSON: All of our residents get an unlimited light rail pass. They use Lyft. They also use electric bikes and electric scooters instead of a private car that sits parked for almost the entire day.

BEARNE: That light rail line passes Arizona State University, where Meagan Ehlenz teaches urban planning.

MEAGAN EHLENZ: The idea behind walkability is that you should be able to live your life within a certain distance on a day-to-day basis without needing to use a car.

BEARNE: And she's giving Culdesac an A+.

EHLENZ: It's a really nice space. I think that there's a clear identity, and that's part of the walkability of it, is that you feel like you're in a place. It doesn't feel just like all the other streets or neighborhoods around you.

BEARNE: Around a hundred people live at Culdesac right now, another 60 units are opening early this year. In total, developers are planning for 1,000 residents once construction is complete. For John Robert Rodriguez, his rent of 1,400 bucks a month for his one-bedroom apartment is a bargain, being around like-minded neighbors, an added bonus.

Adam Bearne, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF LEAVV'S "PAVED PATHS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Adam Bearne
Adam Bearne is an editor for Morning Edition who joined the team in August 2022.