The New York Times has done a good article on Vauban, a German suburb without cars:
Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.
Having more such developments would be a tremendous improvement over the suburbs we currently have. There are some real problems with the Vauban model, however. Currently it is impossible–and due to zoning regulations practically illegal–to live without a car in many places in America. While American cities would benefit from having many more roads designated for pedestrians and cyclists, the Vauban model, where cars are effectively outlawed, may be a bit too anti-auto. A more sensible middle course is one where cars are a convenience, not a necessity or a taboo.
The other problem with Vauban–as with many New Urbanist-style projects–is that while it rejects the anti-family, anti-community elements of suburban sprawl, it is designed for a racially and economically homogeneous clientele. Suburbs were powered by the automobile, but they were built to allow people to live like people with the same background and buying power. A “green” or “sustainable” suburb is emphatically not a city, a polis, where people of varying classes and interests are able to join together in a community of communities dedicated to human flourishing. If we want to build communities where people and families can flourish, we should remember that suburbia doesn’t just have problems, suburbia is the problem.