Regular readers are aware that my hopes for sustainability are largely bound up with cities. By the simple act of bringing people together in close proximity, cities encourage diversity, health, innovation, and economic growth. They are the proving grounds where we will test new, more sustainable patterns of work, play, and mobility. I wrote a series of posts about this a while back called "Great Places."
To me, one of the key barriers to truly green and enjoyable urbanism is the continued domination of urban spaces by cars (and parking). Cities, especially cities that grew up in the post-WWII era, are designed for cars; people scurry around on the margins, perpetually nervous about their safety. There's really no way around this as long as car ownership is required to attain a convenient level of mobility, which it still is in the vast majority of cities.
Most public-transit alternatives to personal cars require a substantial investment of time and cognitive energy. Most people, like it or not, just want things to be easy. And so traffic congestion remains the rule in cities, even cities with robust public transit systems.
Tony Hsieh, the celebrated CEO of Zappos.com, wants to change that. (Side note: I never read management books by corporate titans, but for some reason I ended up reading Hsieh's, and damned if it wasn't pretty inspiring. He's an interesting guy.) Hsieh moved Zappos to Las Vegas a while back and ever since he's been investing heavily in making the city a vibrant, livable hub for tech innovation. Now he's dreamed up something truly ambitious and (to me, anyway) exciting.
The idea is to provide an alternative to personal cars that is fast, flexible, multi-modal, and personalized -- something that is easy the way returning shoes to Zappos is easy. It's called Project 100. Ace reporter Katie Fehrenbacher has a great write-up of the plan, but to quickly summarize, Hsieh wants to populate downtown Las Vegas with: