Heat haze over Phoenix Arizona


Tempe, Phoenix’s new project challenges car-centric urban design

Date: November 27th 2023 | Author: Melanie Haynes

Tempe, Phoenix’s new project challenges car-centric urban design by prioritizing public, shared, and active transportation in neighbourhood construction.

Tempe, Phoenix’s new project challenges car-centric urban design by prioritizing public, shared, and active transportation in neighbourhood construction.

Most American cities are built around cars, but Culdesac, a new development in Tempe, aims to change the narrative by creating a walkable, car-free neighbourhood on an unused plot of land. 

The development spans 17 acres and features over 700 apartments with affordable rents around shared courtyards. It includes amenities such as retail, leisure, co-working and office spaces, and dining experiences, all within easy walking distance. This promotes a strong sense of community and encourages residents to walk, bike, or use public transit instead of relying on cars.

Culdesac’s website lists various places, activities, and amenities, along with the estimated time it takes to get to them via e-bikes, light rail, or ride-share. What sets Culdesac apart is that it is the opposite of the zoning rules of most American cities, which segregate business, retail, and residential areas and make car use the only option.

The team behind Culdesac has looked at every aspect of urban living and tried to solve every pain point. For example, Phoenix is one of the hottest places in the US, with temperatures reaching 110 degrees for 54 days in 2023, setting a heat record. To combat this, 55% of the development is open space, and there are areas of shade and no asphalt to avoid heat traps that are usually associated with urban areas in hot parts of the US.

However, Culdesac’s well-thought-out interconnection between the development and public, shared, and active transport makes it unique. It operates as a mobility hub with extensive mulit-modal options.

Since the area is entirely car-free (there are no parking lots in Culdesac except for ones outside the development, for visitors, deliveries, and mobility partners), the developers have worked with partners to ensure residents have affordable, convenient transport options. 

For instance, all residents receive a complimentary platinum transit pass, courtesy of Valley Metro, a partner of Kuba’s, allowing them to travel on light rail to downtown Tempe, Phoenix, Mesa, and the airport. Culdesac is situated right next to the light rail station. The platinum pass offers unlimited rides within the Valley Metro area and increases ridership on public transportation. It is currently a smartcard which riders validate when travelling and is also used for affiliate passes for businesses and universities.

Micromobility is covered with Bird scooter rentals and an onsite electric bike retailer, and there are over a thousand bike parking spots. Ride-sharing is also part of the deal, with residents getting a 15% discount on Lyft rides. Additionally, there is access to Waymo autonomous vehicle pick-up/drop-off zones; Phoenix is currently one of only two US locations where Waymo operates. Culdesac has its fleet of affordable electric car-share vehicles.

This development (and any future ones from the Culdesac team) shows what is possible when you challenge the status quo and work with various partners to create change, even in one of the most car-dominated societies in the world.

Currently, Valley Metro has a mobile app based on our mobility platform that offers real-time trip planning and mobile ticketing. The platform supports aggregation of all transit modes, including mass transit, microtransit, micromobility, and paratransit services for full end-to-end planning, payment and journey execution. Valley Metro is looking into expanding its Valley Metro app with these services in the future.

Further information

Culdesac website 

Culdesac: Mobility Matters (video)

Guardian UK: ‘People are happier in a walkable neighborhood’: the US community that banned cars

 Storylines podcast: Going carless with Culdesac