(In the Amicus Journal, Publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Fall 1996)
We keep talking about transportation alternatives as though transit systems were actually an alternative for most people, when in fact they are not -- partly because of development patterns, partly because of the idiotic way in which we have designed them. If we try to induce people to use transit through guilt, while the automobile industry is saying, "If you drive this car, you're going to get more and better sex", it's not an equal contest.
In transit coaches, there's no place to put groceries, there's no place to hang dry cleaning. Every time you get on a bus the message is: We assume you're going to vandalize this; we assume you're going to be dirty.
And every time you get in a car the message is: We're going to pamper you the way you deserve to be pampered. As long as we have an "alternative" that is really not an alternative psychologically, then the automobile is going to win. It's not an issue of mobility. It's an issue of freedom and self-worth.
(From a letter to Emory Bundy, as quoted in a letter from Emory Bundy to Dick Ford, May 7, 1996.)
The burden of servicing the ongoing operating debt (not to mention the financing of the required capital improvements for the RTA's plan) will require a level of inter-governmental cooperation that will make the effort to pass the current capital referendum seem like child's play. And the second guessing that will accompany the inevitable shortfall in expected ridership on any new rail-based transit system will undermine any political agreement reached for financing both capital and operating indebtedness. If you, or one of the other members of the [Dick] Ford committee were to take a realistic look at the full costs of investment in even a modest rail proposal, I'm sure that you would find that amortized capital costs would soon be overwhelmed by financing the annual debit of operating (and become a nightmare using a "no significant ridership growth" scenario that has played out in every major metropolitan area that has introduced rail systems in the last century).
In the new era of globalization, ironically, patterns of residence are becoming less important than patterns of interaction, as people who participate in the global economy communicate more often with their peers in other cities or countries, electronically or in person, than the people living next door.
If the aim is to reduce environmental damage generated by automobiles, the effective remedy is to directly price and regulate autos and their use, not land use. If the aim is to reduce metropolitan spatial segmentation, the effective remedy is to expand the range of housing and employment choices, not travel choice. As urban areas continue to evolve, the link between land use and transportation will likely continue to weaken. Thus only direct policy interventions can solve the social and environmental problems associated with existing travel and land use patterns.
The opening of the interstate highway system had a substantial effect on where in the United States people choose to settle. It made new suburbs accessible and contributed to the culture of the automobile. There will be significant implications for city planners, real estate developers, and school districts if the opening of the information highway also encourages people to move away from city centers.... (T)echnology isn't going to wait until people are ready for it. Within the next ten years we will start to see substantial shifts in how and where we work, the companies we work for, and the places we choose to live.
Plans A and B are still being tried to transport an ever growing and mobile society, Garreau says, and those plans have not worked. Plan A is "paving the planet for cars", Plan B is rail and buses. Garreau sees Plan C as the answer. It includes personal rapid transit, which must be flexible and modular so it can be moved as easily as population shifts; public-private partnerships; and information technology, which doubles every 18 months.
The fuel efficiency of cars has been stagnant for the past decade. Yet the seemingly ambitious goal of tripling it in the next decade can be far surpassed. Well before 2003 competition, not government mandates, may bring to market cars efficient enough to carry a family coast to coast on one tank of fuel, more safely and comfortably than they can travel now, and more cleanly than they would with a battery-electric car plus the power plants needed to recharge it.
...(D)emand-side tactics would be much more effective at reducing congestion, and less costly to society in general, than supply-side tactics. Nevertheless, the former will be much harder to adopt than the latter. In fact, political probabilities alone would suggest that society is much more likely to attack congestion with supply-side tactics. Such a strategy would produce few results at great cost, compared with demand-side tactics.
Recognizing that transportation is inevitably tied in an intricate web of overlaps with all other urban functions complicates the planning task but makes it more likely to achieve meaningful results. The assumption that people will use local facilities in a village-like community setting and that they will cycle to the train station along dedicated landscaped cycle routes is easy to make if you do not appreciate the web of complex interactions for work, shopping, and leisure that automobility has created throughout the metropolis. Perhaps the hard pill to swallow is that our metaphors our ways of seeing things must be different from past ones. In the developing city, technological innovations could help build a solution to tensions between transportation demands and supply. But planning approaches based on resurrecting physical entailments of the past cannot succeed when they fail to reflect the abstract ordering of the communities of today.
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Last modified: February 07, 2011