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replies to Todd Edelman

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  • Simon Norton
    This relates to Todd s Thinktanks Gone Wild and Move it postings. With regard to the former, I don t know the land use patterns of US cities well enough to
    Message 1 of 1 , May 29, 2011
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      This relates to Todd's "Thinktanks Gone Wild" and "Move it" postings.

      With regard to the former, I don't know the land use patterns of US cities well
      enough to make informed comments, but let me refer to the 2 UK cities which I
      know best -- London and Cambridge -- which seem to encapsulate the problems of
      large (pop ~7m) and small (pop ~100,000) cities respectively.

      The Paul Mees book gives modal shift statistics for the journey to work for
      both. Here they are.

      London: car 39.2%, public transport 45.9%, walk 9.2%, cycle 2.5%
      Cambridge: car 45.0%, public transport 9.1%, walk 15.0%, cycle 28.0%

      One conclusion one might come to is that there is less need for public transport
      in Cambridge because distances are generally small enough to walk or cycle. This
      is true. Could this be what's pushing cities like Modesto up in the survey
      quoted ?

      However it isn't as simple as that. There are 2 other factors to be considered.

      (a) While distances are indeed small enough for non-motorists to choose to walk
      or cycle, the figures show that this is not true for motorists. For journeys for
      which they require motorised transport, they use their cars in a far higher
      proportion than Londoners. One reason is that there are much tighter
      restrictions on car use in London (though Cambridge city centre also has tight
      parking restrictions), but another must inevitably be the poor quality of
      Cambridge's public transport.

      (b) While both London and Cambridge draw a large proportion of their workforce
      from the surrounding area, in the case of London this is overwhelmingly by rail,
      while in the case of Cambridge it's overwhelmingly by car. Thus Cambridge's
      traffic problems are considerably exacerbated by its suburbs -- a factor which
      many Cambridge politicians are very much aware of. The political party that
      controls Cambridgeshire County Council (the local transport authority) doesn't
      have a single seat within Cambridge, which further exacerbates the sense of a
      city/country divide.

      I should add that while the surrounds of Cambridge are to some extent "country"
      in physical form, they are functionally suburbs. It would be perfectly possible
      to link them to Cambridge by high quality public transport, but the county
      council has made only token efforts towards this (admittedly hindered by the
      very poor local government and transport procurement arrangements in England
      especially).

      However, there is an additional point I want to make. That is refers to the
      policy recommendations of the article. The author seems to be saying that where
      a car-based transport setup is working quite well, there is not much of an
      imperative to develop alternatives. I believe that this is a fallacy for the
      following reasons:

      A: There can be significant social exclusion problems among the minority who do
      not have access to cars. This is certainly the case in and around towns smaller
      than Cambridge which have few congestion problems -- and which, it should be
      noted, are less self contained which means that travel outside the town can be
      essential for people's wellbeing.

      B: And, of course, there are the familiar environmental problems of excessive
      car use. With climate change and peak oil competing to engulf our civilisation
      we need to move away from car use as fast as we can independently of other
      considerations.

      I would, however, strongly agree with the article's final conclusions.

      Regarding the other article, shouldn't planning authorities be considering how
      to encourage employers to locate at places more accessible without a car, as
      well as trying to develop better ways of accessing the workplaces as they now
      stand ?

      Simon Norton
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