Can it be tweaked?
- Martha wrote:
> > Maybe we should do something like the AIDS quilt, perhaps the trafficand Simon responded:
> > death sound barrier. I'd like it someplace visible to drivers. Each
> > brick is inscribed with the name of someone, pedestrian, driver or
> > passenger who died a traffic death.
>Yes, yes. Something that truly captures the sheer awfulness of what hasI think what stuns and saddens me most, and it just gets worse with each
>happened combined with the astonishing and dreadful willingness of so many
>people to accept these deaths as a price worth paying for the "benefits" of
passing decade, is just that "astonishing and dreadful willingness." How
could our fellows be so willing to accept the human and environmental
atrocity the auto-dominated city has become? Can't they see how horrible
I'm afraid they really can't see it. For whatever reasons, they can't
imagine a different world, at least not a different and better one. My
wife, Linda, says (about this and much else), "They all believe the
commercials." They certainly act as if they do. Can we do anything to
When we discuss progress in Portland, the lunacy in the Metroplex, ways to
ameliorate the damage caused by auto-madness and endless carburbia, I find
that I am of two minds.
On the one hand, I understand the need for incremental progress. Surely we
must take the steps we can to improve, however marginally, the places in
which we find ourselves. How else is progress achieved? On the other
hand, I feel in my heart that these baby steps are a waste of time and
energy. We need to create real solutions, to serve as models for a future
My friend, Lois, is a landscape architect and urban designer of
considerable talent and wisdom. She has a real knack for making awful
sprawlburban places the best that they can be. A couple of years ago,
amidst a battle over the best way to patch up a particularly ugly example
of bad planning and design, she told us, "You know, it can't be tweaked."
Lois meant that there are real limits imposed by the infrastructure that is
the legacy of the auto age. If we want to solve fundamental problems, not
just slap on temporary patches, we will have to alter that
infrastructure. In some places, we will need to "scrape it off and start
over." That's not impossible, of course. There are monumental challenges
to meet, but it can be done.
I think, though, that we need to start (at least in North America) with
easier tasks. We need to begin with construction of carfree districts in
places like the waterfront brownfield site Joel identified in Toronto,
projects that are "small" enough to be reasonable, but complete enough to
show the neighbors how this carfree business works -- in places without an
existing autocentric infrastructure or native NIMBYs.
Does this make sense? Do others also see this as a possible and promising
project? Or, do you think that we must be satisfied with incrementalism,
with those baby steps I hate? How do you see us getting where we want to go?
>If we want to solve fundamental problems, not just slap on temporaryI agree wholeheartedly. Incremental fixes will rarely if ever provide
>patches, we will have to alter that infrastructure. In some places,
>we will need to "scrape it off and start over." That's not
>impossible, of course. There are monumental challenges to meet, but
>it can be done.
the impact needed to ameliorate our atrocious mobility problems. As
in my discussin on DART, upon integrating alternative transit systems
the net result is that they must compete (usually very poorly) with
the existing road and highway infrastructure and are rarely realized
to their full potential. Unfortunately the masses tend to place the
blame on what has been introduced instead of focusing on the core
A paradigmatic vision is what is needed by the citizens and especially
the leaders of this nation, but if the population at large remains
insular and un-exposed to alternatives or is apathetic and misinformed
as a result of propoganda administered by lobbies seeking to retain
the status quo, there is little hope. What is needed is a "fight fire
with fire" approach--educating the masses on how car dependance is
wreaking social, environmental and monetary havoc of the highest order
within our society. Books like "Asphalt Nation", "The Geography of
Nowhere" and "Car-Free Cities" should be required reading. College
courses should emphasize mobility issues in Sociology and Geography
curriculums. I'm sure we could conjure up many more needed methods to
broach the rampant "transit illiteracy" we face.