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Can it be tweaked?

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  • Doug Salzmann
    ... I think what stuns and saddens me most, and it just gets worse with each passing decade, is just that astonishing and dreadful willingness. How could
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 1, 2000
      Martha wrote:

      > > Maybe we should do something like the AIDS quilt, perhaps the traffic
      > > 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.

      and Simon responded:

      >Yes, yes. Something that truly captures the sheer awfulness of what has
      >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
      >driving.

      I think what stuns and saddens me most, and it just gets worse with each
      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
      it is?

      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
      change this?

      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
      that works.

      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?


      -Doug
    • Michael Schramm
      ... I agree wholeheartedly. Incremental fixes will rarely if ever provide the impact needed to ameliorate our atrocious mobility problems. As in my discussin
      Message 2 of 4 , Aug 2, 2000
        >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 agree wholeheartedly. Incremental fixes will rarely if ever provide
        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
        issue.

        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.

        Michael Schramm
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