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Building a prototype

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  • earthymiller
    Scepticism and resistance from people who have trouble envisioning a carfree or car-reduced urban lifestyle may be one of the best arguments for actually
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 25, 2002
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      Scepticism and resistance from people who have trouble envisioning
      a carfree or car-reduced urban lifestyle may be one of
      the best arguments for actually building carfree city as a
      prototype model/experimental case study and as an archetype for
      the kind of city that could be achieved by progressive
      pedestrianisation and introduction of rapid public transit.

      Two major problems: adapting the reference design to
      a site and funding it. Having spent most of my life in Montreal and
      Ottawa, I would like to make some suggestions...

      An interesting site, to my eyes, would be in an area about halfway
      between the two cities (slightly closer to Montreal), where Ontario
      highway 417 becomes Quebec route 40. It follows the curve of the
      Ottawa river some 10 km west into Ontario, turning sharply southwest
      just before the small town of Hawkesbury; east into Quebec it turns
      sharply southward, then southeast and again east just
      before reaching the village of Rigaud, over a length of about 8 km.
      Currently a wide scar slashing through the countryside, this stretch of
      highway could become the main axis of a new city. Here are a few things
      that come to mind:

      • The highway allowance could be exploited to put in place an
      initial section of the metro as well as for a high speed rail link
      between this city, Montreal and Ottawa. In the initial stages, these
      would be new lanes, not taking over original car lanes. (Other
      off-highway axes would probably be built as suggested
      in the book/on the website and would be the only ones built on top of
      pre-existing green space.)
      • This portion of the city would be built over the highway
      infrastructure, bridging the highway from one end to the other of the
      site, creating a "hill town" effect. Care would need to be exercised
      in varying the skyline and overall contours between districts, just
      as for street patterns and architectural style. Some districts could
      slope gently toward the surrounding countryside; others more steeply
      and yet others could permit sheer "cliffs" which on the south side
      could be exploited for solar collectors, agricultural greenhouses or
      hanging gardens. With the proximity of the river and Rigaud mountain,
      there would be a wonderful view over the countryside, and the raised
      part of the city itself ought to be wonderfully picturesque if
      executed properly.
      • One way in which relative heights and widths of districts could
      be varied is by placement, at irregular intervals, of multi-storey parking =

      garages (which one hopes would eventually be rededicated to other
      uses). To discourage using cars as an alternative to the metro
      these would be located only in peripheral segments of the highway
      axis, not in the centre, would be directly connected to the metro,
      and would be subject to a fee structure designed to discourage
      commuting use, without excluding short-term visitors, perhaps via
      some sort of license plate/driver's licence tracking system.
      Rent-a-car firms could be located at just such places.
      • The intercity train and bus stations would be located in the
      centre, off the highway; "big box" type warehouse stores could also
      locate at grade, below street level, in or near the centre.
      • The new city could act as a damper to rampant suburban construction aroun=
      d Ottawa and Montreal.

      • An interesting strategy for initial funding would be to
      construct this first (highway) phase of the city as an international
      registered exhibition (as defined by the Bureau of International
      Exhibitions on their http://www.bie-paris.org website.) This would be
      a major exhibition similar to Expo 67 (Montreal) or
      Expo 92 (Seville) A possible hitch: Shanghai is a candidate for the
      2010 exhibition with the theme "Better City, Better Life", which if
      chosen, would require an inventive approach to proposing a similar
      theme for a later expo, say in 2015 or 2020.
      • Part of the infrastructure is already present in the highway.
      Costs could be divided between the government of Canada and Ontario
      and Quebec. I expect the prospect of spin-off tourism to Ottawa and
      Montreal, both an hour away by car, even closer by high-speed rail,
      would be a positive factor.
      • Many large public-type buildings would be built initially for the
      exhibition to be re-used after. Since the site is isolated from other citie=
      s,
      accommodations for most visitors would be built on-site in the form
      of hotels and rented houses and apartments which would subsequently
      become the homes of permanent residents of the city. Pass-bearing
      residents would have free admission to the site, day-trip visitors
      would buy or present their passes at entrance points to the city. The
      built accommodations would be the kernels around which districts
      would subsequently expand.
      • Building the initial phase of the city as an Expo site would
      justify building a special monument/high place, something along
      the lines of the Eiffel Tower but quite different, both
      affording magnificent views of the surrounding country
      and acting as a beloved landmark and symbol of the city.
      • Tourism would be an important part of the city's post-Expo
      economy. Attracting athletic events such as the Olympics could be
      used to give further impetus to expansion of the city, perhaps into
      a third town on the north shore of the river.
      • By its very existence, the city would illustrate the carfree concept
      and could serve as a centre of studies in new urbanism.
      • The bi-provincial nature of the city would give it a special
      flavour; some sort of interprovincial metropolitan cooperative body
      might need to be set up but the city would be insulated from forced
      amalgamation into a centralised megacity.

      Sorry for the long post, but I think I needed to put in as many
      points as possible to stimulate discussion. I'd like to see what others
      (especially Ottawans and Montrealers) think about this idea...

      Chris Miller
    • turpin
      ... (1) It will be important to control the area around the new town. If automobile travel is allowed in the immediate neighborhood, and construction of its
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 26, 2002
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        "earthymiller" <christophermiller@m...> wrote:
        > Scepticism and resistance from people who have
        > trouble envisioning a carfree or car-reduced
        > urban lifestyle may be one of the best arguments
        > for actually building carfree city as a
        > prototype model/experimental case study and as
        > an archetype for the kind of city that could be
        > achieved by progressive pedestrianisation and
        > introduction of rapid public transit. Two major
        > problems: adapting the reference design to a
        > site and funding it.

        (1) It will be important to control the area around the new town. If
        automobile travel is allowed in the immediate neighborhood, and
        construction of its infrastructure is not controlled by the town, then
        the freerider effect will cause car-dependent growth near the
        boundary, and this will be viewed as a failure. You do NOT want fast-
        food restaurants, etc., setting up business immediately outside of
        the car-free boundary.

        (2) Bootstrapping a new town of significant size requires either a
        mass following, as exemplified by the Mormons and other 19th century
        utopian groups, or buy-in by significant employers. The second has
        more general appeal. So the question becomes: which industries
        especially benefit from the concept? What is needed to sign-up
        companies? Alas, a first step is to get committed developer dollars ..

        (3) I would recommend choosing a shore location. (a) This makes it
        easier for the town to control automobile access to its perimeter. It
        is no accident that some of the most walkable cities -- San
        Francisco, Pensacola, etc. -- are on geographically constrainted
        peninsulas. (b) Large bodies of water moderate temperature, which
        makes for better walking. (c) A variety of boats could augment the
        transportation system. The only drawback is that most good shore
        locations are taken.

        Good luck. Let us know when we can come look at lots. ;-)
      • earthymiller
        Thanks for the two replies (so far at least). Those who don t know the site I m describing could go to http://www.emaps.com then click on Maps and search,
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 26, 2002
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          Thanks for the two replies (so far at least). Those who don't know
          the site I'm describing could go to http://www.emaps.com then click
          on "Maps" and search, under Canada, for Rigaud, QC: the site is
          northwest of Rigaud, where highway 40 turns northward and then
          westward as 417 in Ontario.

          Ryan Lanyon said:

          (...) I would suggest not having it be a bi-provincial project, (...)
          there is very little coordination at the provincial level. In fact,
          we run two separate transit systems, partly
          because Quebec subsidizes transit and Ontario does not.

          My reactions:

          In fact, there are separate systems for Montreal proper and the towns
          on the "South Shore" of the Saint Lawrence river to its east (i.e.
          with no provincial boundary), so there is more involved than just
          provincial boundaries. The design of the subway would have a
          distinct route on either side of the border, with a transfer
          station in the city core. Let me illustrate.
          Think of the reference design as composed of a loop at each of the
          odd hours of the clock: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 o'clock. The 3 and 9
          o'clock loops have a north and south branch; the others have an east
          and west branch. The reference design can be superimposed
          surprisingly cleanly over the site: the north branch of the 9 o'clock
          loop (9N) fits almost exactly over Ontario Hwy 417; the stem
          of the 5 loop and 5-east fit right over Quebec Hwy 40, going halfway
          down to Rigaud. Their respective subway lines would meet at the
          border, between the highway and the river, where the core of the
          city would be located.

          In any case, I suggest that the economic benefits from tourism of an
          Expo could justify both funding and collaboration between the two
          provinces and the federal government. (Visitors could number in the
          tens of millions.) It is probably less likely that a single province
          would willingly accept to take on the financial burden.

          You proposed "the uncompleted highway 50 between Gatineau and
          Montreal" farther west on the *north* shore of the Ottawa river as a
          site to take advantage of Quebec's different priorities. Rail, as far
          as I know, is a purely *federal* responsibility; provincial monies
          would go toward building the first phase of the city itself, both the
          central Expo site and the peripheral housing + multi-use districts.

          "Turpin" said:

          (1) It will be important to control the area around the new town.
          (...) You do NOT want fast- food restaurants, etc., setting up
          business immediately outside of the car-free boundary.

          My response:

          Certainly: it would be necessary to make clear to the provinces that
          the purpose of the Expo is to build a city as a careful experiment
          in car-free, sprawl-free urbanism to be applied elsewhere
          in the province. This would be clear in the *theme* of the Expo and
          stringent requirements in this sense should be built into the city
          charters.

          "Turpin":

          (2) Bootstrapping a new town of significant size requires (...)
          buy-in by significant employers (...): which industries
          especially benefit from the concept? What is needed to sign-up
          companies? (...)

          My response:

          Expo service workers would be present as residents right from the
          beginning of the Expo and many might stay on afterward; during
          the Expo, the Exposition Corporation or perhaps an adjunct governing
          body for the peripheral areas outside the Expo site (and post-Expo, the
          downtown area) would actively recruit new residents and businesses to
          support expansion to the target final size of the city. The "quality
          of life" and "quality and proximity of services and infrastructure"
          arguments should be quite convincing; many businesses would probably
          be happier to locate there rather than at exurbian nowheres outside
          the Ottawa and Montreal suburban belts.

          "Turpin":

          (3) I would recommend choosing a shore location. (...) (b) Large
          bodies of water moderate temperature, which
          makes for better walking. (c) A variety of boats could augment the
          transportation system. The only drawback is that most good shore
          locations are taken.

          My response:

          Downtown/Expo is right on the Ottawa river. The water *does* make the
          climate *slightly* milder than it would otherwise be, but it would be
          similar to Ottawa's an Montreal's climate. The irregularly clustered, narrow
          street layouts would likely cut winter winds and perhaps contribute
          to favorable sheltered microclimates for walking. (Any research on such an
          effect dependent on street layout? I know that long, straight streets
          as in Montreal and Ottawa make for horrible wind tunnels.) As for
          boats, they could be used as ferries to the north shore of the river,
          but only as a slower auxiliary means of transport that wouldn't
          replace a cross-river metro.

          Good luck. Let us know when we can come look at lots. ;-)

          If this ever goes beyond a thought experiment, welcome to Expo!

          Chris Miller
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