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Re: [carfree_cities] Re: Urban Sprawl Makes Americans Fat, Study Finds

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  • Richard Risemberg
    As long as you provide free roads, people will drive, especially after 70 years of programming that tells them it s the right way to get about. First, you
    Message 1 of 10 , Sep 1, 2003
      As long as you provide free roads, people will drive, especially after
      70 years of programming that tells them it's the "right" way to get about.

      First, you build transit infrastructure in and between urban modules
      that have high density. Then, you either charge a "fare" for driving,
      or engineer difficulty into the act.

      My preference is the latter because the infrastructure change would have
      many benefits to all involved, even the inconvenienced drivers. Here's
      a quick outline (which I will expand upon in an upcoming New Colonist
      article):

      Take an area of town similar to West Hollywood--high population density,
      diversity of retail and services, and totally traffic jammed.

      Build rail transit in first, preferably underground (could be
      underground light rail to moderate costs; I've seen that in SF, and in
      LA the light rail trains often go underground part-time). Let's take
      the dity's main drag, Santa Monica Blvd., as an example. You build the
      light rail line down the middle of the street in the less-dense parts of
      LA outside of West Hollywood. The train goes underground in West
      Hollywood itself, then re-emerges to the surface farther west where
      density thins out.

      Then YOU NARROW THE BOULEVARD FROM FIVE LANES TO THREE!!

      In the space you have denied to cars, you build a long town square, with
      plantings, benches, mini-parks, fountains, whatever INTERSPERSED WITH
      BUSINESS OPERATING ON SPACE LEASED FROM THE CITY. Put a size limit on
      the commercial spaces to keep out big box stores.

      There's still a roadway for people who must drive, or who are just
      obsessed. There's the light rail for the sane who need to travel.
      There's public space. There's an increase in commerce, which means more
      jobs as well as more pleasure. There's more money for the city. And
      less road space means fewer cars, period.

      Just an outline but I think it would work.

      Richard

      --
      Richard Risemberg
      http://www.living-room.org
      http://www.newcolonist.com

      "I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity,
      an obligation; every possession, a duty."
      John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
    • turpin
      ... I disagree with your preference, for several reasons. In my view, the first priority should be pushing the costs of driving onto the choice to drive. While
      Message 2 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
        Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
        > First, you build transit infrastructure
        > in and between urban modules that have
        > high density. Then, you either charge
        > a "fare" for driving, or engineer
        > difficulty into the act. My preference
        > is the latter..

        I disagree with your preference, for
        several reasons. In my view, the first
        priority should be pushing the costs
        of driving onto the choice to drive.
        While this is difficult, politically,
        it is the only thing that will make
        all the alternatives economically more
        attractive ACROSS THE BOARD. As long
        as car use is massively subsidized, it
        will be massively overused. While you
        are getting the city to engineer some
        difficulties into a ten block area,
        the city is laying ten more miles of
        new roads optimized for automobile
        use. As long as automobile travel is
        subsidized, sprawl will continue.

        Second, I have mixed feelings about
        "engineered difficulties." Austin went
        the traffic calming route in many
        neighborhoods, including my own, and
        I don't think it has done anything to
        make areas more walkable or bikable,
        or encouraged more of these. The speed
        pillows in front of my house make it
        MORE difficult to cross the street,
        because they make car speed is less
        predicatble, and they encourage the
        buses to drive in the bike lane, since
        the buses are wide enough to straddle
        the pillows. The traffic rounds put at
        some intersections are a constant
        source of near accidents for bikes and
        pedestrians, and I walk out of my way
        to avoid them. When I bike, I hate the
        traffic channelers, speed bumps, and
        other devices that force cars to get
        ahead or stay behind me. A lot of the
        drivers seem to think the bicyclist
        there at the moment is personally
        responsible for this "engineered
        difficulty." If there is any mishap
        there, guess who loses. I will not be
        surprised when the city ends up on the
        wrong side of a massive lawsuit when
        some bicyclist is killed at a traffic
        device that was PURPOSELY engineered
        to be difficult, and force mixing of
        two travel modes!

        I believe that a lot of people who
        write about traffic calming do not
        walk much. (I routinely put in 30 miles
        a week, on foot.) They recommend
        two-way streets over one-way streets,
        but one-way streets, or streets with
        broad medians, are MUCH easier to
        cross, because the pedestrian only
        has to deal with one direction of
        traffic flow at a time. They recommend
        mechanisms that stagger traffic, but a
        pedestrian prefers traffic to be
        clumped and predictable. They recommend
        diagonal parking, but pedestrians and
        bicyclists are endangered by parking
        where drivers have to back out. Anyone
        who walks or bicycles much can recount
        plenty of instances where someone
        almost backed into them.

        Above, I'm talking about experienced,
        urban pedestrians. Most city planners
        think of pedestrians as the person who
        just parked, who isn't walking any
        distance, but just wants to get across
        the street to the store where they're
        shopping. Bicyclists are people out
        for Sunday recreation. These kinds of
        casual, irregular pedestrians and
        bicyclists behave quite differently
        from those who travel these modes
        routinely, as part of their regular
        daily business.
      • Richard Risemberg
        Reasonable points below, but you overinterpreted me. The engineered difficulty I spoke of was solely lane reduction, nothing else. I too walk dozens of miles
        Message 3 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
          Reasonable points below, but you overinterpreted me. The engineered
          difficulty I spoke of was solely lane reduction, nothing else. I too
          walk dozens of miles a week, as well as use transit, the bicycle, and
          (when I'm with my car-addicted girlfriend and can't drag her to the
          Metro stop) a Mini Cooper. I was speaking of replacing automobile lanes
          with something more productive and attractive, not of adding obstacles.
          The only obstacles cars would face in my plan would be each other.

          Second, you cannot make driving expensive and inconvenient without first
          providing the alternative, which in Los Angeles at least exists in only
          a few spots. Unless you want carfre development to take the blame for a
          local depression!

          Richard

          turpin wrote:

          > Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
          >
          >>First, you build transit infrastructure
          >>in and between urban modules that have
          >>high density. Then, you either charge
          >>a "fare" for driving, or engineer
          >>difficulty into the act. My preference
          >>is the latter..
          >
          >
          > I disagree with your preference, for
          > several reasons. In my view, the first
          > priority should be pushing the costs
          > of driving onto the choice to drive.
          > While this is difficult, politically,
          > it is the only thing that will make
          > all the alternatives economically more
          > attractive ACROSS THE BOARD. As long
          > as car use is massively subsidized, it
          > will be massively overused. While you
          > are getting the city to engineer some
          > difficulties into a ten block area,
          > the city is laying ten more miles of
          > new roads optimized for automobile
          > use. As long as automobile travel is
          > subsidized, sprawl will continue.
          >
          > Second, I have mixed feelings about
          > "engineered difficulties."
          --
          Richard Risemberg
          http://www.living-room.org
          http://www.newcolonist.com

          "I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity,
          an obligation; every possession, a duty."
          John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
        • turpin
          ... Ah. Sorry. ... I still think it is the other way around. Until driving carries its own costs, we won t get other alternatives to a significant degree, we
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
            Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
            > Reasonable points below, but you
            > overinterpreted me. ..

            Ah. Sorry.

            > Second, you cannot make driving
            > expensive and inconvenient without
            > first providing the alternative..

            I still think it is the other way
            around. Until driving carries its
            own costs, we won't get other
            alternatives to a significant degree,
            we won't know the right mix of other
            alternatives, and we won't be able to
            figure out the way from "here" to
            "there."

            Partly, I think this is an issue of
            planning vs. spontaneous development.
            Like Jacobs, I fall more on the side
            that the best cities are largely
            spontaneous. Imagine a city where
            food had long been provided free
            from municipal cafeterias, and because
            of this, there were few other choices
            available. How do you get from that to
            a situation where residents exercise a
            multitude of eating choices, from a
            plethora of large and small groceries,
            street vendors, restaurants, order-out
            services, etc.? The wrong answer is:
            let's first plan where to put new
            restaurants and groceries, and what
            kind of food they should serve. That's
            the hardest problem in the world. Most
            of those businesses fail, and you need
            thousands of entrepeneurs figuring that
            out, by trial and error. The right
            answer is: put the cafeterias on a pay
            basis that covers their costs, and watch
            what businesses are then able to develop
            on their own.

            That may not be the entire the answer
            for city transportation, for well-known
            reasons. But it can go a long way. It
            is, after all, how many street car
            systems evolved.

            We keep thinking of transportation as a
            problem the city or state must solve.
            Keep in mind that is exactly what brought
            about the current system of subsidized
            automobile transportation. If you want
            big change, more than anything, we need
            to make that subsidy visible, and fight
            to end it. Subsidizing other alternatives
            will not do as much. Waiting for other
            alternatives will take forever. Ending the
            current subsidy has to come first, or
            people will continue to drive "cheap."
          • Simon Baddeley
            In UK - I sense that after the widely acknowledged success of Ken Livingstone s congestion charge in London the direction now in one form or another is going
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
              In UK - I sense that after the widely acknowledged success of Ken
              Livingstone's congestion charge in London the direction now in one form or
              another is going to be rationing or demand management. This seems to suit
              the right and the left - for different reasons. The right like it because
              it's market oriented (and keeps the poor off space they can afford) and the
              left see it as "hypothecating" cash (instead of sending tax by the normal
              route straight back to the Treasury) to public transport (e.g better
              services for the less well off) and better urban fabric for walkers and
              cyclists.

              But I still have to have rebuttal letters ready for motorists who send
              poignant and even reasonable letters about the need for this that still
              include sentences like "but the poor old motorist is going to end up paying
              far more than his fair share for all this". I have to run through all those
              collateral costs/subsidies - legal, insurance, sprawl infrastructure,
              health, cheap fuel and... and....

              Regards

              S

              Simon Baddeley
              Birmingham B20 3TG
              UK

              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "turpin" <turpin@...>
              To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2003 5:21 PM
              Subject: [carfree_cities] Re: Urban Sprawl Makes Americans Fat, Study Finds


              > Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
              > > Reasonable points below, but you
              > > overinterpreted me. ..
              >
              > Ah. Sorry.
              >
              > > Second, you cannot make driving
              > > expensive and inconvenient without
              > > first providing the alternative..
              >
              > I still think it is the other way
              > around. Until driving carries its
              > own costs, we won't get other
              > alternatives to a significant degree,
              > we won't know the right mix of other
              > alternatives, and we won't be able to
              > figure out the way from "here" to
              > "there."
              >
              >
            • Richard Risemberg
              Your idea would be fine, but the trolley systems evolved in an environment less skewed by subsidy. In fact, I believe there was little for the trolley systems
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
                Your idea would be fine, but the trolley systems evolved in an environment less skewed by subsidy. In fact, I believe there was little for the trolley systems at the time, though they were permitted to lay tracks on public streets. Most NYC subways were also originally private entities, though they run better an dcheaper now as public works.

                But today, it will be much easier to build a subway as a public-works project than to de-subsidize auto use. Even the hard right wing privateers and the libertarians wouldn't support fair-pricing car use. But you can get subway and light rail built: after all, in spite of a hard ecomnomy, it has already been happening.

                And once the alternative is in place, then you can justify depaving to a limited extent. And once a few projects--ten blocks though they may be (I foresee the Santa Monica line being much longer, but my project for West Holllywood would encompass about ten blocks, as you noted), you have samples to help you pitch it to less-obvious areas where the American lack of imagination and endemic meanness toward the public realm would engender more resistance.

                Richard
                -------Original Message-------
                From: turpin <turpin@...>
                Sent: 09/02/03 09:21 AM
                To: carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: [carfree_cities] Re: Urban Sprawl Makes Americans Fat, Study Finds

                >
                > Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
                > Reasonable points below, but you
                > overinterpreted me. ..

                Ah. Sorry.

                > Second, you cannot make driving
                > expensive and inconvenient without
                > first providing the alternative..

                I still think it is the other way
                around. Until driving carries its
                own costs, we won't get other
                alternatives to a significant degree,
                we won't know the right mix of other
                alternatives, and we won't be able to
                figure out the way from "here" to
                "there."

                Partly, I think this is an issue of
                planning vs. spontaneous development.
                Like Jacobs, I fall more on the side
                that the best cities are largely
                spontaneous. Imagine a city where
                food had long been provided free
                from municipal cafeterias
              • turpin
                ... Exactly! ... Yep. That s been going on for decades. But in how many cities has this changed development patterns? Where has sprawl declined? In what states
                Message 7 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
                  Richard Risemberg <rickrise@e...> wrote:
                  > Your idea would be fine, but the trolley
                  > systems evolved in an environment less
                  > skewed by subsidy.

                  Exactly!

                  > But today, it will be much easier to build
                  > a subway as a public-works project than to
                  > de-subsidize auto use. .. And once the
                  > alternative is in place, then you can
                  > justify depaving to a limited extent.

                  Yep. That's been going on for decades. But
                  in how many cities has this changed
                  development patterns? Where has sprawl
                  declined? In what states is driving now less
                  subsidized?

                  More of the same policies will bring more of
                  the same results. As long as you're fighting
                  over the same public transportation dollar,
                  roads will mostly win. Yes, some other
                  projects will be built. But you won't see
                  less sprawl, because politicians are compelled
                  to build roads to suit demand, and developers,
                  knowing this, will always build further out,
                  generating demand.

                  > Even the hard right wing privateers and the
                  > libertarians wouldn't support fair-pricing
                  > car use. ..

                  Au contraire. Privatized roads and elimination
                  of tax support for public transportation have
                  long been part of libertarian politics. Now
                  whether they really mean what they say .. who
                  knows? But massive transportation subsidy is
                  NOT consistent with libertarian philosophy,
                  however much you slice it and distort it.

                  I'm always boggled that this is the one subsidy
                  no one wants to discuss as a subsidy. The right
                  doesn't want to discuss it, because they favor
                  it, and they don't like to be seen in favor of
                  subsidies. The left doesn't want to discuss it,
                  because they're against it, and they're in favor
                  of transportation subsidies. The right is happy
                  as long as more roads are built. The left is
                  happy as long as some other transportation
                  projects are thrown their way. And nothing much
                  changes. Isn't it time to call a spade a spade?
                • Michael A Ohene
                  ... It reminds me of going to New orleans this weekend and hearing a man come into a gas station and tell the clerk Im gonna kill your muthaf***** a@@ , They
                  Message 8 of 10 , Sep 2, 2003
                    > Partly, I think this is an issue of
                    > planning vs. spontaneous development.
                    > Like Jacobs, I fall more on the side
                    > that the best cities are largely
                    > spontaneous. Imagine a city where
                    > food had long been provided free
                    > from municipal cafeterias, and because
                    > of this, there were few other choices
                    > available. The wrong answer is:
                    > let's first plan where to put new
                    > restaurants and groceries, and what
                    > kind of food they should serve.

                    It reminds me of going to New orleans this weekend and hearing a man
                    come into a gas station and tell the clerk "Im gonna kill your
                    muthaf***** a@@", They going down MLK to St.Charles less than a mile
                    away to an estate sale near Tulane University where there were stools
                    selling for close to $1000.
                    I couldnt imagine anyone coming up with the city plan for New Orleans
                    from scratch. Noone would ever encourage music (jazz)which was
                    associated with drug use and thuggery, poor people living in the
                    proximity of well-to-do people, noone would ever promote Mardi Gras's
                    nudity and public intoxication, but its what gave New Orleans it
                    style.
                    Also much of the food in South Louisiana never existed until people
                    created it. If you head down Highway 61 between Baton Rouge and New
                    Orleans you will still find people fishing on the bayou so they can
                    cook their own food from scratch eventhough there are Mcdonalds and
                    the like.

                    When do people draw the line of when they can no longer tolerate
                    developments in society?

                    I ask this because of gentrification and the attempt to plan entire
                    cities (master plans) based on what one group likes while eliminating
                    everything we dont like (.ie this 3 parts arts, 2 parts mass transit,
                    4 parts organic food, 1 part parks and recreation formula). My point
                    is that even "negative" things can bring about positive change.
                    Maybe people are giving things too much thought.

                    Michael
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