Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Traffic Engineer Whose Mother Actually Loves Him

It is true. I have no love for transportation engineers in this country. Call me bitter for having too many projects royally ruined because of some formula, some code, some outdated text written based on archaic inhumane assumptions. They are literally adolescents incapable of individual thought. Where's my Calculator?

So then I come across this interview of Austrian Traffic Engineer and Professor Hermann Knoflacher in the CarFree Times . The full transcription is here at the bottom of the page, but i'll pull the best quotes, which is hard because he borders on profundity with every two sentence answer:

Q: So, what impact does motorization have on our society?
HK: An incredible one. The car is like a virus that beds in your brain and totally subverts behaviour, values, and perception. A normal person would call our present living space completely insane.

...When driving we use only one sixth of our energy and feel incredibly fast and powerful. That is one part. The other one is urban planning that requires cars to be as close as possible to all of our social activities. That's how you destroy the natural habitat, public transit, local supply, and eventually the social network that humans have established in millennia.

...The permanent structural devastation caused by the car is much worse.

Q: Is driving addictive?
HK: Definitely! The car takes possession of people. The driver is more distinguished from a human than any insect.
Q: What do you mean by that?
HK: Mobility with the own body is something common between humans and insects. However, a driver does not need this. And no insects destroy the living space of their successors for their own convenience, or move so fast that it could kill themselves.

...Every society needs mobility to satisfy its needs. If we could meet our needs locally we would be plants, not humans. Human mobility always emerges from local shortcomings.

...The settled community have claimed their territory and refuse access to anybody else. Settled residences are seen as exclusive. Travellers challenge the ownership of the land of the settled people and are thus hated for doing so.

...I discovered that traditional traffic planning is merely based on assumptions. For a long time there was no consideration for the consequences for the society or the environment. Nobody cared about noise or pollution, about fatalities, about the economy being altered or unemployment being created.

...Now a days people are taunted by fiddling with symptoms. They tack on a little parking fee here and a little congestion charge there. That is completely unfair. At first they establish conditions requiring people to use a car, and then they make them pay for it. As a traffic planner you ought to create arrangements that unburden people from the necessity to drive!

You don't give drug addicts tax-free drugs, even though the desire certainly exists.

Everybody should be allowed to build where they like, but in-town businesses struggling with parking fees while everything is free in the suburbs is unacceptable.

The more scattered people live, the more energy is needed. And we won't be able to afford that any more within a short period of time. This means we will have to create sustainable urban structures in order to be able to pay for them in the future.

...the damaging impact of air travel is serious and criticism is justified. No-frills airlines are activating groups of passengers that would not fly otherwise. Flying basically is the most degrading mode of travelling. Flying always reminds me of mass animal farming: Like chickens, fed like in battery farming. But unlike the humans in an aircraft chickens are not belted.

So Mr. Traffic Engineer supports my theory that cars were like a drug hitting society. As Wade Davis (immensely fascinating dude btw), cultural anthropologist, suggests, that whenever a new drug hits a society there is a period of dislocation before eventually coming to terms with the new substance and everything balances out.

(Strip Center) We get hooked on auto-mobility, society convulses. Here is the pretty by product.

(Mall) Uh Oh. We're in full blown addiction stage here.

(Lifestyle Center) Omigod! It's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or the hideous monstrosity of The Grove in L.A.

Urbanism. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh...and dreadlocks.