Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday Morning Linkages

Knocking this out quickly while I spend the morning on billing. Oh, the joys of having your own business. At least we have clients who pay on time and we don't have to worry about calling Vinny and Mickey from collections. On to the show:

Kansas City, the city with the most freeway miles per capita in this country and according to the transitive property we might assume the world (unless you count Wasilla, AK but who does?), has an aha! moment and realizes new/more/bigger freeways doesn't relieve traffic the way it was promised. You get the feeling the people at TTI are all like Doctor Nick, prescribing the same solution to all problems? Or at least school nurses: saltines and robitussin for everybody! Now that's a party. From Kansas

The new study also refocuses the transportation debate away from traditional solutions.

“If we define the problem as low travel speed, we see congestion and we turn it over to the engineers who prescribe what they know best: widening streets and highways. Both are extremely expensive,” said Ron McLinden, an area environmentalist and transit advocate.

MARC recently quantified the cost of growing the same way we have been — $8.7 billion for roads, bridges, sewers, sidewalks and other infrastructure during the next 30 years.

McLinden said he thought that there was a less costly way, which also would shorten commutes.

“What if we get more destinations located closer to where people live? What if the average person only has to travel a mile to get groceries, for example, instead of three? That puts a lot more people within walking or bicycling range, and that means less traffic.”

But some researchers caution that you can’t assume that every city should be compact.

“If you look at housing costs, for example, they are higher in dense areas,” said Tim Lomax, an author of the congestion study at Texas A&M.

“So, from an economics point of view, one can live in the suburbs and have high travel costs, but pay much less for housing and still come out spending less than the person who walks everywhere from an in-town condo.”

Let's see how far that narrow-mindedness gets you TTI. Oh, $56 million dollar budget? Keep it up then.
New study reports that young people, the population bubble equivalent of the Baby Boomers and in all likelihood will have a similar transformative effect, want the flexibility of apartments over houses, smartphones over cars. This recalls my call for a parallel geography of net and city. Our phones provide our connectivity, our awareness of transit lines/times/destinations, the syncopation of meeting times amongst friends at third places, etc.
There is also growing research that younger generations do not relate to the automobile as enabling "freedom." Instead, their electronic and social media devices--whether a smart phone, small lap top computer, music player, etc.--provide an alternate means for self expression and being free to do what they want. In the United States, kilometers driven by 18-34 year olds is declining, and this is likely the case in Canada as well (Neff, 2010). Younger generations seem to have less interest in automotive use, making apartment living in dense, walkable and transit-oriented urban areas a more natural fit for their lifestyles.
But all of those car ads make driving on the Pacific Coast Highway and ghost town cities seem so cool.
A British town experiments with nudity again removing all traffic signals, with interviews of every middle aged British woman, you've ever seen. There are only three of them, replicated like soup cans. I can't embed, so you'll have to hit the link. The theory is that people have to reconnect with their humanity and make eye contact with other drivers, thereby making the system smarter rather than the automatic conveyor belt action of typical intersection engineering.

Are we sticking our heads in the sand, ignoring the immense economic benefits of high-speed rail — the potential, says Secretary LaHood, “to transform transportation in America, much like the Interstate Highway system did under President Eisenhower”? And that at a very time when interest rates for capital borrowing are at an historic low, and unemployment at record post-World War II highs?

The communications director for California’s outgoing governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, notes trenchantly of current GOP candidate Meg Whitman’s opposition to high-speed rail funding: “To say ‘now is not the time’ shows a very narrow vision.”

The reluctant Republican governor candidates should tour the stunning railway pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. It’s a powerful high-tech vision of rapid rails undergirding and advancing the economy of our new and major international competitor. True, China lacks personal liberties or environmental protections to match ours. But the new American patriotism has to look reality in the face: it’s primarily economics, not military power, that will determine the wealth and welfare of nations in this century. It should be intolerable to think we’ll accept second-class status.

I say, the interstate highway system was built to interconnect the regional economies of cities. Rather than travelling in a rather unsafe manner at 60-70 mph, wouldn't it be nice to relax on a train going from city center to city center at 200 mph? You'd think if the TTI was so concerned about mobility and speed they might be behind this. Trains don't pay their bills. The transportation monopoly has worked out pretty sweet for the car/oil/gas/road industries. No one else however.