Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Morning Linkages: Fit to be Slaughtered

But first, a funny picture:

On to the show:

Kunstler laments the willingness of MSM to play a conscious part (if you consider Pinocchio conscious) in the self-deception America seems addicted to, much like anything rhyming with "sass." In this particular case, we're referring to gas. "OMG gas! Gimme gimme gimme!" We're like cookie monster crossed with a crack addict. The critical message:
It seems to me that the chief mass delusion associated with this touted "bonanza" is that Americans would supposedly be able to shift to driving cars that run on natural gas. I believe they will be hugely disappointed. Between the cost of fracking production (and its poor economics), gearing up the manufacture of a new type universal car engine, and installing the infrastructure for methane gas fill-ups - not to mention the supply operation by either new pipelines or trucks carrying liquefied methane gas, we will discover that a.) America lacks the capital, and b.) that households will be too broke to change out the entire US car fleet.
Philadelphia, the place that I still have a draft of my most recent visit unfinished yet eventually (hopefully) destined for publishing on this blog, is working on a city-wide pedestrian plan. The particulars:
One Center City example: The intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and 15th Street. “The major issue for pedestrians at this intersection is conflicts with turning vehicles; specifically, vehicles turning right from 15th onto JFK Boulevard,” the report states. “The width of both streets allows vehicles to maintain higher speeds when turning, and motorists and bicyclists often fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians.”

Suggested fixes include changing the walk signal so that pedestrians get to start crossing JFK Boulevard before cars traveling on 15th Street can proceed through the intersection; installing an additional pedestrian island on 15th Street and reinforcing the message that drivers should take pains not to get stuck in the intersection when the signal changes with an education campaign and street pavement markings.

The plan also recommends five different ways for streets to accommodate cyclists. There are several kinds of bike lanes, including separate lanes on either side of a two-way street; contra-flow lanes which allow bikes to travel in both directions on streets in which cars go one-way only; climbing bike lanes which offer a separate lane for bikes in the uphill direction but a shared bike and vehicle lane going downhill; and bicycle-friendly streets where cars and bikes share the street, but there is not enough space for vehicles to pass bicycles.

The first phase of the plan calls for adding about 60 miles of bike-only lanes to Philadelphia's 200 + miles, Schaaf said.

The goal, she said, is the creation of “complete streets” - streets that serve motor vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians equally well.
This isn't feel good stuff. This is real economic development at work, the unwinding of barriers to cheap, efficient connections between people, places, goods, and services without requiring: a car loan, a mortgage w/ two-car garage, a tune-up, car insurance, a weekly (or daily) fill up at the pump, the taxes to support all of the roads, health insurance for the inevitability of traffic collisions, etc. etc.
A lengthy (and thorough) book review discussing the battle between cars and people for our public spaces (lofty rhetoric (war on... battle over...! I engage in it):
The automobile industry thus tried, for a time, to work with these other groups to ameliorate the problems created by the increasing number of automobiles. However, the industry soon realized that no such collaboration is possible because these other groups consider cars to be either intrinsically unsafe because of their speed, or intrinsically inefficient because of the space they occupy. In 1923, a slump in the sales led to fears that the market for automobiles might have peaked, and urban congestion and traffic safety were cited as reasons. To increase sales, motordom began a campaign to spread the message that speed can be safe, and that walking out of turn could be just as reckless.
Author Richard Price, speaking on a DVD of one of The Wire seasons, once said "God is no second rate novelist." History, you can't beat it/Why I love it.
StreetsBlog has a two part post up on retrofitting suburbia, it first references the book by the same name, which is mostly pretty pictures, wishful thinking, and a design exercise than what it needs to be, an in depth analysis and conclusions as to how to leverage investment towards those pretty pictures. The second half of the post, gets to the point:
In his latest post, Walker describes how municipalities can get a jump on livability by tackling one of the trademarks of suburban America: the commercial arterial street. Because these roads have a tendency to be relatively straight as well as local destination points, they could easily be adapted to suit public transit by carving out space for transit users, pedestrians and cyclists, he says. But it’s important to move quickly, because once thoroughfares are congested, it’s difficult to find space for modes beside the private car, even as traffic conditions demand them.
Change the form and function of streets and intersections and you provide the incentive to change the form of buildings.