Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Automated Trading

You know how one of the major causes of the economic collapse on Wall Street rippling throughout the globe came from the high-frequency trading by computerized algorithms repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and millions of more times over, each time siphoning off fractions of wealth but creating no new or real wealth, but instead a hyper-inflated global balloon of helium filled fake wealth?

Well, that's sort of how transportation engineers, albeit much more slowly are steadily but surely running our cities off a cliff in the pursuit of the flying purple dragon, "congestion relief."  They have formulas and standards repeated for every single roadway across the country and invariably the formula always says, "widen it."  Unfortunately, the formula takes very little into account let alone what then happens to urban form via the real estate market due to the ever-widening and funneling of cars into particular state-owned corridors. And more particularly, the very purpose of cities.  What they do is run the formula over and over and over and over again until there is no city left.  No city? No congestion.  Problem solved.

Lewis Mumford wrote, "the purpose of transportation is to bring people and goods to places where they are needed, an\d to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within that limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel.  A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation, and in any event, it offers change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes."

What he's saying is that transportation has to be subservient to the purpose of the city and to do so it must maximize efficiency.  Efficiency of course isn't through speed, which spreads us out as Ivan Ilich noted, but proximity and propinquity, the arrangement of our daily needs for social and economic exchange around us.  Because the city is an extension of us.  A tool facilitating our need for social and economic exchange to better quality of life.   But social and economic exchange cannot occur without convergence, aka coming together, aka congestion.  Even if you were home sick or a recluse, to get food or water or have friends stop by, somebody still has to move, to deliver, to drop by.

Coming together is what the city enables.  It's only congestion if it's entirely by car.  We think it's our choice but the infrastructure that separates and divides allows not for choice, but coercion.  The smart, efficient, livable city of which Mumford speaks brings us together by our very own choice.  It empowers us.  TxDOT is fighting against congestion and by extension fighting against human nature and the nature of cities as machines of convergence, exchange, and opportunity.  At some point, cities have to stand up for themselves.  And as it turns out, IH345 through downtown Dallas is the perfect time to do so.

Coincidentally, there just so happens to be a public hearing tonight on that very stretch of highway at 6 pm.  If you care about Dallas, and ya know, its ability to attract talent and cultivate a true tax base without the burden of TxDOT's unnecessary infrastructure, I recommend you attend:

Wyndham Dallas Love Field Hotel, 3300 W. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75235