Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Moses vs. Jacobs, Diagrammed Molecularly

Below is the diagram of a volatile gas, with disparate molecules with only the loosest of relationship to each other, bouncing about.  They are all the same molecule.  Just like in sprawl, every person is still a person, but the bonds between them are non-existent.  The volatility of which, is the critical defining characteristic.  This is the world of Robert Moses.  But the molecules sure can move fast!

Of course, if that gas is not fully contained the individual molecules will escape and with all likelihood will find more stable compounds to adhere to.  Below is a computer generated model of a diamond, the world's hardest known substance, a nice parallel here for resilience.  This is the world of Jane Jacobs.  The molecules are bonded together by relationship.  This was her street ballet.  You knew the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker on your street and they all knew the neighborhood's children.  They take some measure of responsibility for the children, because the neighborhood's children are their children.

What transportation planners and engineers don't understand when they objectively believe they are serving the city and its citizens as the city currently exists (there's demand for driving, we need to provide more supply, bigger roads!).  Unfortunately for the rest of us, DOT's are more like the scientists who unwittingly transform the subject they are observing.  However, they are not only observing, they are also fundamentally transforming how the city operates with each new highway and dendritic network, systematically disrupting the bonds of neighborhoods that define resilient cities.  But hey, we can all drive faster!  Until that road is invariably choked with traffic or we run out of the ability to maintain the excessive infrastructure.  Whichever comes first.