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    How Much Do Mixed-Use Developments Reduce Driving?

    Mixed-use developments are supposed to reduce driving by combining residential and retail. Often such developments are planned in coordination with transit routes and other considerations to make driving more optional and thus car-free living more convenient of a choice.

    If you have observed efforts to reduce motor-traffic by the design of new developments, how successful would you say these efforts have been? My sense is most people will never do better than fair-weather car-free living if they have the option of driving out of their driveway instead of grabbing a bike or running to catch a bus. If traffic is bad enough in the area or if there are reasons they particularly enjoy car-free commuting, that's a different story. Generally, though, I think if someone has the option of parking in front of their home and/or workplace; and they don't have a sense of commitment to the bigger picture of establishing alternatives to driving by their everyday choices, the temptation is strong to wait until the last minute to leave and then drive because they already missed the bus.

    Do you have experiences or observations in this matter? Do transit- and cycling- oriented developments really reduce driving and, if so, how much?

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Have a Town in a SpecificCountry in mind?

    Lelystad in NL as I recall (long ago) laid the town out from reclaimed Seabed .. the houses front on Cul de sacs and back gates open onto the bike path feeder routes

    that are more direct , than using the Car thru a maze of Streets.

    How much? Know of a Professional City planner's / Architects forum to ask your question in?

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    The last data I saw concluded that mixed use, usually high-density, development has a negligible impact on car use. Doubling the resident density resulted in an increase of 1.95-fold in car density. The missing .05 is likely due to congestion effects. When I have seen mixed-use plus transit go into practice, it has generally created a streetscape that is incredibly hostile to cycling with lots of traffic and too many driveways and intersections.

    There's a key aspect of mixed use that its proponents ignore. It's commonly called the pizza delivery driver problem. Think of two pizza delivery drivers. All evening long they pass each other coming and going. Why? Because which pizzeria one prefers isn't dictated by geography. Same deal with mixed use. You may live in a building that houses a hair salon and a restaurant. However, you're just as likely to use a hair salon on the other side of town as the one on the ground floor, and probably more likely to choose a restaurant that is further away (to emphasize the fact that this is a "night out"). Thus, having those amenities in your building likely doesn't change your travel habits. Also, I've not seen very many people who work in the same building they live in. It may happen from time to time, but I believe it's quite rare.

    I'm not saying mixed use building should never be built. However, let's not pretend they do something they don't do. If a community wishes to constrain its physical size by living denser, that's fine. If no provisions are made to create open space to make up for the density, all you'll have is a huge heat island and unmitigated air pollution. Again, that's fine if the local population wants that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    If you have observed efforts to reduce motor-traffic by the design of new developments, how successful would you say these efforts have been?
    There are a number of mixed-use development going on all over the country. It probably won't reduce driving but who cares? The objective is to move to one of these locations and become carfree! There's no doubt in my mind, living next to this line can make you carfree.

    They broke ground on the California High Speed rail line and mixed use communities will result at each stop long the line. Buy a home next to the line and in 25 years, that will be your retirement fund. I'm real proud that California is going to lead the nation in the first high speed rail line. This is a golden opportunity for those wanting to start a business and live next to that line. Each stop is going to be a mini-shopping mall with shops, restaurants, schools and homes all clustered for miles.






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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    The last data I saw concluded that mixed use, usually high-density, development has a negligible impact on car use. Doubling the resident density resulted in an increase of 1.95-fold in car density. The missing .05 is likely due to congestion effects. When I have seen mixed-use plus transit go into practice, it has generally created a streetscape that is incredibly hostile to cycling with lots of traffic and too many driveways and intersections.

    There's a key aspect of mixed use that its proponents ignore. It's commonly called the pizza delivery driver problem. Think of two pizza delivery drivers. All evening long they pass each other coming and going. Why? Because which pizzeria one prefers isn't dictated by geography. Same deal with mixed use. You may live in a building that houses a hair salon and a restaurant. However, you're just as likely to use a hair salon on the other side of town as the one on the ground floor, and probably more likely to choose a restaurant that is further away (to emphasize the fact that this is a "night out"). Thus, having those amenities in your building likely doesn't change your travel habits. Also, I've not seen very many people who work in the same building they live in. It may happen from time to time, but I believe it's quite rare.

    I'm not saying mixed use building should never be built. However, let's not pretend they do something they don't do. If a community wishes to constrain its physical size by living denser, that's fine. If no provisions are made to create open space to make up for the density, all you'll have is a huge heat island and unmitigated air pollution. Again, that's fine if the local population wants that.
    I agree. I don't think the type of mixed use development now becoming popular (basically shopping centers with apartments or condos on the same parcel) do anything to reduce either driving or car ownership.

    However, I do think that mixed use zoning on a large scale can do a lot to make cities more livable and decrease driving and car ownership. Such large scale changes can take decades to implement, and I don't think many urban planners are there yet.


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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Have a Town in a SpecificCountry in mind?
    I was trying to keep the discussion in general reference to mixed-use development's success as a facilitator of car-free living. Obviously there are cultural factors that cause mixed-use developments in Dutch cities (or any city that is already warm to bikes and buses as transportation) to achieve different results than in cities where people are generally resistant to the idea that bikes and buses are viable transportation.

    Lelystad in NL as I recall (long ago) laid the town out from reclaimed Seabed .. the houses front on Cul de sacs and back gates open onto the bike path feeder routes

    that are more direct , than using the Car thru a maze of Streets.
    My concern with present mixed-use planning is that there is an assumption that people will choose cycling if it is more convenient than driving but the irrationality of driving-choice may be underestimated. Some people will drive around a parking lot for 15 minutes waiting for a good spot to open up so that they can save five minutes walking from the back of the parking lot to the store.

    Likewise, I'm concerned a mixed-use development in a low-traffic area will have people driving just for the sake of securing a good parking spot early in the day; or because they're planning to drive somewhere for lunch later. I think it might be necessary to prohibit most forms of parking to ensure that people get around by transit or bike in new developments oriented toward reducing auto traffic. People seem to resent this idea as it comes across as repressive toward driving, but I think we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that driving is more of a compulsion than a free choice for many people.

    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    The last data I saw concluded that mixed use, usually high-density, development has a negligible impact on car use. Doubling the resident density resulted in an increase of 1.95-fold in car density. The missing .05 is likely due to congestion effects. When I have seen mixed-use plus transit go into practice, it has generally created a streetscape that is incredibly hostile to cycling with lots of traffic and too many driveways and intersections.
    Are there bike lanes?

    There's a key aspect of mixed use that its proponents ignore. It's commonly called the pizza delivery driver problem. Think of two pizza delivery drivers. All evening long they pass each other coming and going. Why? Because which pizzeria one prefers isn't dictated by geography. Same deal with mixed use. You may live in a building that houses a hair salon and a restaurant. However, you're just as likely to use a hair salon on the other side of town as the one on the ground floor, and probably more likely to choose a restaurant that is further away (to emphasize the fact that this is a "night out"). Thus, having those amenities in your building likely doesn't change your travel habits. Also, I've not seen very many people who work in the same building they live in. It may happen from time to time, but I believe it's quite rare.
    I knew someone who would drive 40 miles to eat at certain restaurants every day but he had a hard time getting people to accompany him without souring their mood. I think the reason this person could drive so much like this every day was because he had developed a high level of discipline and patience. He was a career military man and a scholar, besides being a patient auto mechanic and car collector.

    People's nervous systems' surrender to stresses once they adapt to the acceptance that such stresses are a necessary condition for doing things they need to do. It's the reason why I can spend two hours riding a bike to do some shopping and feel good about the fact I'm getting fresh air and exercise while someone else might feel they're wasting their day doing something they could do in less than an hour with a car. Still, it's also the reason you can take someone who rides a bike in college and give them a 15 minute home-work commute by car in their 20s, which can be extended to a 30+ minute commute in their 30s, and gradually push the time they spend driving well beyond an hour per day as they get older. People get used to sitting and driving for long periods of time, and there is cognitive dissonance in becoming aware of the negative health effects and waste of time involved because the driving seems like an inevitable condition of them achieving things they need to do in their daily lives.

    not saying mixed use building should never be built. However, let's not pretend they do something they don't do. If a community wishes to constrain its physical size by living denser, that's fine. If no provisions are made to create open space to make up for the density, all you'll have is a huge heat island and unmitigated air pollution. Again, that's fine if the local population wants that.
    Mixed-use doesn't have to mean more density and a higher ratio of concrete to green-space. Picture a forest interspersed with multi-story buildings designed to fit between trees. Picture bike/pedestrian roads/paths that wind through trees. Picture road-access limited to strategic supply/entry points of areas, with limited parking in addition to loading/unloading only zones and bus circles.

    I have seen golf/country-club communities like this but they are eerily private, exclusive, and have a centrally-controlled feel. What if mixed-use, mostly car-free zoning was done in a way that allowed private investors to buy and develop lots within the development zone the same way businesses develop parcels within car-friendly areas? Less-commercial residential areas could be zoned within short distance of the mixed-use areas, with bike and transit connection favored and auto traffic restricted to only certain necessary traffic.

    Such an area wouldn't be much different than current areas that are billed as bikable/walkable, except for the presence of parked cars everywhere would be conspicuously absent, so much so that it would probably trigger an eerie feeling for many people, the way it does for some people to be in a very quiet forest without any sounds of bustle or motorized traffic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    I agree. I don't think the type of mixed use development now becoming popular (basically shopping centers with apartments or condos on the same parcel) do anything to reduce either driving or car ownership.

    However, I do think that mixed use zoning on a large scale can do a lot to make cities more livable and decrease driving and car ownership. Such large scale changes can take decades to implement, and I don't think many urban planners are there yet.
    My sense is there has been a broad lobbying effort to undermine new urbanism and other efforts to reform automotive dependency in planning. It bothers me because I think there's enough cultural resistance to reform due to cultural inertia among everyday people because of their built-in habits and memories without paid lobbyists intentionally trying to stifle efforts to reform.

    Dahon.Steve, thanks for posting those video links. I particularly liked the Jerry Brown speech, which says a lot since I'm a person whose been turned off to the left through the years. I feel like the left gets used to sell public spending to the public for the benefit of creating jobs and business opportunities and enough isn't done to fiscally conserve in the planning of progressive projects. It's like they know getting people excited about a bright future is the best time to exploit them for money so business interests abuse progressivism by promoting charismatic progressives like Jerry Brown . . . but like I said, I still found the speech inspiring and charming.

  7. #7
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    a country where they have been riding bikes and even the Queen of NL could ride with everyone else

    looks different because the Priorities have been different for 100 years.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 02-27-15 at 02:27 PM.

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    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I don't believe that mixed-use developments have any effect on driving habits- until critical mass is reached. My city, Seattle, has been aggressively pursuing a dense, mixed-use plan for the last 20 years. The result has been that Seattle now has a lot of densely populated, mixed use neighborhoods. Large swathes of the city have interesting, walkable neighborhoods with a lot of shops, bars, cafes, etc. More people than ever are walking around and enjoying their new, more livable environment. When combined with an effort to create a non-threatening bike infrastructure, it should be a car-free Nirvana, right?

    Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Yes, we built a denser, more walkable multi-use city. In many ways, it's a more interesting place. However, it's also a place with a lot more people, the vast majority of whom are Americans. Most Americans like to drive, and they kind of see driving as a birthright. So what we have in Seattle at the moment is a city designed to be be dense, and it is, packed with literally hundreds of thousands of newcomers, some of whom are totally enthralled with the walkable, multi-use vision, while others are exercising their God-given right to drive their SUV wherever they see fit. The result is a tense mishmash of people walking and biking in their urban villages, semi-conciously dodging a growing horde of increasingly pissed-off drivers who are stuck in horrible traffic wherever they go, but inexplicably drive everywhere they go anyway, seemingly unaware that the environment in which they are driving was designed to discourage that sort of thing. Recently, I've actually been yelled at by drivers because I passed them in traffic while I was riding in the bike lane.

    Gradually, the mixed-use model is gaining traction, and eventually people will restrict their car use to only those times when car use is appropriate. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of very frustrated people out there, and I've actually altered my riding behavior because of it.
    Last edited by bragi; 02-28-15 at 12:37 AM.
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  9. #9
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I don't believe that mixed-use developments have any effect on driving habits- until critical mass is reached. My city, Seattle, has been aggressively pursuing a dense, mixed-use plan for the last 20 years. The result has been that Seattle now has a lot of densely populated, mixed use neighborhoods. Large swathes of the city have interesting, walkable neighborhoods with a lot of shops, bars, cafes, etc. More people than ever are walking around and enjoying their new, more livable environment. When combined with an effort to create a non-threatening bike infrastructure, it should be a car-free Nirvana, right?

    Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Yes, we built a denser, more walkable multi-use city. In many ways, it's a more interesting place. However, it's also a place with a lot more people, the vast majority of whom are Americans. Most Americans like to drive, and they kind of see driving as a birthright. So what we have in Seattle at the moment is a city designed to be be dense, and it is, packed with literally hundreds of thousands of newcomers, some of whom are totally enthralled with the walkable, multi-use vision, while others are exercising their God-given right to drive their SUV wherever they see fit. The result is a tense mishmash of people walking and biking in their urban villages, semi-conciously dodging a growing horde of increasingly pissed-off drivers who are stuck in horrible traffic wherever they go, but inexplicably drive everywhere they go anyway, seemingly unaware that the environment in which they are driving was designed to discourage that sort of thing. Recently, I've actually been yelled at by drivers because I passed them in traffic while I was riding in the bike lane.

    Gradually, the mixed-use model is gaining traction, and eventually people will restrict their car use to only those times when car use is appropriate. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of very frustrated people out there, and I've actually altered my riding behavior because of it.
    It sounds like adjustment problems. But I think we need the stick as well as the carrot. Maybe congestion fees, reduced parking, and/or closure of selected streets to cars.


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    Senior Member CliffordK's Avatar
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    It seems like the "corner grocery stores" have been having tough times across the country. It is hard for them to compete with the big supermarkets.

    I find myself often choosing to go to the closest department store, or grocery store. So, while I might prefer a different brand, it isn't worthwhile for me to double the driving distance (or walking or bike riding distance).

    I've lived in neighborhoods where the nearest grocery store was less than 1/2 mile away, and it is the minority of people that walk to get groceries. That said, there still is a benefit of shortening the drive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post

    Are there bike lanes?
    Yes, but they didn't work so well with multi-lane thoroughfares of variably high-speed motorists (speed differentials between lanes can get quite high). Four or five feet of bike lane, sometimes all door-zoned, and several lanes to cross with many driveways/intersections to keep you from being able to accurately assess the overtaking hazards while still avoiding the one's in front just don't make for an acceptable riding experience, no matter how much we try to sell it as "bikey".


    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    Mixed-use doesn't have to mean more density and a higher ratio of concrete to green-space. Picture a forest interspersed with multi-story buildings designed to fit between trees. Picture bike/pedestrian roads/paths that wind through trees. Picture road-access limited to strategic supply/entry points of areas, with limited parking in addition to loading/unloading only zones and bus circles.
    There's that little problem that tall buildings and trees don't work well in close proximity to each other. If you spread the buildings out adequately to maintain the foliage, then you're not much denser than you would have been by doing it the old way.

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    There's that little problem that tall buildings and trees don't work well in close proximity to each other. If you spread the buildings out adequately to maintain the foliage, then you're not much denser than you would have been by doing it the old way.
    The imaginative solution to that little problem is to picture trees and tall buildings that do work well in close proximity to each other. All it takes is a lot of imagination.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    The imaginative solution to that little problem is to picture trees and tall buildings that do work well in close proximity to each other. All it takes is a lot of imagination.
    Ah, thanks. My bad. I should have realized which particular world we're in. These "planner worlds" are often just similar enough to reality to throw me off.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    The imaginative solution to that little problem is to picture trees and tall buildings that do work well in close proximity to each other. All it takes is a lot of imagination.
    Or you coulld use a camera to picture them:



    "Think Outside the Cage"

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Or you coulld use a camera to picture them:

    Are the Mixed-Use Developments hidden behind the trees in that forest?

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    I think the 'thought process' is right, but, it gets badgered by 'interest groups' during the planning stages... To create 'car free zones' is (in my mind) simple- do not include roads.
    Roads, would need to 'go around' this area (for delivery, and moving in/out), but the central area would not need any roads, just walk paths/bicycle paths.

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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by randallovelace View Post
    I think the 'thought process' is right, but, it gets badgered by 'interest groups' during the planning stages... To create 'car free zones' is (in my mind) simple- do not include roads.
    Roads, would need to 'go around' this area (for delivery, and moving in/out), but the central area would not need any roads, just walk paths/bicycle paths.
    Yes, very simple; just plan with a lot of imagination and assume that any and all opposition from anyone/everyone who may be affected by "The Plan" is just noise/badgering from some ignorant "interest group."

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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    Yes, but they didn't work so well with multi-lane thoroughfares of variably high-speed motorists (speed differentials between lanes can get quite high). Four or five feet of bike lane, sometimes all door-zoned, and several lanes to cross with many driveways/intersections to keep you from being able to accurately assess the overtaking hazards while still avoiding the one's in front just don't make for an acceptable riding experience, no matter how much we try to sell it as "bikey".
    Sometimes you can't create an ideal biking experience right away; but you can make a bike lane so at some point in the future when the traffic slows down due to congestion, people have the option of riding a bike to avoid sitting in traffic jams all day to go places.

    There's that little problem that tall buildings and trees don't work well in close proximity to each other. If you spread the buildings out adequately to maintain the foliage, then you're not much denser than you would have been by doing it the old way.
    You can grow trees near buildings. The soil quality is dependent on how the foundation of the building works. If you build with a crawl space instead of on a slab, the soil underneath the building will be looser for the tree roots to go under the building. If engineers were trained to think like this instead of thinking of roots and branches as threats to the structure, you would get more interesting architecture that integrates tree/plant growth with structurally sound architecture. Some buildings are already like this but it should be standardized/code to integrate tree/plant shade into building designs to help with cooling. Then, builders would get it and, once they accepted it, it would be standard practice and people would get creative and you would see some interesting variations in green building techniques.

    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    Ah, thanks. My bad. I should have realized which particular world we're in. These "planner worlds" are often just similar enough to reality to throw me off.
    [/quote]
    Don't feed into the cynicism. Just put your mind in an engineering frame and take note of how most developers just utilize a cookie-cutter design plan because it's cheaper to do so. If good people would do good work for the same or lower cost as the cookie cutter architectural firms, we could get quality in every new development.

    Also, take a look at what Google is building: http://youtu.be/z3v4rIG8kQA

    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Yes, very simple; just plan with a lot of imagination and assume that any and all opposition from anyone/everyone who may be affected by "The Plan" is just noise/badgering from some ignorant "interest group."
    A lot of opposition to sustainable planning initiatives seems to be orchestrated by business interests seeking to block reforms because they think such reforms will ultimately be bad for business. In other words, they don't want us to use democracy to make the world better if making the world better threatens their bottom line. Put more bluntly, they want to keep our lives worse if it makes them more money.

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    I don't believe that mixed-use developments have any effect on driving habits- until critical mass is reached. My city, Seattle, has been aggressively pursuing a dense, mixed-use plan for the last 20 years. The result has been that Seattle now has a lot of densely populated, mixed use neighborhoods. Large swathes of the city have interesting, walkable neighborhoods with a lot of shops, bars, cafes, etc. More people than ever are walking around and enjoying their new, more livable environment. When combined with an effort to create a non-threatening bike infrastructure, it should be a car-free Nirvana, right?

    Unfortunately, this is not the whole story. Yes, we built a denser, more walkable multi-use city. In many ways, it's a more interesting place. However, it's also a place with a lot more people, the vast majority of whom are Americans. Most Americans like to drive, and they kind of see driving as a birthright. So what we have in Seattle at the moment is a city designed to be be dense, and it is, packed with literally hundreds of thousands of newcomers, some of whom are totally enthralled with the walkable, multi-use vision, while others are exercising their God-given right to drive their SUV wherever they see fit. The result is a tense mishmash of people walking and biking in their urban villages, semi-conciously dodging a growing horde of increasingly pissed-off drivers who are stuck in horrible traffic wherever they go, but inexplicably drive everywhere they go anyway, seemingly unaware that the environment in which they are driving was designed to discourage that sort of thing. Recently, I've actually been yelled at by drivers because I passed them in traffic while I was riding in the bike lane.

    Gradually, the mixed-use model is gaining traction, and eventually people will restrict their car use to only those times when car use is appropriate. In the meantime, though, there are a lot of very frustrated people out there, and I've actually altered my riding behavior because of it.
    Lol... so much to agree with here. I think of mixed-used development in very simple terms. I can take a short walk to buy a loaf of bread. I mean, it should be that simple. I think eventually most Americans will wake up and do the walk.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Are the Mixed-Use Developments hidden behind the trees in that forest?
    Under the grass??

    - Andy
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    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    Under the grass??

    - Andy
    Maybe if we smoked enough grass, a mixed development, car free paradise in the forest will emerge from our imagination right before our eyes.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Maybe if we smoked enough grass, a mixed development, car free paradise in the forest will emerge from our imagination right before our eyes.
    Maybe if the negativity in your brain grows dense enough, you will sprout a black hole that devours all hope for anything that doesn't already exist.

  23. #23
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    Maybe if the negativity in your brain grows dense enough, you will sprout a black hole that devours all hope for anything that doesn't already exist.
    Perhaps with enuff weed, or stronger hallucinogens I will be able to see as clearly as the more imaginative posters on this list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
    Perhaps with enuff weed, or stronger hallucinogens I will be able to see as clearly as the more imaginative posters on this list.
    It's actually easier to imagine car-free forest living than it is to imagine how it's possible for so many people to drive and park everywhere in modern cities - yet something in the brain ceases to question how possible something is once it is seen to exist - hence the concept of 'sustainability' has been invented - though many will continue to assume that what exists is sustainable purely by virtue of it having been built and existing in the present. I keep wondering when the popular knack for dismissing crazy ideas will be applied to craziness that has already been implemented.

  25. #25
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    Do transit- and cycling- oriented developments really reduce driving and, if so, how much?
    At risk of being criticised, yet again, for suggesting that the OP research real data and produce some actual facts, rather than just vague impressions, for us ...

    Look up the statistics.

    Find statistics on a city of a certain size with little or no multi-use development of the type you imagine. Find out how many trips there are by individual car, public transport, bicycle, walking.

    Find statistics on a city of approx. the same size with significant multi-use development of the type you imagine (you might have to look outside the US for that). Find out how many trips there are by individual car, public transport, bicycle, walking.


    Do the same with several cities because one is not necessarily indicative of them all.


    Put your findings into a chart, and present it here.


    Hint: there may even be organisations who have done all the legwork on this topic already, so you may be able to use their data. But be careful. Check who the organisation is and what their agenda is.

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