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Old 02-13-08, 08:09 PM   #1
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WorldChanging Essay

Apologies if this has been posted already...
Its been bounced around the blogs - but I found it a good read. It certainly sums up how I feel about many of the design / motoring / sustainability issues that I've discussed here, and think this fits well with the recent 'Urban Planning' post over in VC.

My Other Car is a Bright Green City

Some highlights:

Quote:
Transportation generates over a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gases, according to the E.P.A.. A portion of that comes from moving freight around, but over 20% is personal transportation, and the vast majority of that is auto-related. In the Western states, the picture is even more severe. Researcher and ally Eric de Placesays, "More than half of all fossil fuel emissions in the WCI states come from transportation."
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A study quoted in the 9/05 issue of the Journal of Urban Planning and Development estimates that the greenhouse gasses emitted while building and maintaining roads add an additional 45% to the average car's annual climate footprint. And we continue to build roads at a rapid rate, all across North America.
And for you pro-motoring suburbanites:

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This is what economists call "the commuting paradox." Most people travel long distances with the idea that they'll accept the burden for something better, be it a house, salary, or school. They presume the trade-off is worth the agony. But studies show that commuters are on average much less satisfied with their lives than noncommuters. A commuter who travels one hour, one way, would have to make 40% more than his current salary to be as fully satisfied with his life as a noncommuter, say economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer of the University of Zurich's Institute for Empirical Research in Economics. People usually overestimate the value of the things they'll obtain by commuting -- more money, more material goods, more prestige -- and underestimate the benefit of what they are losing: social connections, hobbies, and health. "Commuting is a stress that doesn't pay off," says Stutzer.
And my favorite, before we get halfway: (because I feel like this is a design problem, not a car problem)

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In other words, there is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.
And this gem, which I've been saying (not so eloquently) in response to one of the effective writers who contributes here:

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[[The usual retort to these common-sense arguments is that far-flung suburbs offer such a superior quality of life that we'll never curb sprawl or pry commuters out of their cars, but, even more to the point, the existence of affluent, car-dependent, large-lot suburbs is just the voice of the people, speaking out their desires. Any opposition to its unhindered continuation is not only government interference in the free market, such people (usually development lobbies and right-wing think tanks) say, it's downright social engineering.

[[Which is nonsense, of course. The upper-middle class American McMansion suburb is one of the most socially engineered and publicly subsidized settlement patterns on the Earth. I won't bother to go into the arguments here, since a whole flotilla of books, reports, and journalistic investigations has flayed the "free market choice" talking point alive. If you're interested, you can go look it up.]]


So, pro-people? anti-motoring?
Do we need to drive, everywhere?
Will we not be satisfied until we pave paradise?
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Old 02-13-08, 08:30 PM   #2
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Excellent, BMIKE Excellent !!

Take what isnt working and do it more........?!?!
Why are we the only country who just doesnt get it ?
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Old 02-13-08, 09:11 PM   #3
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Why are we the only country who just doesnt get it ?
Take heart, we're not alone.
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Old 02-13-08, 09:54 PM   #4
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Exellent thread, bmike

If there's one thing that bothers me no end is that much of the rest of the world aspire to become like the USA, or at least the worst aspects of the USA. Here in Australia we have imported from the USA: obesity, McMansions, SUV's, and rampant consumerism. 99% of our media content is from the USA, or so it appears, and what is commonly referred to 'western' culture here really means 'American' culture.

I have no answers, only puzzling observations.
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Old 02-13-08, 09:55 PM   #5
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Oh No! The Anti-motorists Are Coming!!
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Old 02-13-08, 09:58 PM   #6
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Are there any favorite parts that specifically mention bicycles?
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Old 02-13-08, 10:46 PM   #7
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Oh No! The Anti-motorists Are Coming!!
Quick! Duck and cover!
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Old 02-13-08, 11:21 PM   #8
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Thanks BMike!

I hope those who see this as "anti-motorist" as opposed to "pro-people" will weigh in with their opinions so we can all read them and have some fun. Otherwise you'll be preaching to the converted.

I agree with the article and have posted here before that, though the economic and ecological concerns of auto use are undoubtedly important, congestion is one of the major obstacles to our continued dependence on the private automobile. One simply has to compare the cost of driving into downtown Boston to the cost of parking your car once you are there to see a pollution free car will not solve all our problems.

The amount of time spent driving in and out of the city is also costly in other ways- commutes of an hour or more waste enormous amounts of valuable work and private time. Driving an hour into work everyday and an hour home totals more than 2 full weeks spent in an automobile commuting to work per year. This combined with the cost of operating, maintaining and insuring an automobile makes the cost of driving far more astronomical than most commuters are willing to admit. I'll never understand drivers who drive the long commute in order to earn an amount less than equivalent to the amount they spend on commuting and pray for the day they can take a couple of weeks off per year to do things like take a vacation and ride a bike along a river and take in the scenery- something I do daily on my bike commute.
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Old 02-14-08, 01:36 AM   #9
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As housing near cities and big business gets more and more expensive, people are going to keep moving further and further out. Once this if fixed 99% of people will be more than glad to live ~10 miles from work instead of 30-40.

Anyway, I hope for the day I get a job that doesn't involve delivery and is close enough and provides secure bike parking so I can ride my bike to and from work.
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Old 02-14-08, 05:43 AM   #10
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Thread seems to assume that "commuting" = car. Not commuting = working at home, which isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Never away from work. Difficult.

Compact and pleasant cities certainly eliminate the need for driving. I like that. I can't see why most people want the isolation of suburbs. Looking at a neighbor's lawn.

A few people are quiet and really like the countryside. Most don't. They don't know what to do with it. I like a rural life, but I hate suburbia!

I commute 3 miles. I drive regularly because of weather or need to carry lots. I also walk, cycle, kayak, and sometimes take a 351 cu in powered ski boat with biggest carbon footprint per mile of anything I've owned. It's all commuting!

I used to drive an hour each way. I don't miss it. But it gave me time to plan and think. I used a small tape recorder for notes & dictation. In some ways it was quite efficient. But I rarely see anyone using drive time for more than junk thinking, music, or being a jerk.
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Old 02-14-08, 06:51 AM   #11
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What will correcting this problem cost. I do not ask this to be funny or argumentative but the population of this country has an awfully large amount of money invested in the way we live (decentralized population structure).

Using myself as an example, I have a house in the country about 30 miles from work which is in an urban area. Most of my net worth and equity is invested in that house and property. The environment and economy of living through the last half of the 20th century led to this situation so I'm no longer open to an argument of whether or not I should have arrived at this point.

Assuming that we all agree that we need to move back to the centralized urban environment several things promptly enter my personal equation. Housing in the city is very expensive and there certainly will not be enough of it for our suburban population to move into. If everyone is going to move, who will I sell my house to. How do I acquire the money I will need to buy expensive while selling at a huge loss.

I have a suspicion that we (the country as a whole) are already trapped in the decentralized model. This is unlike the European model which is often used as an example of what we could or should be.
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Old 02-14-08, 07:20 AM   #12
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The decentralized model seems where we are indeed stuck! What I'm noticing here is that we're gradually getting more services out in nowhere. I can buy butter & beer on my commute home, even though most of the commute goes by cow pastures.

Putting commonly required services out where people live makes sense. For my small community, we could have a more comprehensive selection of small stores that serve the local needs. Wait a minute, they used to be here. The shops are still there, empty or with other businesses. My shop is in an old general store.

Another helping element would be light local rail. For example, there could be a small station in Friendsville I could ride or walk to and then get into . . . . Wait a minute, the tracks were still there when I moved here, right in downtown Friendsville!

Perhaps we just need to reinvent the way things used to be when private transportation cost money.
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