Monthly Archives: September 2009

Cheaper Parking for Poor People?

By Dom Nozzi

Subsidizing parking “for low-income people” is a mistake, in my opinion.

First, there is no easy way for a city to subsidize ONLY low-income motorist parking. ALL motorists will be able to take advantage of this detrimental, market-distorting welfare. Not just the low-income.

As a result, the city would be subsidizing and therefore artificially inflating the number of people who travel and park by car. Without such a subsidy, those who have a choice would be given a financial incentive to walk, bicycle, carpool or use transit. In effect, then, the parking subsidy promotes an increase in single-occupant vehicle (SOV) travel. When parking is properly priced to reflect actual costs, travelers are given a market signal to engage in non-SOV travel.large employee pk lot less than 50 percent for spaces

Subsidized downtown parking is toxic for the long-term health of downtown because the suburbs will always out-compete downtown when it comes to motorist convenience, and because “happy cars” downtown degrade the walkable quality of life in downtown — which the downtown needs to be able to leverage.

In addition, given skyrocketing gas costs (which we will experience for the rest of our lives), why would the city be promoting MORE auto dependence by subsidizing it? Shouldn’t the city be promoting more sustainable, affordable forms of transportation?

Similarly, auto transportation is an enormous and growing part of the low-income household budget (typically outweighing housing cost savings for more “affordable” housing in the suburbs). One hundred years ago, the average household spent about two percent of its budget on transportation. Today, the average household spends 22 percent of its budget on travel, and this percentage is growing. If the City is truly interested in helping low-income households, promoting auto travel by subsidizing parking is the last thing it should do.

Parking meterIf the City was sincerely interested in helping low-income households, a much more sustainable and affordable strategy is to subsidize transit-friendly or walkable downtown housing (in other words, housing in compact, mixed-use locations where the number of expensive cars owned by a household can be reduced). Subsidized parking simply perpetuates an unaffordable, unsustainable household expense.

True affordability, in the 21st Century, comes from strategies that reduce the need for car travel for low-income households, because it is unaffordable for a low-income household to spend so much of its budget on travel.

This is not a call for low-income houses to get rid of ALL of its cars, necessarily. It is simply a recommendation that such households use their car(s) less often, or drive alone less often, or own less cars (one instead of two, or two instead of three).

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

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Filed under Economics, Peak Oil, Urban Design

Congestion and Traffic Safety

By Dom Nozzi

Reducing Congestion

I’ve heard Andres Duany, one of the great urban thinkers of our generation, make this first point in a speech long ago, but just read it again in a book I recently read called Common Place, by Douglas Kelbaugh.

Kelbaugh informs us that “…the Southern California Association of Governments, including some 30 municipalities around Los Angeles, commissioned a computer simulation of traffic in the year 2010. It modeled many possibilities, among them double-decking highways, additional lanes, expanded bus and rail transit service, and staggered work hours. They concluded that nothing that could be done to add capacity to the system would have a lasting effect on congestion—except for one strategy that was not a transportation fix per se. Mixed-use neighborhoods, because they eliminate the need for trips in the first place, were found to offer a permanent solution to traffic congestion…”

I have two observations about this crucially important insight. First, as you might guess, I’m not sure why an urban area would want to reduce traffic congestion, given all the superb benefits congestion effectively delivers. To be charitable, it is possible that what is meant here is that mixed-use neighborhoods effectively allow people to escape the congestion that exists. Being able to escape congestion is more achievable (compared to being able to reduce it). Escape tactics are generally useful for building a quality, sustainable community: Connected and tightly gridded streets. Higher density, mixed-use development. Low-speed street design. Buildings abutting sidewalks. And so on.

Secondly, I am firmly convinced that achieving mixed use, higher density development (which is nearly absent in most every community in America) can only occur when large numbers of residents desire it. And that is highly unlikely in these days of subsidized cars, suburban homes and gasoline. athens GA walkableCitizen desire comes from traffic congestion, toll roads, priced and scarce parking, relatively high gas costs, low-speed roads that are no more than 3 lanes in size, and land development regulations (LDRs) that make such compact, low-speed development legal (such LDRs are nearly non-existent in American communities).

All of the elements that many of us desire in a community (well-used transit, well-used bike lanes, well-used sidewalks, less per capita SOV travel) come after we put the necessary pre-conditions in place (density, mixed use, expensive parking & driving). Better transit, more bike lanes, more sidewalks will be ineffective as ways to induce more transit use, bicycling and walking. I believe that communities largely assume that more buses, more bike lanes and more sidewalks will result in more transit use, bicycling and walking because those factors are more under the control of a local government. The truly effective tactics are less under the control of local government. If all you’ve got is a hammer, all your problems look like nails…

Traffic Safety

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 80 percent of all car crashes are due to inattentive drivers.

Knowing this, what would be the worst possible way to design streets?

How about using a street design theory that encourages motorists to drive without paying attention—that is, a design that “forgives” a motorist for driving inattentively?

What has been the street design paradigm for the past 100 years?

The “forgiving street” paradigm.

Oops.

Is it any wonder why we have an epidemic of inattentive driving in America? Isn’t it inevitable that “forgiving street” design has created a road safety nightmare?

The bitter irony is that this paradigm is what traffic engineers are taught is the primary means of creating traffic safety. But what should have been obvious is that forgiving street design enables drivers to be “forgiven” for driving too fast, too recklessly, and too inattentively. The result of forgiving streets is that we have an epidemic of inattentive drivers putting on make-up, talking on the cell phone, and casually driving 80 mph. And that means we are seeing declining driving skills and a growing number of crashes on roads that are increasingly unsafe to walk or bicycle on (or drive a car on).

cell phone while driving

The idea persists because it is commonly thought that safer streets would be those where we assume drivers are inevitably incompetent morons. So we design the street so that we reduce the consequences of driving like a moron. Common sense, right? It becomes a powerfully self-fulfilling prophecy. Forgiving streets have spawned an exponential growth in moronic driving. Americans are now perhaps the worst drivers on earth.

I don’t buy the argument, by the way, that American drivers are genetically predisposed to drive like morons to explain why American driving is so awful. It is nearly certain that bad driving in the US is almost completely due to the consequences of driving on forgiving streets.

Isn’t it highly probable, in other words, that after 100 years of designing forgiving roads, traffic engineers have been responsible for an enormous growth in the amount of inattentive driving by motorists?

Isn’t it time we strive for improved driving skills, rather than assuming moron drivers? That we adopt the Moderman concept of “naked streets” if we truly want more traffic safety in the long run? Or what I call “attentive streets,” where we obligate the motorist to pay attention?

http://www.walkablestreets.com/wild.htm

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Urban Design, Walking

Inducing More Bicycling

By Dom Nozzi

I have over 20 years of experience as a senior city planner, am a lifelong bicycle commuter, prepared a master’s thesis on bicycle travel, and am a published author describing car traffic and sprawl.

I know of no simple, quick, easy ways to induce large numbers of contemporary Americans to engage in more bicycling. I do, however, know of tactics that can be effective, yet require a number of years, political leadership, political wisdom, and enlightened staff and citizens. For these reasons, the tactics are rarely used in America, which helps explain the embarrassingly low levels of bicycling in the US.

In no particular order, effective tactics include (and to some extent overlap):

1. Relatively high residential densities & commercial intensities.

2. A mix of residences both vertically and horizontally with jobs, offices, retail, schools, and other destinations. That is, destinations are proximate to each other.

3. The absence of market-distorting subsidies for car travel. By far, the biggest subsidy in America is free parking. One of the most important reasons why most all Americans drive a car for nearly all trips, rather than bicycle, walk or use transit, is that over 98 percent of all trips are to locations with free and abundant parking. As Donald Shoup points out, free [and abundant] parking is a fertility drug for cars.

4. A small speed differential between cars and bicycles by using traffic calming measures such as modest street dimensions, on-street parking, etc.

5. Expensive gasoline.

6. A modest number of travel lanes. Roads with more than three travel lanes (one lane in each direction along with center turn pockets) creates excessively high-speed, dangerous car travel that severely reduces the number of people willing to bicycle on that road.

When effective tactics are properly deployed for a reasonable period of time, a powerful, self-perpetuating virtuous cycle begins to evolve: When non-bicycling members of the community observe a large number of others bicycling, many are likely to be induced to begin bicycling because of the “safety in numbers” perception, the fact that bicycling seems more hip and practical (“If he/she can do it, so can I!”), and the growing awareness and expectation on the part of motorists that bicyclists are likely to bogota cycloviabe encountered (which also increases motorist skill in driving on a street being used by bicyclists).

Note that the above should not be taken to mean that I believe we should “get rid of all cars”, or that American cities should build auto-free pedestrian/bicycle zones. I support well-behaved, unsubsidized car use that is more optional than obligatory. Car use and design that is subservient to the needs of a quality habitat for humans, rather than the situation we find in most all American communities, where cars dominate (and in many ways degrade) our world. A place where cars are so dominating that transportation choice is lost. Where it is not practical, safe or convenient to travel, except by car.

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Breakthrough

By Dom Nozzi

I have just completed reading a provocative, profound, important book. The book is entitled “Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility” (2007), by Ted Nordhaus & Michael Shellenberger.

The book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to meaningfully engage in politics (ie, be politically successful) in contemporary times. The authors spent several years as strategists for national environmental organizations. A few years ago, they wrote an extremely controversial essay that provoked a great deal of national and international debate. The essay was titled “The Death of Environmentalism.”

Their writing style is superb and highly readable. They are magnificent story-tellers. I am in awe of their intelligence and insight. They are stupendous in explaining why environmentalists, in recent decades, have been so mediocre in reaching objectives and winning voters compared to, say, religious conservatives.

A few of their main points:

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs informs us that people need to meet basic needs such as food and shelter before they are able to understand or support “higher order” needs/values such as environmental conservation (what the authors call “post-materialist values”). This explains why we see so little concern for conservation in Brazil for the Amazon forest, and why there was such a significant growth in concern for civil rights and conservation in the US in the 1960s (Brazil is suffering from awful poverty, in part due to terrible debt problems, whereas the US in the sixties was enjoying astonishing prosperity.nature

The authors find that in contemporary America, the problem for liberals/environmentalists is that Americans now have INSECURE affluence (not a fear that they will be homeless or unemployed, but that they might drop from affluence to lower-income status). And insecurity makes it less likely that voters will be interested in higher order issues such as abortion rights or global warming.

As an aside, the authors cite several authoritative studies conducted over the past few decades that consistently find that while there are large majorities who support environmental conservation, this support is “thin.” Consistently, when asked to cite their top issues, global warming or other environmental issues nearly always end up at the bottom of the list (and if the environmental issues are not given as options, polls usually find that very, very few will even mention them as issues). The top issues are nearly always jobs and other economic issues.

The lesson: If progressives and conservationists expect to be successful politically, citizens/constituents need to be relatively prosperous, and a happy future or vision needs to be promoted. Victimhood, resentment, and apocalyptic (the world is coming to an end) thinking/advocacy (which liberals and environmentalists continue to largely use in political lobbying and education) is actually quite counterproductive, as it breeds fatalism, resignation, and a desire for more security (all of which induces voters to support conservatives, reactionaries, and authoritarians).

The authors indicate that an important reason why the religious right has seen so much political success is that they understand these dynamics. They rally political support in important ways by emphasizing values and visions, rather than drier, less inspirational “issues” or “policies,” which liberals and environmentalists tend to emphasize.

This book was written, I believe, just before the presidential primaries of 2007, and possibly explains the success we saw with Barrack Obama and his “message of hope” (rather than resentment or victimhood or apocalypse).

Note that this thesis undermines a LENINIST philosophy I’ve adhered to since college: That the revolution (or progressive voting) is more likely when we are in troubled economic times (or when the environment is collapsing).

If progressives desire to see support from a large number of voters, they need to support policies that restore economic health and couple that with a positive, prideful, inspirational image. The authors therefore argue that the age-old environmental strategy of urging LIMITS as a way to save the environment is a failed political strategy. They instead urge the potentially galvanizing issues of health care for hybrids (having the feds assist auto makers in providing worker health care if they agree to build hybrid cars), and especially what they call The Apollo Project (a national agenda to subsidize and otherwise strongly promote clean fuels — rather than CAFE standards).

In my opinion, however, my top agenda item, rather than clean fuels, would be a vision of the return to traditional, compact, walkable community design, supported by the establishment of a national passenger rail system.

Again, I urge you to put this book on your reading list. Very thought-provoking.

 

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Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Environment, Politics

Attracting and Retaining Employees for Economic Health

By Dom Nozzi

Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class has had a powerful influence over how I view economic and workforce issues. Essentially, the crucial message I take away from this book is that economic development efforts have been turned upside down in recent years.

In the past, such efforts focused on attracting quality businesses to the community to grow jobs. Largely, that meant keeping taxes and regulations modest, and other means of minimizing the costs of a move by a company into the community.

Increasingly, however, a new paradigm is emerging. Today, the so-called “creative class” (highly educated, highly intelligent, highly innovative, much-sought-after younger employees) is the key to a more pleasant, prosperous future. Now, instead of focusing on attracting businesses, communities are starting to realize that the recipe for economic and quality of life success is to attract and retain quality employees (and avoid such problems as a “brain drain”).

How is this most effectively done? According to Florida, the Creative Class seeks a hip, cool, healthy, diverse, walkable, vibrant, charming community ambience rich in lifestyle choices, quality of life and a sense of community.

Indeed, the recent Crupi Report assessing Richmond, Virginia’s future reaches similar conclusions: “…focus on…walkable, two-way streets…human scale… people-friendly…[design].” “Shokoe Slip and Bottom are a good start…space that brings people together.” “…construction using traditional design…” “…charm and sense of place that comes with more classical architecture.”westpalm

And it is not only the Crupi Report. Dover-Kohl’s draft master plan for Downtown Richmond contains recommendations such as these: Reduce the stifling dominance of off-street surface parking. Emphasize buildings and density that activate the streets and sidewalks. Small (and slow) is beautiful.

What this meant for me as a member of the Workforce Development team in 2008 was that I was interested in discovering how well the Richmond area is able to attract and retain quality employees. Not how to attract and retain quality employers.

Communities are learning that quality employers are attracted by a quality workforce. Employers are therefore seeking out communities with the features sought after by the Creative Class – knowing that the Creative Class has the credentials to relatively easily pick and choose where to live and work. If the community does not offer the quality amenities sought by the Creative Class, such employees (and, therefore, employers) will quickly move elsewhere (the “brain drain”).

Given the above, I believe it is essential that a community seeking to improve its economic health evaluate how well it is providing the walkable, charming, diverse, vibrant, hip qualities of a healthy, proud community. Is there a romantic, human-scaled town center? Vibrant cobblestone streets? Historic and ornamentally classical buildings? A public square that builds a sense of community?

Without these features, I believe it will be extremely difficult for a community to develop, attract or maintain a quality workforce.

Coping with Change

During our workforce development information gathering in Richmond, we heard about important demographic changes that are expected to occur in Richmond’s future. An important element in this changing world is changes in jobs, employers, products and services. And how difficult it is to reliably predict those changes.

What does that mean for workforce development?

In my opinion, the uncertainty of change requires a workforce that is adaptable to change – no matter what that change may be. A growing trend in our society over the past several decades has been specialization. A growing number of people are being trained as specialists. Unfortunately, specialists tend to be unable to adapt to a world where many products, services and techniques rapidly become obsolete.

If we are unable to accurately predict future changes in what sorts of jobs and skills will be needed in the future, the best we can do is to move back to providing education and training for a more well-rounded, generalist workforce.

In general, the most effective way to nurture a nimble, versatile, quality workforce able to adapt to a changing work environment is to achieve a community that is high enough in quality of life, as I have outlined above, so that educated, quality employees are attracted to and remain in the community for the long run.

 

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Economics, Urban Design