Monthly Archives: November 2009

Increasing Transit Ridership

By Dom Nozzi

The origins of meaningful transit ridership in a community are largely based on motorist discontent. When motorists face high costs for driving or parking a car, or face traffic congestion, political will emerges to create ways to escape such travel pain: higher residential densities, mixed use, and better transit.

High transit ridership is almost never the result of foresighted planners, high-quality transit, educated activists or elected officials. Discontented motorists facing higher costs are the inducement.

Yes, there are certainly quite a large percentage of Americans who do not have good access to transit. Such an unfortunate circumstance is unsustainable. The inevitable adjustment to a transit-friendly, oil-scarce society will not be painless.

But it is clear that the sooner we create a nation rich in transportation choices, the less pain will be experienced.

We must therefore adopt effective policies and pricing that will more quickly induce the creation of transportation choices. I know of nothing that is anywhere near as equitable and effective as increasing the cost of driving a car — including such tactics as gas tax increases, traffic congestion and parking congestion.

Other essential tactics – many of which arise as an inevitable result of increasing car costs – include increasing residential and commercial densities, and embedding offices and retail in residential areas. Both of these tactics are important ways to achieve the crucial objective of creating proximity to transit.

Parking for cars must be scarce, inconvenient and costly (as is the case in any city with high transit ridership).

Car speeds need to be reduced in most locations, as higher-speed motor vehicles substantially increase safety threats for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as creating an extremely uncomfortable ambience. Both of these factors discourage walking and bicycling to transit.

Low-cost methods of reducing car speeds include, where appropriate, roundabouts, road diets, on-street parking, and the conversion of one-way streets to two-way operation.

This is one of the many reasons I support a much higher gas tax. I remain concerned, however, that increased gas tax revenue is likely to counterproductively be used to widen roads. Despite this, on balance I believe that a significantly higher gas tax must be established. And soon.

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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 Urban Design

Squandering a Transformative Moment

By Dom Nozzi

The Wednesday, January 28, 2009 Washington Post reports that there is some congressional disappointment that Obama’s $800 billion stimulus bill has only a “small amount devoted to long-lasting infrastructure investments in favor of spending on a long list of government programs…[these government programs] fall far short of the transformative New Deal-like vision many of them had entertained…Obama, with a public mandate to do something big, is missing a rare opportunity to rebuild the country.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) stated that “every penny of the $825 billion is borrowed against the future of our kids and grandkids, and so the question is: What benefit are we providing them?…It’s the difference between real investment that will serve the nation for 30, 50 years and tax cuts, and that’s a very poor tradeoff.” Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said that the money proposed for infrastructure is “almost miniscule” and expressed regret that Obama was not proposing a transformative project such as building high-speed rail in 11 corridors around the nation (which Mica says would cost $165 billion).

“They keep comparing this to Eisenhower, but he proposed a $500 billion highway system, and they’re going to put $30 billion” in roads and bridges, said Mica. “How farcical can you be? Give me a break.”

According to some in the House, “…Obama may never again have as good a chance as this to act boldly.”

Frankly, I am deeply disappointed. Obama had, at the time, perhaps more political capital than he will ever have in his term as president, and might have the most political capital of any president in recent history (or in the future). Given the fact that America has no “Plan B” in transportation to face the inevitable, exponential increase in gasoline prices, it is a breath-taking squandering of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform America’s transportation system towards one that is sustainable (not to mention the fact that a healthy rail system powerfully supports healthy city agglomeration and strongly discourages costly sprawl).

The Senate and the Obama administration should have delayed approval of this historic bill until it contains a visionary, long-term, sustainable, transformative plan. Creating high-speed rail, as Mica points out, is a fantastic way to start on that desperately needed path.

American may never have this chance again.

highway multi-lane2I am sorry to say that much of this federal stimulus money was instead and unconscionably used to widen roadways around the nation. Given the crises we face today, why on earth would we spend public dollars to further harm cities (wider roads drain the lifeblood from cities), increase auto dependence, delay the need to wean ourselves from such dependence, and worsen traffic congestion (due to induced demand)?

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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 Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Are Residences and Non-Residential Uses Compatible When Near Each Other?

By Dom Nozzi

In America, residents of neighborhoods have come to expect business and industrial activity to be toxic, noisy, or likely to attract lots of big and dangerous truck volumes. These understandable concerns – particularly at the dawn of the industrial revolution in the early 20th Century – mean that for most people, industrial, retail or office development is considered to be incompatible with residential areas (or anywhere at all in the community).strip6

Advocates for compact, walkable community and neighborhood design often hear these concerns expressed when compact, “mixed-use” development is recommended. But there are three things to know about this commonly-used, squelcher objection to compact development.

First, such noisy or toxic businesses have dramatically reduced in number since the turn of the last century. As a result, zoning-based separation is now much less necessary to protect homes from toxic or noisy businesses. Unlike 100 years ago, it is now fairly easy and common today to design most all businesses or offices to be compatible with residential areas.

Why continue using an anachronistic “separation-of-uses” regulatory scheme that was designed to confront problems that society faced 100 years ago, but one that we almost never face today? I suspect the reason most elected folks maintain this outdated method is that continuing to use the old system is a way to make emotional, counterproductive NIMBYs less infuriated. Or else they themselves continue to believe that an office or shop near their home would degrade residential property values.Chapel4

If we are paying more than lip service to making it feasible for people to walk or bicycle regularly, we need to get serious and largely dump zoning-based regulation to dramatically reduce trip distances. Note that despite a widespread suburban value system throughout most of America, many communities are slowly increasing the proportion of properties carrying a mixed-use zoning.

Secondly, the new urbanist Smart Code (which is now a free-to-use download without copyright protection) recognizes the existence of various locally-undesirable-land uses (LULUs). The Smart Code therefore assign such uses (airports are a good example) to “special districts” remote from the community. That allows a nearly complete elimination of the need to separate land uses, with the exception of a tiny fraction of certain especially unusual uses.

Thirdly, even if it were true that we must have zoning-based separation, it is just another sign that our society is unsustainable (because it is inherently car-dependent).

Unless we start building a more sustainable (read: compact) world, we’re heading for a train wreck.

_________________________________________________

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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking