Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Terrible Dilemma

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

The terrible reality is this: For several decades, we have designed our communities for car travel, which makes travel by foot, bicycle and transit increasingly difficult (indeed, nearly impossible). This phenomenon continuously and profoundly breeds a growing army of car cheerleaders—loud, vocal citizen advocates who angrily demand that their elected officials build wider, faster roads and bigger parking lots.

And for being cheerleaders we cannot easily be blamed. After all, if we can only travel by car, we must have such modifications, as we are all in the same car-dependent boat, and our roads and parking lots therefore quickly become crowded with the cars of an exponentially growing number of citizens.

Over the course of several decades, therefore, we have become world leaders in building an enormously expensive system for cars.

Concurrently, there is a curious phenomenon in America. While we have created an army of trained traffic engineers to assemble and maintain this human transportation system, we have also trained quite a few PhDs in ecological systems.

Consequently, we have, in other words, become quite good at creating and protecting “car habitat” and wildlife habitat. But what about the third category of habitat? Urban designers are increasingly reminding us that we lost sight of the most important habitat—the “people habitat”

The horrifying dilemma is that in a car-dependent nation where we have recruited so many “car cheerleaders,” we have an army of advocates and professionals doing whatever they can to improve the “habitat” for cars. Tragically, there is an inverse relationship between the quality of the car habitat and the quality of the people habitat, because the places that cars love are scary, unrewarding, unpleasant, inconvenient, unsafe places for people (a “no man’s land”). Cars need an enormous amount of space in the form of huge, high-speed roads and vast oceans of asphalt parking.

Conversely, the places that people love are places that inconvenience cars—places with much more modest, human-scaled spaces. Places such as modest, slow-speed streets, walkways and courtyards enveloped pride-fully by tree canopies and proud buildings pulled up to sidewalks.

Happy cars and happy people are like oil and water. They do not mix.

Because we live in a world that requires car travel for every trip we make, “common sense” has made the needs of the car paramount. We ruinously mistake the interests of our autos with the interests of ourselves and our family. Yet each action which improves conditions for cars (larger setbacks, lower development densities, bigger and faster roads and parking lots, dispersed development) worsens conditions for people, and requires a growing number of us to make an increased number of trips by car. This compels many of us to flee to remote areas, thereby degrading outlying natural areas (areas steamrollered by new homes), which further locks us into auto dependence and more cheerleading.

In the end, we bankrupt ourselves in our hopeless, counter-productive efforts to build bigger and bigger roads. Roads that must be bigger than ever because we have fled to “greener pastures” in sprawling subdivisions. A growing proportion of us thereby become car-dependent (things are too far away for us not to drive a car everywhere). We end up discovering—too late—that our remote neighborhoods can only be accommodated with huge new roads. We are soon in traffic congestion that is more unpleasant than what we had experienced closer to town, in part because in such a remote location, we have no choice but to drive in such congestion (in-town, by contrast, we do have other choices, such as walking, transit, bicycling, and alternative routes). Because our remote residential areas require us to be even more dependent on cars, we scream even louder for better conditions for car travel.

We therefore become our own worst enemies in a self-reinforcing downward spiral.

An awful consequence of all this is that we have come to equate “free-flowing traffic” with quality of life. Not only is it theoretically impossible to escape congestion in a growing community. The costly struggle to create free-flowing conditions also typically results in bankrupting, destructive efforts to widen roads and intersections. And the wretched, twisted irony of such efforts is that building bigger roads and intersections is perhaps the most effective means imaginable to DESTROY the quality of life of a community (see “oil and water” above).

The origin of this death spiral has been fairly recent because we have changed the model, since approximately World War II, for how we build our communities. Catastrophically, our imperative now, for the first time in history, is largely build to make our cars happy, not people. And increasingly, lifestyles other than the utterly car-dependent, suburban lifestyle are vanishing.

It is time to begin returning to the historic, timeless tradition of designing primarily for people, not cars—the tradition of building communities that create housing, lifestyle and transportation choices. The tradition of creating people habitats—our neighborhoods and towns—that we can again be proud of.

 

_________________________________________________

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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What is the Most Important Lesson I Have Learned as a Town Planner?

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

What is the most important lesson I’ve learned in my 25 years as a town planner?

American communities tend to beat around the bush or otherwise mince words when their spokespeople proclaim they would like to “improve the quality of life.” But we are often left hanging by such proclamations.

How do we promote quality of life? What are the details?

To me, my work as a planner has made it crystal clear, for me, how a community achieves and maintains a quality of life.

The most profound influence on community quality of life is directly related to how much effort the community puts into catering to cars. And the astonishing fact is this: Most all of us either don’t realize, or are too timid to point out, that there is an inverse relationship between happy cars and happy people. That is, the happier we try to make cars by building wide, multi-lane, high-speed roads, creating enormous (and unpriced) parking lots, and setting buildings an enormous distance away from these now hostile roads, the worse conditions become for people – at least for those people seeking a more walkable, sociable lifestyle, and to some extent, for those who seek a more drivable lifestyle.

This is not to say that “we need to get rid of all cars,” the common red herring whenever someone points this out.

Not at all. What it means is that we must return to the timeless design tradition that our societies adhered to for hundreds of years.

The tradition of designing to make people happy first, not cars.

Instead, cars must be obligated to behave themselves. To be slowed down.

To be driven carefully. Attentively. To be subservient to the needs of people.

For when we make cars our imperative, they dominate and overwhelm everything else, including the habitat that creates happy conditions for humans.

Clearly, the communities most of us recognize as having an awful quality of life are the places where design for cars has been most prominent. The Houstons. The LAs. The Detroits. The South Floridas. The Anywhere USA “generica” places, in other words, that have been overwhelmed by big roads, big parking lots and big setbacks.

Solving the quality of life problems – particularly for the walkable, in-town neighborhoods — is not primarily achieved by “cleaning their air or water.” Or “reducing crime.” Or “creating more open space.” Or “protecting wetlands.”

No, the essential key is to restore the human habitat in our town centers. So that pedestrians are not inconvenienced or in danger. So that going for a walk is a joy.

Primarily, that means incrementally putting in-town roads on diets (removing travel lanes on 5- or 7-laners, for example), replacing town center parking lots with buildings (preferably higher density residential mixed with office and retail), and reducing building setbacks to restore a human scale in town centers.

It is no coincidence that walkable, human-scaled new urbanist developments have become so popular and carry such a premium price.

Nor is it a coincidence that the towns and cities that are most loved in the world—Rome, Paris, Florence, Venice, Charleston, Nantucket, Key West, Vienna, Copenhagen, Amsterdam (and other places with “old” urbanism)—all feature, most prominently and importantly, the taming of cars and the emphasis on making people happy instead.

Cities with modest, human-scaled (not car-scaled) dimensions. With quiet streets that have on-street parking. Streets that are low-speed and narrow. With buildings that face the street and are ornamental. That are pulled up to the street to form a highly satisfying, enclosed outdoor room. With a magnificent tree canopy enveloping the street. Parking is modest and parking lots are unseen. The overall size of the community is compact, higher density, full of small and healthy markets and shops. Vibrant with sociable pedestrians and mixed in use. Housing types and household incomes are diverse.

Each of these commonly recognized, admired features are incompatible with designing for happy cars.

Which is precisely the point.

Note that I don’t want to suggest the elimination of a drivable, suburban lifestyle. All lifestyles should be accommodated and designed for in a community – as long as each lifestyle pays its own way equitably. It is, however, to say that if we design properly for the walkable, in-town portions of our community, the full range of lifestyles will benefit in the same sense that a healthy body requires a healthy heart, and a diseased heart leads to an unhealthy body.

I am also convinced, in my experience, that American communities for the past several decades have almost exclusively provided for only the drivable, suburban lifestyle. The walkable (and even the rural) lifestyles have been almost entirely neglected and is now quite difficult to find. The result is that the non-drivable lifestyle has been inequitably degraded in our single-minded pursuit of providing for the drivable lifestyle. A quality walkable lifestyle is now so scarce in America (in a nation where there is substantial growth in a walkable lifestyle on the part of households) that demand far exceeds supply, and the walkable lifestyle – in the very rare instances where it exists – is becoming unaffordable due to walkable real estate prices being bid up by the demand/supply imbalance.

Quality of life, if we don’t beat around the bush, is largely the quest to use the timeless tradition to design for people first, and to ensure that cars — while certainly not banished — are obligated to behave themselves when they are within the people habitat of town centers and in-town neighborhoods.

It is time to stop beating around the bush. It is time to return to the timeless tradition for our town centers.

_________________________________________________

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, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Affordable Housing

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

Many cities and counties have been aggressively trying to provide more affordable housing and assistance for the homeless over the past several years. It is in the long-range plan. Letters to the newspaper express concerns. It is the subject of several local government meetings by commissioners, committees, task forces, staff, etc.

It is, in other words, given quite a bit of attention. But is it more than just lip service?

I don’t believe so.

For most all of these communities, these meetings and policies and plans are completely silent, as far as I know, about the following:

1. Elimination or reduction in required off-street parking.

Donald Shoup, in The High Cost of Free Parking, points out that when communities require housing developments to provide off-street parking, it is nearly impossible to make the housing units affordable because the parking is so expensive to provide. One of his most important solutions: “Unbundle” the parking so that the cost of the parking is not included in the cost of the housing. Particularly for low-income households which own less cars, per household, than others, purchasers of housing units should be given a choice as to whether they want to pay for parking. Unbundling the cost of parking from the cost of the housing is a way to do that.

2. Making ADUs legal.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), also known as garage apartments or granny flats, are an extremely beneficial tool for creating a more a healthy community. Because of their typically small size and the fact that the primary house on the property is paying the property tax, ADUs can be quite affordable. Because small retail establishments, as well as transit, walking and bicycling, are vastly improved or more prevalent when residential densities are higher, ADUs provide a relatively quick and easy way to increase residential densities in a town center neighborhood where it may otherwise be nearly impossible, politically, to increase densities. Those living in an ADU also provide added security for those occupying the primary house, as the ADU residents can provide surveillance of the primary house when the owners are not home.

3. Legalizing mixed use in lower-income neighborhoods.

When a neighborhood contains small offices, retail and civic uses, many daily trip destinations are within walking or bicycling distance of neighborhood homes. This proximity enables a household to shed the ownership of a second or third car. Shedding a car is an extremely effective means of creating affordable housing, as the $8,500 it now costs to own and maintain a car each year can instead be directed toward housing for the household (or other household expenses). Even better, when housing is incorporated in a non-residential building, the housing becomes more affordable simply because the land cost and property taxes can be paid for by the non-residential use.

4. Increasing residential density.

Increased residential densities tend to reduce the size of the residence and the lot the residence sits on. These more moderate sizes tend to reduce housing cost.

Silence on Solutions

So why is there absolute silence on these effective strategies?

I strongly suspect that the reason there is no mention of these policies, despite their obvious effectiveness, is that in most every community, free or affordable (and abundant) housing for cars is vastly more important to the community than is affordable housing for people. In each of the four strategies above, many communities tend to shy away from their use because doing so promotes happy cars. Or because they fear the overwhelming influx of cars should the strategy be used.

_________________________________________________

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 Enemy 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, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Widening Roads Is Socialism

by Dom Nozzi, AICP

We hear it all the time.

“We must widen roads in the face of population growth! Otherwise, we’ll be stuck in endless gridlock!! It is silly to think that we can accommodate a growing number of cars that is sure to come with growth without widening the roads. It’s common sense!!”

We hear this “common sensical” claim all the time. It certainly helps explain why places such as Houston or Atlanta spent billions of public dollars to construct ruinous (and increasingly congested) monster highways that are 10 to 14 lanes wide.

But is it really true that road widening is the “common sense” solution to accommodate growth?

Using this logic, a city that has grown from thousands to millions should have, say, 300-lane-wide highways.

Using this logic, metro Houston and metro Detroit should be paradise, instead of the place-less, sprawl-choked places they have become.

Using this logic, a power plant that is unable to supply enough free electricity in the face of growing community electrical consumption should build a bigger power plant.

Using this logic, the Soviet bread lines would have been manageably shorter if the Soviets created more bread lines and baked more bread to give away for free.

Using this logic, a restaurant that is jammed with customers seeking to order a special deal on free lobster dinners should build a larger restaurant.

Clearly, the above “solutions” are absurd. Any first-year economics student would tell you that fundamental economics in a market-based economy is NOT to supply more of the product if demand is immense. No, fundamental, grade-school economics has only one, simple, effective response to excessive demand: Charge a price that consumers are willing to pay.

Why, then, do we ignore first-year economics when it comes to free-to-use roads? Why have we spent the past several decades disregarding this elementary concept? Ignoring this fundamental economic principal by bankrupting ourselves in our hopeless quest to escape congestion when we build wider and wider and wider roads?

Why do we think socialism can work for American roads when the bread lines and overall socialist economy failed so spectacularly in the Soviet Union?

No, we cannot escape basic economic principles. Socialism cannot work when applied to our roads.

The effective way to manage congested conditions on our roads is to employ the “magic of the marketplace.” Remember that concept?

In the same way that the solution to a power plant giving out free electricity is not to build a bigger plant, when demand for a road becomes excessive (i.e., it becomes congested), the solution is not to widen it.

The solution is to provide proper market pricing to efficiently allocate the supply of the road. Commonly, we apply a toll to the road, as London has recently done and New York City and San Francisco recently proposed. And as a number of our toll highways throughout the nation have done for a great many years.

Since such a market-based solution is so politically difficult (how many motorist voters, after all, like toll roads?), it tends to be nearly impossible to impose a toll on a road after it has been free to use for so long.

Therefore, the second-best solution is to let congestion impose a “time tax” on the road, as Ian Lockwood has suggested. Congestion slows down cars, which means that motorists must “pay” to use it by having to devote more of their time to use it.

In the case of either using prices or time, both tolls and congestion therefore are able to efficiently manage road use significantly better than the failed, socialist solution of widening a road.

Why?

Because in the face of a tolled or congested road, a number of motorists will choose to avoid the road. Some will choose an alternative road nearby. Or will drive at a different time of day (instead of rush hour). Or will walk, bicycle or use transit. Or will forego the trip completely. In the long run, many people would move closer to their destinations.

But widening a road short-circuits these self-regulating changes in travel behavior. A widened road that is free to use says to motorists: “Feel free to use this major road to drive across town at rush hour to rent a video!”

Therefore, in the end, the free-to-use, widened road gets congested nearly overnight because it induces these “low-value” car trips. Trips that would have never occurred had we not widened this free road.

Because cars take up so much space per driver (a person takes up 17 times more space sitting in a car than sitting in a chair), a road becomes congested after only a modest number of cars are on it. We do not need a city of millions of people before we have congested roads. A tiny town of 100 residents can congest a road.

As a result, we must accept the fact that a healthy city cannot escape congestion (indeed, congestion is a sign of a HEALTHY city). No, the solution is not to attempt to escape congestion by socialistically widening a road. The solution is to ensure that the community has choices about being able to escape the congestion.

For example, the community needs to ensure that there are quality bicycle routes. Quality transit. Sufficient housing near job, retail and cultural concentrations. Adequate sidewalks.

Usually, by the way, these choices naturally emerge in response to congestion, as citizens demand that their elected officials provide such options. It is no coincidence, after all, that the cities with the best transit systems are often the cities that have had the most severe, persistant traffic congestion.

The path to a community with modest tax rates, high quality of life, and abundant civic pride is not to strive to escape congestion by widening roads. As we’ve learned (?) over the past several decades, that “solution” simply results in huge tax increases, intractable congestion, bankrupting and massive road expenditures, plummeting quality of life, and endless strip commercial and suburban sprawl.

No, the solution is to use the market to properly allocate road space. Manage road use by keeping the roads modest in size. Either by establishing ways to avoid having to drive on congested roads, or charging a toll to use the road.

It is, after all, elementary Economics 101.

_________________________________________________

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, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Journeys, Destinations and Quality of Life

By Dom Nozzi

In our societal transformation toward extreme dependence on cars, Americans have come to neglect an essential element of our quality of life. A large portion of our daily lives (approximately 10 percent, on average) consists of journeys to destinations (almost always, in America, by car). Car travel—because it requires deployment of a large metal box usually driven at high speeds—inherently isolates travelers from others, and compels us to make our routes as high-speed as possible. Get from Point A to Point B as fast as is feasible. The result, over the course of several decades, is that we have neglected the quality of our travel routes.

Of course, this is precisely what we should expect.

When the quest to increase the speed of the journey becomes the imperative, all other features of the route become secondary and forgotten. Nothing matters except figuring out ways to get cars moving more swiftly. What has happened, as a result, is that American streets and roads have often become terrible, horrifying, strip commercial auto slums. Or are lined with sterile residential compounds that turn their backs to the road (typically thrusting out a protruding garage), and are often set far back from the road behind security systems.

Is it any surprise that we do what we can to minimize how much time we spend along such “car sewers” by striving to maximize our speed of travel?

Increasing car speeds along routes, by adding travel lanes, widening travel lanes, removing on-street parking, and setting buildings and trees back from the road or street, creates a downwardly spiraling pressure for property owners along the routes to establish “sellscapes.” Enormous billboards, glaring and flashing lights, cartoonish “anywhere USA” architecture, buildings as signs, etc., are established in a desperate, effort to attract the attention of the potential customer speeding by in their car. It becomes an arms race. If my competitor down the road puts up a big sign to attract customers, I need to shout louder by putting up a bigger, brighter, more jarring sign.

Under such circumstances, the motorist and the property owner don’t give a damn about the quality of the road—the “public realm.” Motorists want to fly through it as fast as possible and retailers want to scream to these potential custormers as loud as they can in the few seconds the retailer has to draw the attention of the high-velocity motorist.

In the end, the quality of life for Americans is substantially harmed because so many of us spend so much of our lives being exposed to such awful misery in our daily journeys—about one-tenth of our day.

In America, it is all about the destination, not the journey. The destination quality is maximized. The journey is neglected and degraded, and thereby becomes horrendous misery. Our quality of life therefore suffers immensely.

And our blood pressure rises as we angrily (or frightfully) engage in (or are the victims of) road rage on a nearly daily basis. We find ourselves locked in competitive combat with our fellow citizens while involved in a simple, daily act that should be enjoyable—travel.

By striking contrast, in places such as western Europe, where traditional design and transportation choices are still employed (i.e., where there is less of an imperative to be narrowly, destructively focused on making cars happy), almost all journeys are a sociable, pleasant, therapeutic experience.

Streets are friendly. Calmer. More vibrant and attractive. Buildings are detailed and rich with ornamentation. Shopfronts abut the sidewalk to form a comfortable sense of enclosure—a human-scaled “outdoor room.” There are actually civic, civilized places to stop and chat. Travelers are more patient and happy. More willing to be courteous to others. Some of us actually smile at our neighbors as we pass by.

Because the journey is often so much better in Europe than in America, and because it consumes a fairly sizable portion of our day, the European quality of life increasingly exceeds that of Americans, despite the American cornucopia of luxury cars, luxury homes, and luxury entertainment systems.

Isn’t it time for Americans to return to the time-tested, famed tradition of slowing down to smell the roses? To return to the recognition that the journey matters?

 

_________________________________________________

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, Walking

Why Dumping Florida’s Growth Management Law Is Not Such a Bad Idea

By Dom Nozzi

For 20 years, I was a long-range comprehensive planner for Gainesville, Florida. I was hired by to be a planner in 1986 to help that city comply with the 1985 Growth Management Law that the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) administered.

Frankly, I would find it difficult to shed tears if, as was proposed a few years ago, DCA (or the Growth Management Law) were dismantled.

The 1985 Growth Management Law was adopted largely as a way to protect quality of life in Florida, and prevent costly sprawl in Florida cities and counties.

But it almost entirely failed to do either.

The reason for its failure was that the “teeth” of the Law was “road concurrency.” That is, new development could not be approved unless it was demonstrated that adequate road capacity was available to serve the new development. This road concurrency standard, therefore, had as its implicit assumption that ensuring adequate road capacity and “free-flowing” traffic was the key to promoting quality of life and discouraging sprawl.

The consequence of the law, of course, was that roads were widened, in some cases, to maintain “adequate” road capacity, as a condition for development approval. When that was not possible, themonstor hwy development was either not given permission to build, or its density was substantially reduced as a condition for development approval.

Sprawl was therefore powerfully and unintentionally promoted because widened roads are the most powerful engine I know of for sprawl inducement. As noted above, the Growth Management Law was largely compelling developers and communities to widen roads, ironically.

Another enormous irony is that the road concurrency standard is anti-city and anti-infill (which promotes sprawl). Why? Because town centers and other infill areas tend to have the LEAST available/unused road capacity, and remote sprawl locations have the MOST available road capacity.

So the unspoken message from the Growth Management Law is if you wish to get road concurrency approval to obtain permission to construct a development project, you should build in sprawl locations rather than in town center locations to get road concurrency approval. After all, that is where the road capacity can be found!

In addition, if road capacity is not available for the proposed new development, it is quite common for the developer and the community to have insufficient funds to widen the road for more capacity. The common solution, as I noted above, is to therefore reduce the proposed development density (to load less car trips on the roads serving the development). To make it more suburban in density. Low suburban densities are ruinous to cities, and promote extremely high levels of unsustainable car dependency (by making walking, bicycling and transit extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Given this, my hope is that a challenge to the existence of DCA, the Growth Management Law, or both, in Florida will result in much-needed reform. Reform that can actually serve to promote quality of life, urbanism and sprawl reduction objectives.

Florida needs a substantially revised Growth Management Law. One that does not emphasize “adequate road capacity” as the key condition for development approval. Instead, it needs a law that requires something more in the direction of transect-driven, form-based coding (see http://transect.org/transect.html) as the key condition for approval. One that is designed to reward walkable, town center development – not punish it. One that is designed to promote a quality habitat for people, not cars.

All of this is not to say that Florida has a governor and legislature that is in any way sympathetic to quality urbanism. But I do believe that like with major hurricanes in Florida and Louisiana in recent times, this “dismantling” of DCA or the Florida Growth Management Law may be a critical opportunity for proponents of form-based land development codes to be involved in the much-needed reform of state planning laws and the state planning agency (DCA), so that the law delivers compact urbanism, not car-based sprawl.

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