Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Perversity of American Subsidies

by Dom Nozzi

It is perverse that the US government so heavily subsidizes and provides for a form of travel (car travel) that is largely or fully responsible for…

About 45,000 deaths (not to mention the injuries) per year

The destruction and abandonment of so many US town centers and their quality of life 

The bankrupting of households and all levels of government

Suburban sprawl

The obesity epidemic and associated health problems

Enormous dependence on foreign oil produced mostly by nations that dislike the US

The gigantic and on-going loss of important wildlife habitat

The loss of peace and quiet

The huge loss of human interaction with their fellow citizens (we have become a nation of loners)

The loss of civic pride as a result of the homogenizing, strip commercial transformation of our communities

The diminishing returns that promotion of car travel now provides

The loss of small, locally-owned businesses

This is a recipe for societal dysfunction.

I believe so few of us are pointing out this elephant in the bedroom at least in part because we believe, mostly accurately, that our lives are impossible without cars, so we put ourselves in a gigantic state of denial with this Faustian Bargain.

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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 Economics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Transforming Rochester New York by Transforming the Inner Loop Highway

by Dom Nozzi

Rochester New York is considering the rectification of a colossal blunder the City committed in its past. The City is considering converting its “Inner Loop” grade-separated highway into a more livable, humanized boulevard.

For several decades, the Inner Loop highway has hobbled and otherwise obliterated the city, as well as its town center neighborhoods and retail. Like town center freeways across the nation, the Inner Loop has drained much of the lifeblood out of town center Rochester.

Current leadership is now admirably recognizing that, and has commissioned plans to reverse the mistake the City made long ago – a mistake in which the City ruined itself by building the Inner Loop. Ironically, the earlier motivation to build the Inner Loop with huge sums of public dollars was based on the thinking that the freeway would “revitalize” Rochester.

We now see quite clearly that it has done the opposite. Rather than revitalize Rochester, the Inner Loop has played an enormous role in destroying Rochester.

My family lived in a downtown Rochester home in the early 1960s. Just as I was entering first grade, my family moved to the very car-happy Rochester suburb of Penfield. I lived in Penfield until I started college at age 18 (1978).

I know suburban Penfield much more than downtown Rochester. My friends and I hardly ever visited downtown Rochester after the family moved to the suburbs — so I don’t have a lot of informed knowledge about what has happened or why. I have since come to learn that downtown is an awful place to live in or operate a small retail business.

Today, I am curious to know whether any friends or family who remain in the Rochester suburbs have any awareness that the millions spent in Rochester to build the Inner Loop was a main contributor to the ruin of downtown and its quality of life.

I suspect not.

My mother, for example, convinced my father to move our family from our downtown home to the suburbs largely because of the high crime rates. Today, over 40 years later, she remains adamantly opposed to EVER moving back to a town center location (even though it would, in my opinion, be very important to do so as my parents lose the ability to drive a car).

Why is my mother so strongly opposed? I think it is because her experience living in downtown Rochester has left her (permanently?) convinced that town centers inevitably produce high levels of crime – crime so rampant that residing in such a place is intolerable.

For my parents and many in their generation, the decision to flee was based on a realization that quality of life in town center Rochester had become wretched. I am sure that my parents had no idea that Rochester highways such as the Inner Loop were the primary causes of the downfall of the quality of life in town center Rochester. For those in their generation, the motivation was the “white flight” being induced by low- income conditions and crime. Indeed, many in that generation probably remain convinced to this day that the highway construction was one of the few GOOD things the City engaged in. To this day, my parents have little awareness of the downwardly-spiraling role that highways have on the health of a city.

Tragic.

I think many in my parent’s generation have similar attitudes. The fear of town center crime burned into their memory will make it unlikely that a meaningful percentage in their generation will re-locate to the town centers – even after the highway disease infesting cities is healed by removal of the highway infection and the sickness is transformed into health-producing people-friendly rather than car-friendly corridors.

Regardless of whether older generations will or will not be motivated to move back to town center living, however, I strongly believe that cities throughout America need to join Rochester in recognizing the pressing need to dramatically improve their economic, community, and neighborhood health by removing these costly “expenseways” and replacing them with rejuvenating, sustainable streets and boulevards.

Our quality of life and overall sustainability depends on it.

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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 Economics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Transportation, Urban Design

Is the Call for “Car-Free” Streets a Good Idea?

by Dom Nozzi

Long ago, I was somewhat enthusiastic about “car-free” efforts. However, my view of such efforts has matured since then. It seems to me that car-free advocacy is both premature and counterproductively extreme. As long as the price of gas, cars, roads, and parking remains reasonably affordable, as it still is in the US, calling for a car-free world has very, very little chance of gaining any political traction.

An analogy is the “zero population growth” movement.

In both cases, there is much to be said – theoretically — about each idea. But neither has a chance of motivating large numbers of leaders, professionals, and planners in today’s world.

By contrast, the new urbanism movement – which strives for a return to the timeless tradition of building walkable, sustainable, lovable neighborhoods — is brilliantly pragmatic by recognizing the toxic-to-cities nature of making cars happy without calling for their elimination.

Calling for the elimination of cars would marginalize new urbanism and make it impossible for the new urbanism movement to do anywhere near as much as it has done to reform our communities. Instead, the new urbanist movement has inspired a great many to reform communities by design that forces cars to behave themselves (which is an enormously beneficial achievement), rather than calling for their elimination.

We’ll eventually live in a car-free world with zero population growth, but not in our lifetime.

It seems to me that both the zero population growth and car-free movements slow down the needed revolutions because such goals seem so kooky and extreme that the entire baby is thrown out with the bathwater.

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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 Miscellaneous, Urban Design, Walking

Improving the “People Habitat” is the Key to Protecting Wildlife Habitat

by Dom Nozzi

Late in 2011, Ethan Kent described how “placemaking” (the art of making wonderful, lovable places for people) was the “new environmentalism.” His article can be found here: http://www.pps.org/articles/placemaking-as-a-new-environmentalism/

The thesis of this article is what has kept me interested in town planning for the past 22 years.

I got a degree in environmental science because I felt 25 years ago that environmental conservation was the key to improving quality of life. But as you will see in this article, environmentalism became too dry and abstract to keep people like me interested.

Environmentalism was also missing a crucial point — missing an essential way to protect the natural environment.

Regardless of how strong our environmental conservation regulations were written and enforced, they would be completely overwhelmed and undermined if the towns and cities where humans had lived since the beginning of civilization were designed to be so hideously repellant to people that a large number of us desperately wanted to flee the city. And that flight resulted in the steamrolling obliteration of much of the important, sensitive wildlife habitat that so often is found in areas surrounding our cities.

In other words, the push since the early decades of the 20th Century to create cities for happy cars rather than happy people was unintentionally inducing an enormous desire for millions of people to seek the “greener pastures” of suburban sprawl.

In about 1990, I learned about place-making – the art of making people happy instead of cars.

It was an epiphany.

The path to a better world – for the work I engage in, at least – is most effectively achieved not by fighting for stronger federal regulations regarding smokestack emissions or water pollution – important as that is in its own way – but by doing what I can to get communities to reach a tipping point, where leaders and citizens start seeing that the return to the timeless tradition of making walkable, people-friendly places (by reining in the dominance of the car) is the best path to a happier, prouder, more sustainable and lovable future.

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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, Sprawl, Suburbia