Monthly Archives: November 2012

Increasing the Amount of Parking Required is Counterproductive

By Dom Nozzi

In the mid-2000s, the Gainesville City Plan Board submitted a proposal to increase the amount of parking required of new developments. There are a number of reasons why such a proposal is ruinous for Gainesville. The proposal sickens me as a city planner.

The following will be some of the consequences of the City of Gainesville increasing the amount of parking required for developments within the city.

Increased suburban sprawl, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased stormwater pollution.

Increased flooding.

Increased “heat island effect.”

Increased auto dependency.

Increased per capita car use.

Less walkable neighborhoods and commercial areas, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased political demand for bigger roads.

Increased pressure to build and enlarge Big Box retail in the Gainesville area.

Increased number of injuries and deaths due to increased car use.

Increased gasoline consumption in the city.

Increased household transportation costs.

Increased loss of natural features paved over by asphalt, which directly contradicts two objectives I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced transportation choice, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced neighborhood quality of life, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced neighborhood compatibility with nearby commercial, which directly contradicts two objectives I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced property values.

Reduced residential densities within the city.

Increased air pollution.

Reduced bus ridership, walking, and bicycling.

Increased single-occupant-vehicle (SOV) travel, which directly contradicts a goal and objective I had written for the Transportation Mobility Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased cost to agencies, organizations, businesses, who must provide an increased amount of parking.

Increased number of instances in which a business cannot be created, renovated, or expanded due to inability to increase parking.

Increased per capita consumption of land.

Reduced amount of market demand for mixed-use development, which directly contradicts two objectives and five goals I had written for the Future Land Use Element, five goals and six objectives I had written for the Transportation Mobility Element, and two goals and nine objectives I had written for the Urban Design Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

In sum, if there is one change in our Land Development Code that more overwhelmingly and comprehensively subverts our Comprehensive Plan than increased parking requirements, I am not aware of it.

What are the benefits that would outweigh the above harms when we go ahead and increase our already excessive parking requirements?

Does Gainesville’s adopted city long-range plan mean anything? Or is the long-range plan adopted to be ignored?

Does it mean anything that all of the planning literature over the past 25 years strongly argues against increasing parking requirements—parking requirements that are already excessive in Gainesville?

What ever happened to the alleged efforts of the City of Gainesville to be “business friendly” (increasing parking requirements would substantially increase burdens to business—particularly small, local business).

Is city planning a waste of time?

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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

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Collective Effervescence: The Lost Tradition of Ecstatic Dance

By Dom Nozzi

I just finished reading an extraordinary book called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Haidt, 2012).

The author of this important book unveils the lost cultural tradition that so many societies practiced for centuries, yet has faded in recent centuries. “…in the late 15th Century…European travelers to every continent witnessed people coming together to dance with wild abandon around a fire, synchronized to the beat of drums, often to the point of exhaustion.”

While such collective behavior was essential to the health and bond strengthening of a community, the suppression of such joyful communal activity led Europeans to not only fail to recall their own traditions in this
imagesrealm, but to look upon its continuation in other cultures as an abomination. “In Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich describes how European explorers reacted to these dances: with disgust. The masks, body paints, and guttural shrieks made the dancers seem like animals. The rhythmically undulating bodies and occasional sexual pantomimes were, to most Europeans, degrading, grotesque, and thoroughly ‘savage.’”

Haidt points out that “[t]he Europeans were unprepared for what they were seeing. As Ehrenreich argues, collective and ecstatic dancing is a nearly universal ‘biotechnology’ for binding groups together…It fosters love, trust, and equality.”

Why had such a beneficial tradition been lost to Europeans? Haidt finds the explanation to be based on Christianity and the emergence of the drive for individual achievement in the Middle Ages, as noted by Ehrenreich. “It was common in ancient Greece…and in early Christianity (which she says was a ‘danced’ religion until dancing in church was suppressed in the Middle Ages)…But if ecstatic dancing is so beneficial and widespread, then why did Europeans give it up?…[Ehrenreich argues that it was due to] the rise of individualism and more refined notions of self in Europe, beginning in the sixteenth century…”

Haidt’s book describes the meaning and lost value of “collective effervescence.” “…[The scholar Emile Durkheim referred to activities such as ecstatic dancing as] higher-level sentiments [he called] ‘collective effervescence,’ which describes the passion and ecstasy that group rituals can generate. As Durkheim put it: ‘The very act of congregating is an exceptionally powerful stimulant. Once the individuals are gathered together, a sort of electricity is generated from their closeness and quickly launches them to an extraordinary height of exaltation.’”

In the spring of 1986, I attended a “rave” dance at a downtown Gainesville, Florida nightclub that gave me an unforgettable taste of collective effervescence. That night, the dance floor throbbed to the beat of high-energy, high-volume disco music, and the effervescence of a packed, feverish group of happy, exhilarated college-age dancers who danced synchronistically in a trance, as if we were one organism,disco990-saidaonline to the music and the strobing colored lights. I felt as if time had ended. As if there was no shame. No paralyzing and fun-destroying self-consciousness. Or right or wrong. All that existed was that very moment of joy, shared euphorically with others at the nightclub at 3 a.m.

It was one of the most pleasant, enjoyable, unforgettable experiences of my life.

Haidt refers to Durkheim, who noted that “in such a state, the vital energies become hyperexcited, the passions more intense, the sensations more powerful.” “Durkheim,” says Haidt, “believed that these collective emotions pull humans fully but temporarily into the higher of our two realms, the realm of the sacred, where the self disappears and collective interests predominate. The realm of theprofane, in contrast, is the ordinary day-to-day world where we live most of our lives, concerned about wealth, health, and reputation, but nagged by the sense that there is, somewhere, something higher and nobler…”

Haidt believes that “…[activities such as ecstatic dancing by a community] generally makes people less selfish and more loving.”

Haidt uses the metaphor of “turning on the switch” as a way to describe such ecstatic collective behavior, and provides these examples of this important behavior our culture has abandoned:

Awe in Nature … [Ralph Waldo] Emerson argued that the deepest truths must be known by intuition, not reason, and that experiences of awe in nature were among the best ways to trigger such intuitions. He described the rejuvenation and joy he gained from looking at the stars, or at a vista of rolling farmland, or from a simple walk in the woods.”

The author notes that Darwin cited such an experience in his work. He quotes Darwin to say that ‘in my journal I wrote that whilst standing in midst of the grandeur of a Brazilian forest, it is not possible to give an adequate idea of the higher feelings of wonder, admiration, and devotion which fill and elevate the mind…’

Haidt also refers to the sort of rock dance experience that closely mimics what I experienced and described above when I lived in Gainesville, Florida.

Raves…Rock music has always been associated with wild abandon and sexuality. American parents in the 1950s often shared the horror of those seventeenth-century Europeans faced with the ecstatic dancing of the ‘savages.’ But in the 1980s, British youth mixed together new technologies to create a new kind of dancing that replaced the individualism and sexuality of rock with more communal feelings….young people began converging by the thousands for all-night parties… There’s a description of a rave experience in Tony Hsieh’s autobiography…The first time Hsieh and his ‘tribe’…attended a rave, it flipped his hive switch…’What I experienced next changed my perspective forever…Yes, the decorations and lasers were pretty cool, and yes, this was the largest single room full of people dancing that I had ever seen. But neither of those things explained the feeling of awe that I was experiencing…As someone who is usually known as being the most logical and rational person in a group, I was surprised to find myself swept with an overwhelming sense of spirituality – not in the religious sense, but a sense of deep connection with everyone who was there as well as the rest of the universe. There was a feeling of no judgment…Here there was no sense of self-consciousness or feeling that anyone was dancing to be seen dancing…Everyone was facing the DJ, who was elevated up on a stage…The entire room felt like one massive, united tribe of thousands of people, and the DJ was the tribal leader of the group…The steady wordless electronic beats were the unifying hearbeats that synchronized the crowd. It was as if the existence of individual consciousness had disappeared and been replaced by a single unifying group consciousness.”

Again, the collective nature of such activity is essential to its importance for a society. “…The scene and the experience awed him, shut down his ‘I,’ and merged him into a giant ‘we.’”

Where does happiness come from, asks Haidt? “When I began…I believed that happiness came from within, as Buddha and the Stoic philosophers said thousands of years ago. You’ll never make the world conform to your wishes, so focus on changing yourself and your desires. But by the time I finished writing, I had changed my mind: Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself…We evolved to live in groups…”

One of the great, tragic losses of our age is the loss of these forms of collective effervescence through such activities as ecstatic community dancing. If we are to bond or cooperate or be happy as a community, we must restore the tradition of such collective effervescence, and shed the religiously-inspired puritan attitudes that have diminished our joy and productiveness as a community for so long.

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Conventional, Forgiving Road Design Reduces Road Safety

By Dom Nozzi

Conventional “forgiving” road design strives to forgive bad drivers. Engineers who subscribe to conventional road design look at road crash data that shows many crashes have occurred due to excessive speed, or due to the driver using a cell phone, or putting on make-up.

The solution seems obvious: Design roads so that if the driver is driving too fast, or is using his cell phone, or is putting on her make-up, there will be less chance of a severe crash.

Unfortunately, this obvious solution results in less road safety. Why? Because conventional engineers have forgotten about human nature. If you design a road to forgive a driver for engaging in reckless driving, you encourage people to drive too fast and drive too inattentively. Human nature is such that most people drive at the highest speed that feels safe (regardless of what the speed limit sign says). Because we are so busy these days, we try to find more time in our day by driving faster and by multi-tasking (talking on a cell phone while driving, for example).

Engineers who have been designing the forgiving road for the past 60 years have therefore been busy widening roads, removing on-street parking, removing street trees, and pulling buildings away from the street — all in an effort to minimize the chance of a speeding, inattentive driver crashing into something.

But it does not take rocket science to realize that the forgiving road has the unintended consequence that most of us will drive more dangerously. We drive faster and more inattentively because we can do so more safely now.

The solution is clear, yet counter-intuitive: We need to design roads so that we force drivers to pay attention and slow down. On such roads, a much smaller number of drivers will speed or talk on a cell phone, because it is too risky to do so on a street that is not forgiving. If you don’t pay attention, or if you speed, you will suffer consequences. On roads that are not forgiving, we breed more attentive drivers. And more skilled drivers.

Forgiving roads with too many “safety” features, by contrast, breed a decline in driving skill. It is therefore no surprise that there seems to be a large a growing number of drivers who drive poorly. Now we know why American drivers are among the worst drivers in the world.

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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

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The Self-Perpetuating Vicious Cycle

By Dom Nozzi

Because it enables fast, long-distance travel (compared to walking, bicycling or transit use), and because it consumes so much space, car travel inevitably spreads out and disperses homes, offices, civic and cultural facilities, shops and jobs into sprawling, low-density patterns.

Car travel is a zero-sum game in which a car trip has a ripple effect on how people travel: Each car trip discourages others from walking, bicycling or using transit. Because car travel spreads homes, offices, shops and jobs to remote locations, it becomes significantly more difficult to walk, bicycle or use transit (due to the much larger distances that must now be traveled). Car travel also makes non-car travel less safe (due to the threat of being hit by a car).

This, of course, induces more people to travel by car. Very quickly, the roads are filled with car drivers, who quickly become angry with other drivers because the driver is leading a busy life, is late for something, and therefore needs to drive at high speeds to save time.

Unfortunately for quality of life and safety, the car allows the motorist to drive at high velocities, so the temptation to drive at excessive speeds is too irresistible for nearly all motorists, even for the safe, courteous, mild-mannered driver.

Over time, the incessant recruitment of more and more motorists (who were formerly bicycling, walking or using transit, but now find it too difficult or unsafe to do so) means that nearly all trips are by car.

The result is that roads and parking lots almost immediately become crowded with impatient and space-hogging car drivers. This creates enormous levels of road rage, because the growing millions of motorists are forced – because they are motorists — to have to slow down and get infuriated by the guy in front of him or her – a slowpoke who has the audacity to make a left turn too slowly, or to not drive at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. MOVE IT, YOU SLOW POKE!!!!!

Thus, nearly everyone ends up racing their car when they find openings on the road, to make up for the slow-downs, or rushing to beat others to grab that remaining parking space.

In these ways, car travel feeds on itself by continuously recruiting additional motorists who were not driving in the past. More people travel by car, more people lose their temper, more people lose their patience, and more people flee to sprawlsville because it is too unsafe and unpleasant to do otherwise.

Politically, this means that nearly everyone desperately wants billions of public dollars spent for road widenings and more free parking. That is, of course, when they don’t live in the neighborhood that is proposed for degradation by the widening or increased parking. Or when they won’t have to pay for higher gas taxes or tolls on their roads.

Such hot-tempered motorists, who are now stuck driving a car because all other forms of travel are impractical, are aghast when others call for traffic calming and other car management strategies to try to reverse the insanity. It becomes a growing, mad dash to foul the nest and ruin ourselves. We become our own worst enemy.

Elected officials and transportation directors often pride themselves by calling their actions to build wider roads or more free parking “far-sighted.” Or “rational.” Or “realistic.” Such motorist cheerleaders trot out a bunch of red herrings and straw men. “WE CANNOT GET RID OF CARS!” “WE CANNOT SOP GROWTH!” “WE CANNOT REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF CAR TRAVEL!”

And the cycle continues. What an awful legacy such small-minded non-leaders will be leaving us when they retire…

_________________________________________________

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, Transportation, Urban Design