Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Why it is exceedingly difficult to promote sustainable mobility in the United States of America

The headline on this Associated Press story says it all.

Before gasoline became a mere commodity, oil refinery and marketing companies spent a lot of money promoting their brand and products.

Because our economy is inextricably tied into oil production (as well as automobile manufacturing).

There is a great piece in Bloomberg Businessweek a few years back called "The Petro States of America," making this point.

In looking for the cite, I also came across this article, which drills down on the point a bit, "The U.S. has its own petro-states and petro-towns," Washington Post).

It discusses how states like Texas, Alaska, North Dakota and others are particularly dependent on tax revenues related to oil production.

Except for a few cities that have an urban design that prioritizes walking ("Transportation and Urban Form: Stages in the Spatial Evolution of the American Metropolis," Peter Muller) and therefore transit and biking too, combined with a continued focus on centralizing to some extent employment centers, mostly the land use and transportation planning paradigm in the US prioritizes automobility.

Adding walking, biking, and transit to that mix is difficult and it is incredibly difficult for it to be successful because most every other planning decision privileges automobility.

Expecting sustainable mobility to be competitive in such situations is a losing proposition.

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At 10:57 AM, Blogger mattxmal said...

I was just in Northern California, which seems like a bastion of sustainable mobility. But my impression on this visit was that convenience still trumps other considerations, and outside of Berkeley and downtown SF it was all cars, cars, and (electric) cars. Lots of bike lanes, but very few bikers, and despite the fair weather, very few people walking.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

when I did the plan in Baltimore County, I laid out a typology of different scales at which to plan, although I modified it since.

1. One mile radius from schools and bus stops.

2. Three mile radius from commercial districts and transit stations.

3. Along corridors (connecting town centers).

4. Between corridors (to connect them).

5. Countywide trails network.

6. Connections between jurisdictions (like between Baltimore City and Baltimore County).

29% of trips are one mile or less. Something like 64% of trips are 5 miles or less, and I don't remember the number 3 miles or less.

If we focused, at least initially on trips up to 3 miles, we could make a huge difference, and build from there.

But I also argue that we took 60 years to build a rich and deep system to support automobility. Not that we need the same length of time to do this for biking, but we need to be as purposive and purposeful in building a rich and deep system.

And we don't need to do it everywhere. If we focused on those places where the spatial and trip conditions support biking, like those places you mentioned, and places with similar conditions, that would make a huge difference.

Portland and Davis (although it has been supplanted somewhat), Minneapolis, Boulder, and other cities show how it can be done.

DC is doing ok, at the core. But we need to do much more...

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Actually, I think it's like 51% of trips are 3 miles or less.

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