By on May 25, 2012

Over dinner with our beloved Editor-At-Large two weeks ago, Ed and I discussed what we felt was the coming “post-car” era; rampant consolidation, the death of beloved brands and the subsequent widespread love for classic cars, the adoption of other forms of mobility and a fierce anti-car backlash. A nugget of information buried at the end of a Ward’s Auto report instantly brought all my fears and apprehension to the forefront, a mere fortnight after Ed and I concluded that things weren’t going to be that bad after all.

A crucial aspect of ensuring the future of any vehicle is an understanding between OEMs and city planners. An unwillingness to reform neighborhoods with charging stations, for example, is dovetailing with local pushes for bicycle riding and car-sharing.

“There will be no cars in the city of 2050 if the urban planners have their way,” IHS Automotive Senior Director Philip Gott tells attendees of the CTI forum.

To get the necessary context here, the Ward’s Auto article was primarily talking about the necessity of government intervention in the adoption of alt-fuel vehicles. But the notion of a carless city runs much deeper than that. There is a growing movement nowadays that sees the automobile not just as an inconvenience, but a societal menace. Some of it is rooted in environmental concerns, but a more nefarious form of this anti-car opposition is rooted on dubious social justice initiatives.

A few years ago, there was a famous case where Ontario’s Attorney-General, Michael Bryant, was attacked by a drunk cyclist while driving his Saab convertible at a busy downtown Toronto intersection. Bryant, who was out with his wife, driving with the roof down, panicked and drove off, with the cyclist clinging to the car. The Saab collided with a solid object and the cyclist died. Bryant was absolved of any criminal charges in the case, but his political career was over.

The uproar over the case was palpable in a city where cyclists and motorists are frequently at odds. But what began cropping up was a new form of criticism. One letter writer to NOW magazine, a Toronto alternative weekly, has forever stood out in my mind, with the commenter blasting Bryant and the automobile as being some kind of hierarchical, top-down individualistic mode of transportation (I couldn’t find the letter, so this is paraphrasing) while praising the bicycle as a grassroots form of transportation that is accessible to all.

The above quote suggests that opposition to cars has moved beyond mere environmental concerns into something more ideological. As a downtown resident, I can understand the desire for less smog, less traffic congestion and more pedestrian friendly streets and public spaces. These are what ultimately created the vibrant, bustling urban cores and livable communities (pardon me – I hate that word, but it really is appropriate) that make cities great. I feel that public transit is also a necessary ingredient to this mixture, having seen first hand the nightmare that comes with inadequate infrastructure and a sub-par public transit system.

If urban planners are attempting to eradicate the car from our cities, then they are simply refusing to meet reality on realities terms. Despite the best wishes of public-transit advocates, utopian cyclists and their distant cousins, the general crackpots that infest the world’s great cities, the car isn’t going anywhere. Only Copenhagen has managed to fully embrace cycling, specifically because it’s built for it. A recent trip to New York City saw my girlfriend and I walk and take the subway nearly everywhere. It was fast, efficient, emissions free and yet cars were everywhere. Livery-service Town Cars, yellow Crown Vic taxis, motorcycles, luxury SUVs and even supercars all shared the road in Manhattan, where owning a car is apparently both passé  and a pain in the ass.

I don’t think it would be fair to blame our current crop of urban planners. If anything, the faculty, doubtlessly hailing from the Boomer generation and desperately clinging on the outdated, asinine “critical” theories and “radical” dogma are likely spurring something as, well, vindictive as banning EV charging stations. I agree that a more walkable and transit-accessible city is always a good thing, but that should have no bearing on the presence of the automobile. My experiences with EVs have all been positive, and having a charging station near my office makes things a lot easier – but my neighborhood at home was built before WWII, when garages and outdoor electrical outlets weren’t commonplace. A community initiative to install EV chargers for example, would save me from having to run a 30 foot cord from my driveway to my dryer outlet in the basement.

We’ve seen time and time again how these kinds of social engineering initiatives pan out. The bigger worry is that the opposition to the automobile has crystallized into something more visceral, more ideological and more rigid. It’s in danger of becoming a moral stance akin to one’s position on abortion or same-sex marriage. Fortunately, all it would take up here is a miserable winter of carrying home local produce from the Farmer’s Market on a bicycle and no taxi access to the downtown core to make a number of anti-car types reconsider their choices.

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114 Comments on “Are Urban Planners Keeping EVs – And The Automobile – Out Of The Cities Of Our Future?...”


  • avatar
    28-cars-later

    I doubt this trend will catch on, most cities are not designed for pedestrian traffic or public transit, the latter being a complete afterthought. I could see ‘new’ cities springing aimed at less congestion with efficient subway/elevated transport, but no changes to the old. Think about it, does it make more sense to redesign a city for pedestrian/bike/public transit, or does it make more sense to redesign the conveyance used in the city to better meet its goals? The answer to that question I believe was the Toyota hybrid design, and I personally see this as the future of the automobile barring some sort of amazing new battery technology or hydrogen based engine.

    • 0 avatar
      ciddyguy

      Not so fast 28cars,

      I live in a transit friendly city, and a relatively bike friendly city that is also jammed packed with cars.

      Where I live, we are boring tunnels under the city and elevated railways where it’s more cost effective to do so for light rail. In either 2014 or 2015, there will be a transit station in my neighborhood and while I don’t currently live near by it, I can take the bus up to it and transfer to the light rail to either downtown or into the U district to the north.

      Yes, traffic is bad and it does affect buses at times, but it will affect buses in inclement weather, traffic backups on the freeway between cities during rush hour etc.

      I don’t see the Toyota being any better or worse when it comes to traffic congestion, outside of reduced emissions, but that’s it.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        As an urban planner myself, this is the truth. Partially anyways. There are a lot in the profession who are trying to redesign American cities into quaint European cities.

        However, there are even more, myself included, that want to design cities that give people the option of walking, biking, transit, and the automobile.

        In my opinion, the single best tool to allow for all of those options is the gridded street network. Similar to what you find in pre-WWII cities.

        Of course that requires sidewalks, and bike paths that are part of the original design and not an afterthought.

        Let’s face it, even if gas were to stay cheap, the more cars on the road, the more hassle it becomes to drive. And when one option becomes burdensome, people look for easier ones.

        Okay, so let’s cue someone who lives 100 miles away from their job and hear about how riding a bike to work would be impossible, as well as taking transit. And because of that, the mere thought of giving people mobility options will never work……

    • 0 avatar
      gogogodzilla

      “One letter writer to NOW magazine, a Toronto alternative weekly, has forever stood out in my mind, with the commenter blasting Bryant and the automobile as being some kind of hierarchical, top-down individualistic mode of transportation (I couldn’t find the letter, so this is paraphrasing) while praising the bicycle as a grassroots form of transportation that is accessible to all.”

      Take note of that. Individualism = evil. Collectivism = good.

      You are not welcome to follow your own hopes and dreams, only to follow the dreams of the masses… as dictated by those that tell you so.

      Frankly speaking, that is reprehensible in the extreme.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        Also as someone who can’t ride a bike I take exception to the assumption that the Bicycle is ‘accessible to all’.

        Wasn’t the car originally ‘accessible to all’ back in Henry Ford’s day? Why can’t it be like that again?

        Oh, right.. Emissions regulations, Safety regulations, protectionist dealership regulations all pushing out ‘cheep and cheerful’ in favor of ‘Bling-Bling-Bang’.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        You will be issued a permit to drive an A sized electric or compressed air powered car.. the SUV permits are reserved for government officials, powered by methane.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I think the ideal situation is for cars to give you freedom on the weekends, but not be a prison for 1-2 hours a day during the week. In other words, you shouldn’t need a car to get to work. It’s wasteful, it’s not enjoyable, and our infrastructure is already being stretched to its limits.

    Obviously that’s a bit of a pipe dream, but it can be made to work in more places than you’d think. Think of freeways the same way you think of commuter rail. You need a car to get from your house to the onramp, and you need some sort of vehicle to get from the offramp to your office. But the heart of the trip – the freeway portion – is where we’re being really inefficient by driving in the same direction on the same road, in thousands of individual cars. There’s got to be a way make that part of the trip more efficient. Light rail with big parking lots and rental pods for the trip to the office?

    I think gridlock will force us to build alternatives eventually, long before anything else does.

    • 0 avatar

      The classic “last mile” problem.

      I could’ve and would’ve taken the train for a previous 42 miles-each-way commute, but covering the last leg between the station and work through sprawlburbia killed the value proposition.

      Too far to walk, barely bike-able, and having a train station car was too expensive. A few of us in the business park tried to campaign for a carpool/bus pickup, but it never materialized due to liability concerns.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        Yeah, I’ve been there. I realize it doesn’t work right now, so I’m not telling anyone that they should start riding the train… but I think worsening traffic will lead to people doing something about it. I’m not sure what. It’s probably decades away.

        A different idea would be giant, multistory land ferries. They would be like a train driving on the freeway, stopping at major onramps and picking up cars that want to get on. They’d be able to go faster than rush hour traffic. That would make city cars good enough for most people, too.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Commuter rail isn’t like a freeway. Commuter rail is like driving a car without doors through a marginal neighborhood with lots of stop lights. I’d probably like public transportation, despite it’s slow speed, if the bus or train were full of super hot young single women. Unfortunately, the public that actually rides public transportation includes lots of people I pay money to avoid.

      Instead of putting money into public transit, I’d like to see more support for telecommuting. We could greatly reduce rush hour traffic if more people could work from home part of the time, occasionally driving to the office during off-peak hours.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        I’ve had that issue on buses, but commuter rail is full of… commuters. At least mine is. That isn’t always good – a lot of the programmers and IT guys smell – but I only run into the types of people you’re talking about outside of commute hours.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “Commuter” transit is definitely different than regular transit. It is supposed to be a direct, high speed trip from one place to another, not a multi-stop every place to every other place. They are very different animals. Not only the type of transit, but also the type of people.

        Unfortunately, my city doesn’t seem to understand that. We passed a massive rail package costing billions of dollars, but commuter rail routs (the things that rail actually works best for) won’t be installed until after I retire. But they’ll put in light rail where buses work better, and then cut the buses because they can’t afford both.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I disagree. I love driving to and from work. Espically on the days I break out the Miata. The Drive is great, it’s the being at work in between the 2 drives that sucks.

  • avatar
    Geeky1

    You know, I actually found myself thinking about something that’s probably the cause of movements like this on my way to work this morning. I’m too buried at work to have had time to really formulate any cogent thoughts on the matter (hopefully I’ll get back to it sometime this weekend), but I’ll throw the question out there for everyone else:

    When did we, as a society, decide that there has to be a moral value assigned to virtually everything that someone does-and further, that the sum total of the moral values of their actions must then determine their value as a person? What the hell happened to “live and let live”? Why can’t people (within reason, of course) just mind their own goddamned business?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      When?

      In the 1960s and 70s, when the progressives decided that traditional morals were optional, and the conservatives responded in ways that make it look like they’re legislating morality.

      But as you point out, assigning a moral value to amoral subjects is a progressive/liberal technique to force/guilt people into supporting that point of view. The crying Indian ad may be the start of this effort: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7OHG7tHrNM

      In reality, pollution has no moral component to it unless you invent one, and the easiest way to do this is to personify ‘Mother Earth’, which isn’t our mother and isn’t a person.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        I have no moral objection to the tiger that wants to eat me, just a pragmatic desire not to be eaten. Similarly, sane people have a pragmatic desire to avoid a climate catastrophe. “Arguments” like the one you just presented are emotional, rhetorical techniques for trying to avoid the need to face reality.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @supersleuth: Climate catastrophe isn’t reality, and I feel no obligation – moral or otherwise – to deal with it. I’m afraid you’ve been duped by those who have assigned a moral imperative to an invented threat.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Aren’t we born of the Earth. From her water, and minerals, and abundant fruits, nuts, meat, all of which comes from the Earth. If the Earth is not our mother, from where we come, who or what is?

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @Dynasty:

        Yes, we share molecular commonality with the Earth, but molecules do not constitute Life. Once you assign human qualities to the Earth, then the Earth is owed human rights.

        It amuses/saddens me how tree huggers typically want to call the Earth “Mother”, yet deny that an unborn baby is human or even living.

        But back on topic: The liberals need to square their utopian EV aspirations with providing the infrastructure for them. If the infrastructure is to be left to market dynamics, then EV subsidies should be stopped immediately.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynasty

        Perhaps molecules by themselves do not constitute life. But the Earth is pretty much alive.. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here. And should be respected as such.

        Aborted unwanted unborn babies save the rest of society a lot of hassle and money… Whether that is what you want to hear or not. However, we can always build more prisons and halfway houses.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      “We” didn’t decide this. The moralistic impulse seems to be hard-wired in our brains. Ironically, considering that most of them are militantly atheistic, these folks use religion’s ultimate conversation and thought stopper: it’s immoral! At that point, debate ends.
      For example, take bicycles. I like cycling. I have done it for 45 years, and until I took up rowing again, used to ride 20-25 miles a day. But, let’s face it, even without cars, cycling as transportation is, as they say, “sub-optimal.” First, it’s something of a pain in the ass to do when temperatures approach freezing (or below) or exceed 85 degree, not to mention when it rains or snows. And most people can’t show up for work sweaty or dripping wet. Secondly, other than on flat ground, it’s beyond most people’s physical abilities: fine for Kansas City, not so fine for San Francisco or Seattle.

      Once a certain population density is achieved, cars do not make sense; mass transit does. Most motor vehicles one sees in Manhattan are either cabs, limos, buses or various forms of delivery vehicles. The fastest way to get around Manhattan is on the subway. Everybody knows that. The unstated question is whether people would prefer to live in that kind of density, and the reason that question is unstated is that we already know the answer: no. It was an accident that the dense urban cores of every pre-WWII major US city were not replicated in postwar cities, like Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, etc.

      The urban planners and other know-it-alls subscribe to the “false consciousness” theory to explain this phenomenon: people just don’t know what’s good for them. Or they say that legal incentives favored suburbanization, without asking where those legal incentives came from.

      But even if we buy the elites’ false consciousness theory, that begs the question: by what right do they have the authority to dictate the circumstances under which other people want to live?

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        That’s why it’s so expensive to live in Manhattan, or San Francisco- because people don’t want to live there? I call this the “Yogi Berra argument”- nobody goes to that place anymore, it’s too crowded.

        (And deliberate national policy choices, and a dense network of subsidies, lie behind the automobile-centric nature of the newer cities.)

      • 0 avatar
        EquipmentJunkie

        Great points. I believe that urban planners have completely disregarded the laziness of the average American. I have a friend who is a self-described New Urbanist. He generally talks the talk and walks the walk. However, about a year ago, he asked me for a lift home from the local brewpub that we frequent. He preferred to be driven home instead of walking the 10 minutes home. I obliged him the comfort and didn’t mention a thing…I’ll just bring it up some time when he gets on a I-know-better-than-you anti-auto high horse.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Actually, I can’t remember if I read it or heard it recently, like in the last week or two, San Francisco is one of the top bicycling cities around, despite the hills, NY is another bike friendly city, and one way they do this is use parked cars as a buffer between the automotive traffic and cyclers and pedestrians.

        Even Seattle rates up there as a cycle friendly city, though it, too, like SF is quite hilly.

  • avatar
    multicam

    The automobile isn’t going anywhere, as much as those who worship at the altar of Environmentalism would like it to.

    Geeky: that happens when people think they know what’s best for others better than they do and the only way to justify forcing their viewpoint on others is to make it a moral issue and label the person a sinner.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    In North America – particularly the States – you’ll take the car from our cold, dead hands. In American DNA, the car = freedom.

    As much as I’m a fan of EVs, their short range and difficulty ‘refilling’ challenges our sense of freedom with the automobile.

    In a way, I don’t blame urban planners for banning EV charging posts, since they are more intrusive to have than central gas stations.

    • 0 avatar
      carlisimo

      I feel a lot more free now that I can take the train to work. My car is now for going places on nights and weekends, so I can have a noisy and bumpy sports car with a manual transmission without any feeling of compromise. It’s great.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    We simply need more cities that’re set up like they used to be, with plenty buisnesses within walking distance of homes.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      I agree, it was the suburban dream of the postwar era that led us out of the cities.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that helps the problem, but it also assumes people would prefer to live in an urban environment.

      Given the option, many (myself included) will choose a freestanding house with a yard and garage over anything with shared walls (let alone floors/ceilings.

      • 0 avatar
        supersleuth

        Are you aware that city != Manhattan? There are many cities, large and small, that have large numbers of such houses within walking distance of plenty of businesses. I live in such a house. It’s a great way to live.

    • 0 avatar
      supersleuth

      Though I’m stuck with a long highway commute for now, my everyday need to drive will be minimized once I retire (in 9 years of so) because I now live within walking distance of a very viable small-city downtown (Medina, OH), and of two supermarkets just a short additional walk from that downtown. It’s really a very pleasant, and healthy, way to live.

  • avatar
    V572625694

    The number of instances in which “urban planners have their way” is very close to zero. For every dumb land use decision you see (leap-frog exurban development, super-blocks breaking up the street grid to suit some developer’s whim, freeways slicing and dicing neighborhoods to whiz suburbanites out to their 1/4-acre McMansions) there was some urban planner saying, “This is a terrible thing to do.”

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      I think you’re right.

      What seems to talk today is the collusion between big businesses and local politicians with their hand on/in the public till.

      Pittsburgh – near where I live – has built THREE major sports arenas over the last twelve years (PNC Park, Heinz Field, and Consol Energy Center) using lots of public financing for three professional sports teams in a medium-to-small market. Public financing of the first two was rejected by an 11-county-wide vote back then, only to have the state overturn that decision. Notably, each team openly threatened to leave the area without such support.

      In reality, ‘urban planners’ are the big shots in business and politics working together for their own interests, not professional city designers looking at street grids and utilities.

      If a business wants to support its view of employees commuting via EVs, then I’m certain they can prevail upon the local authorities to pay for it with public funds, since the threat of that business leaving is always present.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        I too hail from Yinzer City USA and the way the stadiums were handled was total BS. The Steelers were/are a billion dollar organization who demanded the 30 year old Three Rivers be torn down and after the public voted against it twice as noted were political connections used to build Heinz Field. Both the Pirates and Steelers were threatening to leave, although I doubt the Rooneys (who control the Steelers) would have actually done it. I wish the Pirates had left because they haven’t had a serious team in over twenty years, and did not deserve a new big money baseball stadium (although at least they did build a nice one), esp since they could have just had hand me down Three Rivers and built a new football stadium elsewhere.

        What were we talking about again? :)

        Oh urban planning, yes Pittsburgh is a fine example of a lack of it. Everything planning wise is so bureaucratic its ridiculous. Biggest ‘highways’ you’ll find have two lanes in either direction and are usually parking lots most daylight hours, the majority of roads are two lane in both directions. Many, many stoplights, most of which are on separate timers so it takes you twenty minutes to go a mile or two (but maybe this is everywhere else too I don’t know). Public transit is virtually non-existent save thirty bus routes and light rail which only flows to the southern section of the county, oh and the transit dept has been going consistently bankrupt for at least the last ten years demanding more money. The geography is challenging as much of the landscape is steep and the roads are very poorly maintained. Because of the rivers there are many bridges to choose from but many of them are in a state of decay and connecting areas which no longer have much of a population. Those who live here do like it, it’s not a bad place overall but every other medium or large size city (Miami, Boston, Columbus) I have visited has an effective highway infrastructure which allowed me to get from A to B relatively quickly. I remember when I was in Columbus on business I was able to get from the city’s west side near OSU’s campus to downtown in about ten minutes which was probably a distance of 5-10 miles with ease. There’s no easy comparison in Pittsburgh, maybe think Churchill to Downtown, try doing that at 6 Pm on a weekday.

        Personally I’m in favor of light rail as a public transit medium, esp in favor over buses (which ironically Pittsburgh used to have until the late 60s). If a city invests wisely in rail, areas which it connects will grow and property values (and property taxes) will rise in said areas. I liked what carlisimo said in an earlier post about liking rail and being able to save his sports car for the weekend. I would very much like that lifestyle myself, but it would require a major investment.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        LOL…How much does that stadium the Pirates play in cost per Pirates win? I doubt the NFL would have allowed the Steelers to relocate. The Penguins, who knows but with NHL expansion and movement you could have gotten a new team in a few years. Hell Atlanta is the breeding ground for other cities hockey teams (Your welcome Calgary and Winnepeg). The Pirates?! Who the hell wants the damn Pirates and who would care if they left. I’d love to hear that pitch:

        “Yes Mr. city planner, I know that we the ownership have done nothing over the past 2 decades to put a winning, let alone competitive team on the field for your city and serve as a constant source of embarassment to the fine citizens of Pittsburgh and that if they ever make another Major League movie it will revolve around us, not the Indians, but we demand a new stadium or we are going to take our team to another city and embarass them.”

      • 0 avatar
        V572625694

        http://www.theonion.com/articles/wrigley-field-supporters-propose-tearing-down-rest,28329/

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        As a resident of an inner ring Detroit suburb, I wish our “urban planners” were as good as the ones in Pittsburgh. Our light rail project, which would be very close to my house, is forever stuck in planning mode. Population continues to shift away from economic and employment centers, making that light rail less ideal.

        The city I live in is only 1.5 square miles, but has 2700 homes. Most are on smaller lots and are between 1200-2000 sq ft. Because of the amenities, walkablility (for SE Michigan), community services, and schools, home prices exceed those of the outer ring, McMansion suburbs. Unfortunetly, communities like this, which is basically an extension of single family urban neighborhoods, are an exception to current trends.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    The Ward’s article makes the CTI forum sounds like a pitch for increased incentives for alternative vehicles, more than anything else.

    The takeaway seems to be that the OEM argument is as follows: If the government wants us to sell alt-fuel vehicles, then government is going to need to create the market.

    Decode that, and what you have is a warning shot at CARB. The industry is telling them that the ZEV standard is going to fail, so don’t blame the industry when it does because we told you so.

    “The bigger worry is that the opposition to the automobile has crystallized into something more visceral, more ideological and more rigid”

    This is a pretty small group of people with limited influence. I don’t see bike messengers changing the course of human events.

    The main threat to the car is the nature of the car. Cars take up too much space to be cost-effective or useful in high-density urban environments. People who like their cars for the sake of it will either have to be wealthy enough to pay the costs of parking and congestion, or else live in lower-density environments where the space isn’t an issue.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Not only is the car not going away. With the new breed of robotic-driven cars (like the one Google just demonstrated in Nevada)- I believe the car will be even more over-utilized in the future. Once people are freed from the annoyance of having to suffer through traffic jams (you can be surfing the web or napping while your car is inching through traffic) and scrounging for parking, they will want to use their cars more, not less. Let’s face it- people like comfort and convenience. Nothing beats the comfort and convenience of a car that takes you wherever you want to go without you having to drive it even.

    That is the future. It’s the mass transit planners who have to start sweating.

    • 0 avatar

      Though, one could make the case that automated “private” transport might converge with mass transit.

      (as long as we’re playing futurist…)
      There’s not too big a gap between an automated car that takes you from car to parking lot and an automated car/pod that joins up to the automotive equivalent of an airport moving walkway.

      Basically your pod solves the first/last mile problem, but the majority of the distance is covered by a shared propulsion mechanism.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Am I understanding correctly that we should oppose “social engineers” who try to eradicate cars from our streets, but lobby for “government intervention” to install EV charging stations?

    Not sure I see the difference.

  • avatar

    Ironically, the ability of the working/immigrant poor to get licenses and own cars is a major social issue in California (LA in particular). Hence the licenses for undocumented immigrants fiasco of a few years ago.

    Also ironically, the same hard-left contingent takes it upon themselves to lobby for the needs of the poor when it comes to public transit priorities. Development projects to solve the commuting needs of the middle 50% are dismissed as evil/unnecessary. The net result are systems that operate at a loss as a form of inner-city transportation welfare.

    …which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but would be more tenable if it were declared as such.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      Like it or not, there has to be technology out there that can get people from Point A to Point B that is A.Not a bicycle, B.Will not eat away at the income of working-class people via gas and repair costs and C. Will not have an adverse effect on the environment.

      If buying a Prius or EV works for some people, then WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? Sounds to me like some people on here have been drinking too much of the Left-Right kool-aid.

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    We live in a world where Michael Bryant encounters unfortunate episodes. We also live in a word where Michael McKean encounters unfortunate episodes. Both incidents contradict one another when it comes to the political ramifications of what is appropriate for cars interactions with non-cars.

    A car service and urban transit is important in lower Manhattan, considerably less so in BFE, Kansas, but every place in the US (or world for that matter) is better off (constantly) balancing the needs and limitations of motor vehicles. The choice isn’t only strip malls vs high-rise condos, there are shades of grey.

    I’m getting tired of the commmie urban planner college professor straw man. Both urban planners I know: work for private companies, have small families, care deeply about what they do; one of which is fairly conservative politically, and the other is essentially nonpolitical. “If urban planners, who are likely working hard for their Masters degrees in the Marxist-infused ivory towers of our North American college campuses, are attempting to eradicate the car from our cities, then they are simply refusing to meet reality on realities terms.” is the laziest, worst-written, sentence I’ve read this week.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    Der er mange biler i København og mange cykler.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    As hard as it is to be a brain dead environmentalist in the United States, it must be exponentially harder to be one in Canada. In California, idiots can spout gibberish about cars and bicycles, but they don’t have to deal with four months a year when only a mad man would try to ride a bicycle outdoors.

    First: Urban planners will not get their way in the United States. We like our cars and we will continue to own and drive them.

    Second: Battery Powered Electric Vehicles are not a technology of the future, they are a technology of the past. BEVs lost out to liquid hydrocarbon powered vehicles which were far less sophisticated and developed than the ones now available today. At the time they lost out, BEVs had an enormous advantage over LHVs in terms of their simplicity of construction and operation, an advantage they retain. Nonetheless, the inherent disadvantages of the BEV have not changed over the last 80 years. Because those disadvantages they are rooted in the laws of chemistry and physics, they will not be overcome nor will they disappear, and it does not make any difference how many billions of dollars (either country) you waste on research.

    third: There is no third, you are chasing phantoms and looking for ghosts. Stop wasting your time.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Preach it, brother.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      It must be pretty hard to be a brain dead conservative and be happy with the state of things.

      This is NOT the 1950s. We can’t continue to foolishly waste resources in pursuit of the greenbacks because the environment will not support it any longer.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        “We can’t continue to foolishly waste resources in pursuit of the greenbacks because the environment will not support it any longer.”

        I heard that in the early 70s, when the Pittsburgh sky was orange and the air unbreathable. Things are much better today, as they are in every American city.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Greatest piece on TTAC – ever.

    And I hate eco-weenie hippies. They’ll take the keys from my LS powered car from my cold dead hand.

    Some social justice you shouldn’t have more than me moronic eco-weenie hippie can look my 81 year old disabled mother in the eyes and tell her she needs to ride a bike to go to the feckin’ store.

    Ya, social justice – unless you’re disabled, elderly, have small children, need to carry cargo…oh wait – that’s right. At its core the idiotic hippies driving this charge (no pun intended) want social justice for THEM.

    Not my fault your a double major Greco-Roman Art Major with a minor in English and the last job you had included lines like, “would you like whipped cream with your latte.”

  • avatar
    FordTempoEnthusiast

    So be it. People will be forced to take the train, which I totally advocate.

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Train – what’s that?

      The entire city of Pittsburgh has ONE 26-mile light rail/subway, and ONE Amtrak (government subsidized) station, serving a city population of 300k and a metro population of 2.3 million.

      Take a look at the shrinking city population and fleeing businesses, combined with vexing geography, and trains are totally unviable in this city and much of the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Gannet

      “People will be forced to take the train”? Hmm, where have I heard that before?

      I’d rather have a world where people don’t force each other to do things, either directly or through surrogates like government.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        That world will eventually implode as it becomes a race to the bottom for those who hold the keys to all of the resources, etc.

        I don’t want to live in that world.

        No one is forcing you to do anything. Simply avoid those cities if it bothers you so much.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        @car_guy2010:

        Please don’t be duped by that 1 percenter nonsense, embracing a victim mentality.

        The world is not going to implode. I’ve been hearing that since grade school in the 1970s, and it’s a lie. People’s infinite creativity is on hand to solve the misery they face – whether it’s a matter of resources or bad politics.

        You can’t solve problems effectively through government fiat, and taking away people’s freedoms. THAT’s the world I don’t want to live in.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Hmmm…what I wouldn’t give to have an SS 396 1969 Chevelle right now!

    Eat my dust, you hippies!

    That’s the way I felt 40 years ago in the air force, tooling around in my 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible!

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Urban planners don’t create vibrant urban communities. The best ones were created by the people who lived and worked there, independently of planners, land use restrictions and zoning commissions. Those three combine to create yuppievilles of tiny living spaces, expensive boutiques and neighborhoods hostile to children and the elderly, all hemmed in by rules and covenants that make condo association rulemaking seem like the wild west. At it’s heart the efforts of urban planners, zoning commissions and land use regulations are nothing more than too much government controlled by people who want to tell others how to live.

  • avatar
    thesal

    I think the city planners are onto something. If a place is designed with more subway/underground walking paths and regular street cars, weather becomes a non issue.

    Unfortunately, I NEED a car to get to work or buy groceries. If this wasn’t the case, I could finally get a car I really realy want…and just use it on the weekends to drive to, on and from the track :-). Sadly, I doubt this will ever be a reality.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Cars and trucks are a waste of the worlds resources. Try pushing your car to work one day to know how much dead mass we are driving around.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      What are you doing here on TTAC, then?

      Right now, cars are what we have, too often a necessary evil as things currently stand, but if a car is a necessity in many areas, and those of us who like cars, we at least want to drive something we enjoy if we can aford it.

      Me? Yes, I’d like a car strictly for pleasure, something very nice of my choosing.

      • 0 avatar
        Scott_314

        I’m here because I like cars, particularly driving light sedans fast on empty roads. Being on TTAC doesn’t mean we are blind to the problem of millions of people spending hours stuck in traffic in 3-4 ton cars, accelerating by burning gas only to waste all that energy by turning it into heat (braking) three seconds later.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        The funny thing is that both of my vehicles (a car and my motorcycle) are used almost exclusively for pleasure. So despite what you say, it is possible to be both a car nut and live and function in an urban environment (Manhattan) without a car.

        I fully understand that there aren’t a lot of places in the US where this is possible. But I think we would do a better job of actually discussing and dealing with the issues without the polarized viewpoints that are so de rigeur these days.

        Urban planning? Yes it’s true that the command mentality often gets it wrong. But some of our best, most livable cities all benefitted from urban planning. Dewitt Clinton laid the grid structure on New York City, L’Enfant made Washington DC what it is and I’ll be that no matter what city one might happen to live in has benefitted from urban planning.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        Maybe he also likes cars but dislikes the pollution that they create?

        You know, we can have our cars AND save the environment at the same time. It’s a matter of squeezing as much efficiency out of the internal combustion engine as possible.

        Me? I prefer older gas-guzzling cars over many of the newer models simply because they are time capsules of the eras that they represent. I just don’t have the same desire for a 2012 model that I have for cars from the 60s, 70s and early 80s.

    • 0 avatar

      Try to push a bus or a subway carriage. That’s where the real waste is.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Yes, because a bus that runs with three people on board for 12 hours a day, and leaves people stranded waiting for the next overloaded bus 3 hours out of the day is soooooooooooooooooooo much more efficient.

  • avatar

    “One letter writer to NOW magazine, a Toronto alternative weekly, has forever stood out in my mind, with the commenter blasting Bryant and the automobile as being some kind of hierarchical, top-down individualistic mode of transportation (I couldn’t find the letter, so this is paraphrasing) while praising the bicycle as a grassroots form of transportation that is accessible to all.”

    Unless you’re old, sick, handicapped or pressed for time. I say that as someone who has ridden maybe 40,000 miles on a bike.

  • avatar

    When I read sentences containing phrases like “the necessity of government intervention in the adoption of alt-fuel vehicles”,
    when I read sentences like “sane people have a pragmatic desire to avoid a climate catastrophe”
    when I read “and deliberate national policy choices, and a dense network of subsidies, lie behind the automobile-centric nature of the newer cities”
    then I know that I am among the restless, although brainless saviors of the world.
    As usual, there is the tendency to believe that government needs to save us from our own follies, and that the government is able to do so in a rational, cost-efficient manner.
    Just a reminder for those proud saviors:
    - The ICE engine never needed any government intervention to make its way, worldwide (any conspiracy ideas here?)
    - Of course, governments reacted in the course of time and build some roads, after that (otherwise, we would have another great source of conspiracy theories, as, e.g., that government tried to protect horse-drawn carriages, although New York would have drowned in horse-shit mid-1920, according to some contemporary environmentalists)
    - Public transport facilities in big cities never ever did it without massive government investment and always needed some additional funding to pay their bills.
    - As usual, trucks and transportation issues are completely left out.

    BTW: There are no “urban planners” and there is no “urban planning” anymore. That’s just an illusion. Look, what they have built during the last 30 years in your favorite (big) city and decide if you can/want to live there.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “Public transport facilities in big cities never ever did it without massive government investment and always needed some additional funding to pay their bills”

      I’m willing to bet that the road in front of your house cost money to build and maintain, and doesn’t produce a penny in cash flow.

      “The ICE engine never needed any government intervention to make its way, worldwide”

      Sure it did. Without roads, cars have limited functionality.

      • 0 avatar
        28-cars-later

        You could make the argument roads in general produce commerce which produce cash flow for society at large, but I concede the point most roads aren’t producing much commerce or income.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure, cars without roads are not so useful. But one of the charms of the automotive idea was that they were able to use the existing infrastructure. May I remind you that (well-maintained) roads have existed well over 2,000 years before the car was invented (c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appian_Way).

        May I also remind you that at the beginning of the automotive area you had an ample choice of engines? There was a selection of steam-powered, E-powered, ICE-powered engines, even a hybrid (Porsches first job for Lohner, c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohner-Porsche) was available.

        Did any government at this time even attempted to talk people into cars with a specific engine?

        Why, in your opinion, would we need governmental intervention now?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “But one of the charms of the automotive idea was that they were able to use the existing infrastructure.”

        Of course, I had forgotten that the US highway and Interstate systems were built prior to the Civil War.

      • 0 avatar
        WildcatMatt

        I thought everybody knew that in 1864, Gen. Sherman rode into Atlanta on I-75, riding in a tank?

  • avatar
    Glen.H

    I’m sorry to be the one to say this, but this is a load of old B.S. You know those buff books and websites derided here? This is the same old alarmist stuff they have been kicking around for forty years. In fact it’s this sort article, that used to be the province of old dinosaurs like Brock Yates and P.J. O’Rourke, that stops me from taking most motor journalism seriously. “Marxist ivory towers”? That is just kind of sad, what are you going to use next? “Capitalist running dogs”? “Trotskyite roaders”. Hey, how about “Political Correctness”- that’s always a good substitute critical thought in motor journalism! This banning cars in the city stuff-not going to happen. The massive infrastructure changes needed will not be funded, either publicly or privately in the U.S of today. If you guys can’t maintain your existing infrastructure adequately now, how can you build this EV charging system?

  • avatar

    It is important to be a consciencious consumer. Think globally, act locally. For example, I stopped patronizing Livermore, CA, when they narrowed the main street and re-routed highway 84 enough to make it useless. This sort of urban revnewal activity has to be boycotted hard.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    “The ICE engine never needed any government intervention to make its way, worldwide”

    Ah yes, the gas fairy. Gas appears in our tank every morning while we were sleeping.

    Are you perhaps forgetting the people who study the earth and ocean floors looking for oil? forgetting the people who drill for the oil? forgetting the people who build the pumps to suck the oil out? and the pumps for pushing it through the pipe lines to harbors and then refineries? the people who build the refineries? the people who end up suffering because there is a refinery in their neighborhood? then there are the drivers who deliver the refined products to the stations, companies, and airports where it is needed? the people who built the holding tanks and pumps to get the gas to our tanks?

    Oh, I almost forgot, where was the government in all this? Didn’t we just spend a few trillion and 3,000 lives to protect oil rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from a few of their nasty neighbors*.

    Ah, but it is so much easier to believe in the gas fairy.

    *Let’s not forget that it was our tax money that built the universities that trained the geologists. It was our tax money that built the harbors, it was our tax money that condemned the land so that pipe lines & refineries could be built, it was our tax money that trained the civil engineers and built the roads so that white people could escape the cities where the black people lived.

    Do you still believe in the gas fairy?

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Pop quiz.

      What country is the number one trade partner with the United States for oil? Saudi Arabia? Kuwait? Iraq?

      How about Canada.

      OK, who is number two then Mr. Smarty Pants? Saudi Arabia? Yemen? Kuwait?

      How about Mexico.

      As a matter of fact, 65% of what we import comes from those two countries. The idea that we are “dependent” on Middle East crude is borderline on myth now. We have reduced consumption as a nation steadily for almost a decade. We are not only a net exporter of refined petroleum products, it is now the United States number one export.

      Yes, you read that right. We are exporting, and its our number one export, and we are a net exporter (more going out than going in) of gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation fuel. The buyers are South America and China who are willing to pay more.

      So if you’re going to pontificate about Middle Eastern dependence, and gasoline fairies – at least have some of your facts right.

      Oh and my black, Indian (dots not feathers), Asian, and one Native American neighbors on my street will find your “white people escaping the black people of the cities” comment absolutely laughable. I didn’t know their ain’t no black folk livin’ the burbs – but I guess you are indoctrinated into the big lie. Last I checked, there was a black man with his black wife and his two black kids living in the nicest house in America – that race card is totally played out and it is utterly shameful of you to play it.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “How about Canada.”

        You’re completely missing the point. Oil is a fungible product. The specific place from which a given of barrel of oil is produced is irrelevant; the overall demand will support the price that helps to enrich the Saudis, etc.

        “we are a net exporter (more going out than going in) of gasoline, diesel fuel and aviation fuel.”

        Again, you completely miss the point. You are confusing exports of refined products with import dependency.

        The US produces about 10% of the world’s oil, and uses about 20% of it. The US could not possibly increase production enough to fulfill domestic demand on its own. And as we’ve covered, the US appetite for oil helps the Saudis and the rest, even when we’re buying it from the Canadians.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @PCH101

        And you miss the point. For every single drop we stop using, the Chinese and Indians will happily buy up with no qualms about it funding Saudi princes.

        But I guess we can sleep well at night in our green utopia while the, ehem, “bad guys” remain funded.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “For every single drop we stop using, the Chinese and Indians will happily buy up with no qualms about it funding Saudi princes.”

        It’s pretty obvious that you didn’t bother to look at one whit of data prior to making that comment.

        The US consumes more than twice as much oil as does China, even though the US has less than one-quarter of China’s population.

        Likewise, the US has one-quarter of India’s population, but consumes six times as much oil.

        Crunch those numbers, and it’s pretty obvious that the US consumes far more oil per capita than either of them. India and China don’t consume oil at a rate that is anywhere close to what the US consumes.

        The US consumes a disproportionate amount of the world’s oil compared to its population. India and China do not. If the US reduced its consumption, then at current rates, neither China nor India would increase their consumption by like amounts. Both of them would have to dramatically alter their consumption patterns in order for that to happen. Your assertion to the contrary doesn’t make any sense.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @Pch101

        Are you really trying to be that obtuse in a failed attempt to make a point?

        Who has the largest car economy in the world today? What country is adding 4 million citizens each month to their ranks of the middle class? What do all those cars run on? Magical unicorn pee? Then what about all the massive commercial airliners orders China has put into place (and what do they run on). Expansion and modernization of their military, and extending their military foot print (and what does that hardware run on). Never mind (not related to oil but certainly related to growth) all of the coal burning plants and hydro projects they are building to completely electrify their nation. So where are they going to be buying their magical unicorn pee to feed all this growth for 1.2 billion people.

        No.

        Gasoline and diesel. From crude oil.

        Who snapped up many of the Iraqi oil contracts? Why China – gee I wonder why China is buying up the rights for oil exploration and distribution. Why are they practically shoot at each over in the South China Sea, putting soldiers on rocks (literally) that spend 1/2 their time under water so they can claim “territorial” rights from Vietnam to drill for oil.

        And how fast is China’s GDP growing? Where do you think they will be in 25 years.

        Seriously – your point is beyond obtuse to compare to the “today” at a nation that has had shrinking consumption for seven years and moving further and further toward dependence to a country with 1.2 billion people with a “B” that considers 8% annualized GDP growth an “economic slow down.”

        You really think 20 years from that China will still be consuming that much less than the United States – have you priced out concrete or rebar lately, or structural steel? Oh, there is a shortage globally of all of the above because the Chinese are buying every bag and piece they can get their hands on.

        Seriously – are you really trying to be THAT obtuse?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If you can’t figure out that US consumption rates are well above those of China and India, then you’re pretty much beyond help and doomed to remain ignorant.

        The US uses a disproportionate share of energy on a per capita basis, and certainly more than we can produce for ourselves. These are simple facts. You can stick your head in the sand all you like, but don’t pretend that you have a clue of what you’re talking about.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        @Pch101

        You have a serious reading comprehension issue. Let me requote what I wrote…

        “…You really think 20 years from now that China will still be consuming that much less than the United States…”

        Funny how you keep coming back to TODAY – and ignore almost every single economist on this planet that says that China, in our lifetime, will become the biggest power in terms of real GDP and consumption of resources. My head is in the sand? Well the view is certainly better in the sand then where you’ve got your head.

        I never said TODAY – but hey – keeping putting words into my electrons. It’s right there, requoted for you.

        China doesn’t give a crap about mother earth. They give a crap about become a world super power with a bustling middle class at almost any cost – and they are destroying their own country to get there. But again, we can curl up in our little ball, and tell ourselves that the 310 million of us will make a difference in 20 years to the 1.2 billion of them – and their growth – and their consumption. And that doesn’t even count the one billion Indians and their economic development and where they will be at in 20 years.

    • 0 avatar

      No need for fairies. No “gas fairy”, no “steam fairy”, no “electricity fairy”. BTW: I’m not the “believer” type.

      It is simply so, that over the last 100 years the car as a concept and means for being able to transport people or goods whenever you need or want to do so proved to be convincing for the majority of people worldwide. Nothing has changed.

      Then we have the question of drivetrain. Why do you think that the ICE engine is the drive of choice now? By government intervention? By a conspiracy between government and car & oil companies?

      As I cannot remember any sound government decision on any technology (whether relating to light bulbs or cars) I wonder what your hopes on government intervention are.

      Buy your E-car and be happy but don’t try to force others who cannot use such via government regulations, because you personally feel inclined or forced to save those pretty robust polar bears, or even the whole earth by banning or hindering individual traffic and transport, without having a better idea to solve the transportation problems.

      Why would you hope for government intervention

  • avatar

    There were progressive car-free societies like Soviet Union and East Germany. Progressive societies, or call it utopia, are not stable – they quickly collapse at first opportunity. Now former SU states went from only few ones owning cars to everyone owning car. American intelligentsia a.k.a Marxists a.k.a. liberals a.k.a occupiers a.k.a. environmentalists do not recognize what is true human nature. Founding fathers knew it very well and built system that lasted almost 300 years (assuming that US will collapse in coming decades when interest rates on national dept rises). Progressives if they take power will build society that will last at most 30 years if not less. But truth is they will never succeed because when it comes to their own conveniences they behave not much differently than 1%.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “There were progressive car-free societies like Soviet Union and East Germany.”

      The Nazis built freeways. Therefore, freeways are bad.

      The Nazis built front-engined cars. Therefore, front-engined cars are bad.

      The Nazis built rear-engined cars. Therefore, rear-engined cars are bad.

      (Did I mention that the Nazis also ate bread and sausage, and drank beer?)

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      I am not a marxist or an occupier so please stop it with the political crap on here.

      I think I will avoid TTAC in the near future because you’re all a bunch of smug bastards that call out other blogs in an unprofessional manner and attack certain political ideologies without caring if they offend your readers or not.

      I just wanted to read about cars.

      If I wanted the political B.S, I’d go to a political site!

  • avatar
    Charliej

    I live in an area where you don’t need a car. The main road has a “cyclopista” along one side. This is an eight foot wide paved area separated from auto traffic by concrete barriers. The cyclopista is utilized by walkers, bicyclists and mopeds. Lots of people, both locals and immigrants, walk everywhere. There are stores and restaurants within walking distance of most housing. If you need to travel farther, the bus service is excellent, buses running every five to ten minutes. Zoning does not seem to exist here. Businesses are interspersed with housing, making walking distances short.

    I originally lived in Mobile, Alabama. The city badly needs more east/west corridors. From downtown to the suburbs. One of the most heavily traveled streets runs through the high income area of the city. The street is two lane, and will never be widened. It runs from down town past two colleges with a combined student population of over twenty thousand, all the way to the regional airport. A very heavily traveled road. The wealthy citizens will not allow any widening in their area. Just to the west of the rich area, the road is four or five lanes. I had a business on this road and getting back to my shop from the interstate, a five mile distance, took longer than driving thirty miles on the interstate. Congestion kills businesses.

    In my home city, bicycling is insanely dangerous. There are no bike paths along streets. Drivers take no notice of anything that is not capable of killing them, and little notice of things that are capable of killing them. Bicycle paths and walking paths would make a huge difference livability of American cities. And zoning that would allow neighborhood stores would help. It should not be necessary to get in the car to go get snacks.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    My two cents here.

    First off, I am lucky I have the ability to live where I live, Seattle, which has a fairly decent mass transit that currently is largely all bus related, but has commuter rail (from Tacoma to Seattle and I think currently to Everett), with expansion in the future.

    Light rail is here, but currently one line is live, it’s the central line and it runs from downtown, under the city in the transit tunnel, and then runs along the surface through the area known as the South of the Dome (SODO) where the old Kingdome used to be before bending to the East and rising up in the air to enter into the Mt Baker Tunnel to an underground station, from there, it bends to the right and heads south again to exit the tunnel and come down to the surface again for much of the way through the Rainier Valley area of Seattle. It then crosses over I-5 into Tuckwilla and currently ends at Sea-Tac Airport. The line is to expand further south, eventually, they hope to get it just north of Federal way, halfway to Tacoma.

    We are currently building a new line, known as the U-Line that will snake under ground from the downtown transit tunnel through Capitol Hill where a station will be built along Broadway and then a station near Husky Stadium in the U-District. Eventually, that line will go to Northgate and will have other stations between Husky Stadium and Northgate Mall where it’ll end. They are planning the line out to Bellevue and all the way to Redmond where Microsoft is, but the first leg will stop at Overlake, just east of the 405 freeway initially and I forget when it begins construction, if approved already.

    And that’s just for starters.

    The bus routes are being reconfigured and Metro will be adding I think 2 Rapid lines by fall, one from North Seattle to downtown and I forget where the other line is, and they have one from west Seattle into downtown and one from I think Federal Way into Seattle.

    And there is a regional transit system, that is bus, commuter rail and light rail that works with Metro and Pierce Transit and other transit agencies in Puget Sound to ferry as many people as possible to reduce congestion. Back in January when I had to bus down to Tacoma, the trip took 3 buses, three different transit agencies, one Orca card to do it. Metro from Capitol Hill to 2nd Ave downtown, a Sound Transit express coach bus to Tacoma to Commerce Street transfer center, and then Pierce Transit to the transit center at Tacoma Community College near where my Mom lives and she came and got me.

    The following weekend, I drove my old truck down to trade it in, Saturday morning, on a lovely sunny and mild day, took the bus from Tacoma to Seattle which meant reversing that very same trip to my old stop, walked home and got my then newly purchased Mazda to drive back down for the rest of the weekend.

    All that is to say that I can walk to the grocery stores, plenty of restaurants in my neighborhood and other shops and downtown is within walking distance so I’m not having to rely on my car for everything. Plus, when event warrant, such as going to explore another neighborhood, or to do a simple errand that requires going to an adjacent neighborhood, I can take the bus there. The Orca card works on ALL transit system in Puget Sound so that is a major boon to using transit here. I love how it all generally works. Still, I love to drive and will continue to own a car and I’d be busing to work, but, but having to cough up $150 for another year’s use of an Orca card, and I didn’t have it handy when I needed to pay anyway, so I drive into work currently.

    But, I sometimes have to shop outside of my ‘hood and downtown, so on those days, it’s Costco, a food import place, Target, TJ MAXX, Marshals etc and they all (with the exception of the Nordstrom Rack and a Ross, both downtown), the rest are either up north, in either Shoreline or in NE Seattle or down in the SODO area and really, doing errands by car is MUCH more efficient (from a time perspective) and I don’t have to carry stuff all over while waiting for the bus. THAT is what makes the car so efficient in that regard, but I agree, living where you MUST take the car everywhere is just ludicrous.

    At least here, most of the people who take mass transit ARE commuters and it gives all of us with reasonable distance of bus stops or a transit center the option to use it where we can, but still have a car for other more flexible forms of transport – or for getting out of the city on vacation. The only downsides is when it’s cold and wet out getting to the bus stop, or relying on security at transit centers to hopefully not get your car broken into like mine got on Tuesday while parked on the street here in my neighborhood and didn’t see the damage (broken driver’s window) when I went to get in to drive to work.

    At least that’s how I see it anyway and I bristle at those who try to purposefully make it difficult for car owners to have a car in the city, and it appears to some extent, our Daddy mayor is one such dude.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Mayor Nickels and McSchwinn have made it so miserable to get into Seattle, drive in Seattle and park in Seattle I and my wallet no longer go to Seattle. I’m not paying $4 an hour for street parking on a meter (the most expensive in the country), deal with militant cyclists who act as if RCW doesn’t apply to them at all, circle 30 minutes to find parking to do 15 minutes of shopping.

      Here is the part that people don’t get. I’m not going to get on the Aurora local to sit with the freaks on a Friday night to have dinner at La Fontana, drinks at Sea Sound, and then catch the last bus at 1AM back up Aurora, wondering if I’m going to get robbed or accosted on the bus, or when I get off.

      I love the smell of urine and desperation sitting next to me.

      As far as your praise for our rail system you dramatically over sell what Seattle really has. Yes, there is light commuter rail from Everett to Tacoma. Except for when it rains, snows, or there was a mudslide. The train runs only two runs in AM and two runs in the PM. Want to take the train from Everett to Seattle at 2 PM on a Wednesday. So sorry, your out of luck.

      The light rail line goes from Westlake to Sea-Tac Airport. It was built through some of the poorest sections of the Seattle region because the NIMBY crowd didn’t want the the train. In the areas where it travels in the Rainier Valley, the area is sparsely populated, has spare commercial interests, and the light industrial warehouses and shops aren’t going to use the train. Ridership of the light rail system is only 40% of what was projected. Sound Transit cut back the number of cars on each train to save money. Also, lets say you’re riding a bike and you get on the train. Each train can only accommodate two bikes per train. You’re bike number three? Sorry, have to wait for the next train. Lets not forget also, the Sound Transit Light Rail line was built at the cost of a mere $160 million per mile, the most expensive light rail system in the country.

      Connections to Everett? Not in our lifetime. The target to connect to Lynnwood is 2023 – but the residents of south Snohomish County happily pay for the existing line to the tune of $85 a license plate each year for a rail system they don’t get to use for 15 years, and will only stretch a finger about 8 miles into the county, bypassing Edmonds, a tiny town of 40,000 along the way. Sound Transit has said that light rail across the bridges and connecting to the north and south end of the line in an east/west connection – literally, not in our lifetime. So sayeth Sound Transit.

      The Light Rail line is a flop – and you left out the biggest disaster of all. Only one of the 13 stations (not to include Sea-Tac) has parking. That’s it. ONE. What is happening in the Rainier Valley, where the poorest residents of our city live (talk about equality that some people scream about) is people were parking on their side streets, taking up residential parking so they could use the train. So the city of Seattle got a great idea. They are now making some of the poorest residents pay for residential parking permits (oh it isn’t THAT much money) so that the people taking their parking won’t use up the spots – and now Sound Transit is looking at buying up more land and spending more money to build parking to drive to drive up usage.

      Now you may have read all this and think I am anti-public-transit anti-light-rail hater. I would love nothing more than to see miles and miles of light rail in this region. Seattle desperately needs it. DESPERATELY. But what has been built to date is an over priced toy train, ridden by few, operating at a loss, and bleeding the people who can least afford it at the same time. Also lets not forget, the buses that use to run on the line were eliminated – but again, that’s OK, the poor residents of the Rainier Valley can pay more to ride the train.

      You also ignore how Metro is going broke, and is slated to axe 20% of their routes/capacity – impacting again, those in the poorest neighborhoods who need it the most. Community Transit has suspended all Sunday service to save money. And that highlights another problem – because of some stupid RCW rule, we can’t have a single regional bus transit authority. So Everett Transit, Community Transit, Sound Transit, Metro, and Pierce County Transit compete – for the same damn riders. Look at the waste of excess buses cutting paths through the same corridors of downtown Seattle from five different transit systems.

      Coming from the east coast [INSERT MOVE BACK THEN REPLY HERE] and living in NYC and Boston I can tell you – Seattle’s public transit system is a complete joke. Worst of all, Seattle could have had a complete public transit system 35 years ago. But Seattle voters told the Federal government to stick it, along with the 90% they were willing to pay and Atlanta got MARTA.

      • 0 avatar
        ciddyguy

        Granted, what we have isn’t much, and a agree with that, but you DO have to start somewhere and I also agree, we should done this decades ago.

        Forward Thrust came about in 1969 or so, but the voters could not see why mass transit was needed so they kept saying no, and now we’re paying the piper. I will agree it’s not cheap to build a light rail line, nor would have back in ’69 but considerably less than it is costing today and add to that, density has added additional challenges that also drive up costs. The economy isn’t helping anyone. I’m also aware of Metro’s hard times but I also know they are trying to make their routes more efficient by eliminating routes that don’t get the ridership that they could due to being duplicates to ones that ARE often over utilized and thus are being added to to help make them less crowded, stuff like that. I have heard that Pierce Transit has had financial issues and the same up north in Everett, especially with Everett Transit.

        Sadly because of that, it costs way more to build new light rail and I know that the commuter rail is ONLY in the mornings and afternoons, but we DO have it as an alternative and it’s PACKED from what I hear.

        BTW, I never did like Nickels, he was such an idiot and I didn’t like Paul Schell either.

        That said, what we have, I’ll grant you isn’t perfect, but for what it is, it works pretty well, having used Metro, Sound Transit and Pierce Transit. When I first took the bus to Tacoma in 2006, getting from Commerce Street in downtown Tacoma to TCC meant a round about trip that took over an hour! Now it’s more or less a straight shot through hilltop and 19th street, straight to Mildred where the college is.

        As for transit in Seattle, it’s Sound Transit, Community Transit and Metro but no Everett Transit, nor Pierce transit as Sound Transit bridges the south corridor between Seattle and Tacoma, Community Transit does Seattle to Everett/Ssnohomish County. I don’t think they duplicate anything as Community Transit brings riders from up north into the city, Sound Transit brings riders up from the South and from the Eastside. At one time, a few Pierce Transit buses came into Seattle but I don’t think that happened anymore and I’ve never seen Everett Transit in Seattle, ever.

        I rode ST’s Central Link one day last spring and the trains were reasonably filled with patrons, a lot heading to SeaTac from Seattle. When I took the bus, I took a short ride on the 311 from Stewart and Yale to Westlake Mall and hoped down into the bus tunnel at Westlake and took the 212 from there through the tunnels out onto I-90 to work out in Bellevue and always saw at least one or two people, sometimes more get on the train every morning from Westlake Station and even more getting off on the other side and people got on and off throughout the route so it DOES seem to ferrying passengers about now, maybe not so much when it opened back in ’09.

        You gotta give it time as people adjust having a light rail or a new route etc.

        Again, is it perfect, of course not, but having actually USED it myself, I CAN say, it CAN work, and does pretty well most of the time.

      • 0 avatar
        bkmurph

        If you have to circle for 30 minutes to find on-street parking downtown at $4/hr, then the price is below the ‘market’ rate. Higher parking rates increase parking supply and turnover. You can complain about the cost of parking, or the dearth of open spaces, but not both simultaneously.

        Sounder commuter rail operates as two separate routes: Everett-Seattle and Tacoma-Seattle. The train operates more frequently than you think it does.

        Everett/Seattle…
        a.m.: 4 trains to Seattle
        p.m.: 4 trains to Everett

        Tacoma/Seattle…
        a.m.: 7 trains to Seattle, 2 trains to Tacoma
        p.m.: 7 trains to Tacoma, 2 trains to Seattle

        Yes, it sucks that Sounder trains operate only during commute hours rather than all day long, but such is the nature of commuter rail, operated by BNSF, largely out of Sound Transit’s control.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Here in Gainesville FL our ever so progressive leaders are trying to get us on bikes or in busses using multiple attacks on drivers. First make driving a pain by narrowing 4 lane roads to 2lanes. Then adding round-a-bouts to straight roads to slow drivers. If you try to accelerate you discover their love of speed humps. Once you finally arrive you’ll be greeted by limited and expensive parking.
    To pay for all these improvements we have the highest gas taxes and highest fuel costs in the state. Though our local politicos claim these two things are totally unrelated.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Any time you see the word “vibrant” you know you in for a load of urban-planner hooey (UPH). This article has the word “vibrant”, hence UPH.

    Most Americans dislike suburbs in theory but like them in practice. Despite much UPH-inspired hoopla about people choosing “vibrant” (dense) neighborhoods statistics show the opposite, more people choosing suburbs and exhurbs.

    Yes urban planners can ban cars, and yes some people will like to live in Portland or NY, but by and large cities that ban cars will fail.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    To go off on a slight tangent – there really should be encouragement to allow more office workers to telecommute. I have been doing so for five years, and it really is the best of all worlds. My commute is the time it takes me to roll over and turn my laptop on. I drive my car(s) when I want to, not because I have to. There are simply millions of folks toiling away in cubicle farms who really don’t need to be physically there. E-mail, phone, and IM are very, very efficient communications devices. At my company, more than 60% of the staff telecommute from all over the country.

  • avatar
    sco

    As long as we’re talking about the future of cities and transportation, let me note that here in my area of No Cal a third lane has been added in both direction to a roughly 30 mile stretch of previously two lane freeway at a cost of nearly one billion dollars taking into account a few necessary bridges and exit ramps. A billion dollars! And this is not an interstate. Forget about gasoline, we cant possibly keep building and maintaining these roads at this cost. When are we finally going to get rid or cars and bikes and trains and road entirely and get there in the air – you want a future game changer for cities, that’s it. Put your best Google engineers on that moon shot if you really want change.

    • 0 avatar
      28-cars-later

      “When are we finally going to get rid or cars and bikes and trains and road entirely and get there in the air – you want a future game changer for cities, that’s it. ”

      I likes what your cookin’ there…

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Living in Vancouver, it’s not a case of cars versus cyclists or pedestrians, but it’s very much the developers and the city councils who are beholden to them (no really, check out who is funding who’s campaign). The developers want density to pack in more units, council wants to carry on the “Eco-density” agenda for good publicity. So in many of the new developments that are close to rapid transit, what you are getting is a cut down in the number of parking spaces per residential unit, because the planners expect you to use mass transit. And which people actually do… but good luck try to invite people over for a visit when your 200 unit condo has 6 guest parking stalls.

    I’ve lived in Metro LA, and the experience is very much the polar opposite of Vancouver. You have to drive 30min to do anything, and may expats and out of towners remark on how hard the distance is on forming more than a superficial relationship with friends and coworkers. In the burbs, a walk to the corner store can be 20 30 minutes because the blocks are so big and the streets so un-dense.

    • 0 avatar
      B.C.

      I live in the Los Angeles area and when you say “burbs” … you’re really describing ANY location in SoCal that hasn’t been deliberately designed to be walkable. All of SoCal is one giant suburb, but we all knew that already.

      It’s madness. I have a friend who lives downtown and his entire apartment complex has a grand total of THREE guest parking spots. And when the Lakers/Clippers/Kings are playing, or when there’s a concert or convention, forget it. And if they follow through with building an NFL stadium …

      I really like cars. I own two, but I compromise by renting an apartment close to work so I can walk there. I just don’t think we’ve really figured out an optimum solution to urban sprawl vs terminal gridlock, and I’m worried that all solutions exist on the depressing spectrum between those two states.

      By the way, the cyclists in Copenhagen bike in the snow. There’s video proof on youtube.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        B.C. – -

        Have you been in Copenhagen in winter?
        It’s sea-moderated. Any snow they get is infrequent and comprises 2-inches of wet slush.
        Yes, you could ride a bike in that. I see it here all the time, with nubby-tired mountain bikes.

        But if we’re talking “SNOW” instead of “snow”, — as in Buffalo, NY in January with unplowed streets from the last 2-foot deposit, and 20 mph winds, and temperatures of 10 degrees F, how many Copenhagen cyclists would be happy with that?

        For that matter, how many walkers want to walk to a light rail station under those conditions?

        Believe me, the only practical, reliable, safe, warm, convenient way to get to work in severe winter conditions is by starting up your dear old ICE car, with its happy little pistons going up and down, opening your garage door (not necessarily in that order), and bludgeoning your way through the drifts.

        And no, EV’s won’t cut it either. Check out the voltage vs. temperature physics, and get yourself an estimate of range and/or warmth available at MINUS 10 degrees F. Think you want to leave that car in the parking lot without a charging station all day, and pretend you can get home for that 20-mile commute? Especially having expended 60-75% of the charge getting to work in the morning?

        The nice thing about an ICE vehicle is the very so-called “inefficiency” everyone decries, namely waste heat, and that is the thing I want my wife and kids to be comforted by if they must go out. And if you’re from the NE snow-belt, people WILL and MUST go out. Did anyone ever consider that part of the efficiency of an ICE vehicle is its ability to keep you alive almost anywhere? Death is very inefficient.

        Just wait till we find some old couple frozen in their EV because it ran out of charge and warmth on a back country road…..boy, the publicity from that episode will put a damper on this EV nonsense. Unless you’re living in SoCal, of course….

        ———–

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        > By the way, the cyclists in Copenhagen bike in the snow

        When the Dutch set up their pavilion here in my neighborhood, it was awesome (well, it was awesome because Heineken sponsored them, but that’s another reason). On top of setting up shop for food beer and speed skaters, they also put in a garage for all of the bicycles that they brought over. They biked everywhere, even exploring the town in the middle of the night while they were jet lagged. This was in the winter… mind you, 2010 was an unseasonably warm winter here, but you get the idea.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “A recent trip to New York City saw my girlfriend and I walk and take the subway nearly everywhere. It was fast, efficient, emissions free and yet cars were everywhere. Livery-service Town Cars, yellow Crown Vic taxis, motorcycles, luxury SUVs and even supercars all shared the road in Manhattan, where owning a car is apparently both passé and a pain in the ass.”

    One thing I see more of when going into Chicago lakefront areas, is 20-somethings hailing cabs in the streets. Take taxicabs out of cities, and there would be a revolt!

    Sure, some ‘Milleni-whatevers’ don’t want to own a car, and say they use public transit. But, when bar-hopping, partying, socializing, they want a cab and want it NOW!

    One other thing, look up how people in Viet Nam and other emerging regions get around, mostly on Scooters. The elite want the ‘proles to walk’, but motorized transportation is desired!

  • avatar
    car_guy2010

    I was following along up until the term “Marxist-infused ivory towers”.

    Derek, did you really have to get political here? Totally unnecessary.

    Way to show your bias.

    I consider myself a moderate on the environment but I’m unabashedly liberal and I don’t appreciate you lumping me in with marxists.

    I love cars just as much as the next guy!

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      Dear car_guy2010….

      Philosophically, is it possible for a Liberal to love cars?
      Isn’t that an oxymoronic state?

      (^_^)…

      ——

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      How does one not get political when discussing the politics of urban planning?

      That said, “Marxist-infused ivory towers” was a bit over the top. Personally, I would have gone with “Eco-fascist ivory towers”.

  • avatar
    redav

    I didn’t read most of the comments, so maybe someone already mentioned this, but

    These fears are unfounded. Are there people (some of which are city planners) who want to eliminate cars? Sure, but they are like libertarians–their opinions don’t actually affect policy in most places.

    The only place that I know of that has actually gone so far is Portland. They have parts of the city that are car-free. Like most failures, they don’t realize their plan’s flaws. In the same way EVs can’t function as a family’s only car (because of range limitations), not having a car may work fine for most of the time, but when one is needed, not having it a severe limitation.

    I had a coworker who couldn’t manage his money. All his credit cards got canceled. That worked better for him, but he found he couldn’t rent a car without one. Then he complained that we wouldn’t send him on any business trips that would help his career. We didn’t have corporate cards then, and we didn’t have a way to rent cars through the company. Not having that personal card limited his career.

    The same will occur for that area of Portland. Those people will eventually find that they are trapped. If there’s a power outage and/or public transit shuts down, they are stuck. They will find that if they want a different job or home, a car will be part of the entrance cost. I expect that those who live there are quite ‘trendy’ and thus won’t have a ton of extra cash for that fee.

    On a different note, the question comes up about why transit is so important and why cars are bad in the first place. It boils down to the distances people travel. I live 6 mi from work & closer to everything else I need/want. And this isn’t some new, hip urban area. It’s the traditional suburbs. If cities would require zoning such that jobs & housing would align, people would drive less, there would be less traffic, less pollution, more money available for the local economy, people would have more free time & less stress, etc. In many ways, it’s the same theory as the new mixed-use, walkable communities, but in a more traditional and practical way.

    Here’s an example: Houston is surrounded by massive master-planned communities (e.g., Coles Crossing, First Colony) with thousands of homes. What types of jobs do these people have? They’re mostly professionals. Where do they work? Mostly downtown. That’s why 290 is always jammed. But let’s suppose that Cypress adds a business district with about eight 5-10 story professional buildings. That would employ about 3000 people–people that no longer need to use 290. That’s 3000 cars every day gone. If each car is 16′ long & spaced with two car lengths between them, since 290 is a 3-lane road, that’s 9 miles of traffic that disappear. The cars don’t go away. They still get driven to work. But they drive 50 mi fewer each day.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I would love to see someone try to bike my route to work. If we take the freeways out of the equation, cyclists are left with some charming neighborhoods in the city of Detroit. The Brightmoor neighborhood is an especially senic cycling destination. At least counting the crackheads, gang members, prostitutes, and burned out house will keep you busy.

  • avatar
    Lynn E.

    “Why would you hope for government intervention?”

    Herb, did you actually read what I wrote? I was not advocating for or against government intervention BUT I WAS reminding people that we have already had a tremendous/colossal/stupendous amount of government intervention. And most of it has been good!

    WE are the government.

    After WW II the people of California, through their government bet big on cars and trucks and built a fantastic amount of freeways. This bet paid off big – the State of California became the 6th largest economy in the world!

    When Reagan ran for president he somehow forgot this and said, “government is the problem”. HE WAS WRONG. We ARE the government.

    Have we chosen bad leaders sometimes? Of course. But in general we have done a good job.

    What is the alternative? Are you willing to wait for me to build my section of road, willing to wait for me to weld in my section of pipe line or install my section of electric high voltage line, wait for me to build my section of the next fighter plane, willing to wait for me to inspect your meat and vegetables, willing to wait for me to put out the fire in your garage where you store gasoline for your lawnmower, or even willing to wait for me to come to your aid if your neighbor decides to raise cobras in his back yard?

    A few seem to think government is always wrong and always in the way. Nonsense. We are the government and we have to join together to do all the above.

    (My specialty is spreadsheets, so I can help the fire department keep track of their expenses when they save your garage. I don’t think you would want me to weld my share of our next pipeline or round up cobras.)

    Back to ICEs. The ICE has been good to our standard of living for 150 years but maybe it has run its course and it is the duty of us (the government) to leave options open and to PLACE BETS on what will work in the future. Some bets will pay off.

  • avatar

    As already has been stated above, an important goal should be to have everything in walking (or walkable) distance, and, if that is not possible in a distance that is supported by public transport), whether the destination is an office cubicle, a pub, a grocery, a butcher, or a supermarket.
    Having lived in such an “ideal” (no zoning) environment for the last eight years, I can tell you that this is a mixed blessing. To have everything in walking distance is really a joy. But you need to be deaf, totally indolent, or produce considerable noise yourself to be able to fully enjoy it.
    Otherwise, you will be astonished how many unpredictable noise sources there are, day in, day out, and during the night as well.
    Current building standards could need an improvement, as well, to protect you from in-house noise.


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