Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Finally Tread There or Why the Trinity Tollroad is a Bad Idea

I have been asked by some readers in person why I haven't written about the proposed Trinity Parkway within the Trinity River Floodway (on the link, I purposely put a proponents website up and will reference that in a minute). I have avoided it because it is a sensitive, highly political subject. One the could effect me personally and/or professionally. But, for reasons that are my own and because reading my posts will allow anyone to see between the lines where I stand, I will discuss them here.

Bottom line, there is nothing right about this project. Nothing. When deciding how I would approach this topic here, I thought the best presentation would be a point-by-point discussion of the major flaws.

For full disclosure, I was a volunteer in the Trinity Vote campaign working to remove this road from the Trinity Park Project. My ideal situation would have been to kill the road altogether, but that was thought to be politically unlikely.

The opening point I want to make is simple and has a wide range of appeal. Why on earth, if you are trying to build a premier recreational park, would you run a high speed road through it? Can you imagine a limited-access highway through Central Park or Prospect Park in New York? Millennium Park in Chicago? Olympic Park in Atlanta? Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming?Or even White Rock Lake here in Dallas? No, of course not. This would ruin the ambient atmosphere that large parks are supposed to generate and provide to the public. When was the last time you specifically can recall going anywhere near a high-speed highway with cars rushing by, without indoor barriers, to relax. The only thing I can think of personally are the firework watchers on July 4th and going to Hurricane Harbor for summer break. Both examples are extreme, because they aren't truly relaxation opportunities. I think the point is made.

The second point features an urban design perspective, and a mistake Dallas is rectifying elsewhere in the city. There are no counterpoints, no rebuttals, no yeah buts, freeways divide the urban landscape. There is a clear delineation between Downtown and Deep Ellum, Downtown and Uptown, Downtown and The Cedars, Downtown and the Industrial/Riverfront Blvd area. Even Knox-Henderson, a singularly defined neighborhood, is clearly divided between east (Henderson St) and west (Knox St). The Trinity Project was supposed to unify, or at least blur the division, between Downtown and the City's only real natural feature. I-35 and the rail lines make a clear division there. In some ways, the Trinity Project is a recognition that freeways divide. Yet, after the bond vote, this project slowly morphed into the one we know today, from a low-speed park access road to a high-speed, limited-access tolled freeway.

Ironically, just a mile away, the city has acknowledged the scar that freeways cause to the urban environment. Klyde Warren Park is a deck park covering Woodall Rogers Freeway with the sole purpose of reuniting that portion of Downtown and Uptown. Yet, the powers-that-be see nothing wrong with running one through a project they call Dallas' Central Park.

Third, this will not relieve Downtown's congestion problem. I have dissected the point before. Paradoxically, this is also the point that likely won the 2007 vote for the folks that wanted the tollroad. Last week, at a DDI membership luncheon, Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke. Recently, he came out for the first time on the issue in support of the road. The day of the luncheon, a Metro section article wrote that some council members who opposed the road brought some things to his attention and he would ask for more information. In referencing that article, he said his stance hadn't changed and asked the audience a question. Earlier that morning, a cattle car turned over, unleashing dozens of cows upon I-35, forcing its closure. He said the only reason he is for the road is for traffic relief and said if the road had been there, the congestion would be lessened. That is a straw mans argument.

First, the direction that was closed would not have been near a point to allow traffic to divert to this road. Second, we know from real world experience that the Induced Traffic Principle will increase traffic on a new road just by being there. The traffic will come just by the increase in the new capacity, causing a temporary, minuscule reduction in congestion on the existing facilities. However, equilibrium will soon be reached on the network where the previous reduction occurred and the existing roadway will just be as crowded as before and the new one will reach a similar point. There are over 40 lanes of freeway surrounding downtown. How can an additional six solve our congestion problem? There has not been a single case anywhere in the world where new roadways solved congestion.

Speaking of never being done before, the fourth point centers around the idea of building in a floodway as virgin territory on this planet. I want to make a distinction on two flood control terms. The Trinity River as is right now is a floodway. It is where a large amount of water is designed to go through in a short amount of time. A floodplain is what most natural rivers are, a place where the banks rise and continue on, going at its own pace, which can be fast or slow. You can build in a floodplain with minimal problems. Many roads do just that. However, a floodway is a much different animal.

Imagine a garden hose. The hose in this case is the floodway. Depending on the pressure, it can be a trickle or a stream. What happens when you put a finger over the opening of the hose, partially reducing the area for the water to vacate the hose? It comes out much faster. That is exactly what is going to happen with this road and exactly the difference between a floodway and floodplain. The road will displace millions upon millions of gallons of water. The only direction for it to go is up and out.

With a floodplain, an obstruction will just cause the water to reroute to another part of the plain. In a floodway, there is no rerouting. It is the finger. The levees will have to be built higher to accommodate the displaced water, but the opening will be narrower. Best practices should be to not reduce flood control capability, right New Orleans?

The fifth point piggybacks off the third and fourth. If we know that congestion is coming, the resulting emissions will have a negative effect in the air and being in the floodway, the water too. I'm not saying engineering can't done to avoid getting most of the runoff into the Trinity River Basin, but anyone who thinks it will be 100% successful in preventing brake dust, oil droppings, tire rubber, etc., from entering the river is naive at best. Our air already violates one of the EPA's benchmarks (ozone). The Trinity is already notorious for its pollution. Is it really in our best interest to make both worse? I would say so, especially if we are trying to make this area a recreational amenity.

Some proponents will say that the reduction in congestion will clean our air, as less cars are idling. I propose this. I can point to any major city on the map and show an example of new roadways failing to relieve congestion. I can point to Vancouver and Toronto as city's that never built a large scale freeway network and therefore who have far fewer congestion problems. I can point to city's like Milwaukee, Portland or San Francisco that tore down freeways and didn't see any increase in congestion. If they can name one city that saw lasting effects of congestion relief from a new or even an expanded freeway corridor, I'll cede that it is possible the Trinity Parkway will accomplish what they say. Until then, I know of no such case study.

The final major point I want to make is how this thing just keeps ballooning in cost. When first proposed in the '90's, the price tag was less than $400 million. When it was redesigned into a limited-access freeway, it was less than $700 million. During the Trinity Vote Campaign, it had just eclipsed $1 billion. As it stands right now, the conservative estimate is $1.4 billion and the maximum range is $1.8 billion. A statistical research paper (I can't remember the author, but can look it up if I am requested) showed that most public works projects, roughly three-quarters, come in over budget. Design isn't finalized, federal approvals haven't come, construction won't happen within a year or two at best. I don't think it is a stretch to conclude this road will exceed two billion.

At $222 million a mile, this would be the highest cost per mile of roadway in the country. What could be built with that money instead? The 27-mile Green Line cost $700 million. Those funds could complete the long sought after Cotton Belt rail line. It could complete the 2030 DART transit plan. Add that to the fact that Dallas is still facing budget issues, it seems that the money is better spent somewhere else. Maybe raise the library's funding to pre-recession levels or restore the street maintenance budget. Now, admittedly, this too is a straw mans argument. The money for this road doesn't exist. It can't be exchanged for something else. But by saying this, I do want to illustrate the priorities of the road backers. "Who cares if a few staffers from each department are fired, we can build a road that will benefit me."

Since roughly only $100 million can be accounted for towards construction, there is a huge funding gap. At the federal level, congress keeps punting the transportation bill down the road because they can't agree what funding is adequate enough to go where. The state just cut $4 billion from schools, I doubt they will find an extra billion laying around. The city just gave their employees a cost of living raise for the first time in four years, I don't think they can finance a huge amount right now.

So how does this thing keep hanging around. If you dig , you'll see the backers are also the ones that would benefit financial, whether real or perceived. Real estate interests along the route want the road. I believe they still cling to a 1960's mode of thinking in that the road will increase the value of their land. It works in a pastoral setting, where a new road allows access. But in the urban core, no new road can increase access. In fact, it can actually decrease the value of the land. Downtown highest land values are the ones furthest away from the freeways. Same thing in Uptown.

Also, there is a lot of money to be made by road builders, designers and engineers. Money that A) they won't get without it and B) money that won't be spent at all. Those folks are the ones pushing for the road. Incidentally, those are also the ones behind the shadowy Citizens Council. Our Mayor also happens to be their representative in the previous Mayor's election. Coincidence?

Now, when looking at proponents arguments, see the first link from road designer HNTB, they almost always include raising the quality of life. If you go by each argument above, how can it do anything but decrease quality of life? If it ruins the appeal of a park, separates the park from the city, adds to the congestion problems, weakens flood control, deteriorates the natural environment and is so costly, where is the upside?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dallas Falls Further Behind in Biking

Five entries ago, I brought up the fact that Dallas is falling behind several Texas cities in offering a bike share service. Now it appears they are even falling behind in the multi-state region.

Oklahoma City has now officially joined the ranks of cities who have some kind of bike share program. Launched a week ago, the somewhat unfortunately named Spokies bike share program adds another dimension of transportation options in Downtown Oklahoma City . It offer six stations around the neighborhood where you can pick up or drop off a bike. Memberships are available, even as low as one-day, pretty much guaranteeing anyone can use the service.

There is one quote which I want to pull out of the article that shows why they have it, but Dallas has nothing yet to show for it.

City Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who lives and works downtown, is a Spokies advocate and said bicycle sharing adds another dynamic dimension to the ongoing transformation of Oklahoma City's urban core.

Political will plain and simple. We aren't talking something that is expensive, time-consuming or difficult to implement. I could give you suitable locations right now. Within a week, I could map out favorable land-use and demographic data to further supplement station locations. Yet, we have a political body beholden to interests that insist on pursuing archaic ideas based solely on car use.

Sadly, OKC isn't the only one passing Dallas. LSU in Baton Rogue, Louisiana is there. The University of Arkansas has one too. Even Tulsa, Oklahoma offers a program.

I wonder how long the list will become before Dallas makes a serious attempt at getting on the list. The ironic thing is that with Deep Ellum, Uptown and Knox-Henderson, Dallas has a much larger urban area to choose from and presumably much larger opportunity for success. 

The 2011 Bike Plan called for a bike share program, but given the fact that staffers are saying bike lanes are financially unfeasible, I doubt the bike share will be realized anytime soon.
It really isn't hard to put four-six of these around various locations in the city, and not that expensive either.
This is my ultimate frustration with the City of Dallas. On the one hand, they talk a good game. Let's create a vibrant urban area, let's increase mass transit use, let's bring more residents to downtown, etc. But on the other hand, their actions don't support the words. Approval of buildings like Hunt or Museum Towers, continued pursuit of the Trinity Tollway, little attention to detail on the urban design all have negative consequences to a vibrant urban area. In some ways, downtown is revitalizing itself due to outside factors rather than city action or programs. Imagine what could be accomplished if what the city did and pursued were beneficial to an urban Dallas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Urban Design at its Worst

Long-time readers know that I am an advocate of solid urban design that incorporates all users. Here is an example in Richardson, a prototypical suburb, of where there is no balance. Click play on the video in the link, which comes from Rodger Jones, who blogs about transportation issues for the Dallas Morning News.

Sadly, this is far more common than the exception. This is an example of of my saying that we don't love our cars, we are forced into subservience to them. There really is no option here for most people. Drive to the rail station or drive to your destination, but driving one way or another.

Planting Shrubs to Fix a Foundation

If I had began this blog several years before I actually started it, I would posted many blog entries critiquing and discussing the relatively new area of Victory Park.

Let me compress what could be several posts into the rest of this paragraph. Victory Park is a well-intentioned idea of mixing uses, but was executed so poorly that retail can not survive and the "streets" are empty of people, even when there is an event at the anchor of the area, the American Airlines Center (AAC). The basic premise is that instead of focusing the energy towards the main streets like Houston and Victory Avenue, they made those streets function like alleys and made a central "street", Victory Park Lane, the main retail spine when it should be the alley. Street design made Victory and Houston huge one-ways for transporting large amounts of cars and minimizing the pedestrian experience. The retail is destined to fail exactly because Victory Park Lane is isolated, and it was so by design. The intentions were to give the pedestrian a pleasant walk. But, by ignoring connectivity with the rest of the development AND neighborhood, even pedestrians don't go there, making retail foot traffic sparse if non-existent.

Victory Park Lane, complete with no people out and about.
All that to say this, according to Steve Brown, the Dallas Morning News' Real Estate Editor, Estein and Associates, the property manager of Victory, have hired Trademark Property to revamp the shopping area. From the article:

Critics of the project have lambasted the layout of the retail space and its original focus on high-end merchants and restaurants.
Trademark will immediately begin work on plans to remodel Victory Park’s storefronts along Victory Park Lane. 
The developer also will be looking at how to use undeveloped land in the project for additional retail.
About 130,000 square feet of retail space is contained in the lower floors of buildings in the 75-acre Victory Park project.
Preliminary plans call for a total redesign of the streetscape throughout the project.
Fair said with the economy turning the corner and retail sales picking up, the timing is right to redo Victory Park’s retail.
“We are getting more calls from prospective tenants and have been looking for the right retail partner,” he said. “There has to be some momentum for the retailers to get excited.
“We are going to try and make a great retail street where people will want to hang out.
Trademark Property has experience with both new projects and redeveloping old ones.
It built the popular Watters Creek shopping and apartment project in Allen. And Trademark is developing the Alliance Town Center regional shopping center in North Fort Worth.
Trademark also has redeveloped shopping malls in Corpus Christi, Santa Fe and Michigan.

I still lambast the layout. Without fixing this, the very fundamental flaw, everything else is lipstick. Until the docks for the buildings line Victory Park Lane and the retail fronts Houston, Victory Avenue, Lamar or Olive, no amount of revamp will be successful. It already hurts Victory enough that the office buildings, which are relatively full, are self-contained. You park inside the building, go up the elevator, work, go down the elevator and leave the building. In downtown, there is decent transit access and many workers who do drive have to park off-site, which at least facilitates some amount of pedestrian activity. That is not the case here.

Unless a total redesign of the streetscape means this fundamental swap from the interior lined by Victory Park Lane to the outside streets, then any other effort is going to fall short.

Finally, looking at the credentials of Trademark, I wonder if they are the right group to even understand what Victory needs. The last two paragraphs list their body of works, but none are in even semi-urban areas. All are suburban, and many of Victory's flaws originate in trying to combine elements of suburban design into the urban realm. The result is that you get neither. The positives of both are negated and the negatives standout. 

Here's an example of what I mean. Victory tried to take a suburban positive, ease of car use, and incorporate that into the development. To accomplish this, they made Houston Street four lanes, one-way with wide lanes, approached Victory Avenue, Lamar Street and Olive Street the same and built garages in every building. But, from an auto user standpoint, it still has the negative of a dense district. Drivers thrive in low density surroundings, while they feel uneasy in denser areas. Also, garages are not convenient, especially compared to on-street and surface parking. This means car-based users avoid Victory because of the hassle.

Also, in an attempt to keep the design on Houston, the original developers fought DART from running the first phase of the current Green Line along Houston. This pushed it on the edge of the neighborhood, where it currently is. What should have been an urban positive instead is now a negative, since the distance is inconvenient to anyone but event goers, as the AAC is the closest building. From downtown, some parts of Victory can be reached faster from the West End Station! This means pedestrians and transit-users avoid Victory because of the hassle.
The Rail Station serving Victory. Note in the distance the AAC.
If drivers don't go and transit users don't go, only those who have to be there go. That means only people who have to go (see workers and residents) are the ones that are there. Neither have sufficient mass to support the level of retail, especially if it is high end. Add in the fact that office is designed to be isolated and self-sufficient, it is easy to see why Victory has empty streets.

I hope an future development addresses the issue, but I don't believe the existing Victory area's street level will achieve any measure of vitality until a first-floor redo is completed. Some infrastructure improvements along the major streets would be beneficial too, but not as critically as the first.

The sad thing is, this is typical Dallas development in its core. You see this on Lower McKinney, parts of Downtown, the Design District and the Cedars. Until developers recognize the benefits of the urban area and work to maximize that, Victory results will continue to be repeated.

People will walk. Main Street and Deep Ellum are examples. Developers can get it right. West Village, One Arts Plaza and Third Rail are examples. But until the city requires this, rather than hope for the best, Victory will be the norm, not West Village.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Finding the Grey in the Black and White

In my previous post, I mentioned the idea, long considered valid, that kids belong in the suburbs. Being car oriented, they are breeding grounds for accidents, more kids die from cars than anything else, and being in a car doesn't allow the kids to feel a connection to their area, which has a whole host of negative effects.

A loyal reader commented:
Hmmm, I don't think I quite agree with some of your "facts". You have tons more cars driving down the street in front of your house in the city than I do in the suburbs. Plus, I have a back yard for a child to play in. I'm not trying to convince you that the 'burbs are best, but the vast majority of people in this beautiful country prefer where I live to where you live.

I answered a bit, but there is a bit more I want to say. I responded with this:

I don't think I accurately relayed what I or the study is saying.
First, cars on the street are not the inherent problem. Street design can be. However, the big problem is kids being stuck in a car for everything. Every errand you run is with the car. Kids don't die from being hit by car nowhere near as often as being in the car.

As for the street, more cars can actually be safer. On conventional, modern suburbs, streets are wider. This design gives drivers a certain comfort level. That usually means faster speeds. Design considerations aside, more cars can actually be safer. Speeds on I-30 are slower at 5pm than at 9 pm, even though more cars use the 5pm time.

I think a common mistake is evidenced here in that the common thought is either low-density single family or high density towers. Single family neighborhoods can be quite urban. For local examples, see the Bishop Arts District, Lower Greenville or even leftover pieces of Uptown. The difference is design. Modern suburbia is car-only. Pre-WWII suburbia is quite dense and walkable. I think I have a topic for a new post.

I think I sufficiently answered the car vs. kid point. While the hit-by-a-car to death ratio is greater in the developing world, in our fair country, it is being inside the car that is the problem. Those that do survive a wreck can often have injuries that stay with them the rest of their lives. We all know someone who has been at least injured or worse in a wreck.

Allow me to move on then to the second point of the first comment. How do we know that the vast majority of people prefer auto-oriented suburbs? I am not convinced.

A few numbers to consider. The residential rents in walkable areas (rents in economic terms do not refer to lease payments, but land value) primarily located in city centers have eclipsed pre-recession levels.  Meanwhile, residential properties in areas that rely solely on cars for transportation are still declining in value. Together, that tells me a bunch. It means that walkable areas are so scarce compared to demand, that even though the country itself hasn't achieved a full-scale recovery, urban area property managers use a little supply-and-demand theory and raise the prices to match the supply, forcing out the margins, which appear to be wide in this case.

Meanwhile, there was evidence before the housing crash that home builders had overbuilt the supply of single-family housing. After the banking crisis, it became severely evident. Single-family housing still hasn't recovered. Yet there needs to be an asterisk here.

Walkable single family housing has done remarkably better than their auto-oriented peers. Some of the neighborhoods I named above are examples, like Bishop Arts and Lower Greenville, but the M Streets, Winnetka Heights and parts of Lakewood are further examples. Most people don't realize, but even posh Highland Park is a highly walkable suburban enclave. All of these places have either declined slightly or gained in value. Even now, once outside Loop 12 and particularly LBJ freeway, price declines in double digits are quite common.

There is one final point I wish to make on this topic. One critique that planners receive in trying offer the fruitcart variety is that people don't want to live in anything other than single-family homes. I really struggle with that idea. Go to the grocery store and see how many types of bread sit on the shelves. Dozens of brands offer dozens of varieties. Go to a movie store and see how many types and genres of movies there are. Go to an electronics store and see the huge variety of TV's. Walk on to a car dealership and count the many types of different cars. Yet, all we want is one type of housing? It doesn't add up. A person will prefer different housing at different stages in their life. A similar person will prefer different types at those same stages. Cities that don't reflect that will suffer. Some already are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Paradox that is the Suburbs: Kids, Death and other Deficiencies

As a parent with a kid in the urban core that is not a prototypical city (like New York or San Francisco), I am asked all the time when I am moving to the suburbs. In an area where that thinking has been entrenched for decades, city living is for those without kids and the 'burbs are where kids are raised, folks have a hard time understanding the severe trepidation my wife and I have towards moving to a conventional suburban setting.

I posted before about the myth that kids and suburbs hold hands and skip in the wildflower fields. While my opinions since that post haven't changed, I want to add a supporting stance from articles discussing new academic research about this topic.

Sarah Goodyear penned this article in the Atlantic Cities that says much of the same that I did, and also adds other useful information. For example residential neighborhood design that still reflects an auto-favored design force kids away from the street. Without decent parks, and for some, with a nearby park, this encourages a sedentary childhood. This contributes to the lack of place that pervades our cities, since they don't really experience their city.

She also wrote this one, that gives numbers to the point. Bottom line, there is no greater killer of children than cars worldwide.

Aside from schools, lack of a backyard is the other big reason I hear for leaving my current living situation. However, there is no proof that a backyard equals physical activity. Manhattan kids, many of which have no backyard, are still less obese than the American average. The same exists everywhere, urban kids are less obese than suburban counterparts.

In the end, it comes down to design. An environment that encourages activity will have healthier people. We walk, bike and play in the park across the street as an everyday activity. The same can not be said in the modern suburban setting. Just by living day-to-day, my family burns more calories than if we had to drive everywhere.

Note, when I reference urban versus suburban, I am not referring to city boundaries, but urban design. Lake Highlands in Dallas is suburban, downtown Plano is more urban, even if small in area.

The last point I want to make is that it is not just kids who suffer. Continuing the citing of Atlantic Cities, Nate Berg points out that there has been a correlation established between the health of adults and time spent behind the wheel. Keeping it local, the study cited followed drivers in DFW and Austin and found the longer the commute the greater chance for decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, increased weight, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure.

The scary part is that all these are simply direct results. These are easily quantifiable. But what happens to the indirect externalities?  How do you quantify health impacts of particulate matter? Smog? The end of a car's life? Estimates vary widely, but even conservative ones show a huge societal problem.

If you see me next, ask about my family, job or thoughts on a certain topic. Please don't ask when I plan to move to the suburbs.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why so Late?

Loyal readers no doubt understand that I am an advocate for transportation balance. Transit, walking and biking are the three main ones that I place forth ideas to increase mode share. Betting transit planning has been discussed as has pedestrian-friendly and urban design to increase walking. Biking will naturally follow those two, but otherwise I haven't offered much in the way of increasing bike share.

I mentioned briefly that San Antonio has a bike share program after my visit there. I have also discussed bike lanes as a strategy, though for personal reasosns, I have avoided the local battle over the lanes. I do feel like the old guard has a hard time embracing the change from the old way of doing things. As a case in point, the continued support of the Trinity tollroad versus the can't do nature on the bike lanes.

Yet, it appears that once again, even in Texas, Dallas is about to get left behind. I really feel a bike share is one of the best ways to increase bike use. As it turns out, Fort Worth is been working on plans to introduce a service. Unlike Dallas, they have also figured out a way to start bringing bike lanes to the city. If you read the link, it also mentions that Austin is working on a bike share program too.

Now, add Houston to the list of major Texas cities that have figured out or are working on a way to implement the program. They used federal funding to get it started, proving a will will find a way.

I just get frustrated by the lack of urgency Dallas is has in approaching this. On the one hand, you hear officials talk a good game. Reduce congestion, increase biking, good.

But when it actually comes to doing something that increases bike use, the feet start to drag. It is frustrating. By continuing to status quo, the city is ignoring the obvious shift in society towards a more urban preference. Unless Dallas embraces something other than the car, Dallas may have troubling competing, even in Texas. Already, officials were concerned by the lack of population growth in the last census. But trying to grow the same way and expecting different results...well, I think we all know what that definition is.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Key to Changing Transportation Preferences

In 2005, as part of the congressional transportation bill, four areas were selected for bike and walking improvements as a pilot program to monitor the results. The Department of Transportation has released the findings and it shows exactly what I have said from the get go.

First, here's the numbers.
•Over four years, people in these four communities alone walked or bicycled an estimated 32 million miles they would have otherwise driven;
•The communities saw an average increase of 49 percent in the number of bicyclists and a 22 percent increase in the number of pedestrians;
•The percentage of trips taken by bike instead of car increased 36 percent, and those taken on foot increased 14 percent;
•While each pilot community experienced increases in bicycling and walking, fatal bicycle and pedestrian crashes held steady or decreased in all of the communities; and
•The pilot communities saved an estimated 7,701 tons of CO2 in 2010.

So in essence, what I have said was that people will do what is convenient. We don't love our cars, we use them so much because it is convenient, usually at the expense of every other mode. Biking and walking increased in the communities involved in the pilot because it was convenient. Money was invested specifically to improve those modes and, unshockingly to me, they increased the amount of users traveling on those modes.

In essence, if you make anything convenient, people will use it. The opposite is also true. That maxim, even if somewhat simplistic, explains exactly why our cities are what they are.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How the Car became King

No editorial or opinions today, I just want to post something that speaks for itself.

A couple of planning-related sites posted some unconnected, though related articles chronicling how we went from a country with good-to-great-urban cities to one that is dominated by cars. It's a fascinating read, no matter your take on the issues and really paints a great picture of all the forces and actions that were put into play to make our transportation system what it is today.

The Invention of Jaywalking from Atlantic Cities

Car Culture: Freedom Brought to You by the American Auto Industry, Hello Officer, Put the Phone Down, and More from Urban Milwaukee