5 January 2001
Venice during rush hour, February 1997
News at Carfree.com
Carfree Cities DistributionThe best place to order Carfree Cities on the Internet is still D.A. Salzmann - Books of Special Interest, where the book is in stock for prompt shipment ($29.95 plus $3.00 for surface shipment in the USA, plus California sales tax where applicable). For detailed information, see the Ordering Information page. Both Amazon.com and bn.com occasionally have the book in stock, but availability seems to be erratic.
In Canada, Detour Publications sells the book with secure online ordering.
In the UK, you can order from Bikefix via secure server.own page.
The only truly sustainable urban transport modes are walking and cycling, and a transport policy that took environmental concerns seriously would promote public transport as a second-best alternative to these modes. And international experience seem to show that even the best public transport in the world will not bring about a reduction in car use unless it is also accompanied by direct disincentives for car travel. But the public transport question is important in its own right. Not everyone is young or agile enough to do most of their travel on foot or by cycle, while in sprawling cities and ex-urban areas distances are frequently too great for walking or cycling. And restraint of cars is likely to be politically acceptable only if the community can see that viable alternatives exist.
I take some issue with Mees's contention that only walking and biking are sustainable. Switzerland ran for many years on sustainable energy, from their hydropower installations. If total energy consumption is reduced and sustainable supplies considerably increased, public transport can be a genuinely sustainable service. Otherwise, Mees is right on target.
World News Notes & CommentCurrent events related to urban automobiles during the past two months.
Happy Carfree AmsterdamA poll taken after the 24 September 2000 carfree Sunday in Amsterdam showed broad support for carfree Sundays. Of those living in the inner city, some 50% would like to see carfree Sundays once a month, and 25% support making every Sunday a carfree day. All in all, 75% of the inner city residents were fairly or very positive. Even shop owners were in favor - 63% support a continuation of the carfree Sunday. There was apparently no significant decline in cash register receipts.
One reason for the broad support may be that those living in the inner city were allowed to drive out of town (should they really need a car that day), although they were not allowed to drive back in until evening.
Happy Carfree EuropeThe European Car Free Cities Initiative has released a poll conducted among residents of France and Italy following the 1999 carfree day. The results are indicative of great support for less traffic and more sociable cities:
Approval rate of the operation
Desire to see the operation repeated
"European Car Free Day: Friday 22nd of September 2000"
Notice that 85% of the respondents thought that the carfree day was a good idea, and that 65% would like to see it repeated at least once a week. And keep your eye on those 16% who want every day to be a carfree day. They outnumber the 11% who don't ever want a carfree day. Notice also that very few people do not have an opinion on this topic!
Earth Carfree Day 2001Earth Carfree Day 2001 will be held on Thursday, 19 April. An open planning effort is now under way, coordinated by The Commons and the Earth Day Network. The goal is to "spark and support thousands of celebratory events and striking demonstrations around the world, all based on the common theme of personal responsibility, citizen-based activism, and new public/private/community partnership."
Earth Carfree Day
Earth Carfree Day
Forging Ahead in EuropeForum Vauban is the community organization that has been the driving force behind the mixed-use, nearly carfree redevelopment of an old military base near Freiburg, in southwestern Germany. The Forum obtained EU funding to develop a carfree concept at Vauban and to resolve the legal and organizational problems of building and operating a carfree development. The Vauban site is large: 94 acres, and will be home to some 2000 families and 600 jobs by the year 2006. In the first phase, 130 units will be completely carfree, with a further 280 units having access to car parking at a remote location. Those who want parking have to pay extra for it, about $15,000. The parking exists only because the city refused to negotiate to below 240 parking spaces. However, phase II has only 80 spaces. (Provisions have been made to build more parking spaces should that become essential.)
In Cologne, the city planning department and Car Free Cologne (a citizens' organization) have identified four sites that could be developed into 300-400 carfree housing units each. The sites are already near good public transport, shopping, and recreation. A favorable market survey has convinced the city to continue to pursue the option.
"Europeans Push the Envelope"
You're Not Serious!Until recently in Bogotá, Columbia, the 30% who owned cars tyrannized everybody else. But the mayor's office found a solution that hasn't been tried anywhere else, as far as I am aware: humor. Today, drivers observe pedestrian crossings, actually stop at red lights, and don't park on the sidewalk. Simple humor was the tool. The city hired mimes to go into the streets and model how pedestrians could stand up for their rights. Mimes would approach a vehicle breaking a law, say intruding into a crosswalk. The mime would point at the car, point at the crosswalk, point back at the car and mimic backing up motions until the hapless driver, in the presence of gawkers, would back up his vehicle. Exaggerated thanks followed, and the mime encouraged the onlookers to applaud. The streets of Bogotá are now much safer than before.
I've been searching for years for an effective way to tame drivers and limit their outrages. I never thought of this one, and it seems to work. Can we get it widely adopted?
Rail's on a RollDallas, Phoenix, and Houston are on a roll, and it's on rails. Applications for federal funding for new tram systems have doubled in the past decade. In the same period, rail ridership has risen 44%. What is most interesting is that this interest in tram systems comes not from the established "transit cities" of the Northeast but precisely those most auto-dependent Sunbelt cities in the South and West. The reasons aren't too hard to find. In Phoenix, 80-90% of air pollution is caused by cars, and the US EPA is breathing down the city's neck to do something about the problem. While federal dollars have paid some of the costs, the cities are enacting sales tax increases to pay the remainder of the cost of building these systems. Even the Los Angeles metro has achieved significant ridership, this in the midst of the archetypal auto-centric city.
Jane Holtz Kay
When people start looking for solutions, buses are the first thing they think of. Then comes rail. Buses are for other people. Trains are for everybody.
Metro-Freight, Coming Soon to the Ruhr ValleyTruck traffic through the 40-mile Ruhr corridor is so thick that the average drive time between the corridor's far points, the cities of Duisburg and Dortmund, is an aggravating two hours. Backups sometimes stretch 200 miles, spilling out of the valley, home to 6 million people and much of Germany's heavy industry. Engineering professor Dietrich Stein at the Ruhr University has proposed moving freight in an underground system of automated cargo capsules traveling through pipelines, and it looks like a 45-mile prototype system will indeed be constructed, at a cost of $450 million.
Stein said, "Every year businesses and industries in Germany waste 200 billion marks [US$90 billion] on time lost to traffic jams that delay workers getting to their jobs, supplies getting to manufacturers, and purchases getting to customers. If we could eliminate most of the trucks by creating an underground delivery system, that would free up the roads for car drivers." (Stein appears not to understand the phenomenon of induced traffic - if major reductions in truck traffic occur, car traffic is certain to increase, bringing back congestion delays.)
The Ruhr Valley is already so clogged with highways that new ones aren't seriously considered, so some other system is needed. Metro-freight, as proposed in Carfree Cities, was based on the use of standard shipping containers. The German proposal is based on the much smaller standard European shipping pallet. The proposed system, dubbed "Cargo Cap," uses electrically-propelled drones about 5 feet in diameter and long enough to carry two loaded Euro-pallets. These vehicles run in a tunnel, probably beneath existing highways. The prototype system will run east-west between rail terminals just outside the extremes of the corridor. Side tracks will lead to 13 loading stations below major shopping centers and large manufacturers. Departing capsules would remove refuse and recyclables.
It is said that the system might eventually be extended to every business and household, replacing the need for overnight express, grocery and furniture deliverers, and mail carriers. The economics of this seems highly debatable, however.
The Institute for Economic Research had initially regarded the project as too expensive, but the worsening traffic chaos and the cost-effectiveness of the proposal eventually earned the support of the Institute, which said that there was no above-ground solution to the freight distribution mess.
While Cargo Cap may seem futuristic, the concept predates World War II. The Third Reich created a subterranean mail system in Berlin, and Russia and Japan have underground pipelines that carry raw materials between mines and factories, Stein said. In the Netherlands, an unmanned shuttle is under construction to carry flowers and bulbs from Delft to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport for export.
I don't really see the Cargo Cap system as the solution to freight distribution. The world's freight moves mostly in standardized shipping containers, and any system that cannot accommodate containers will be highly limited. It is for this reason that the metro-freight system proposed in Carfree Cities is based entirely on the use of containers, except for final local delivery. Local delivery is another weakness of the Cargo Cap proposal, which will never be cheap enough to install directly to individual homes. Any real solution will have to depend on direct delivery to major freight customers (such as provided by both Cargo Cap and metro-freight), with final local delivery by freight bike or small, battery-powered delivery vehicles.
EU Eyeing an Energy WindfallThe STREET project of the European Commission's Car Free Cities Initiative reports on the range of likely energy savings from a variety of projects. Some highlights of the most important measures:
"Sustainable Transport and Rational Use of Energy in European Towns:"
Notice where this is coming from: the European Commission. Notice also that the biggest savings comes from "access control," which means keeping most cars out of an area. That gives the greatest savings. This idea lives right next door to the completely carfree concept.
Pinch at the PumpAccording to Friends of the Earth, drivers are starting to buy smaller, more fuel-efficient cars in the face of rising fuel prices, especially in Europe, where fuel prices are already fairly high. These more efficient cars are generally also less polluting, solving two problems at once. FoE has campaigned vigorously in the UK to stop any roll-back of excise taxes on gasoline, despite the truckers' protests this past fall.
"Fuel Prices Hit Drivers"
George W. Bush thinks that current US fuel economy standards are "just about right." Uh huh.
Paying the PolluterThe "polluter pays" principle is reasonably well established, but the practice is different, according to an article by Loriee Evans. US taxpayers subsidize petroleum companies to the tune of $3-11 billion a year, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. In order to ensure that the gravy train continues to roll, the petroleum lobby handed out $35 million to Congressional candidates and PACs during the last decade. The oil depletion allowance is alive and well, and costs taxpayers about a dollar a barrel. Further subsides take the guise of immediate tax write-offs for exploration costs and tax breaks for extracting "hard-to-reach" oil. Finally, as in the case of the Exxon Valdez disaster, oil companies can write off almost the entire cost of environmental clean-up.
"How WE Pay Oil Companies to Pollute"
Those billions of dollars are a very nice return for the oil companies on their paltry $35 million investment. Campaign finance reform, anyone?
Scientific Smart GrowthScientific American recently raised smart growth to the status of science by running an article entitled, "The Science of Smart Growth." The article opens with a photograph of an auto-centric street corner, probably in the southwest, with 10 or 11 lanes of traffic in each direction, and surrounded by acres of parking. The "smart growth" is shown on the next page, and to casual observation looks an awful lot like conventional suburban sprawl. What's most interesting is that this location is actually a restored downtown area of Louisville. The cars have apparently been tucked away out of sight in the usual New Urbanism back alleys, but the streets are still very wide, the front lawns still broad and forbidding social barriers. It may be better than what they're building out in the cow pastures in most places, but how much better? The article does give a good background of the history of sprawl, little of which is likely to come as news to readers of this newsletter.
Andrés Duany contributed a rural-to-urban "transect," starting at one end with low density rural patterns, and moving steadily towards higher density and more urban character. Unfortunately, the transect ends with medium-density downtown blocks that are built only two or three stories high. Were the transect to have been continued to its logical conclusion, it would have ended with a high-density, carfree urban block. Maybe next time.
"The Science of Smart Growth"
The most import aspect of this article is that it appeared in a mainstream science magazine. Unfortunately, no mention was made of the obvious extension of smart growth: no growth in urban boundaries at all. There's ample room in US cities for growth, much of it in or near city centers. All that's needed is to turn some of those parking lots into buildings and add some tram lines to take up the slack.
Mass Traffic and Metro TransitThe infestation of autos makes cities little more than those spaces in the air where flies hover and dive-bomb one another. Cities could be carfree and carefree, sans traffic, noise, and smog. As car density drops, human density can rise, without anyone feeling overcrowded, such as in European cities. If cities are to become more compact, somethingís gotta give. It wonít be homes, shops, factories, schools, playgrounds, or parks. It must be the car. Itís not city vs. country or density vs. sprawl, itís livability vs. the automobile.
Humans leave behind an enormous ecological footprint, or more precisely, tire track. Cars consume more land - sites and resources - than do people. Cars, creators of congestion and pollution, need overly wide streets and vast parking lots, paving over erstwhile gardens to give cars a place for repose.
In US cities, half the surface area is devoted to cars. Count the acreage for streets, parking lanes, parking lots, parking garages, dealer lots, used car lots, junk yards, gas stations, parts stores, auto insurance offices, traffic cop shops, and traffic courts. Itís far more acreage than a MOV (multi-occupancy vehicle) needs, and more than a SOV (single-occupancy vehicle) can afford, were it forced to pay its own way.
Around cities, sprawl needs cars. What drove residents out of downtown? The usual suspect, the car, was merely a convenient ride. Actually, it was the lure of cold cash - not a gain but a savings. And despite our present dependency on cars, the drive to profit is powerful enough to bring people back.
To draw people in, take taxes off peopleís attempts to make a living. Where taxes are low or absent on homes, businesses, and incomes, people move in. To get people to leave their cars behind, collect the rental value of sites, which is highest in the metro center. In order to afford their land dues (land tax, or land use fee, or deed fee, etc.), downtown land owners would then turn lots for cars into structures for people. This property tax shift, the cutting edge proposal of groups from the Sierra Club to the Libertarian Party of Maryland, is the salient feature of geonomics.
Applying geonomics in-fills a city, providing more riders for public transport, justifying more routes and higher frequency of service. To fund the expansion, the high site value around transit stops could be tapped (as noted in a 1990 study by Walthers et al. for US DOT). Check classified ads listing apartments for rent; often they sell their nearness to transit stops. San Franciscoís BART, Washington, DCís Metro, and most other light rail systems raised site value by more than enough to pay for both building and operating the system - meaning people could ride fare-free.
As riding becomes convenient while remaining a bargain, and parking grows inconvenient while rising in cost, more people would switch from driving to riding. Customers could shop via the Internet; stores could deliver goods during times of lowest use of streets by passenger vehicles. Less traffic allows cities to transform streets for bikes, pedestrians, sidewalk cafes, and street performers. Livelier streets would also raise nearby site values, pouring more site rent into city coffers.
As more urbanites give up their cars, theyíd grow the demand for some kind of public transport system extending into the surrounding countryside. Were metro government to place a surcharge on fuel to cover pollution costs, that would bring the cost of driving from background, where it gets overlooked, to foreground. Then the more fuel-efficient modes, e.g., public transit, become a better bargain. Besides increasing bus and train service into the rural parts of the region (as was the norm just a century ago), local authorities might also construct bike paths. Instead of putting a toll on the paths, the locality need only zone some bike intersections for refreshment stands and take the highest bid from Starbucks, Coffee People, Orange Julius, and others. As people in both the city and country unload their cars to the junk smelters, the market would respond with competing transport: bus, jitney, car sharing, etc.
Curing American metro regions of dependency upon cars does not mean abandoning the American vision of utmost happiness - perpetual motion. It just means that in functionally integrated neighborhoods, trips will be shorter and taken in a variety of modes. By getting vehicles to pay for the land they take, geonomics gets people out of their cars, and into the worlds of healthy walking and of comfortable coaches on their own right-of-ways.
What you can do: Walk. Pedal. Hail a cab. Take a jitney. Ride the bus. When necessary, use a hybrid shared car. Request delivery service. Patronize sidewalk cafes. Convert that garage to a granny flat. Kick cars out of your urban core and dance the night away. Tell all the celebrants that when the land youíre partying on rises in value, that increase ought to be shared. Place ads on transit vehicles that say, "Free rides when the rent around transit stops funds transit." Or think of a more compelling wording.
Jeffery J. Smith
The editor is certainly not a Libertarian and does not support many
You Can Bike There,
By Richard Hartger
At last we have a book that challenges all of the New Right's assumptions regarding the universal applicability of the Holy Market as an effective, efficient arbiter of practically everything. While the market certainly has its place, that place is not the provision of urban transportation. Mees critically examines the tracts offered by the New Right as "proofs" of the effectiveness of the market in transport.
As it happens, Mees grew up in Melbourne, a city with market-driven transport, a place often cited as proof that this approach provides cost-effective, comfortable public transport. His experience as a schoolboy was quite enough to convince him that the resulting "utopia" was, well, for the birds.
The basic thrust of the book is that large capital investments are not necessary to provide good public transport, but that a customer-oriented operation is essential. He argues that, for a variety of reasons, free-market public transport services are doomed to failure. The only exception is when a central planning agency establishes routes, fares, and ticketing systems while contracting with private operators to run the service. Even here, it is essential that all the fares be paid to the central authority; the operators receive fixed amounts for operating the service. This arrangement is the only way in which easy transfers, logical route structures, and convenient schedules can be developed. Free-market competition is antithetical to these arrangements. Some people are getting the idea:
The demise of the optimism of the 1960s [cars as the answer to everything] can be charted through the three editions of Brian Richard's book Transport in Cities. The first edition, published in 1966, is a catalogue of monorails, people movers, and other gadgets; the third edition, published in 1990, talks about traffic calming, pedestrianisation and timed-transfer networks. The focus has shifted from engineering to planning. [page 79]
The free enterprise public transport model has received surprisingly little sustained criticism, in contrast with the avalanche of books, journal papers and reports which have appeared in its support. Thus, while more than a dozen books arguing the case for the market model have appeared since 1980, I am not aware of a single book taking the opposing view (other than this one). [page 109]
One of the most potent arguments against the free-market model is that transfers between routes become difficult and expensive. "[F]rom the passenger's point of view, transferring between services is an inconvenience; requiring an extra fare for the disservice is adding insult to injury." At least when a single operator (i.e., public) runs an entire system, those who are forced to transfer are usually not required to pay extra. When the New York City Transit Authority streamlined transfers between buses and the subway, ridership surged, no surprise to anyone who actually uses public transport.
It is interesting to quote a quote - Mees quoting Robert Cervero on the need for quality service:
Transportation experts have long regarded the ease of physically accessing transit facilities, along with the maintenance of frequent, reliable schedules, to be key determinants of whether travelers opt for transit or not. Commuters particularly abhor the hassle of transferring or anything that disrupts the process of making a trip.... Near effortless connections of modes thus become imperative if motorists are to be won over to transit. [quoted on page 134]
Mees concludes Part I with this succinct summary:
The approach to public transport planning seen in Zurich and some other European cities is diametrically opposed to the free enterprise model. Flexibility for users is created through fixed, integrated, high-quality routes and easy transfers, rather than through the 'creative chaos' of the market. And in contrast to the cities cited as examples of successful free enterprise public transport, the planned model can measure up to what Hilaire Belloc called 'the tyranny of fact,' because there are real-world examples supporting it that can withstand critical scrutiny.... [page 151]
Everyone who has not yet been convinced by the dismal results of privatizing public transport in Great Britain needs to read this book; those who already understand this point will find the arguments usefully marshaled.
Reviewed by J.H. Crawford
One little tidbit: the fuel consumption of Australian passenger cars was in 1995 at almost precisely the same level as in 1963. So much for more fuel-efficient cars. Does anyone happen to have the same numbers for the US or European auto fleets?
This book shows how physical planning greatly influences our daily outdoor activities. It considers how outdoor activities and life between buildings are affected by planning. By bringing buildings closer to each other and making the streets pedestrian friendly, more frequent social interaction occurs among residents. Also considered is scale and dimensions of buildings and streets and how these are affected by our senses.
The author also reviews our urban planning ideology, the physical and social aspects of Middle Ages planning, the transition from freely evolved cities to planned cities, the disappearance of streets, and post-war planning practices. It stresses that medieval cities gathered people and events in streets and squares while encouraging pedestrian traffic and time spent outdoors, something that current planning practice fails to achieve.
About one-third of the book discusses the design of spaces for walking, standing, sitting, seeing, hearing and talking. Gehl believes that these small components are actually what determines whether or not the space between buildings is pleasant and lively. The author also considers protection from weather, a matter often overlooked by careless planners.
The studies and surveys presented in the book were from Australia, Europe and the USA. The book includes many statistics and diagrams, such as pedestrian traffic before and after closing a street to vehicular traffic.
Reviewed by C.B. Tan
Hot New LinksThe links below will open in a new browser window:
Travel on ELTIS, the European Local Transport Information Service.
Openbaar Reisinformatie (in Dutch). How to do transit information right.
Earth Carfree Day (19 April 2001).
Car-Free Housing in European Cities: A Survey of Sustainable Residential Development Projects.
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