Contrarian Thinking: Against Transportation

As the two chambers of the Congress haggle over the stimulus plan (see The Transport Politic‘s
handy comparison of transpo-related spending in the House and Senate
bills), we’ll take a moment to step back and look at the bigger
picture, courtesy of Streetsblog Network member blog Where. They have a post entitled "Against Transportation" that poses these questions:

SUBWAY.jpgPhoto by truffes via Flickr.

Urban transportation: What are we going to do about it? Fewer cars? More mass transit? More bikes? Fuel taxes?

tempting to try solving transportation problems with more
transportation. The sight of rush hour traffic jams in cities, or the
experience of riding an overcrowded bus or train, suggest the need for
increased transit capacity. As a short term solution, that may indeed
be the best remedy. In the long run, however, it’s more like
supplementing a junk food diet with a few healthy snacks.

Instead, Where cites the work of Christopher Alexander and asks us to imagine this: 

[I]t might be a helpful first step to scatter workplaces throughout
dense cities…along peripheral transit lines or within walking and
biking distance of neighborhood residences. A lot of work disappeared
in 2008 and plenty more is sure to vanish in 2009. If and when that
work comes back, it doesn’t all need to end up downtown.

Your thoughts?

Also on the network today: Greater City: Providence notes the shoddy quality of new highway infrastructure in Rhode Island, Milwaukee Rising asks why Wisconsin’s governor can’t rein in his road-happy DOT, and the National Journal asks, "How Will We Pay for the Transportation We Need?"

  • The private auto is the problem. It wastes energy. It dumps carbon into the atmosphere. It kills. It causes war. It hurts business.

    Wisdom is knowledge plus courage. We have knowledge. Until we have courage, we will be condemned to interminable discussions of ridiculous, convoluted “solutions” such as “scattering workplaces.”

  • I think that focusing on regional transportation issues over local economic best interests is what has eliminated a lot of the small manufacturers and cottage industries in L.A. (that and the subsidy of oil-fueled corporate expansion).

    There is still plenty of physical space for small commercial outfits and middlemen to ply their trade – but an overemphasis on regional transportation has prevented these types of ventures from succeeding.

    A good example of this is the construction of something like the 5 Freeway through Griffith Park in L.A. – which helped ensure that the local commercial activities in this fertile strip of L.A. were limited to harsh industrial uses and car-oriented uses.

    There used to be a pretty dense manufacturing base in what is now “Frogtown” – but highways made construction of airport-hanger sized factories in Lancaster more competitive, and small businesses left town.


Federal Transportation Bill Includes America Fast Forward Provisions

Amidst all of the negative news about the federal transportation bill recently agreed to by members of the House of Representatives and Senate agreed to, there is a silver lining.  The “America Fast Forward” provisions, a group of changes and funding increases that will help cities expand their rail transit systems, survived the conference committee. […]