• NY Times: Car Clash – Europe vs. the U.S.

    by  • June 30, 2011 • Engineering, Land Use, Transit • 0 Comments

    Europeans are doing all they can to discourage people from driving and parking their cars in and around cities. When European planners say that their aims are the opposite of American ones, it sounds like a boast, if not a fact, and starts a vigorous debate
    Why has urban planning in the U.S. taken a different course? How should Americans view the anti-driving campaigns in Europe?
    Among the commentaries, this from Ellen Dunham-Jones:
    “Top of the list of unloved, underperforming and ubiquitous places, they were engineered for the single purpose of swiftly moving cars. But overzoned for commercial uses, they are now clogged with cars on both local and through trips. They provide access to cheaper land and “drive till you qualify” affordable housing – but then eat up the savings as transportation costs have risen to 20 to 40 percent of household budgets. They are aging with little prospect of funding for maintenance. And their high vacancy rates just add to the dispiritedness of a failed public realm.
    “Can they be retrofitted into attractive, transit boulevards lined with trees, sidewalks and affordable housing and anchored by mixed-use centers with a public life to be proud of? June Williamson and I are tracking over 35 North American corridors that are being redesigned not to make driving miserable, but to recognize the multiple social, environmental, economic and transportation purposes that great streets serve. Their integration was highlighted in the grassroots-led temporary re-striping of Ross Avenue as “Ross Ramblas” in Dallas this week at Build a Better Boulevard. Participants employed several techniques of Tactical Urbanism, including pop-up shops, chairbombing and dumpster pools.”
    “Aiding these efforts is the new street design manual for walkable urban thoroughfares. It is the first officially recommended practice that does not refer to sidewalks as “vehicle recovery zones”! El Paso recently adopted the manual to connect its implementation of Bus Rapid Transit with redevelopment of outdated properties along five major corridors. Imagine if all 50 DOTs followed suit and revised their Level of Service Standards accordingly! We might see more transformations of urban highways to boulevards and Complete Streets.”
    and this from Laurie Volk and Todd Zimmerman:
    “The reversal of our national misallocation of infrastructure — significant increases of transportation alternatives and housing options in our urban centers — will be a long and challenging task, one that many of our current leaders simply lack the courage and stature to face. Witness the recent short-sighted pandering and grandstanding by governors rejecting transportation investments, like commuter tunnels and rail projects, that would ultimately yield permanent economic, fiscal and social benefits.”

    Read on

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