Monday, February 23, 2009

Supernanny Transportation Planning

Today's view from the street starts with a note from Wired and piece they have on Designing cities for people not cars.
That was the message transportation planner Timothy Papandreou brought to "Expanding the Vision of Sustainable Mobility," a symposium sponsored by the Art Center College of Design. The school could be called the Harvard of transportation design

Papandreou called for an end to "state, federal, and local land use policies that are literally forcing people to have to drive"
Yes, some of us feel that the policies force us to drive. I have come to think that these policies are similar the efforts of young parents that facilitate their children's misbehavior. In watching Supernanny the other night, I saw again what is becoming a recurring theme of the show. Parents setting limitations but then giving in and then giving the child whatever it wants. And whatever one child gets the others all get and more, until they all expect it as a right.

That was the way of automobile use. First it was one car to replace the horse/mule. Then it was not just driving to town, but all the way to the BIG city. Next, somewhere to store your auto at home, at work and during shopping or recreation. More storage for our autos because more of us were going shopping at the same time. More roads because we were going to the same places at the same time. More, more, more, we deserve it, we can't live without it. If I don't get it ...why I'll just stand here and scream my head off.

This is the part where the Supernanny steps in and tells the parents how to tell the kids No, but here is also where the benevolent Uncle Sam, who wants to be well liked, steps in first and makes it all better. R i g h t. At some point the government is going to have to set thing straight.

America's eastern metropolis's had already reached critical mass before this phenomena could affect their inner cities and had started to deal with solutions like mass transit/streetcars/subways. These solutions did not extend out until it was too late and the damage was done. Meanwhile the sibling jealousy of the city child toward his suburban cousin(with a liberal dose of Madison Ave. prompting) led to an escape to the wide open spaces where you could drive(and shop) till you dropped(or the bank made you stop).

Well, we have just about made it to the point where the Supernanny bank will make us stop. And, good old Uncle Sam is living off social security, and can't give us what we need to survive. As post mid-life drivers, our mid-life crisis came in the 1970's, to which we thought about growing up, then snapped out of it to back to our old habits of wanting more... more... more.

Designing our cities for people and not cars means that we need to give up our "self-interested" ways. Scientific American ran an article in the February issue that dealt with just that matter. The article cites a study wherein a counterintuitive traffic design is shown to traffic flow when the self interest of the driver is removed.
This so called “price of anarchy” is a measure of the inefficiency caused by selfish drivers. Analyzing a commute from Harvard Square to Boston Common, the researchers found that the price can be high—selfish drivers typically waste 30 percent more time than they would under “socially optimal” conditions.
Both of these articles point to the same end, that we as drivers need to be less self interested and more common interested, less of whats in it for me and more of how can we all get along together. We could find that we become more neighborly, more connected and get more things done.

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