Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's just not Generation Y, it's everyone who has the freedom of not being invested.

Place Shakers has a nice post on why Generation Y is not buying into the automotive lifestyle. It's not just Gen Y, it's anyone who is overburdened with their time. Also, it's anyone who is living in a reasonable metropolitan area that can support mass transit. If you go to New York City, it's not just Gen Yers who are riding the subways, go to any major city and it's the same.

What Gen Y and more recently generations is a case of the Emperor's new clothes, given fresh eyes they are seeing what is, as opposed to what use to be. (Yes, I know the analogy is approximate). The post really asks, are the assumptions of the past about transportation still valid. And increasingly the answer is no. Previous generations are invested not only in automobiles, but housing with a mortgage that is underwater. Gen Y does what it does, because it can.

The question now is if you were to build a transportation system today, based on the constraints and starting conditions defined today. What would you do? And how do we get there, short of a clean slate we need to find leverage points which enable us to transition to better environments. Right now, even if we knew what to do, we can't. The reason, zoning.

Towns that can rework their zoning laws will become more attractive and foster interesting growth, if you can't do it for everyone, choose the places that have. And yes, this can be the suburbs. Look at how Canberra is organized. Not perfect, but energetic nonetheless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Walking a retrospective....

Perpetual traffic guru Tom Vanderbilt has a series on the history and state of walking in America. It's funny that this came up since I periodically take the shuttle to work which involves a 10 minute walk to the shuttle stop and it felt so strange, but when I was recently in Tokyo and Seoul I walked a lot more for the same period of time and wondered to myself, "why does a 10 minute walk feel different in a city, suburb or the woods" City and trail walking feel refreshing, while walking in the suburbs feels alienating. Perhaps something to do with safeness.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

If this were a disease, would we do something about it...

I was reading about how the installation of Speeding Cameras in Qatar dropped the fatality rate (no link). In that article, they mentioned that traffic accidents was the leading cause of death in developing countries for young adults which led me to search out some sources and I found this one from the WHO. Pretty sobering. The New York Times has an follow up article on a successor study.

Traffic injuries are the ninth leading cause of death worldwide, and public health experts say that without intervention they will rise to fifth within 20 years, surpassing AIDS and tuberculosis.
“Very few people realize that this is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and the leading cause of death for young people,” Dr. Krug said. “Because it happens one by one, here and there and not in mass events, it gets less attention.”
“However,” Dr. Krug said, “we know from anecdotal evidence that in some hospitals and surgical wards, almost half of the surgery beds are occupied by victims of road traffic crashes.”

Historically, traffic deaths have increased with a nation’s economic growth, but poorer countries can incorporate safety strategies into transportation and infrastructure plans now to avoid this pattern, said Tony Bliss, lead road safety specialist at the World Bank.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Youths theeze days! - the Emperor's New Clothes

The San Francisco Chronicle has an interesting article on a report from CalPIRG on the trend that young adults are passing on that rite of passage known as getting your drivers license. This is pretty significant because it to me signals a change in the definition of independence. Teens couldn't wait to get their drivers license but according to the article, teens prefer getting chauffeured by their parents or horrors taking the bus.

Could this be a case of the "Emperor's New Clothes". For years advertisers and car manufacturers have espoused the joys and status that having a car confers, but today's kids see the madness of traffic, accidents and hassle that cars entail and see that so much of the purported benefits are overblown and seeing it for what it is.

Some interesting stats are:

The CalPIRG report pulls together data, much of it from the Federal Highway Administration, to illustrate the trend.

-- From 2001 through 2009, the average number of miles driven each year by people ages 16 to 34 fell 23 percent on a per capita basis.

-- During that period, people in the same age range increased the number of miles they rode on mass transit by 40 percent.

-- The portion of people ages 14 to 34 without a driver's license increased five percentage points between 2000 and 2010, from 21 percent to 26 percent.

Maybe they just realize, cars are great but too many not so great.