Monday, June 29, 2009

The watershed moment

It has happened! Bike Europe is reporting that more trips in Amsterdam are taken by bike then cars.

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands - The bicycle is the means of transport used most often in Amsterdam. Between 2005 and 2007 people in the city used their bikes on average 0.87 times a day, compared to 0.84 for their cars. This is the first time that bicycle use exceeds car use.

In 2006 the inhabitants of Amsterdam engaged in some 2 million trips a day, an 8% reduction compared to 1990. This is due to the number of trips per person per day falling from 3.6 to 3.1%. The number of transfers has fallen in the old city within the ring road in particular.

The number of trips by car, compared to 1990, has fallen in all districts (-14%), whereas the number of trips by bicycle has only risen within the ring road (+36%). The bike is used most often in the town centre (41% versus an average of 28%) and the car least often (10% versus an average of 28%). This can be attributed to the restrictive parking policies enacted here since the 1990s.

Dienst Infrastructuur en Beheer’, the infrastructure department of the city registered approximately 235,000 car movements in both directions at the city centre in 1990; by 2006 this had fallen to 172,000, a decrease of over a quarter. Over the same period the number of daily movements by bicycle rose from 86,000 to over 140,000 (+60%).

Which US city will be the first to achieve this?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Central Corridor Comments

Can we envision a future that creates transit for all users?

Biking on the Sidewalk: the two tier system

Tim Halbur is asking the hard queions over at Planetizen. Are there two types of cyclists? This has been a point of conflict within the bike community and skews the discussion on what infrastructure and network is needed to accommodate both. Below is Tim's post:

I am a bicycle commuter in Los Angeles, which on the face of it is a pretty tricky proposition. The major boulevards here are designed like freeways, and people use them as such. Pico, Highland, Sepulveda, Olympic- these streets were built for speed and make commuting not a little tricky for your serious bicycle commuter.

But there's the difference- I'm not a serious bicycle commuter. I don't shave my legs, seal myself up in neoprene, and take my fixie out zooming like a Tour de France athlete. My bike of choice is an Electra Townie, a sort of more flexible cruiser with a big cushy seat and a not insignificant weight. I'm lucky that I live only 1.5 miles from work, so I can take it easy, ride slowly, and enjoy the show as I roll past the La Brea Tar Pits.

So should I,at 10 mph tops, be forced to compete with the cars on streets like La Cienega? At a Los Angeles Transportation Committee meeting last week, the committee began to propose just that (LAist). Many people don't know that as the law currently stands, bicyclists are A-OK on the sidewalks of Los Angeles County. As long as you don't show "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property." And in my experience, pedestrians are always willing to scoot over for a cyclist, and do not see them as nuisances. I try to be as courteous in return, slowly edging up on people so I don't freak them out, and using my bell quietly when necessary.

I submit that there are really two classes of cyclists, and they naturally sort themselves out on the roadway. Faster commuters on road bikes use bike lanes and weave through traffic because the sidewalks are too slow for them, while bikers like me use the sidewalks because it's safer and can easily navigate any obstacles at our slower speeds. And each type is suited for their chosen environment.

Bicycle planners, what do you think? Can we create a two-tiered system?

I'll admit that I fall into I'll ride in traffic any old day camp, but I do realize the need for safe and secure on street space to accommodate all cyclists. What I have always thought is that it should be safe enough for a family to be riding along, then we know it is right.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top Biking Cities

Travel and Leisure cover the top biking cities around the world. It was good to see Portland, Seattle, and Minneapolis on the list.

Open the garage, grip the handlebars, stand on the pedals, and go. That’s all it takes for Joseph Duffy, a graphic designer in Minneapolis, to start his morning commute to work. But what lies ahead—a 15-mile route starting on converted railroad beds in the suburbs and ending on the dedicated bike lanes of the city’s downtown core—is a trip made possible only by a decade of planning to make the city fully compatible with two-wheeled transit.

Like many of the world’s best biking cities, Minneapolis has built an infrastructure that promotes bicycling on many fronts. From bike lockers and designated street lanes to recreational trails and snowplows dedicated to clearing off-street paths, a system exists to make transportation on a bike efficient, safe, and hassle-free.

Check out the slide show here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is smart growth working?

From Planetizen:

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy spent two years looking at smart growth policies in a number of states to see how well they've achieved their goals. Gregory K. Ingram, President of the Institute, explains the results.

Two years ago, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy began to gather 21 leading researchers to analyze the empirical evidence on smart growth, choosing four states – Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Oregon – that all declared formal statewide smart growth programs through legislation, executive order, and otherwise. Using the 10 Principles of Smart Growth as a reference, this group addressed five important smart growth policy objectives: promoting compact human settlement, protecting undeveloped land, providing a variety of transportation options, maintaining affordable housing, and achieving positive fiscal impacts. Though smart growth policies have been around, in the case of Oregon, for nearly four decades, this kind of comprehensive, objective-based evaluation had never been done.

What we found was somewhat sobering. No state was able to make gains in all five performance measures. Success was more limited and reflected each state’s areas of high priority. Maryland was successful in protecting natural resources through its land preservation programs and state funding for the purchase of farmland conservation easements. New Jersey’s affordable housing policies that responded to state supreme court decisions slowed house price escalation and encouraged rental and multifamily housing production. Oregon's commitment to urban growth boundaries helped reduce development on farmland in the Willamette Valley and encouraged commuters to use transit, walk, or bike to work.
Read the op-ed and the report.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The New Paris

Check out this great slide show and article in the NY Times Magazine.
One of the first things Sarkozy did after he moved into the Elysée Palace was to convene a meeting of prominent architects and ask them to come up with a new blueprint for Paris. “Of course,” he said, “projects should be realistic, but for me true realism is the kind that consists in being very ambitious.” His job was to clean up the city’s working-class suburbs, and at the same time build a greener Paris, the first city to conform to the environmental goals laid out in the Kyoto treaty.

The results, a year later, may be the beginning of one of the boldest urban planning operations in French history. A formidable list of architects — including Richard Rogers, Jean Nouvel, Djamel Klouche and Roland Castro — put forward proposals that address a range of urban problems: from housing the poor to fixing outdated transportation systems to renewing the immigrant suburbs. Some have suggested practical solutions — new train stations and parks — while others have been more provocative, like Castro, who proposed moving the presidential palace to the

Monday, June 22, 2009

77 mode of transit, but no gas car

I am sure most of us have thought how would I travel around the country if I didn't need a car. Train or bike touring seem the two obvious answers. Boaz Frankel has been using any mode transit he can. This Minn Post article gives you the details:

Boaz Frankel is an adventurer. The 26-year-old Portland resident adventured his way to the Mall of America Wednesday, which may seem odd or at least not very adventurous, until you learn how he got to Bloomington.

Light-rail, most recently. Before that: walking, Amtrak, sailboat, scooter, kayak, crop duster, horse, hang glider, fishing boat, dog sled, camel and hot-air balloon. And more varieties of bicycles than Dr. Seuss could imagine.

The sharp-eyed among you will note that automobile does not show up on that list. And that's his shtick — 77 forms of transportation and counting, but no Ford, Chevy or Lotus Exige in the mix. He's also trying to avoid major highways."What does a car mean?" he said. "I decided four wheels or more and runs on gas — it's a car." He's been in electric cars and a vegetable-oil-powered ambulance.

With the right transit improvements Mr. Frankel should be stepping off one mode of transit onto another seamlessly w/ bike in tow.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hit and Run in NJ

Via the comments section of Streets Blog:

The man gets hit and cars continue to keep driving. WOW.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why we love car-sharing!

Great article in the NY Times:

Environmentalists have long hailed car-sharing as a more efficient, less polluting approach to urban driving.

For example, a 2006 survey done for CommunAuto, a Quebec car-sharing organization, found that each shared vehicle replaces eight individually owned ones, leads to an 1,800-mile reduction in distance driven per year per member, and resulted in up to a 44 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

A 2003 study of San Francisco’s City CarShare program found that fully two-thirds of members deferred car purchases.

And, as if the automobile industry didn’t have enough to worry about, a growing number of North American cities are also looking to leverage car-sharing benefits by allowing high-rise condo developers to reduce their underground parking requirements if they agree to provide on-site spaces for commercial or nonprofit car-share companies.

Having launched a review this week of its condo parking regulations, the city of Toronto appears to be about to join Seattle, Vancouver and San Francisco in moving to a system that would specify the maximum number of dedicated car-share vehicles inside apartment buildings, as well as a regulated threshold for eliminating individually owned spaces.

Car-sharing is much more established in Europe, but the World Car Share Consortium says the trend has now caught on in about a thousand cities worldwide.

Some of the larger North American players, like the 275,000-member Zipcar, are targeting university campuses and corporate customers with on-site vehicles, while large rental chains like Hertz are moving into a business described by Mark Levine in the New York Times Magazine as “both a burgeoning cult and a bright business story in a grim time.”

According to an I.B.I. Group car share study published in March for Toronto, a 250-unit building with 16 car-share vehicles in Seattle may eliminate up to 47 parking spaces. In Vancouver, the same building could have four car-share vehicles, and 12 fewer spots. San Francisco, for its part, mandates car-share vehicles in larger residential and commercial buildings, but doesn’t allow developers to reduce on-site parking.

Kevin McLaughlin, the president of Autoshare in Toronto, said he has seen a proliferation of condo parking spaces for sale on Craig’s List in the past 18 months — a sign that high-rise dwellers are increasingly going car-free.

That trend points to the need for looser parking regulations for developers, Mr. McLaughlin said. “If we’re building our cities for the next 50 years, we’re not going to need one or two cars per condo unit locked in the basement.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Big Dig II

Remember the Big Dig? Boston dug a huge hole to sink an expressway to deck it over and create a park. A very expensive solution to accommodate automobiles. Well, New Jersey Transit is about to embark on part II.

New Jersey is going to build a tunnel to get its residents into Penn Station in Manhattan and it will only cost $8.7 billion. While new transit access is desperately needed for commuters into Manhattan, this project just seems a bit out of scope. Are there really no viable alternative solutions?

From NY Times article:

New Jersey officials have been planning the next train tunnel under the Hudson River for so long that it is already on its third name. This month, work is scheduled to begin on the Mass Transit Tunnel — formerly known as the Trans-Hudson Express and, before that, Access to the Region’s Core — more than 15 years after it was conceived.

The Hudson tunnel was designed to help ease the jam-packed rides that rail commuters from the west have long endured. New Jersey Transit, which runs as many as 23 trains an hour through a century-old tunnel into Pennsylvania Station in New York, has said that it is nearing maximum capacity. The riders of those trains share Penn Station with passengers of the Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak.

The project, however, does have environmental costs, and would “destroy between 19 to 25 acres of wetlands and open waters and approximately 112 acres of upland natural areas including 1.7 acres of forest,” according to a decision from the Federal Transit Administration.

Some mass transit advocates have insisted that the tunnel connect to either Penn Station or Grand Central Terminal, or both, to be useful to many of the commuters. Others have argued that the proposed station, 18 stories below ground, will be too difficult to evacuate in a fire or other emergency.

Is the tunnel going to be worth the costs?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Portland Effect

In the US Portland is the model most turn for public transportation. Unlike the rest of our fine cities, in the 1970's Portland redirected highway dollars towards mass transit, specifically light rail. In the late 90's/ early 2000 they got the street car running through downtown. Portland is a huge success and great model. This model has come full circle as many small and mid-sized cities are starting to take advantage of the advantages of LRT. Here are some excerpts from NY Times article:

The project in Carrollton is among many nationwide to be planned around new and existing light rail lines. These so-called transit-oriented developments, along with downtown revitalization plans, tap into a move toward more pedestrian-friendly, urban-style living. While the credit crisis has halted many housing developments — notably subdivisions and stand-alone condominium buildings — some projects that are going forward are linked to broader revitalization or transit-related efforts.

Urban-style development may be the brightest spot in a generally gloomy market. A recent survey of developers and investors by the Urban Land Institute for its annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report found that urban redevelopment had the best prospects among all types of housing, while urban mixed-use properties and town centers scored high among niche property types. “These are the places that will be creating and holding value,” Ms. Poticha said. She said proximity to public transit could raise property values significantly.

Are we finally seeing the key connection between transit and housing. The drive to qualify model is no longer viable. Will TOD be forced development because in our current and future economics it makes the most logical sense?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Urban Argiculture in St. Paul

Urban Agriculture is going to be our future in most metropolitan areas. In St. Paul one man is trying to get a head start with stimulus money and local support:

For one thing, he's not a farmer. For another, winter isn't exactly peak growing season in Minnesota.Hannigan runs a produce distribution business on Rice Street and plans to build a hydroponic greenhouse on his property to grow fruits and veggies for local folks. An urban farm, he calls it, that would use alternative energy, employ St. Paul residents and provide tasty, homegrown produce.

"I can sell it -- I can't grow it," Hannigan said. "But I'll find somebody who can." He has been talking to a lot of people lately trying to make his urban farm idea a reality. The St. Paul City Council recently gave its support to the project, which is awaiting final approval from the federal government of $500,000 in stimulus plan money.

I really hope he gets some of the stimulus dollars. In my mind this is exactly what is was meant for and will help ignite the local economy and provide fresh produce for a neighborhood that has been the victim of disinvestment for years.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sitting in Times Square

From the New York Times:

Add this to the weird reasons to love New York City: Less than a week after Times Square became an outdoor lounge, it’s already hard to find a seat in the crossroads of the world. Mayor Michael Bloomberg closed large swaths of Broadway to traffic and filled Times Square with plastic lawn chairs in gaudy pink, blue and green as one of his experiments in making the city more livable. The question of whether New Yorkers would like the innovation is already answered. As anyone with a sandwich and a yen to watch the neon lights at lunch can attest, the big problem is finding a free chair.

“Today is the first day I’ve found a place to sit,” Rachelle Bulgin, a 19-year-old college student who works nearby, said on Thursday afternoon. “It’s kinda cool.”

The chair scene has quickly become another New York phenomenon, providing the tourists that fill the area with another reason to gape at the locals. Soon after the chairs were introduced last month, one man created an outdoor living room with a rug, lamp and three plastic seats. It had to go at midnight, when workers lock the chairs up for the night.

New Yorkers are taking their work to Broadway’s outdoor salons between 42nd and 47th Streets and across from Macy’s on 34th Street. There are laptops galore, and one executive pulled a few of the chairs in a circle this week for a business meeting, his wisdom further illuminated by the neon lights flashing overhead.
Mostly, however, people simply sit. They rest their feet and unload their parcels. “There are not many places like this to stop and catch your breath,” explained Debbie Adams, a tourist from South Africa.

Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, said little explanation was needed when the chairs were put in place. “We hadn’t even gotten the tags off when people had settled into them. It was like this had been there for the last 40 years,” he said.

Actually, these particular chairs are temporary. Purchased for $10.74 each at a local hardware store, many of the original 350 are already starting to sag and show signs of overuse. But before anybody invests in more durable or attractive seats, the city’s traffic experts want to make sure the idea works. Even the joys of a large sitting area in Times Square are not an adequate trade-off for permanent gridlock.

If traffic is merely bad, as usual, the next step is to make the area a little more glamorous. By August, the seating areas are scheduled to be resurfaced. There are plans for sturdier chairs and planters are expected to replace the orange plastic barrels now being used to warn cars away. Times Square’s experimental park is primitive, but for anyone who loves the lights of Broadway, it is the new best view in town.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

New York, New York

Ben Alder over at Next American City has this good piece about why NYC is getting so much attention these days, but do they really need all the help?

Going After Cars Where it Really Matters

Did you ever think that there would such a thing as a celebrity transportation commissioner? Neither did I. But New York City’s Janette Sadik-Khan has become not just a heroine to transit activists since she began in 2007, she has been the subject of multiple profiles in glossy magazines. First The American Prospect and now New York magazine have sung her praises at great length. Sadik-Khan has been making headlines by trying to build “complete streets” that no longer favor cars over bicyclists and pedestrians. Since her efforts are taking place in the most high-profile of locations—along 9th Avenue and Broadway in midtown Manhattan—they are getting a lot of media attention.

That is all well and good. But as I noted in my own Prospect feature on urban and regional planning, New York is already light years ahead of the rest of the country in being free of auto dependence. The real challenge we face as a country is not perfecting New York but improving the suburbs and newer cities, where the overwhelming majority of population growth has occurred in recent years. As I demonstrate in my piece, by visiting Leesburg, Virginia, a typical American exurb, without a car, local and regional planning has made most exurbs entirely dependent on cars. But it does not need to be that way. Looking at the town of Kentlands, Maryland, I saw that new urbanist communities in the suburbs could be pedestrian-friendly and transit-accessible. In fact, in Germany, there is a new suburb that has banned cars entirely.

Of course, we should also focus on reducing the inequality between inner-city public schools and suburban schools so as to encourage the re-population of American cities that have been decimated by white flight. But there will always be bedroom communities. The nation’s first suburbs, such as Brooklyn Heights, are now considered models of urban living. New York may benefit from Janette Sadik-Khan but the suburbs need her, or people like her, much more.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Proactive Transportation Planning

Alex Marshall from the Regional Plan Association argues why transportation planning needs to look at area of least congestion, as oppose to the more obvious destinations. While this might seem counter intuitive to most, it seems to make sense if you want to direct people to a geographic area not serves by transit. He explains how it worked in Spain:

But you don’t have to go back two centuries to find projects that anticipate demand and make it work. Spain, eyeing the fast trains in France in the early 1990s, opted to build its first high-speed rail line from Madrid to Seville, a beautiful city of Moorish architecture and Flamenco dancers, but not an economic dynamo.

Many thought a better choice would have been to build it between Madrid and the thriving city of Barcelona. Many businessmen already made that journey, and many wanted to do so more quickly and easily.

I rode the new Seville line in 1994, shortly after it opened. I made the 300-mile trip from Madrid to Seville in less than two hours, visiting the Seville World’s Fair and returning to Madrid in time for dinner. Even so, I wondered at the wisdom of making Madrid-Seville the first line in the system.

Americans seem to recognize that infrastructure investment can jump-start an economy. But as states and localities decide where to put their money, they shouldn’t simply generate studies to show where the traffic is. They should ask how transportation can expand commerce and trade, and make better places to live.

Planning for connections for major destinations makes sense, but should we be looking at a future where sprawl and development can be controlled through transportation planning?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bike Lanes

Ian Sacs over at Planetizen explains why bike lanes are important:

A friend introduced me yesterday to rambunctious bicycling advocate Fred Oswald via a recent article out of Cleveland’s press. Much debate swirls around his not-so-uncommon opinions. Mr. Oswald’s argument can be boiled down to two points: supporting a critical need for much more bicycling education on sharing public roadways with other vehicles, and fighting an industry-borne fallacy that breaking up streets with allocated spaces, such as bike lanes, is good for the biking community. The former is, of course, not contestable. We all agree that safety and training are absolutely critical to developing a strong and healthy bicycling community. The latter, however, is a serious point of contention in the transportation profession, and deserves discussion. Categorically declaring bike lanes counter-productive is lacking nuance and myopically idealistic; it simply does not reflect where we are as a nation of people on the move. When it comes to the idea of bicycles and automobiles co-existing, that is, equally sharing a common public space, we Americans are but toddlers learning to get our balance; therefore, we still need training wheels. And training wheels in this metaphor take the form of two parallel stripes called bike lanes.

As a fellow engineer, I am compelled to say that I totally empathize with the argument. Indeed, in an ideal world where everyone acknowledges that bicyclists deserve the same access to, and use of, public rights-of-way as motorists, we would not need to reapportion pavement into exclusive modal fragments. But in typical engineer fashion, this narrow focus on ideal conditions fails to consider the current status of bicyclist/driver relations. Drivers are confused, at best, with bicyclists on “their” streets (angry at their interference, at worst), and bicyclists are summarily fearful of drivers. The result is many would-be daily bicyclists overlook that excellent means of commuting for another mode of transport, most often the car.

Status-quo geometric design is not going to get more bikes on the road than there are brave messenger jobs and aggressive enthusiasts. The average person is just not that daring. After decades of our industry designing roadways for the efficient throughput of cars, bicycling has been all but marginalized. Without words, we have sent a message that streets are for cars, fast and plentiful. Efforts to try to communicate something different can not effectively be done with “Share the Road” signage and billboards alone. To overcome the conditioning of decades, we must send a message loud and clear, in the most direct way possible. Rather than creating a safe space on the street for bicyclists – which is not the function of bike lanes and should not be promoted as such – bike lanes vividly transmit a message to both drivers and potential bicyclists that “Hey, this street is for both cars and bikes; bikes have a right to be here just as much as cars do!”

After years of posting “Bike Route” signage throughout New York City boroughs with little to no impact on ridership, look to that city’s recent surge in bicycling volumes as bike lanes are striped at an astonishing pace for evidence of the overwhelmingly effective message sent by bike lanes. In my hometown of Hoboken, the recent addition of bike lanes on two streets instantaneously resulted in slower speeds on those streets (full disclosure: this is based on residents’ anecdotes, not a speed study). Following the industry’s accepted prescription, narrower lanes in the form of an added bike lane increase the so-called “perceived risk” of drivers, along with their awareness of other uses on the street, and therefore vehicle speeds inversely decrease.

Finally, with the installation of bike lanes, it is true as Mr. Oswald says, that “Fools rush in!”. But I contend that fools are exactly what we want: people new to biking, choosing that mode over a car, and learning how to share the road as bicyclists rather than drivers. Yes, a strong education and safety program is equally important, but welcoming new bicyclists to the street is most desirable because, as concluded in study after study, the most powerful way to reduce bicycle/vehicle fatalities and increase driver awareness of bicycles is by getting more bikes on the road, commonly referred to as the "Safety in Numbers" effect.

Bike lanes are not a safety device, they are a bullhorn. In a future where the message is implicit, bike lanes may be unnecessary. But for now, despite not being a perfect solution, they are an effective and important tool in the engineer’s toolbox, and should be used as such.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Uncreative Class

Josh Leon over at Next American City challenges Richard Florida's theory about mobility and the creative class. A lot of hoopla has been made about his artice in The Atlantic, but I still don't by his argument. So many advantages and good things can take place from people staying put and investing in their communities. A population that is constantly on the move and ready to leave at a moments notice is not a stable community. Here is Leon's take on Floridas Arguement:

Should We Abandon the “Uncreative Class”?

What would you do if you were the mayor of Detroit? Right now entrepreneurial urbanists in Detroit and other rust belt cities are by necessity re-envisioning their urban milieus, trying to make them greener, more creative, more prosperous places. There are pockets of success here and there, but the scary part is that all of this
re-imagining might not matter. Given the rate of industrial decline, it would seem that distant global forces are shaping urban landscapes in ways that are as stoppable for urban planners as the weather.

The late management expert Peter F. Drucker wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs called “The Changed World Economy” in 1986 that accurately foresaw the problems that cities are dealing with today. The manufacturing sector, he said, was becoming decoupled from blue collar employment. America may produce just as much, but it’s doing so with fewer workers. At the same time, he saw flows of global capital—investment money moving from one place to another—as replacing in importance the actual physical trade in goods. Put together, this means that job opportunities come and go, moving around the country (and globe) at unprecedented speed. I’m worried that this accelerated mobility of opportunity might be too much for most people to
keep up with.

The real problem in the ever-mercurial global economy is how to manage cities whose roles in it could become unmarketable by next week. The urban theorist Richard Florida argued in the March Atlantic that the answer was to redesign our urban geography for increased mobility. That way people can keep up with changing job markets and members of Florida’s lionized “creative class” of white-collarprofessionals can find one another. The old system that encouraged home ownership should be jettisoned in favor of renting, which makes it easier for people to pick up and move without the time consuming agony of home selling. Cities should be more concentrated, less suburban, and more connected by public transit. I’m generally fine with those propositions, as are most urban planners. However, there are bigger issues at hand when we talk about enhancing mobility to accommodate the volatility of unleashed markets.

The inefficient suburban-centric development model of the past few decades isn’t the only reason why migration is so hard. When people migrate nationally or internationally for the (potentially false) promise of a better life, they leave behind important familial and communitarian networks of social support. Permanent communities become temporary residences of job seekers en route from one place to the next, and any sense of connection to place is lost. Relationships fall under strain as families separate out of necessity. So the system of creative capitalism can be painfully atomizing.

There are also brutal legal barriers that prevent mobility. While goods and capital can move between cities freely (and job opportunities with them), millions of people around the world have to keep their very presence a secret in order to avoid deportation or Byzantine detention. It’s ironic that, in the age of NAFTA, the governments of the U.S., Mexico and Canada are spending billions on high-tech surveillance to regulate who travels among them. In China’s coastal cities—the geographic centers of the country’s economic activity—rural migrants are a legally
mandated underclass

Finally, not everyone can afford to move and the poorest are left behind amidst urban blight and neglect. What do we do about the immobile? What do we do with cities that are net losers of the “creative class”? For this so-called creative brand of capitalism, the uncreative are someone else’s problem. As Florida says, “We need to be clear that ultimately, we can’t stop the decline of some places, and that we would be foolish to try.” I would say that this is not at all clear. There is an inherent inhumanity in leaving people and their cities in the dust. Besides, the cost of finding ways to get so-called obsolete classes of workers gainfully employed where they live is looking preferable to the social costs of managing huge ghost cities and permanent spatial inequality.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Auto sales down, car sharing on the rise

What should the auto industry fear? Not high speed rail or more money to mass transit. They should be worried about all the different car sharing programs popping up all over cities across America. Here in the Twin Cities we have a non-profit run Hour Car with its fleet of hybrid cars. Yes, it costs about $8 an hour to use and the insurance and gas is already paid for. It is the perfect deal for someone like myself who rarely needs a car, but does take advantage when I need one.

This NY Times article covers what is taking place:

In recent years Americans appeared to be hooked on it and took advantage of home equity loans, easy credit and cheap short-term lease deals to send new-car sales to levels of more than 17 million a year.

Now the market has collapsed by 46 percent to below 10 million, as people are making do with the cars they have, leaving the industry to debate — and worry — about what the new normal will be once the recession ends.

Now Toyota and other carmakers must wait to see if Americans will return to their old car-buying habits — people like Jay S. Allen, owner of a San Francisco consulting firm, and his wife, Jennifer Nicoloff, a product manager at Gap. Over the years, they have owned eight cars between them.

But now they are carless, with no plans to buy. When he needs transportation, Mr. Allen either rides his scooter or borrows a car for a few hours from a local car-sharing service.

“Too many people are looking at alternatives,” said Scott Griffith, chief executive of Zipcar, the national car-sharing company that has more than 300,000 members, up from about 200,000 a year ago. Mr. Griffith estimates that for every three members, a new car probably goes unsold.

Trading in your car and not getting a new one might just be the new trend in America. It might also just be the trend we have been waiting for to change and get away from our auto centric culture and lifestyle.