Are Americans Ready for Nimble Cities?

Are Americans Ready for Nimble Cities?

Imagine you had the power to do anything to fix the transportation systems in this country.

What would you do?

A fellow named Tom Vanderbilt wrote a book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). Lots of people have already read it. I’m not one of them but it’s on my list, moving closer to the top. He wants to know what you’d do, and so do I.

Tom Vanderbilt talks enthusiastically about transportation, is pretty cute in a Traditional Clean-Cut Sort of Way, and also writes a great column at Slate.

Now he’s started something that is mix between a project and a conversation called Nimble Cities that is looking to solve the great transportation problems of today by looking to the whole world for ideas.

Ideas are flowing in nearly as quickly as the BP oil catastrophe pumps gas into our oceans. Submit yours now.

This is your chance. What are your great ideas?

Our Transportation System is Bankrupting and Killing Us

As he says in his Request for Ideas:

Transportation is also costing us even more: At the turn of the 20th century, U.S. households spent about 2 percent of their income on transportation. That figure is now around 18 percent, and it’s also rising.

And then there are the other social costs, not just time lost in congestion but the larger cost in human lives: The World Bank estimates that by 2030, road deaths could become the fourth or fifth leading killer worldwide, a larger threat than malaria.

I suggest that we Fully Fund Public Transportation

I think the most effective method to change consumption patterns in the U.S. would be to fully fund public transportation with public money. If taking public transportation was free for the user, ridership would grow astronomically. It’s been demonstrated again and again.

Level the mobility playing field. Give everyone the right and the means to get to work, to school, to fun, to appointments, to recreation.

We should invest in excellent public transportation that is:

  1. Fast
  2. Free (to the user)
  3. Predictable (schedules available at all stops and on phones)
  4. Attractive / Beautiful
  5. Clean
  6. Frequent (always less than a ten minute wait)
  7. Everywhere (less than a ten minute walk from most locations)
  8. Efficient (Local and Express)
  9. Resourceful (should maximize options of local terrain. Pittsburgh for example could use streetcars, along side ferries and the incline to take advantage of our rivers and hills)
  10. and has the right of way against all other modes of travel.

(Thanks to the blog, Free Public Transit for their constant work on equitable transit for everyone.)


5 thoughts on “Are Americans Ready for Nimble Cities?

  1. Um, I’m not sure about free but it might work. Would love to converse with this in depth on some great group blog. Kind of like the one I’ve been trying to get going. I don’t care, how it happens or who get’s credit. We need a serious in depth blog about not just transit but how it connects to economics and land use in the Pittsburgh area.

    Certainly, the logic behind free public transit is more reasonable than that behind free highways or free parking. Likely, the best funding method is some form of “value capture” of the increase in property values near the line. This could either be by way of a graduated tax or perhaps by having the transit agency or company develop real estate near the line.

    MTR LTD, which runs Hong Kong’s amazing system actually operates at a big profit while having pretty cheap fares. It makes the big bucks as a property developer building huge office, apartment and retail complexes near it’s stations.

    Quite likely something like this may spring into being on it’s own once it’s clear the government will no longer subsidize free highways.

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