“The Walking Communities of 2040” (revised)
The original essay with this title was penned in 1997 to grace the back cover of a transit proposal submitted to Portland City Council where it received a formal review and awarded merit. Twenty years later with significant progress achieved in light rail nationally, mass transit still fails to address ever growing traffic woes nor soothe environmental nightmares predicted with global warming. As today’s divestment in fossil fuel movement builds momentum, I remain certain that mass transit must receive redirected investment dollars just as I am certain that self-driving car technology is a fraud, a ruse meant to distract public attention from actual solutions that include truly modern mass transit as a fundamental travel mode with the most potential to direct development beyond car dependency.
The transit proposal is based on a design concept I dubbed LOTi (Loop Oriented Transit Intermodal) and sometimes refer to as sort of a missing link. Its closest model is Denver’s 16th Street Shuttle. The design application writ broadly is meant to reduce the cost and impact of light rail and transit centers; streamline both light rail and peripheral bus lines by avoiding circuitous routing; provide convenient transfers rail to bus and between bus lines with the least number of any suitable transit vehicle; and to offer much more potential for transit-oriented infill mixed-use development. Should we demand GM & Ford produce a new model 20 & 30-passenger low-floor, low-emission paratransit van, BEV & PHEV, FWD to replace huge fleets of 4mpg diesel-spewing roaring 40’ standard bus, reduce emissions about 90%, seniors and disabled riding more comfortably and all transit patrons benefit.
The basic flaws of self-driving cars are simple enough: The technological hurdles are plainly unsurmountable, therefore they will never be completely safe. They won’t decrease traffic congestion, fuel/energy consumption nor emissions sufficient to prevent worst harm from climate change. They are most unlikely to reduce travel-related cost of living. They won’t take full advantage of the benefits EVs offer and the technology is supported for all the wrong reasons; to bust transit operator and teamster unions; to give freeway planners an excuse to predict worsening traffic can be managed with reckless tailgating; to maintain most profitable but least resilient regional utility grids which separate EV household systems are proven very complementary. The most telling aspect of self-driving car folly is eliminating ownership whereupon all cars are kept in central garage locations and dispatched on demand. Never mind that in a grid failure, every household with an EV in the garage gains a backup power supply. Never mind any emergency where a car is needed immediately, not one that may arrive too late. Self-driving car tech completely denies those safety features and pretend “mass tailgating” won’t produce horrific multi-car pileups. Self-driving tech in many ways puts safety dead last.
A household EV offers the means to more closely monitor and reduce energy consumption overall, both for driving and household use. Rooftop PV solar arrays are thee perfect match to EV battery packs. Perhaps most important, a household EV is an incentive to drive less, whereby more trips become possible without having to drive, whereby local economies grow and alternate modes of travel - mass transit, walking and bicycling - all more energy efficient than EVs alone - may serve more travel needs in this vision of walking communities in 2040. It’s last line, “Look, there’s a gas station. You don’t see too many them no more.”
So anyway, readers, please print a copy out and share.
When was the last survival future foretold so specifically?
Could it give people some hope? ArtinPOORtland.