Saturday, March 8, 2008

You Work on Friday to Pay for Your Auto Dependence

Peter Newman is the person who gave us the term Automobile Dependence and has been an excellent fighter in the war against it. He also has been looking at density as it pertains to transit usage and walkability. What I like best about this interview in the Oregonian is that he refutes the myth and conservative talking point that planners and transit agencies are in search of the perfect city and ultimately want you to get rid of your car. I certainly don't advocate that as I own a car myself, but am lucky enough to use it very little.

Q: So you don't advocate some sort of wholesale getting rid of the automobile or that people will on a large scale in small or midsize cities not use cars at all?

A: No. The ideal city, I reject.

You can have carfree areas. I would say the city center of Portland is car free in that sense. There is a freedom from the car. You don't have to have a car there. You can live there, you can work there, in a way that enables you to have that freedom.

He also discusses the subsidies for automobiles that only recently have been gaining attention such as health care for auto accidents and big oil.

But to attack transit as being subsidized whilst not seeing the subsidies for car dependence is not a level playing field. We do those numbers in Australia, they're similar in America.

The politics is changing. We can no longer subsidize the increase in VMT - we have to subsidize the decrease in VMT. There is no choice in that.

And the kicker is he punches a hole in the freeway capacity issue. We've got to stop building wider freeways. He even suggests ripping them down like the Embarcadero or such as what should happen to the Viaduct in Seattle. I'm not sure if that is palatable for interstate highways but who am I to keep anyone from dreaming big. It's amazing how much tax base is taken away by these huge roads that move cars as fast as possible through cities instead of creating value.
Q: We have a $4 billion proposal to replace a six-lane highway bridge on Interstate 5 with a new bridge that would have six highway lanes, plus six auxiliary lanes. It would also extend light rail to the northern suburbs and have generous pedestrian facilities. It's been billed as having a little bit for everyone. Is that kind of project worth pursuing?

A: Four billion dollars is what you're going to need for building these transit lines and subcenters. Keeping the traffic moving is what you have to stop doing. VMT (vehicle miles traveled) reductions are not going to be promoted by that bridge. There will be a whole series of freeways taken down when they reach the end of their life in cities around the world. The one in Seoul (South Korea) came down. Now it's a beatiful river, and a park with transit. The mayor who did it is now the president.

Q: So increase rail transit, to the detriment of roads?

A: Any decent rail system can carry eight lanes of traffic equivalent - on this narrow little track. It's a capacity issue. You can only carry 2,500 people an hour down a freeway lane. You can get 50,000 an hour on a rail system - 20 times as much. That space is enormously valuable. There's no doubt in my mind that's what you've got to do.
This video is great. My favorite quote is when he states you are basically working one day a week to pay for your transport. I'm gonna make it Friday.


Dave said...

That is one great video. Right now in Wisconsin we are having this very debate. And quite frankly trying to explain just this point draws blank stares and rude comments.... I'm definitely going to put this video to work.

Cap'n Transit said...

So if I don't have a car, can I have Fridays off?

Anonymous said...

Great Article, he has some good points. Unfortunately on a local news board up here in Seattle, there is one poster that I cannot get to admit that transit ridership up here is on the rise, and that providing the alternative to driving, is not tantamount to getting rid of all cars. On that board I go by the name of DiehardTRANSITadvocate(ah, great, I broke one of my rules of blogging, if I have a different name on another blog, not to tell anybody), but I am trying to get a Drivers License, but still once i get it, plan to keep riding the bus, SOUNDER(when I Can), and starting next year LINK.

Interestate 5 does have some choke points, I would say fix them, complete the HOV system, but not waste $25 Billion on two new General Purpose lanes each way throughout Seattle, only pushing the cost of future LINK extensions up even higher.

LINK is turning the corner on Construction, one of the last major hurdles has been cleared.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

You should ask your work if that would be possible Cap'n :)

I think if more folks saw this video they might change their minds about spending so much money on cars...but some will never change their mind

Dave said...

"but some will never change their mind" And that is the problem. I've tried pointing to numbers that show property taxes pay for roads (a large percent). I've explained induced demand to people. I've tried explaining how streetcar suburbs prove TOD works... And I still get no where with certain people... Any ideas?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Try telling them how much oil money they are sending to places like Venezuela and the Middle East. I'm guessing that Dubai is just flaunting the money we've sent over there.

Anonymous said...

Part one provides interesting background:

Having visited Auckland several times I can say that the city is quite similar in many ways to Seattle. Just replace "Auckland" with "Seattle" in the video, and most of the facts will hold.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I think i'll probably post the series soon.