Friday, December 13, 2013

A reminder: Jeff Speck's Walkable City as required reading for presumed "leaders."

Let's have a show of hands.

How many of New Albany's elected officials -- mayor and council seat holders -- have taken my advice and read Jeff Speck's Walkable City?

Tsk, tsk. That's what I thought. My guess would be Greg Phipps and John Gonder, and that's all.

How many appointed city planners, redevelopment and board of works members have taken it on themselves to learn a bit about the future?

Wow, that's even more depressing.

How many of them still believe that the sole function of a city street is as expressed by the county dweller:

Top speed when driving on 'em is why we have 'em, so get us through New Albany as fast as humanly possible.

Really? They might as well believe in the Tooth Fairy, compassionate conservatism or sewage disposal by open-air, street-side ditch.

How many of them harbor the delusion that handling the future onslaught of toll-evading, pass-through suggests ignoring induced demand, increasing speeds and adding traffic lanes, so that people with no plans of stopping in New Albany can cause congestion for those who do, while compromising walkability for ever more?

You'd be surprised ... and depressed.

Give the gift of thinking to your elected official this holiday season. Give him or her a copy of this book, and lock 'em in their rooms until they actually read it.

Congestion Pricing: Walkable City, by Jeff Speck ... reviewed by Jeff Turrentine at On Earth

 ... Planners felt compelled to choose between the vibrant, pedestrian-scale cities we have been inhabiting for millennia and those that could accommodate heavy streams of automobile traffic. They chose cars.

Speck sorrowfully describes how traffic engineers have often inadvertently compounded the very problems they were trying to solve by basing their plans on specious theories that deny human nature. He cites, for example, the phenomenon of induced demand, in which "increasing the supply of roadways lowers the time cost of driving, causing more people to drive and obliterating any reductions in congestion." This, he says, explains why so many road expansion and improvement projects end up increasing traffic jams, commute times, and general human misery ...

 ... Walkable City synthesizes a number of ideas into a system with the potential to reshape our cities by reshaping our behavior. A century of top-down urban planning has brought us sprawl and desolate downtowns that no one wants to be in after work hours. Maybe it's time to turn citizens in a slightly new direction, and then let them vote -- this time with their feet.

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