Urbification: Taking the sub out of Calif. suburbs

Walking. Bicycling. Alternatives to Driving Everywhere. Social justice. Alternatives to suburban boredom and waste. And the infrastructure and technology needed to get there.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Stephen Falk: "At a time of economic slowdown, when California should be encouraging the health of high-tech companies and the development of high-income jobs, the governor has proposed a plan that instead will spawn big-box stores, discount warehouses and minimum-wage jobs."

Thursday, January 30, 2003

The SF Chronicle, on California budget belt-tightening: "The Assembly is taking the biggest hit, trimming at least $8 million for catered meals, furniture purchases, legal fees, outside consultants, travel, printing costs and postage. Salaries, per diem expenses and $400 a month for leased cars remain at current levels." Why are the leased cars sacred cows?
Bob Matter: "I've been noticing more and more autos (usually SUVs) with televisions mounted on the dashboard. The screens are even tilted facing the driver. That is scary."
Becky Sargent of Saferdriver.com, on all the driver distractions other than cell phones that supposedly are just as dangerous: "All those other things are distractions," she said. But, "you don't eat or change the radio dial for 10 or 15 minutes straight. People use cell phones incessantly." Of course, a few people do change the radio dial incessantly.
Michael Lewyn, writing to the New-Urbanism mailing list: "Almost any walkable neighborhood was available to the average middle class American in 1953. Today, most such areas either (1) are off limits becuase they have been turned into (a) ghettoes or (b) marginal neighborhoods appealing to hipsters and singles but not to families OR (2) cost a zillion dollars (e.g. Upper East Side of NYC). Today, most Americans (especially families or people whose jobs are in suburbs) pretty much are stuck with CSD [conventional suburban development]."

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Note: For some reason this is the newest post appearing on the home page of this blog. For more recent posts, click on archive. I've filed a bug report with Blogger.

Things I'd like to change #2:

2. Car insurance by the trip, not by the year. Along the lines of keeping the vehicle tax low and the gas tax high, how about car insurance by the mile, or by the trip? My car (yes, I own one) sits parked on the street unused most days. Yet, when I still need it, I still need it. Why should I have to pay to insure it for the 3 days out of 4 that it doesn't go anywhere?
More from Pravin Varaiya, who is a research for the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley: "They made I-15 in San Diego County into a HOT [High-Occupancy/Toll] Lane. You go through free if you are two people or more, or you can pay a toll. They vary the toll so that that lane doesn't become congested. During rush hour the toll is much higher. It's a free market. It senses the quality of congestion and adjusts the toll accordingly. I think that is a very good idea, and it would benefit everybody."
Pravin Varaiya: "It's clear from the data we have that weaving [in motor vehicle traffic] creates shock waves and slows everybody down, including the weaver. Eventually the weaver will be caught in somebody else's weaving. He may gain for the next five seconds, but will suffer later on."
Why should urban dwellers share this new pain? I'm referring to the coming boost in vehicle license fees in California. I would much rather have a higher "highway fee" otherwise known as a gas tax. Why are fees okay but taxes off the radar screen?
Last year I created an online petition to charge for parking at BART. After taking heat for hosting it at a place that may or may not reserve the right to send spam to you in the future (no evidence of that yet) I and the rest of the Bay Area saw the BART board eventually, timidly, install a monthly reserved parking system for selected spots. This hasn't been a great success yet. I should have been more specific and clearly said that every spot should have a charge, and that it ought to be first-come, first-serve. While I contemplate launching such a petition, the press meanwhile takes plenty of opportunities to distort the (lack of) acceptance of reserved parking. To wit, this Oakland Tribune headline: "Not all will pay to park at BART." It should have read: "Not all will pay to reserve a monthly parking spot at BART." Big difference.

Monday, January 27, 2003

The University of Utah reports that "drivers who use a cellular telephone, even with a 'hands-free device', suffer from a kind of tunnel vision that endangers themselves and others."
Thomas Friedman: "In today's globalized world, if you don't visit a bad neighborhood, it will visit you."
Jeffrey Tumlin: "The only way to solve traffic congestion in the United States is to destroy the economy."

The University of Notre Dame's Paul A. Ranogajec, posted at the New Urbanism mailing list, 1/23/03 (No online archive): "Be radical: Live in a city, build cities."
Ford's Model U is a tiny, tiny baby step. Here are some other things the motor vehicle industry, in conjunction with transportation agencies, ought to be doing:

1. Make automobiles that can magnetically "click" together to achieve greater fuel economy and reduce traffic conflicts.
2. Provide auto-sense overrides in vehicles that implement collision detection and avoidance. Please, don't use Windows software!
3. Provided that the first two conditions are met, then and only then give drivers the ability to take their eyes off the road so they can use all the gadgets they're now carrying around with them. Otherwise, sound alarms if the drivers' eyes are wandering down to their passenger seats or dashboards.

I'm not anti-car. I'm anti-personal-mobility-that-kills-pedestrians-and-bicyclists by design of the vehicle and the roadway. There's a big difference.
Things I'd like to change #1:

1. No more public money to sports teams. The Oakland Raiders go all the way to the Super Bowl, then lose (ugly). Persons from somewhere congregate in East Oakland and trash businesses along International Boulevard and cause other mayhem. "It's the Raiders' fault -- blame it on the Raiders," Akela Thomas, 19, shouted. "If they would've won, we wouldn't be doing this." And yet, the city of Oakland and Alameda County (where I pay property taxes) are forking over (so I heard) $20 million a year to the Raiders, plus the Raiders are suing said entities for more than $1 billion because the Raiders had been promised sold-out games and haven't gotten them. Think of what that $20 million could buy to help East Oakland each year. Instead, we have streets in flames.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I've had a blog in the professional world for more than two years; for the past year, it's been Radio. This is my first Blogger blog.

I grew up in Sunnyvale, California at a time when the orchards there were being bulldozed for mile after mile of tract homes. My father sold those tract homes for a living for more than 25 years. When the builders and he were done, the orchards were gone and Silicon Valley was there in their place. Now, the Central Valley is being bulldozed and turned into suburban sprawl. I remain utterly committed to living in the San Francisco Bay Area. But somewhere along the way, a terrible price has been paid. One example: My entire family moved away from the region, largely because traffic was getting so bad. But I'm determined to stay and see the miles of sprawl transformed into a sustainable urban area. I see little hope of this happening, but that isn't going to stop me from trying. I've done a few good things for bicycle advocacy, but after I remarried in 1999 and became a father in 2000, I became increasingly disillusioned with the narrow tunnel vision of bicycle, pedestrian and transit advocates, who sometimes spend more time fighting each other than their common foes. So I grope for a unified solution that somehow kowtows to none of these constituencies and yet gives us all hope for a sustainable urban future here in California. This will be my public diary of my journey.

Scott Mace, Berkeley, California