Skip to main content

The Automobile Equilibrium

I've found that a lot of urbanists struggle to convey ideas about taking cars off the road. I tend to believe that most cities would be better if fewer cars clogged their roadways everyday. That doesn't mean I think every single person ought to stop driving, give up their car, or bike long and unreasonable differences, of course.

(from notcub on Flickr)

Unfortunately, that's often how these debates play out. One person says, "our city would be better if it were more pedestrian and bike friendly." Another person responds, "oh, so you want to start a war on drivers?!"

I think Steve Berg makes some good points over at MinnPost in his attempt to point out that not all urbanists hate cars. It's true, there's a lot that's inherently wrong with the machine that is a car. What's problematic is that we've designed many of our cities and suburbs to accommodate cars exclusively, which has led to less-than-livable places that are difficult to get around by any means other than private vehicle.

I've often been curious about the people who drive in Manhattan. Who does that? Apparently a lot of people, because the streets are always packed with vehicles. There are also a lot of people who walk and get around by other means. In New York, it's not that you can't drive, it's that there are typically better options.

A lot of cities would benefit from small reductions in the number of cars on the road, especially those with bad traffic problems. So let's say I think a city would be better if it had a 25% reduction of the number of people driving around it. Does that mean I think every single person ought to sell their car? Of course not.

I wish the discourse could move beyond this black and white view that life can only be lived by one extreme or another. At the same time, some of the burden lies with urbanists who would benefit from better strategy for communicating their ideas.

Comments

ingda said…
I recently read something about parking policies that could be a template to communicate the need for an "equilibrium" vs. an impulse to always expand car capacity.
Because of the buildings in a city maximum roadspace is always constrained and can be measured. So one can calculate the maximum amount of traffic that a city can reasonably accommodate without coming to a standstill. Thus one could derive the maximum amount of parking space admissible. From there one can justify parking space caps, market rate parking and in some cases congestion pricing.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Good Advertising

The blogosphere seems to be one fire over Microsoft's new "Lauren" TV commercial. Frankly, I don't see what the commotion is about.



If the critics are correct, then "Lauren" is actually Lauren De Long, a Screen Actors Guild eligible actress; and apparently, if you look close enough, she never even enters the Apple store.

Even if all of that is true, it doesn't refute the fact that Apple's laptops are significantly more expensive than most PCs. It isn't a lie that Apple doesn't sell any 17-inch laptops for less than a grand. The advertisement doesn't make any reference to the quality of the machines (or contest any of the claims made in Apple's "I'm a PC" commercials) or provide any good reason to buy one other than price.

As far as I can tell, after years of horrible commercials and a series of flops, Microsoft seems to finally have hired an ad agency that put together a decent advertisement. It's not likely to persuad…