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Thread: Livable cities (TND, TOD) - are they just lip service?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Livable cities (TND, TOD) - are they just lip service?

    Is it me or do the concepts of Livable Cities (TND, TOD, insert other acronym here) pretty much exist mostly on paper and in the imagination? It seems that I hear about these concepts mostly at APA (and affiliated) events and occasionally (very occasionally) written about in the newspaper.

    Here's what I've noticed:
    1. The Big Three car manufactures are in trouble so the government (as in we the people) are in the process of propping them up.

    2. The Wall Street Journal states in a January 15th, 2009 article by Christopher Conkey entitled "Transportation Aid Levels Decried" that "the stimulus bill would spend three dollars on highways for every one dollar spent on mass-transit systems." The whole article is here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1232...googlenews_wsj

    3. The Republican nominee for President used "Drill, Baby, Drill" as a campaign slogan.

    4. It may be fair to say that it is a matter of history, at this point, that the Big Three at the beginning of the last century (Oil, Rubber and Automotive companies) systematically and strategically dismantled the nation's mass-transit system paving the way (pun intended) in no small way for today's pattern of urban sprawl.

    5. Nothing ever seemed to come from the complaints generated when the Oil companies were enjoying record profits during a time of record oil prices.


    My question is this: How can the concepts related to Livable Cities ever come to be when we, as a society and government, are actively and overtly supporting the status quo that being more cars, more roads, more oil, less mass transit?
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The primary resource for public transport is the gasoline tax. The less gas sold, the less money there is for transit. There is a disfunctional relationship between this. At one time it made sense, having a user fee attached to transit to help it cover its costs. Turns out that farebox revenues have not kept up with the transportation inflation rate.

    What you have here is a very complicated system. In order to get the money to pay for transit, you need to first have people buy gas and you can't have improvements to transit without the funds generated by people buying gasoline. Transit cannot survive in a vaccum. You need to sink money into road infrastructure not only for the buses using the road network, but for people to use park and ride systems.

    In some of the larger cities, there is great support through property or sales taxes to help pay for difference in providing a good transit system. This is not found in all big cities, or at least in a meaningful amount. Where I am from many suburbs tax themselves a 1.3 of a mill to pay for transit shortfalls and the City pays for shortfalls out of its general fund. The dedicated resources are not enough to sustain the system without the gas tax, and if you raise fares, people will not use transit causing the roads to clog even more.

    Now I have a headache! Why do I look at this on my day off?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Much of the planning field is nothing more than "paying lip service" to terms such as sustainability, access management, traditional neighborhood development, complete streets, low impact development, green developments, etc. Most planners really don't get much done. They do act as cheerleaders for the other decision makers though.

  4. #4
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    My question is this: How can the concepts related to Livable Cities ever come to be when we, as a society and government, are actively and overtly supporting the status quo that being more cars, more roads, more oil, less mass transit?[/QUOTE]


    its cliche but if you build they will come. The thing about TND is that there are so many reasons to love it. some of the most cherished places in america are the original places that we call TND now.

    Now if you look at the facts, oil peak is real and since 2005 conventional crude has flatlined as far as production,

    the low price of it right now is not going to last it was brought on by credit freezes, loss of demand and supply gluts.

    when oil was $147 a barrel it did not spawn investment in the oil industry and at 50 abarrel it will not either.

    There are Two huge problems for the industry labor crisis and rust epidemic.

    Electric cars as of right now can not operate on the scale that we drive today.
    nor do we have the plans to create infrastructure to accompany it.
    once we squandor the money that we dont even really have on road construction in this upcoming stimulus and the dollar keeps falling and our debt keeps rising there will be no money to create the infr. once we realize its getting way to expensive to drive

    So as planners, myself still in school, we must prepare for the flee of suburbia.

    we're just waiting for the oil to go up and people to get over the fact that just because itsTND development doesnt mean you can NOT own a car. It just means you dont have to use it for every little thing you do or have on eat all. it creates choice.

  5. #5
    We are still in the "bargaining" phase of dealing with global energy problems.

    First we had denial, oil will last for centuries and there is no global warming.

    Then we had anger: lets go after the oil companies.

    Right now we have bargaining: if we just use hybrids and electric cars, we can continue as we have.

    Someday we will get to acceptance: we have to change how our cities are built and build mass transit.

  6. #6
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    I think the answer to your question is leadership. Assuming planners want to promote sustainability, and shift away from our oil infused culture (in and of itself a huge assumption), then planners need to lead the discussion. I understand this is often difficult for many reasons - political climate, job protection, organizational structure, etc. This is understandable, as we all have bills to pay. But I think the answer is that APA and other planning bodies need to push the leadership issue and be a lot more vocal if indeed we do believe in the things such as TND and TOD. I think too often planners suffer from an inferiority complex, and feel subservient to engineers, fire marshals and utility directors.

    Without initiative, action, and cofidence, planners sound like any generic social critic, complaining about the problems but doing nothing to actually solve them.

    Before anyone flames me, know that I have authored my own TND ordinance and it was adopted unanimously by our town council.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Tobinn's avatar
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    Cherished but illegal

    The thing about TND is that there are so many reasons to love it. some of the most cherished places in america are the original places that we call TND now. [/QUOTE]

    I apologize in advance for the following post length. I promise that I tie it all together and to the original Thread premise. I appreciate your indulgence.

    Part I: Livable City - sure, just not here, please.
    We may love them but we (Planners) have, for all intents and purposes, legislated them out of existence with overly restrictive zoning regulations. Only now, in the last ten (15?) years have communities begun to (tentatively) revise their zoning regulations to allow a semblance of these "cherished places".

    For example, in my own fair city of Clearwater, Fla, we had on the books a Downtown Redevelopment Plan adopted in 1995(-ish). This plan (written as it turns out by a former and well-liked and respected professor or mine) actually designated land uses block by block and property by property.

    "Gee, you want to start a restaurant right here? Too bad, the plan says that this block is for office. Try this block over here, this one is designated for a restaurant. What, there's an office there? Oh well, too bad."

    This conversation, paraphrased as it may be, occurred on many occasions. Eventually, we (the planning staff) realized that the current elected officials were not involved in the adoption of this plan and the department heads weren't aware of it we simply "lost" the plan. A classic case of the ends justifying the means, I suppose.

    This plan was dropped and replaced with a better (in my humble opinion) more flexible plan.

    Part II: Leadership - I'll be a leader if everyone else will be one, too.
    One response post talked about the need for true Leadership in the Planning field. I agree completely.

    I believe that there are two types of Planners: reactive (the majority) and proactive (I know you're out there, I can hear you breathing).

    The reactive Planner reacts to developers, the public, elected and other officials. These are the Planners who pretty much just review site plans, update existing Codes and Comp. Plans and generally try to cover their tushies. Full disclosure - I am a reactive Planner.

    Proactive Planners...like those who head APA...try to make broad, sweeping changes influencing those at the very top...like the Supreme Court...resulting in the laying of waste of whole neighborhoods. Kelo sure worked out. With Leaders like this who needs followers?

    Part III: If you build it they will write an article about it
    Or, are Great Cities (neighborhoods) made or do they just happen?
    I think, perhaps, that the answer is, "Yes".

    I suspect that most "cherished" places began as a "just happened" (for any number of logical and logistical reasons - proximity to water, rail lines, arable soil, great view, I'm tired and I'm not taking another step, well, this ought to be far enough away from the in-laws, etc.) and then as some level of critical mass is reached what "just happened" becomes refined or "made".

    I don't debate that there are some "great" made places as I'm sure, today of all days, Washington, D.C. comes to mind. Although, I wonder if D.C. is a great City by virtue of it's design or by virtue of what is located and occurs there.

    I think that you cannot (usually) simply make a great place but that such places must be allowed (and this is a key word; or would "facilitated" be a better word) to happen. At a certain point, guidance may (should?) be applied (Planning or perhaps a better word would be Guidance).

    I think part of the problem may be that we, as a species, have tended to place ourselves above and even outside the realm of nature; Nature is chaotic while We are not.

    All the plans that I've seen assume an unspoken orderliness; a certain, Planniness (if Colbert can do it, so can I) if you will.

    Perhaps the evidence is mounting to the contrary? Perhaps, we, as Planners, need to start redefining ourselves as Urban Facilitators?

    Full disclosure - I like order. My wife calls me "Felix".

    Part IV: All Tied Up and No Place to Go
    I am still concerned that the Livable City concept is little more than lip service.

    We, as a society, do not appear to be putting our money where our mouths are through our propping up of companies at least partially responsible for the proliferation of "un-cherished" places. Likewise, we as Planners may have fallen short by not only actively preventing the creation of "cherished" places but actually contributing to the destruction of such places. I am afraid that we Planners may have collectively failed to understand the true nature of Planning and the Urban space.

    We put Man on the moon with less than a 10-year directive (and I am so sorry for making this comparison - I mean how over used is this?) but yet we still can't put ourselves in nicer places to Live (oh ok, I'll say it, "Work and Play").

    On a side note, can we all drop the "to Live, Work and Play" phrase from our play book. Maybe we can replace it with something like, "to be"?
    At times like this, you have to ask yourself, "WWJDD?"
    (What Would Jimmy Durante Do?)

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Rewey's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by onthemovenow08 View post
    Electric cars as of right now can not operate on the scale that we drive today. nor do we have the plans to create infrastructure to accompany it.
    I can't agree with you here. You need to look at a doco called 'Who Killed The Electric Car'. I was always of the impression that an electric car would be an entirely unrealistic concept, until I saw what had actually been produced, thanks to this doco.

    Also, check out the electric car development of a company called Tesla Motors, and the Tesla Roadster. You can find videos on YouTube of the performance against a Ferrari, amongst other cars.

    When you look at the new stats on their website (in terms of distance per charge, acceleration and top speed), I think it would be suitable for the daily driving requirements of 99% of the population. If people can charge at home, or at work, I'm sure this will suffice until petrol stations (or 'gas' stations - you guys are crazy!) start offering facilities for them.

    Rew

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