*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Japanese versus N. American Streets: Cars

You're an idiot if you prefer the suburbs, but nobody's found a universal cure for stupidity.  There's no reason you have to bring your idiocy downtown.  If you like sitting in traffic, and so loathe exercise or sharing transportation, keep yourself and your boat out of my city.  You bemoan you can't easily swing your bus through my city, and park for nothing, because you're 'a tax payer', but your argument is belligerent, not coherent: personal vehicle usage fees pay for a negligible portion of the internalities and externalities of their use.  You may exert enough pressure en masse to kill transit and intelligent urban zoning; however, pedestrians and cyclists have the strongest argument behind them with an 'I'm a taxpayer' argument.  Transit riders also have a strong argument, even were transit heavily subsidized.

It's not necessary, and perhaps inadvisable, to ban cars from downtowns: residents and deliveries may need cars, and you risk creating a sterile tourist zone.  This is not a justification to prioritise cars downtowns.  Although suburbs are built for cars, and make few allowances for human life, downtowns have more users on foot in a given area than on their @$$es.  Indulge me this exercise for a moment.  Next time you are on a busy downtown streetcorner make an estimate of the numbers of people who pass by, and imagine each person having their share of street and sidewalk equally shared out: cars would have to make do with less than half a lane, the sidewalk would be five times as wide, there would be one or two lanes for transit, and there'd be another half lane for cyclists, and there'd be no space for on-street parking!  'No parking?!'  No, no on-street parking, at least on arterials.  'Half a lane?!'  Actually, one one-way lane on alternate blocks.  Hey, it's only fair to 'taxpayers'.

Tokyo is far from a car-free city, but it works despite its huge population (greater Tokyo and all of Canada are both around thirty-million persons), and that it is not a high-rise city (earthquake building codes).  Tokyo has several pivotal differences to N. American cities: a comprehensive public-transportation network, no on-street parking, and a legal requirement that car owners have a registered parking space.  It sucks to drive there during business hours, but it sucks to drive in N. American cities during business hours.  At least Tokyo has not sacrificed all of it's public space and public money vainly chasing after an automobile transportation solution rather than focusing on moving humans.  Mainland North-Western Europe also understands this.  North America: see 'Hanlon's Razor'.

A friend in Toronto, who is trained and has worked as a city planner, cannot wrap his head around an area without main-street parking.  I did not challenge him to imagine a car-free zone, as I did not want him to have a nervous breakdown.  That someone who'd call himself 'progressive', generally agrees with Jane Jacobs, is impressed by Janette Sadik-Khan and lives not far out of downtown thinks that businesses on downtown arterials rely on arterial parking dismays.  It just won't compute, and proof changes nothing.  So I told him that if someone with his knowledge and politics can't get it, Toronto is %$#@ed.  He didn't like that: too bad being called on Mr S's Sequitur.  Yeah, this conversation was a year before Rob Ford, when Toronto had a bit of hope...

Three postings in this series:
Japanese versus N. American Streets: Differences
Japanese versus N. American Streets: Density
Japanese versus N. American Streets: Cars

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