Car Free

PortlandOregon will be hosting the world CarFree conference in 2008.
Without a car, I can only buy everyday food and household goods from one shop. There is no competition between the shops. I cannot visit larger shops that have greater choice, economies of scale and lower prices.

I like cars. Cars are not just a practical necessity. They are also a leisure activity. Personally, I would rather have an $80,000 car and a $60,000 house than a $15,000 car and a $125,000 house. Life has no meaning without speed - and no, I am not joking.

That's what bicycles are for. Going 20MPH on a bike feels a whole lot faster than going 80MPH in a car, it's healthier for you, and guess what? All that time you spend waiting at traffic lights or traffic jams gets amortized over your now slower, but more consistent, travel. The end result? Within a factor of 2, you usually end up at your intended destination within the same interval of time.

That being said, cars have their usefulness for really long-haul (greater than 20 miles to 40 miles depending on the terrain) travel. I also don't want to haul lumber home from TheHomeDepot? via my bike either for safety reasons (especially if carrying 4'x8' sections of stuff, in which case I become a sail instead of a biker). But, your complaint about the lack of a car fundamentally compromising the capitalist infrastructure is a strawman argument at best, and utterly non sequitor at worst. I usually bike everywhere I go, and I still manage to vote with my dollars. --SamuelFalvo?


Statements such as "life has no meaning without speed", "life sucks without a car", and the various nightmare no-car scenarios that GeicoCommercials? depict, all offend me, because I cannot drive in this state due to visual impairment. In fact, I doubt I could drive in any state. And in PhoenixArizona?, let alone anywhere in the UnitedStates, it's certainly not easy. When I was in the eighth grade, one kid told me I might as well kill myself.

I've held down two steady jobs since graduating college; in the first case, I moved just down the street from my workplace so that I could get there and back on one bus which ran at least twice an hour. In my current job, I live a 15-minute walk from work, which is shorter than many of my co-workers' driving commutes. And undoubtedly cheaper. The grocery store is on the way home, and I can get to downtown Tempe by bus rather easily. The mall is either a 20-minute walk from work, a half-hour walk from home, or a 10-minute bus trip, and Fry's Electronics is on the way. I can step out my door and be back home with merchandise from Fry's in under an hour.

Cabs and buses and parents and friends are very helpful. While I regret having to spend $20 every so often on a cab, it doesn't add up to what a car payment plus gas and repairs would be, even in Phoenix. And while I regret having to wait for a bus as often and as long as I do, on average I spend less time per week waiting for the bus than many of my co-workers spend in traffic. Bumming rides off friends and parents is a little emasculating, but they're thrilled to get $5 in gas money for what would otherwise have been a $20 cab ride, and it doesn't feel like charity that way. So it all works out, or so I keep telling myself.

Ideally, my next job will be in a place that favors the pedestrian more than this city. But TheJobMarketSucks, so I guess I'll be sticking this out.

-- NickBensema

If you could just turn the clock back, to the 30s and 40s, you would find that cars were a luxury and most of what one did in a large city was by walking or by mass transit, (which was plentiful and inexpensive). One member of the family worked and made enough to support the average family of 5 or 6. Taxes were less than 10 percent of income (including sales tax and other taxes). Within 0ne mile of your home you would find at least 4 grocery stores, 2 hardware stores, 2 drug stores ( all of which had a fountain), 1 dime store (variety store), at least one movie theatre, a police and fire station, a clothing or shoe store. You knew your neighbors and the people you did business with, Sidewalks were on both sides of the street and people used them. The newspapers (more than one per day), milk products, bread and pastries, and ice were delivered to your home regularly. Mail was delivered daily, with three or four days to anywhere in the country (regular mail). Garbage and trash was picked up every week day, you could leave your front door unlocked and not have to worry, schools were within walking distance, (elementary through high school). But of course no one now would give up the modern way of life and all of its pleasures for such a life!

Isn't this due in large part to the fact that large cities used to be smaller? Turning back the clock, then, would involve more than cultural changes - it would involve getting rid of some people.

And buildings. And adding sidewalks to some places. Half of the aforementioned 15-minute walk to work is without the benefit of a sidewalk. -- NickBensema

Good urban design goes a long way towards helping people do away with cars. As a concrete example, consider Paris as the epitome of good urban design. (You know you want to.) Parisians interested in urban design must scoff at NewUrbanism? as a bland and watered down version of what their city has been doing forever. From the trees to the sidewalks by way of the traffic lights, everything is made to make the pedestrian feel he is king. And in any conflict between car drivers and everyone else, it's the drivers that get the short end of the stick.

I'd like to see a major North American city cause massive traffic jams as a result of dedicated bus lanes (thus narrowing the rest of the street) only to go on to create more dedicated bus lanes. I'd like to see a North American city where you can find a baker easily. I'm not even asking for 3 different pastry makers within a 15 minute walk; just one good one in the city would make me happy. -- RichardKulisz (who chose a place within 2 kilometers of 3 different supermarkets, nearest at 100 meters, and 4 bus routes)

Paris made me feel like the drivers hated me and would kill me if I blinked and that there was nothing I could do to stop them. But my memories are kind of hazy, and that could have just been one part of the city...

Portland has this kind of forward-thinking. They have added several light rail projects and a streetcar downtown over the last few decades. Also, new arterial street development must include bike paths. Makes it easier to BikeToWork, for one thing.


I'd like to see a North American city where you can find a baker easily. I'm not even asking for 3 different pastry makers within a 15 minute walk; just one good one in the city would make me happy.

The easy answer to this is to move to NewYorkCity. Street culture is a big part of the reason I moved there. Of course, there are plenty of downsides to living there, too, the least of which that it costs a tremendous amount of money to live next to those bakers, sushi bars, music stores, coffeeshops, fashion boutiques, etc., etc. But you can live a pretty good life without owning a car.

NYC was the only city in the US that spent more money on public transit than on roads last year. -- AndyPierce

Yeah, and if you try driving there, it's painfully obvious. There hasn't been any major road development in NYC since, what, the '70s? -- MikeSmith


It would be a major challenge to change apartments with just a bicycle leg power or pushcart. For longer distances (more than 5 min walk) you'd need a Metropolitan Freight system. Freight transport has been given a lot of thought by the author of Carfree Cities.

One option is to have a moving party. This has been done successfully many times by bike in Portland: http://todd.cleverchimp.com/blog/?p=56

Talk about DoTheMostComplexThingThatCouldPossiblyWork.


When the automobile was first mass produced, it was a wonderful 'environmental' improvement, compared to using horses for all the major hauling. Consider New York (or Quebec) with some half million horses crapping all over the streets. Disease and polluted waters, not to mention the reek.

Also, the United States was a net food importer until the introduction of the Model T freed up all the farm land that had been feeding horses. (Bicycles and trains are still a good idea, but not horses.)

I'll just note that bicycles and trains aren't useful on the battlefield the way that cars and horses are. When you think about it, the horse was just a proto-car (ugly, dirty and expensive). So its continued dominance in the age of trains must be explained in some way.

Bicycles have been used on the battlefield to great success, though I forget by whom. Basically, cars don't do very well in forested terrain, and men on foot as always move relatively slowly. The main disadvantage of trains is pretty clear: before you send one someplace, you have to build a rail there, though this doesn't mean much for city and provincial transit systems. Btw, horses may be costly and messy, but I wouldn't call them ugly.

Btw, horses aren't really ugly, though they are costly and messy.


Personally, I don't believe in the elimination of cars, just a reduction in usage. Yes, there are lots of times when a car is useful, so use a car when you're moving, or when you're going to the grocery store and buying a ton of food. I'm someone who's relied on mass transit for more than two years, but I also call cabs when I need them, and I don't feel guilty about. But people don't really need to commute every day to work, do they? That's where the CarCulture comes from - all the highways and the gas consumption and those ugly gas stations. God, there are a lot of gas stations in America, aren't there?

But again, car-dependence is barely a personal choice, at least not in the UnitedStates, because most of the country has such messed-up priorities regarding urban planning that it's really hard to live without a car. So I don't at all believe car users are bad people. Some of my best friends own cars. The solution is political, not personal.

Solution is political? In essence, this means raising taxes on cars and gasoline to artificially high levels. People prefer their freedom to drive to where they want.

Another solution is CarSharing?. Example: http://www.flexcar.com/


I live in York, England, which still has a predominantly medieval street layout and is encircled by a city wall with small gateways. This makes it unsuitable for the car, but sadly that has not stopped them. It has some pedestrian areas, but still suffers from a serious traffic problem. The council are currently trying to exacerbate this by building a huge shopping mall and multi storey carpark in the city centre. I have lived here without a car for several years and find that it is quicker and easier to get around by foot or cycle.

The big problem with cars is that the planning system in England (and elsewhere) has encouraged them. Suburban developments have sprung up which are not viable without a car. Out of town shopping kills off small local stores and encourages people to travel further to shop. Small village shops have died off and the 'corner shop' has almost vanished too. We are left with noisy, polluted, dirty towns, roads where kids can no longer play. Kids no longer walk to school because their parents feel they are likely to get run over, so they drive them instead.

Car free cities are possible but we need to change the way we design cities. In England we have a lot less space than countries like the US, so the space taken up by roads is even more serious. It is also a political thing. MargaretThatcher talked about the GreatCarEconomy, and put into place many laws that made them the only viable form of travel. Hence we now have some of the worst but most expensive public transport in Europe.

For the perfect example of a car free city go to Venice. This staggeringly beautiful city has canals instead of roads. It seems to still function perfectly well, despite the huge number of visitors it gets.

-- DaveBerkeley


[Moved from CreateLivableAlternativesToWageSlavery]

Is this anything more than wishful thinking? What about the simple fact that each person now only has 1/10 of the space, or each building has to be 10x taller, or more likely somewhere in between, meaning you are going to live in a smaller space that costs more. And how about the cost of the infrastructure that has to handle 10x the load? E.g. the same road has to handle 10x more people, the logistic of sending in 10x as much food and other stuff, and the pipelines for 10x as much water and sewage, etc. Not to mention the 10x storage space needed for warehouses, hospitals, offices, etc. Do the land prices really go up for no good reason? If you really eliminate most of the industry as you listed, you would probably get 40% unemployment rate with the rest of the people working 60+ hour-week to avoid unemployment.

Smaller building that costs more? That's the entire point: for the same size building, it costs less physically when that building is in the city than when it's in a town. It's only capitalism that makes it otherwise, because of speculation and monopolization of land. Other points:

The buildings are smaller per person, but is still bigger because you are cramming 10x people in the same area. Suppose each person use 1/2 the space, the buildings have to be 5x as tall, which requires more elevators, fire escape routes, etc. So the per area cost is now higher. Also, if moving 10 cities of 100,000 people together is a good idea, how about moving 10 cities of 1,000,000 together? Ad absurdum? What is the optimal number? I can tell you having 7M+ in a city is not paradise.

I guess I didn't make myself clear. You say that land area is more expensive, and yes it is. But that doesn't matter to people because what they pay for is habitable space, not land area. What concerns me is that in cities, habitable space is vastly more expensive than in rural areas, for no good reason, solely because of capitalism.

People in cities use vastly less public space because that space, being shared, is used more efficiently. In a rural area, you might have a kilometer of dirt road per person. You'd never have that in a city.

In case it escaped your notice, we're not talking about HongKong or Manhattan. We're talking about livable cities with 3 to 5 story buildings (with 5 considered extremely high) and not skyscraper hellholes. So where do all the elevator shafts come in?

Streets handling 10x as many people as a small town is not a big deal. 100x is a big deal but irrelevant so don't even bother.

"let nature do its work"? You're comparing a small town of 100,000 people with a large city of 10 million. Forget that. Start comparing 100 small towns of 100k with a single city of 10 million and you'll see that you have the exact same problem treating sewage.

The optimal size of cities is ... 1 million. Hmmm, that's what I used in my example. 1 million inhabitants in buildings 4 story tall and 80% of the land area used as green space. That is a livable city.

And to dispose of another myth you introduced; it's not necessary to have a city with 1 million inhabitants in the same space as a single town of 100,000 inhabitants. The idea isn't to cram as many people as possible into the space available (as it is in HongKong) but to raise the population density to a level that will support a subway system.

I doubt you can support a subway system without getting to the densities close to HongKong or Manhattan. Even in HongKong, the subway system only reach the denser part because it is not economically feasible to go further. I cannot envision an area of 4 story tall buildings with 80% green space supporting a subway system, are there any examples of subway in such (relatively) sparsely populated areas? I don't know. Wouldn't trains running on surface more practical?

 Kowloon: 45,474 per km2
 Manhattan: ~25,000 per km2
 Paris: ~20,000 per km2
Paris has half the density of Kowloon and the RATP pulls in a profit even after massive construction projects.

By the way, the 80% green space is an average for the entire city, not for the populated districts. Just because you have large green spaces doesn't mean you have to be stupid about where you place them. (http://www.carfree.com/topology.html)

For individual districts in the Reference Design carfree city:

... about 40% of the land must be built upon to an average height of four floors. The remaining 60% is dedicated to streets and open space, generally in the form of interior courtyards. (http://www.carfree.com/district.html)

At least you suggested tramways. People in North America have a fetish for buses. Ewww.

Sorry for being skeptical, but the topology referred in http://www.carfree.com/topology.html looks like wishful thinking to me, for the main reason that it is BigDesignUpFront, real cities grow bit by bit more like iterative development. Also, many of the asumptions are simply assertions, such as "The efficiency of the transport system is high, construction costs are minimized, and journey times are kept short" - i.e. cheap, fast, good, you can have all three. How do the people go around while the metro is in construction? What happens when the metro breaks down? (Quote http://www.carfree.com/pax_trans.html "The system must operate around the clock because it is the only way (besides bicycling) to reach areas that are beyond walking distance.") One case of suicide by jumping down the track can paralyze part of the city for hours.

The times given in http://www.carfree.com/pax_trans.html for the transport system is also very optimistic. In a very crowded subway station, such as in Kowloon during rush hour(part of HongKong, with only 2x the density as the car free city, according to the numbers above), simply going from the station's entry to the boarding platform alone will take 2-3 minutes. One train every 4 minutes for 24 hours/day is unrealistic, in HongKong, the subway gets one train every ~3 mins only during the busiest hours, for most of the day, it goes like 5-7 mins per train, and can reach 10-15 mins in late night. The running time of 43s between station is also too short, the average time to go 1 station in HongKong's subway is 2-2.5 mins (i.e., going 10 stations will take 20-25 mins), and that subway is pretty straight with max speed 80km/hr, the problem is you don't get that fast because the time it takes to accelerate and slowdown is significant.

And don't get me started on LRV. We had LRV in parts of HongKong, and frankly, it sucks! It is the slower than any other transport, except bicycling. 15 mins of driving time will take 45-60 mins by LRV. The whole LRV mess in HongKong is born because of a BigDesignUpFront idea the government had in the late 70s (then under British rule). Let me tell you about it, and you can perhaps see why I am very skeptical of BDUF city design.

HongKong is always a crowded place, and by the 70s, the city planner faces the problem of heavy congestion and the need for more living areas. If they simply plot more living areas in the "outer border", the congestion problem will get worst. So they had a bright idea (or so they thought), they are going to create a "satelite city", a self contained city apart from the crowed areas, which contains living areas, industrial areas, commercial areas, etc, so that people don't need to go to the city center. That solved 2 problems (more living area and congestion) in one go! So they implemented it in an area called Tuen Mun, it is pretty wide river valley, but is 1-2 hours drive to city center. Only one highway is built from city center to Tuen Mun, and is not very driver friendly mainly because of reducing the cost.

So what happened? By 80s, most people living in Tuen Mun cannot find jobs there, most jobs are located in city center. Companies in Tuen Mun have trouble hiring, because it is not so easy to find the right people who also live in Tuen Mun. And there are few companies in Tuen Mun to start with, because any dealings with companies in city center is troublesome, lengthly trips for meetings, etc. So most of the people living in Tuen Mun has to work in city center, the only highway was jam packed every morning and evening, it takes 2-3 hours to get to city center due the congestion, so people wastes 4-6 hours a day travelling. Things never got better until mid 90s, when another much better designed and more expensive highway was built, the travelling time got cut to <1 hour per trip.

And when did the LRV mess comes in? After the subway in the city center was successful, the government want to rely on train system for transportation, so the idea of putting LRV in Tuen Mun comes up (since it is too far away to link to the subway system). And LRV is built in Tuen Mun and nearby areas, sharing the road with other traffic (inevitable since it is built on road surface and has to have stations everywhere). So its 2 rails occupying the width of 3 driving lanes, and station so close (and traffic lights in-between) that the trains never had a chance go anywhere fast. To make the trip a bit more tolerable, traffic lights are set to give precedent to LRV. So the result is slow LRV because of the stops are too close, and slow buses because the traffic lights are all messed up by the LRV precedent (but buses are still faster than LRV!). It would be so much better if electric buses on the road are used instead, freeing 3 driving lanes reducing traffic jams. But we are stuck with this mess for decades to come because of the huge investment already made on LRV rails. I shudder to think what happens if we are stuck with LRV without buses, as suggested in the car free city

Okay, you raise a lot of valid concerns. Some of them I'd say just read the book or at least the whole CarFree website. Others are quite technical and I don't know enough about the subject so I'll have to answer the ones where I do.

First, real cities can be made by BigDesignUpFront. It's already happened at least twice that I know of. One was something bizarre planned by Disney and another was an explicit CarFree project in (Netherlands or Finland). Second, somewhere else in the website, he does talk about how you can adapt an already existing city so it functions more like he's planned.

When he says "The efficiency of the transport system is high, construction costs are minimized, and journey times are kept short", you can read this as either comparing it to highway construction, or as for the specific subway/tramway topology he drew. You could even use tramway lines at the beginning and then switch to subways once you had enough districts strung together. Some of the important advantages of his proposed topology are 1) lines don't cross each other, 2) you can get anywhere with just one line-switch, 3) there is only one sudden turn for each line (and if you allow the lines to cross then there are none). These things would make it so that journey times are short (because of few or no turns you can accelerate better, and only one switching for passengers), construction costs are minimized (no crossings so no tunneling under or over another line) and the system is efficient.

How do the people get around while the subway is in construction? By bicycle (it's not that far with only a few districts) or tramway. And before tramways? Well how would they have gotten around while the highway was in construction? They wouldn't and there's no solution to that so the question is pointless.

Before highways, they have local roads, and muddy/sandy roads before that, etc. The problem with a car free city is that there cannot be any roads for cars before tramways. What makes you say that? And why is it so important to have a way to get around other than bicycles at an intermediary stage? Keep in mind that emergency services is not a good answer since even the reference design uses ordinary ambulances and other such vehicles, as is mentioned in a page you quoted.

What happens when the subway breaks down? The system is a loop going in both directions. If it breaks down in one direction, then just go in the other. Yes, it increases journey time a lot but you still get there. And no, a subway loop couldn't break down in both directions at once. The only way it could do that is if there were an accident at the same point on both sides of the line. And if you want to pay for it, you can always make a third railway line in the middle as a backup.

Cases of suicide can be prevented by making the rails inaccessible to passengers. It's doable and it's been done on two lines in the Paris metro (le meteor #8, and #1 lines IIRC). Basically, you glass the whole platform so it's impossible for passengers to jump in the bay, and you have automatic sliding doors (on the platform) that open only when there's a train in the bay. The exact same way you prevent people from jumping down an elevator shaft.

In a very crowded subway station, such as in Kowloon during rush hour(part of HongKong, with only 2x the density as the car free city, according to the numbers above), simply going from the station's entry to the boarding platform alone will take 2-3 minutes.

No shit. Perhaps that's why the CarFree city is never going to have the density of Kowloon? I never clocked myself but in Paris it didn't take me that much longer to reach the bays during rush hour than outside it.

On acceleration see http://www.carfree.com/fix_trans.html to relieve you of the suspicion that Crawford is guessing. Quote:

Vehicle acceleration should be as high as possible within the limit of what is safe and comfortable for riders. This limit is well below the traction limits of steel wheels on steel rails. In addition, it has been shown that it is jerk, not acceleration, that is the real limiting factor in passenger comfort and safety. With precise computer control of motors it is possible to achieve quick, smooth starts and stops. If jerk is low then relatively high acceleration is quite acceptable, leading to a large improvement in average speeds. PCC streetcars (developed in the 1930s) could accelerate smoothly to 45 MPH (73 km/hr) in 10 seconds (an average acceleration of 6.6 feet/sec/sec or 0.2 G). This is close to the upper limit for a vehicle with standing passengers.

And standing passengers is an assumption that should be done away with.

Now onto your personal experience with LRV to Tuen Mun. You don't seem to be attacking LRV per se with this but BigDesignUpFront. Would you have preferred that the city planners make no design up front? That, for example, they had simply expanded Kowloon, with the traffic congestion problems that would have caused? Or would you prefer instead that the city planners had more foresight and experience so they could have done the job correctly? It seems clear from what you're saying that the problem with the LRV is that the stops are too close together. Why can't that be fixed? Maybe there are other problems but you don't mention them.

You are right, I was attacking BigDesignUpFront, but more so on the planners' wishful thinking that on what people will or will not do, they thought that people living in Tuen Mun will work nearby, they don't and the whole plan collapsed. As you should ListenToTheCode when coding, you should listen to the people when planning. Come up with big design instead of planning based on what is going on made us stuck with a big white elephant that nobody wants. And the problem with close stations is that they want to replace buses with LRV, and people will not let the plan go if the LRV stations are so far away compared to existing bus stations, walking 5-10 or at most 15 mins to a station is the max that people will tolerate. And why should they? The stations in the reference car-free city design are only 760 m apart and are supposed to be only 5 minutes away (10 minutes if you change the design). Because we are not starting from scratch, we cannot move people's houses to shorten then walking distance, and people do not build houses within convenient circles to start with.

Are there any other factors that slow down the LRV in Hong Kong? For example, does it have right of way always, never stopping for traffic lights? (You said they changed the traffic lights but I'm not sure what that means.) What kind of technology do they use? They do it the most stupid way possible, when the LRV reaches a traffic light, it stops and the light will change to let it go ASAP, so the normal traffic flow was interrupted, (sometimes resulting in a 4-5mins red light and then 6 seconds of green for cars!), then the LRV goes again. The result is LRV that got slowed down anyway, but buses go slowed down even more! Probably because a more advanced system that change the light before the LRV arrives is judged too expensive.

As for LRV versus buses, there's a lot to say about that but basically, buses suck. I don't know about your experience but Ottawa, Canada decided to go for dedicated busways instead of tramways. They suck and nobody who can help it uses the public transit system since it's so horrible. And the only reason they chose dedicated busways, because it was cheaper, turned out to be a big fat lie. So what did they have to do now? Build an LRV. And it was cheap since they reused existing rails. (http://www.lightrailnow.org/progress/myths.htm)

We don't have existing rails to start with, and land is very scarce in HongKong, so taking up 2-3 lanes for the rail is a big deal. We have dedicated bus lanes too, but since a car is really optional here for transit, it is difficult for drivers to complain about them (as they can always take a bus instead).


...The only way [a breakdown] could do that is if there were an accident at the same point on both sides of the line...

(We had trains breaking down both ways at the same point due to electric problems before, one unlucky lightning strike, or one group of transformer breaking down, that's it. It is rare, but if you are going to make trains the only option, you better make it bullet proof)

I think that's doable. Especially if you make a city from scratch. For example, is there any reason not to bury the transformers?

Lightning strikes and tranformer breakdown is meant as 2 separate cause. Transformers underground can still fail. Another point to consider is that when the train is to 24x7, the maintanence of the whole system (including track examination, system testing, etc) is going to be more difficult and expensive compared to trains that stop during the night.

And I understood them as separate causes but I thought that building in redundancy and independent fail-safes for the transformers went without saying. I agree on the nightly maintenance becoming complicated. If you shut down one of the tracks during the night then you still have an operational system. But it might be difficult to maintain the switches that go between tracks in this way.


...And standing passengers is an assumption that should be done away with....

I found intra-city mass transit trains that are affordable, economically sustainable and without standing passengers hard to believe.

Oh really?? Then please explain why it is that it's affordable and economically sustainable...

[This is what happens when you don't keep history! IIRC, it went on a discussion about regional versus city mass transit.]


This page is somehwat heavy with AmericanCulturalAssumptions?. Here in Europe its not that bad, though here in Germany we say "Free driving for free citizen". Personally I don't even have a driver license (which is unusual) and never needed one. Hamburg has very good public transportation (usually bus and train every 5-10 minutes) and I had a yearly ticket since highschool. We have a car since I married and my wife requires it for the weekly grocery shopping (of course its useful to have a car for trips and heavy transportation too). -- GunnarZarncke


Pardon me, but I must be stupid - what advantages does an LRV actually _have_ over a bus that are intrinsic to it's nature as a track-bound vehicle? I mean, a bus is essentially an LRV where the rails and wheels have been replaced with tires and asphalt. The only real difference is that the driver must manually control it, and that the tires require greater ground clearance. Essentially, the same result could be procured by having a dedicated bus-lane and bus-boarding platforms, couldn't it? And then you'd have a vehicle that could be rerouted in the event of parades or accidents. Or am I missing something? LRV seems like a worst-of-both-worlds between subways and buses. Elevated rail sounds like a solution, until you see the fugly implementations that cities like Chicago suffer through.

That being said, in my own experience couple can live just fine sans car in a moderately dense city. A fold-up shopping cart can haul your groceries once a week, and you can rent a van when it is time to move. Highrises get a bad rap from sustainable development fans - they provide the density necessary for solid public transportation. A friend of mine grew up in a carless family - their solution was by getting an old house in a prime location that was (a) halfway between the university and downtown (and thus on the most frequent-running buses) and (b) a 3 minute walk from a grocery store plaza. This is in a dense industrial city of about half a million people. Their old house didn't have a driveway - the old homes were packed shoulder-to-shoulder, a fact that made the area unpopular for affluent homeowners and doubtless kept the costs down for such a prime location.

--MartinZarate

Ottawa has dedicated bus streets and dedicated bus-boarding platforms. And they don't nearly achieve the same effect as subways or LRTs. It cost the same though, but less people use it. And the "could be rerouted in the event of parades or accidents" which was indeed the rationale used, has never happened. Mostly, it's a great big propaganda vehicle for the pro-car, anti-mass transit lobby. The only real difference is that many buses are routed through the transitway for part of their route, which allows town-crossing routes that wouldn't be as fast otherwise.

Now, some subway routes in Paris are part-elevated and part-underground so that issue doesn't seem like a relevant consideration. What is relevant is that rail suffers less jerk (the technical term for acceleration per second), and they always have much greater capacity both seating and non-seating. It's also more or less impervious to snow, which articulated buses have particular problems with. Probably you're not concerned with efficiency but trains are much more efficient (steel on steel has less rolling resistance) and doesn't need to carry its own fuel supply.

High-rises get a bad rap from sustainable development fans because that crowd is usually somewhat knowledgeable of urban design issues and knows that high-rises are horrible design. First, because high-rises are rarely multi-zoned, and even if they are, there's limits to the proportion of commercial space you can put in a high-rise. Second, because high-rise apartment buildings don't provide much more density than densely packed 4-5 storey buildings; that's because high-rises are never densely packed. Third, because high-rises are the paradigmatic example of fugly. Fourth, because high-rises are very expensive, centralized development. Fifth, because high-rises limit residents' access to the outside. Sixth, as a result of the zoning, high-rise areas are associated with high crime rates (which is why Paris builds no more and will demolish the ones it did). That said, IFF setbacks between high-rises were used for something valuable like parkland, then moderate high-rises might be a good idea.


See CarAddiction, FlyingCar

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