Urbanism and transportation

A big topic.

in the 50+ thread, a couple people here remarked how difficult healthcare can be when you don’t have a partner to drive you home from a medical procedure.

Shorter intro: what are the cons of car-addicted society vs the benefits of EV transition. Most of us drive everywhere but transit and in particular rail transit is very comfortable.

What is the middle ground, and what is the status in your City or state / County? Is it war on cars? Do you wish cyclists followed the rules of the road more?

What transit projects in your City are you excited about? Would you consider moving to a dense urban neighborhood?

Have you taken the train or light rail transit lately, or the bus instead of driving?

I live in a two-car household so can’t preach about it.

Citynerd on youtube is a fun somewhat sardonic channel.

A part of the history of the problem in urban planning in North America is that delay experienced by motorists was used as a primary metric of urban accessibility. A five minute delay on a 5-mile commute, say at a couple of busy intersections, was and still is seen as an urban problem that needs to be addressed. By addressing the delay through road widening, society benefits and the economy strengthens.

The problem is the long term externalities which result from the focus on reducing delay. Low density land use separated by four or six-lane arterials with no-one walking or cycling, thus not justifying walking or cycling infrastructure, making it more dangerous to walk and bike.

A small mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant in whatever small urbanism is left in a given City, vs Home Depot on the outskirts. Guess which one subsidizes the other? Of course it’s the mom and pop restaurant who continue to pay taxes but don’t use or need any of the high cost watermains, roads, drainage to drain big parking lots, and other infrastructure needed by the Home Depot.

Why would a business bother locating in an urban transit-accessible neighborhood when business can get a larger, cheap suburban big box lease and probably get more customers anyway?

I think that E-Bikes, and potentially similar small, electric vehicles, have potential to dramatic improve a lot of urban transportation.

In a city, you don’t really need a heavy metal vehicle capable of going 60+ mph. You never go that fast.

If you limit yourself to electric vehicles that only go around 20 mph max, with more common speeds of around 20mph, you are able to make them a lot smaller and lighter, and you don’t need the same kind of safety equipment.

Whenever I’m driving through a major metro area, like DC, I notice that on the HOV Lane that only requires 2 people in the car… basically no one is in it. There are 3-4 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic, where every car is ONE person.

It’s an insane waste of resources.

I’m not 100% on this, but I think every HOV/HOT lane in DC is 3+ (for HOV). Anecdotally, they are pretty busy – and very expensive for non-HOV – during rush hour. The biggest downside is they have very few exits, which makes them less convenient than they would be otherwise.

E-bikes are great in cities with proper transportation infrastructure for bikes, and terrifying without that infrastructure.

Part of the tension is that most urban corridors have been maxed out already for cars, e.g. 5 lanes plus narrow tiny sidewalk, so providing bike infrastructure means cars have to give something up. Either parking or a traffic lane. This brings out the people who come to open houses and scream.

I just typed several pages on this and went a bit off-the-rails; it’s one of my major interests outside of work/games/sports. It boils down to… we F’ed everything up at the behest of the auto industry last century, we’re pretty screwed in the short and medium term, but where you can, build more dense human-scaled neighborhoods with local amenities. Don’t ban cars, but try to get average miles driven down from 10-15K to 5K, make it so a family of four can live easily with one vehicle and people don’t have to move a 90-minute commute away to afford housing. Better for the environment, better for public finances and health, people tend to report higher levels of happiness on average even without the American Dream quarter-acre yard and 2.5-car garage.

Do ban cars, but soft ban by eliminating parking and allowing congestion, especially in the historic downtowns.

I took a train recently which is rare for me, and it was a total pleasure. Room to stretch, easy to visit and chat with my daughter, wi-fi, smooth and comfortable, scenic and fast. Need to do it more often.

Why City Design is Important (and Why I Hate Houston) - YouTube

I like the video series by Not Just Bikes.

Yes, I take the subway to work, and I walk to the subway. The bus from near my house to the subway is slower than I’d like, so I get the exercise instead. It’s a half hour walk each way, but that’s a nice excuse to get steps in. I also walk a ton on days I don’t go to the office, and go grocery shopping almost every day and carry stuff home to cook.

Between my wife and I we put maybe 4-5K a year on our single car, so we’ll probably have it forever unless it rots due to lack of driving.

There are definitely advantages to living in the NorthEast in an area built for walking and biking - there are walking/bike paths all over that can take me to a number of locations I’d like to get to, including the subway. Also, traffic is so miserable that cars and busses take forever to get anywhere during rush hour. I’ve had plenty of times I walked home from the subway during rush hour traffic, and walked past my bus and beat it to the drop-off stop. Why even bother getting in if it’s going to be that slow?

I am in central California where if you don’t have a car you better like the bus because that’s it in town. As for leaving town Amtrak while comfortable is extremely slow. Hi-speed rail is being built but it may not actually serve any purpose for another 15-20 years. Yea, I know the state says it will be done by the end of the decade but the rail authority is either knowingly lying or totally ignoring reality.

You’re correct on one of the problems, but I think it’s important to highlight that by-and-large while adding lane capacity to roads (and adding things like freeflow etc) improved throughput, they rarely improved transit times outside of edge cases like interurban highways. Quite the opposite really, despite all the roadbuilding and road improvements across the western world, commuting times have tended to increase as cars are an incredibly inefficient way to move people quickly.

I studied urban economics for several years which also included an awful lot of urban design and transport economics, two of my projects were on the effects of the DC Metro expansions and another on the effects on Cincinnati of a) ripping up the extensive streetcar network b) abandoning the subway & c) gutting the city centre to build highways. I can’t remember what book it was, but there was a book that effectively (imho) argued that the adoption of the private car was the most destructive event in the 20th century. When you look at direct & indirect deaths, externalities, and how it reshaped how people live to an unsustainable unhealthy ideal, there is something to that strain of thought.

People in car-dependence suburbs like myself have to make a much more intent-driven decision to exercise, rather than have it a natural outcome of day-to-day living.

Have you decided that a lane on that road should be closed to traffic and open to buses only? Even if 500 people an hour are using the road in cars, and only 50 people per hour are using it in the bus? In my opinion it’s the leap our society should make; because even if the 500 people outnumber the 50, they (we, I often drive) are taking more than our share of space and resources, while the 50 are not.

We have dedicated bus lanes in some areas. They have made traffic much worse as they turned 2 lane streets into one lane, and cars cheat and use the bus lane anyway. That seems like a failure without strict enforcement.

The problem with dense populations in the northeast is that there’s no place to expand typical city streets without sacrificing sidewalks.

The city posted their statistics on the bus lanes: Bus trips on north Mass Ave faster, more consistent with bus lanes.

London has bus lanes everywhere and it’s as cramped as pretty much any north east city (except maybe the old part of Boston?). You also get a lot more than 50 people per hour (provided you run a frequent service) because the buses can go faster than cars. London buses. are pretty much always full, running a once-every-10-minutes or so service during the daytime. Now, when you have cycling lanes competing with bus lanes for space, that does cause issues.

I get irrationally pissed when I see cars in the bus lanes. (It’s only made worse when the city puts out cops to harass bicyclists who roll through pedestrian crossings, instead of doing something useful.)

In contrast to my complaints about police deployment, I am so, so happy with Cambridge and Somerville for putting in protected bike lanes (at the expense of a driving lane and/or parking). I say this as a bike commuter, to be fair.

Yeah, there are places on my commute where busses have to cross over bike lanes to get to the stop. I… really don’t like it, but I’m not sure if there’s a better option. It hasn’t yet been a problem (well, caused any accidents) to my knowledge.

Hopefully the plan is to convince a good chunk of those 500 people that this is a worthwhile project. Because if it just comes down from on high, you risk siphoning off more votes to the benefit of the anti-experts coalition.

It’s not so much an accident issue, at least between buses and bikes*. It’s that realistically installing a worthwhile bike lane on a typical old city street with at most two lanes means getting rid of the bus lane (assuming you don’t just close the street to cars). In the UK at least, cyclists are allowed to cycle in bus lanes, and they’re generally well respected by drivers (the sober ones anyway), so it’s a pretty decent alternative to a protected bike lane - certainly better than a crappy painted line in the gutter with no protection. So I’m in two minds about it. The goal should absolutely be to have top quality segretated cycle infrastructure on key routes in a coherent network. But I’m willing to settle for bus lanes in a lot of other parts of the city, at least in the interim - we should be working to drastically reduce the number of cars on city roads in the medium term.

  • Modern cycle lane design puts the cycle lane on the other side of the kerb from the bus, so this eliminates risk to cyclists from buses (or from cars as they try to go around the stopped bus) but creates potential conflict between cyclists and people getting on and and off the bus.

Don’t threaten me with a good time!

I actually dream about centrally planned neo-cities that have outlawed cars and only have smaller forms of personal transportation along with a network of public transportation.

It’s true that curbside bus lanes have enforcement issues especially in urban areas with driveways, as drivers pretend the’re about to turn right and would say so to an officer. The buses themselves have to deal with delays caused by right-turning cars.

Some answers include centre-runninng bus lanes, which makes stops a challenge to provide, or banning right turns at intersections, though driveways can’t typically be closed as access to property is a property-owner’s right.

City streets often can’t be expanded so the answer has to be taking space away from cars. Business owners usually object to the loss of parking, despite the incredibly low return on value for parking spaces on-street.

In my opinion a car should be treated like a used, stained mattress. Why do we allow the public, myself included, to store our used mattress in the middle of a public road, when we need the space for other things?