transportation camp

going to a big unconference on “transportation” writ large tomorrow in downtown sf. excited about the format and attendees – worried that i’m going to find a lot of people working my dream job, which is going to make me feel worse about being an unaffiliated job seeker 😐

everyone thinks of something different when they hear “transportation” – i’m curious to see what themes emerge tomorrow. check out the website here and if you’re not busy saturday night (it’s raining, you’ll want to be inside, sorry extended daylight time!) there’s an ignite event open to you, my dear public.

here’s the first google image result when i do an image search on “transportation” . it’s your standard rail/car/bike/bridge amalgamation:

the first google word search result is wikipedia’s “transport” entry, which helpfully includes cable and SPACE as modes of transport in addition to the aforementioned. i wonder if anyone will be discussing space travel this weekend?

Let’s see what bing says. image search for transportation turns up this first:

Hmm yes, i like this much better. featuring an awkward (canadian?) white running shoe poking out of a pair of pinstriped pants as the featured icon. i like it.

boring. the bing text search turns up wikipedia first, too. blah, blah, blah.

just for kicks, I went all retro on you and used to do an image search on “transportation” annnnnnnnnnnnd:

That’s right – the first result was a dutch cartoon about buses or something. What does that tell us? lots of people in the netherlands use dutch cartoonists tag their work with english keywords with regularity?

facebook search turns up the first ranked page as “transportation for america”. that looks pretty good!

And what do I think are some of the biggest issues in US transportation?

  • CAR-FOCUSED DEVELOPMENT: We need to look at the continued effects of auto-focused development (for the past 70 years!) – sprawl, road width, car-focused development not people-focused development in cities, shopping areas, downtowns.
  • JUST STOP BUILDING FOR MORE AUTO TRAFFIC – NOW! Parking, city congestion, road widening: there will never be less cars than there on the road right now. urban centers are (re)growing. think about it. if we widen the roads and make more parking, make it easier to drive, it’s likely that more drivers will fill those gaps. this doesn’t make driving pleasanter for anyone. it only makes alternatives less feasible.
  • IMAGINING A FUTURE WHERE DRIVING ISN’T A GOOD ALTERNATIVE: Until driving is less accessible, we will never seriously focus on the alternatives, even for things we can’t imagine today (taking public transportation or sharing to trailheads and outdoor recreation areas, home depot and other big box retailers, family trips)
  • BIKES TRUMP CARS FOR INNER-CITY TRIPS: Most cities in the US are eminently bikable outside of some weather conditions – especially if you look at terrain, available road infrastructure, size of downtowns, and miles traveled in a typical day on errands and commutes. It’s insane that this is not a truly viable method of transport unless you are extremely confident on your bike and willing to put up with the risks (or, in some cities, you must be actually insane to try it). Do we really want to live where urban and suburban kids can never ride a bike unless their guardian pops them in the car and drives to a “safe” park? Pathetic! In heavy city traffic, I would always reach my destination in the same amount of time or more quickly than a car – it’s not about the environment, it’s not about cost (though that’s a plus), it’s about the facts, stupid! It’s just quicker and easier in downtowns – or at least, it should be.
  • DE-STIGMATIZE PUBLIC TRANSIT IN LESS URBAN AREAS: Especially in sub-urban and ex-urban areas, public transit is stigmatized – and not always without reason. Would you like to stand out in the rain for a half hour by the side of an eight-lane trunk road waiting for the bus to the airport or mall? These areas are designed for cars. And cars only.
  • SPEED BUMPS! Speed bumps (at least in San Francisco) are a cheap and underutilized solution. With pedestrians, kids, vehicles parallel parking, and cyclists in most residential and mixed use neighborhoods, 30 MPH is way too fast! Go sleeping policemen!
  • RECLAIM VALUABLE DOWNTOWN REAL ESTATE FROM TRAFFIC AND PARKING: Reconsider pedestrian-only mall areas in downtowns – many ciites have and continue to have these successfully. They are a huge boost to the retail and food establishments in these areas. Check out Charlottesville, Virginia’s downtown pedestrian zone. Instead of cars and medians in the middle, they now have space for outdoor beer gardens and cafes, parents can let their kids race around on their trikes or razor scooters, and throughout the year, you’ll find street performers, musicians, parades, art exhibits and other public space fancies. I can’t  believe parts of Grant St. haven’t been turned ped-only yet!!! The simple solution is bollards that retract into the pavement and allow deliveries and other necessary vehicular traffic between 11 pm and 5 am…

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