Daft transport 'innovations' / 'solutions'

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  • Perhaps a thread is in order on the kind of infrastructural crap that people regularly come up with again and again and again when they try to think of innovative solutions to transport problems. I've mentioned things like the one below at times in other threads, but there is really nothing new under the sun when it comes to this. (NB this is not about 'self-driving' cars, we have at least two other threads for these.) All of these ideas, in advance of a putative future in which 'where we're going, we won't need roads', rely on grade separation as their bright idea, i.e. adding additional routes or thoroughfares, often specific to one mode, either higher or lower than the existing street level.

    The granddaddy of these ideas, aside from various works of science fiction, was Le Corbusier's 'ville radieuse', which was founded on a complete separation of transportation uses and other uses. This has since proved many times over, where it has been implemented, that it does not work. One of the original daft transport plans of this kind was the 1959 Buchanan Report, which among other things recommended that in the cities of the future all pedestrian activity should take place at first floor level while the ground floor should be given over to car parking and circulation. You can see one of the fruits of this labour in London's Barbican Centre. It also notably influenced city planning in many other cities, although for the most part these efforts never got very far, as it all proved completely impractical and far too expensive for dubious benefit to raze older cities, and the future, as it were, changed before it had happened.

    Anyway, the key problem at the heart of it is always how we should accommodate the ever-increasing (perceived) need to travel. So, everybody wants to be everywhere in no time, quite often leading to private motorised travel as their mode of choice. Great concentrations of travel, such as on bank holidays or travel into highly-concentrated dense city centres in the morning peak hour, are thought to demand innovative solutions. There are roughly two groups of such solutions--one the old predict-and-provide model that you simply try to build your way out of congestion, adding more roads, railways, airport capacity, and so forth, and the second the realisation that this is impossible and that it would be much wiser to reduce the need to travel, in fact reducing capacity, especially for air travel.

    The former tends to be what still happens, and most of the daft transport 'innovations' aim to increase capacity and to facilitate travel, although some, like elevated artificial tailwind-assisted plastic tubes for bikes in theory are aimed at changing a city's transport profile to be more sustainable (this is nonetheless nonsense, unfortunately, despite the good intentions). It's not politically popular to reduce air travel capacity, for example, as it might mean that people might have to holiday in Blackpool again instead of Mallorca, although with accelerating climate change, a relocated Blackpool on slightly higher ground could perhaps become positively tropical while the tropics become uninhabitable.

    I think that this excursus is relevant, as these occasional transport 'solutions' that I criticise provide an annoying distraction from the problems really facing us.

    Here's the latest one, although like most, it has popped up with slight variations over and over:

    https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/­dec/02/cartube-tube-underground-cars-pro­posal-bury-traffic-next-best-thing-to-te­leportation

    The article gives a couple of useful links to other recent daft ideas in the first paragraph.

  • how we should accommodate the ever-increasing (perceived) need to travel. So, everybody wants to be everywhere in no time, quite often leading to private motorised travel as their mode of choice. Great concentrations of travel, such as on bank holidays or travel into highly-concentrated dense city centres in the morning peak hour, are thought to demand innovative solutions. There are roughly two groups of such solutions--one the old predict-and-provide model that you simply try to build your way out of congestion, adding more roads, railways, airport capacity, and so forth, and the second the realisation that this is impossible and that it would be much wiser to reduce the need to travel, in fact reducing capacity, especially for air travel.

    We just get used to the hassle and unpleasantness of road congestion/airport procedure as it slowly gets worse. If it had happened suddenly or you dropped in from another time/era/planet then maybe you would be dismayed and want something done about it but when you are 'in it' we tend to accept and adapt.

    Having said that I find the 'thats life' resignation depressing.

    Join the Undefeated.

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Daft transport 'innovations' / 'solutions'

Posted by Avatar for Oliver Schick @Oliver Schick

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