I have been perusing a piece on Streetsblog over on Parknews.biz about the need to ‘fix’ New York City’s transportation problems now while the pandemic has basically destroyed it. It seems the city is being inundated with cars since no one will ride the subways (ridership down 97%). Now is the time to strike, the article says. You can read all about it on Parknews.biz.
A local Big Apple think tank has all kinds of recommendations most having to do with removing cars from the streets. Increase bus lanes by removing on street parking, widen sidewalks, turn many streets in to ‘walk only’ pathways, and of course increase bike lanes. Go for it, Manhattan.
The article looks to Paris and London as examples of cities that have closed streets, increased bike use, and removed the horror of the privately owned vehicle. The problem New York seems to have is that people aren’t riding on the subways, the buses are not a prime mover, and though bicycles are popular with the younger set, they don’t solve every problem. What to do, what to do?
I am more familiar with London than either New York or Paris. You ride the underground in London, and if you don’t, it has an excellent bus system or taxis/Uber/Lyft. And as in New York, many people walk. In densely populated central cities like these three, turning streets into walkways is workable. This means, of course, that people stay in their neighborhoods, with all they need for their lives are right there – grocery stores, shops, restaurants, clubs. It makes sense. If 100,000 people live within walking distance, then merchants can thrive with those who use shoe leather for transportation.
However for those poor souls who prefer to live in the suburbs, and commute into the city to work and play, it’s a different world. I understand that urban planners would prefer that people not live in the ‘burbs but live in 900 square foot apartments cheek by jowl in the city and walk to work, shop, and play, but these planners live in a fantasy world. The article I quoted actually mentioned that autonomous vehicles were ‘right around the corner.’ What alternate universe to they live in?
Doing away with cars might work in such cramped, dense, cities, but in those where life is spread out and people have a taste for the wide open spaces, not so much.
These planned communities mean that people who have money can do as they will, live in large high rises and have country homes and chauffer driven vehicles, while those of us with lessor incomes are stuck walking and living in hot, congested cities. I would like to know where the members of the “Transportation think tanks” referred to in the article live, work and play. It would be interesting to find out, wouldn’t it?
Our betters always have a plan for the rest of us, but not for them.