American Elephants

Urban Planning From the Science Fiction Department! by The Elephant's Child

We receive a community newspaper freebie, pitched on our driveway on the weekend, with coupons, ads, many many inserts and a couple of articles by young writers hoping to become journalists someday.

“The City Council hears report on gas tax replacement”. Cars are being made with more fuel efficiency and so revenue from the gas tax is going down. That won’t do. Must have more taxes.

“Bellevue speaks at self-driving car conference”  We had a panel of an associate professor, Dr. Anne Brown, at the University of Oregon, where she studies technology and urban planning, who looks to be about 26, and another young woman who is identified as the Seattle Department of Transportation new mobility strategic advisor  who appears to be several years younger. And some man with gray hair who is Bellevue’s transportation planner who did not speak. Here are some excerpts from the article:

Brown said that there are four main areas she is concerned with: land use, curb space management, parking and the revenue implications for municipalities.  (you will notice that people do not figure in her thinking)

One of the biggest impacts autonomous vehicles could have is reducing the need for parking, not only in public places, but in homes and apartments. In the near future, single-family home owners with a garage may opt to use self-driving car rideshare services, freeing up their garage to be converted into a “mother-in-law unit” or rental unit. On city streets , massive amounts of space reserved for parking could be converted into other uses.

Some parking for self-driving cars would still be needed, and city planners should think about where these could be  placed, Brown said. Vehicles in the U.S. are parked about 95 percent of the time, and if fewer people relied on single-occupant vehicles to get around it would unlock huge amounts of space in urban areas.

“Without that, it releases all this space to be re-imagined,’ she said.

For housing, if commutes are more enjoyable it could lead to more urban sprawl as people opt to live farther away and deal with more travel time.

I didn’t include the retail part, or the Seattle Department of Transportation’s new mobility strategic advisor, Shannon Walker, ( the one who looks to be maybe 25) mentioned that the city’s goal is to encourage carpooling instead of people buying their own self-driving cars in an attempt to curb traffic.

I have never heard any ordinary person say that they wanted a self-driving car, or would even ride in one. But perhaps I am talking to the wrong people.

These two women seem to have little familiarity with the lives of ordinary people. Like a family with two kids, one in grade school, one in junior high. The one in junior high has ball practice after school, the one in grade school has piano lessons one day a week. The mom works, picks up the kids after school and the dog at the doggy day care, and has to pick up some things she forgot at the grocery store. Another day, she has to get something at Home Depot. Her husband had to leave work early for a doctors appointment, and he’s going to get a haircut if he can.

Their next door neighbors have entirely different schedules, kids of different ages and interests, and so on down the block. The other people in their workplace scatter off all over the region, with different needs and different plans.

And do remember that this is from a weekly driveway freebie drop.


 I really want to know about your reaction.  And having committed yourself to a self-driving car, how do you get to the mountains or for skiing on the weekend? Your workout at the gym before work? Oh, you have to have a car for that? So much for turning the garage into a mother-in-law apartment. Trust a self-driving car on the mountain roads I love? Fat chance! There’s a 200 foot drop-off on the left.

Reported on the radio, they are planning to force us all into self-driving cars, centrally controlled, to take us to the nearest public transportation stop. Do you think we are headed for a civil war?

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