Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Support System For Cars Is Massive

It should be noted that the automobile is not a stand-alone entity, it requires a massive support system. Roads and highways, parking areas, repair facilities, and fuel stations are just a few of the parts that make up the system. Most vehicles are used on average about one hour a day, this means the rest of their existence is spent in storage. The space built into, and allowed for in this system is always based on the largest vehicle using that space, even if it occurs infrequently. The issue of how large a vehicle "needs" to be is an area that needs to be addressed and rethought. For example, the insistence by the fire department to be able to turn around a large hook and ladder truck in a single-family residential neighborhood is a bit silly.

One of the unintended consequences of urban sprawl and a design flaw of modern communities is traffic patterns that make travel less efficient. The grid pattern, used in many cities after the inception of the automobile, has been replaced by a maze, or a can of worms design within a larger grid pattern. The case made for such a pattern in our neighborhoods is that it promotes privacy, safety, a better quality of life, and that it defuses traffic. These traffic patterns, however, often make it necessary for a person leaving their home to drive for several minutes just to reach the entrance of their sub-division that may be substantially closer as the crow flies.

The argument can be made that the more time a vehicle is on the road and the greater distance it has to travel causes environmental damage using more gas and creating more pollutants, this would call into question the logic and benefits of such patterns. Incentives to vary times of travel thus reducing "rush hour" congestion, expedites the flow of traffic adding to efficiency. Increased efficiency eliminates the need for additional roadways and traffic controls, it would also save fuel and reduce pollution. Our goal should be to keep at a minimum the square footage of pavement necessary to accomplish efficient movement of traffic.

Traffic problems are often complex and the simplest changes can make a big difference.  Sometimes it comes down to something as simple as to, how or where cones are placed at a work area.  All inexpensive solutions to removing the "choke points" should be explored. The tendency to super-size is not always a good thing. I have written about this subject in my book, "Advancing Time". Our understanding of cities and people when dealing with urban planning is far from complete. In an ever-faster changing world, trying to apply a "one size fits all" strategy risk leaving everyone feeling poorly fit. We must carefully create homes for the "animal" known as man, instead of high maintenance concrete environments for the machines that serve us. 

Footnote; I'm not in any way advocating doing away with cars or trucks, they are important and add to our quality of life. I only want to point out that the support system for the automobile makes our imprint on the planet much larger then you might want to think. What's in my energy footprint? I fear the answer is far more than what most of us would like to admit. Below is a post concerning the true size of our footprint,

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