The Recession From Which We May Never Recover

My parents went through the Great Depression. They were thrifty, to say the least, and we were recycling before we knew what the term meant. Curbing Cars (Cover)

Now, we and our children have been through another seminal economic event. Some call it the Great Panic, others the Great Recession.

No matter what you call it, the economic meltdown of 2007-2009 changed a lot of attitudes in the United States, including the way some people feel about the role of automobiles in our lives.

I look at the impact of the recession on driving in our new ebook. While it may not be the top factor why people are “driving light,” it’s definitely one of the considerations that plays into how they view cars.

The changes these consumers made during the worst of the recession have become permanent parts of their lives. Even as the stock market soared in 2013 and 2014, and as some economists declared that America had recovered (statistically at least), the feeling that all could be lost at any moment still resounds in a number of corners.

Read more about the economy and how it changed peoples’ attitudes in this excerpt from the book in Forbes.

You can buy Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry at Amazon and Apple now.

 

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EXCERPT: What Will It Take To Get You Back Behind The Wheel?

Millions of people are driving less, and some are even giving up their cars all together. In our new eBook, Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry,  published Tuesday by Forbes, I make some suggestions on how the auto companies can play a role in the new transportation reality.  Curbing Cars (Cover)

One idea: create a new Model T, a car that that can appeal broadly to the public, and yet be affordable and efficient. That’s critical, given that the average new vehicle now costs around $33,000. Parking, repairs, insurance and maintenance all add up to the expense of owning an automobile.

Here’s what I say in an excerpt on Forbes.com.

“There’s an opportunity for some smart company to build the next car for the masses. There is certainly a precedent for doing so. The original Model T put the car within the reach of the American middle class for the first time, and as cheaper used versions became available, the demographic got pushed down even further to the working class.

From 1910 through 1930, the automobile industry attracted new customers and auto sales boomed. But then there came a 15-year period in which auto sales stalled, first because of the Great Depression, and then because cars weren’t available during World War II.

What happened to revive the American car market? Prosperity returned, of course, but there was also a successor to the Model T that put millions of people into cars they could afford: the Volkswagen Beetle. It was a global, not just American, phenomenon and caught buyers’ attention for a number of reasons. Continue reading

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Out Now: The Curbing Cars EBook, Published By Forbes

Curbing Cars (Cover) Curbing Cars: America’s Independence From The Auto Industry is the result of our Kickstarter-funded project looking at why people are driving less. You can buy it now from Amazon.com, on iTunes and other sites where eBooks are sold.

Check back regularly as we post our analysis and predictions about the historic shift in attitudes among Americans about their transportation needs.

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World Urban Forum Focuses On Improving City Design

Image via unhadb.org

Image via unhadb.org

The upcoming World Urban Forum, the largest, most diverse conference dedicated to cities, will address how urban design can create equitable, sustainable and livable cities for all residents.

In preparation for the event, which opened Saturday in Medellin, Colombia, and runs through Friday, some of the leaders of the World Resources Institute and EMBARQ, its sustainable transport and urban development initiative, discussed the challenges cities are facing and how they are overcoming them.

Cities bring a wealth of challenges, according to Manish Bapna, executive vice president of WRI, which has offices based in China, India, Brazil and the United States. Poverty is rampant and the urban poor often lack access to basic services, such as public transportation. Although cities currently account for 80 percent of the global GDP, they are also responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and 1.3 million people die prematurely due to urban air pollution every year.

“The spatial layout of a city has such a strong bearing on whether or not people remain segregated from public services,” Bapna said. “It is crucial to get the design right at the outset.”

EMBARQ, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, China and India, works with governments around the world to develop better access (mobility) and urban design by creating examples and working with legislators to improve finance and policy to make the projects possible.

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Bixi May Have Bad News, But Check Out These 4 Promising Bike Share Projects

The Bixi Logo

The Bixi Logo

With the bankruptcy filing of the Public Bike System Company, more commonly known as Bixi, bike sharing has been getting some stinky press as of late.

Bixi, which is based in Montreal, filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year after it was unable to make payments to suppliers and several municipalities, including New York, Chicago, and its hometown of Montreal. The implementation of bike share systems in Vancouver and Portland has been delayed because of the Bixi blunder, according to reports.

The future may seem gloomy in light of recent events, but mobility nuts shouldn’t fear: there are still several promising bike share systems that are expected to pop up across the U.S.:

1. Arborbike – Ann Arbor, Mich.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 2.46.11 PM

A rendering of what the Arborbikes will look like.
(Courtesy of Clean Energy Coalition)

This system is arguably long overdue. Ann Arbor is known for being an environmentally-friendly town, and its large concentration of college students makes it attractive place for a system. The Ann Arbor News reports that The Clean Energy Coalition, a local non-profit, expects to launch 14 stations in June at various locations throughout downtown and near the campus of the University of Michigan. The University has pledged to help fund the program, in addition to support from the city and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. Hardware for the program supplied by Wisconsin-based B-Cycle

The CEC is hoping that area businesses will purchase memberships for their employees or patrons, and they’ve also expressed interest in allowing property owners or developers to underwrite stations around town. Continue reading

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In Boston: Get On A Bike, And Call Me In The Morning

Photo courtesy of The Hubway

Photo courtesy of The Hubway

Many people ride bicycles for health reasons. Now, in Boston, doctors have begun prescribing bike rides to improve the health of low-income residents.

According to the Boston Globe, the city-run program, called “Prescribe-a-Bike,” allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a yearlong membership to Hubway bike sharing program, for only $5.

For the $5, patients can ride bikes as many times as they want for 30 minutes or less at a time. They also will get a free helmet, said an announcement from the city and the medical center.

There are nearly 900 Boston residents are already enrolled in an existing subsidized Hubway membership. City and hospital officials are hoping the new program enrolls another 1,000 residents, the Globe said. Continue reading

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Which U.S. City Is Really The Best For Getting Around? Hint: Not LA

Detroit doesn't always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

Detroit doesn’t always show up on Best Cities lists. But it does on one of these.

It seems like every other day there’s a new “top cities” list. There are the top cities for foodies, the happiest cities, the best cities for families, and even the weirdest cities. And of course, we care most about the best cities for transit — walking, biking, public transportation, and traffic flow.

While it’s hard to compare lists, we thought it might be useful to see if there are any notable similarities or differences on these “best cities” lists.

Here are five lists from the past few years. Let’s see how they compare.

Livability’s Top 10 Best Downtowns
Livability ranks America’s best places to live, work and visit, based on a wide array of criteria. This particular list, created in 2014, looks at cities; downtowns, based on population growth, the ratio of residents to jobs, income growth, home vacancy rates, affordability of housing, and the vacancy rates of retail and office spaces. We like this list because it is includes some lesser-known cities in lieu of the major U.S. cities seen on most lists.

  1. Fort Worth, Texas
  2. Providence, R.I.
  3. Indianapolis
  4. Provo, Utah
  5. Alexandria, Va.
  6. Frederick, Md.
  7. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  8. Bellingham, Wash.
  9. Eugene, Ore.
  10. Birmingham, Ala.

Top 10 Best American Downtowns, ranked by Top Tenz
Top Tenz, a site solely dedicated to top 10 lists, included the usual favorites in this list from 2012. But this list deviates from the norm with its inclusion of Detroit and Milwaukee, both of which appear do not appear on any of the other lists we looked at for this post.

Detroit in particular is a noteworthy choice — it seems to wind up on more “worst cities” lists than those that rank the best. But Top Tenz calls Detroit’s downtown “one of the most architecturally impressive in the country” and notes that the city has been revitalized in the recent years following intensive development.

  1. New York City
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Chicago
  4. San Francisco
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Miami
  7. Boston
  8. Seattle
  9. Detroit
  10. Milwaukee

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Could Paris’ Battle Against Smog Spread To Other Cities?

The Eiffel Tower, before and after the Paris smog. Photo via StrangeSounds.org

The Eiffel Tower, before and after the Paris smog. Photo via StrangeSounds.org

By Adam Rubenfire

Dangerously high pollution levels this past week prompted officials in Paris to take some drastic measures to curb the city’s smog problem.

The most radical measure came Monday. About half of the city’s cars were forced off Parisian streets when the French government announced that vehicles with even-numbered license plates would not be allowed to drive within the limits of the city or its suburbs.

Taxis, carpools, and commercial electric or hybrid vehicles were exceptions to the rule, which, combined with favorable weather conditions, appeared to alleviate the smog that consumed the Paris skyline, according to the BBC.

Although thousands of individuals faced ticketing for violating the ban — some less cooperative motorists even had their cars impounded — there was an upside for commuting Parisians. All forms of public transit were free of charge from Friday through Tuesday.

The 100 percent discount on fares cost the region four million Euros a day ($5.5 million), according to online publication The Local.

Loosening the turnstiles and taking automobiles off the roads may seem extreme, but car free streets are the norm in some communities around the globe.

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5 Things On A City’s Shopping List For a New Transit System

A preliminary design for public transit in Ottawa. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A preliminary design for public transit in Ottawa. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Marine Gateway development in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Marine Gateway development in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

Broadway and Commercial station in East Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

Broadway and Commercial station in East Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A study for Vancouver's Cambie Corridor. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

A study for Vancouver’s Cambie Corridor. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Brentwood Skytrain station in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

The Brentwood Skytrain station in Vancouver. Image: courtesy Perkins+Will

By Matthew Varcak

Jeff Doble is playing a key role in the future of one of the world’s most dynamic cities, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is designing the new Riyadh Metro System and Bus Rapid Transit System — the largest transit system in the world to be designed and built at one time.

He talked about the priorities that cities set down in creating their new systems.

1) Iconic design. Doble says that the goal is to design structures which residents will recognize. Branding becomes important for cities establishing a transit system where there previously was none, according to Doble.

2) An easy ride. Clients also strive to create the best passenger experience. This means riders must feel safe and have clear signage and way finding.

3) A good fit. Another important factor is how the transit system is integrated into the community. “It must respond to and respect the community,” Doble said. Continue reading

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Inside The Future Of Public Transit Design

A study for the Olayya Batha Corridor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image: courtesy of Perkins+Will.

A study for the Olayya Batha Corridor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image: courtesy of Perkins+Will.

By Matthew Varcak

A public transit system does more than just get people from point A to point B.

“Cities can be defined by transit systems,” said Jeff Doble, director of transportation design for the Vancouver office of Perkins+Will. “A station’s design affects the whole community. It affects future development.”

Doble is playing a key role in the future of one of the world’s most dynamic cities, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He and his team recently completed the preliminary design of the new Riyadh Metro System and Bus Rapid Transit System — the largest transit system in the world to be designed and built at one time.

“The goal is to get an oil rich population out of cars and into public transit,” Doble said. In order to convince them to do this, mass transit must be more comfortable, convenient, and a high quality experience for passengers.

But designing such systems is an everyday event for his company. A global architecture and design firm for everything from the aviation to the transit industry, Perkins+Will currently has projects under way all over the world.

Among other projects, Doble’s work has him developing stations for the Evergreen Line in Vancouver, British Columbia, and for the elevated rail line on Oahu, Hawaii, which we spotlighted in an earlier article. Continue reading

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