Friday, December 15, 2006

Big Picture

While much of the NAST coalition's energy right now is focused on a single (incredibly important) regional transportation project, every now and then it's good to disengage long enough to ask what longer-term goals neighborhood and transportation advocates might articulate for the Sacramento area. I came across a provocative web page maintained by the Project for Public Spaces in New York that articulates an intriguing, if somewhat problematic approach to transportation planning. The essence of PPS' perspective seems to be that transportation is a place in itself just as much as it is a means of getting places. As a result of thinking about transportation as a place, PPS places less emphasis on speed (or mobility) and more emphasis on the quality of transportation corridors as social, public spaces:
Roads can be shared spaces with pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, on-street parking etc. Parking lots can become public markets on weekends. Even major urban arterials can be retrofitted to provide for dedicated bus lanes, well-designed bus stops that serve as gathering places, and multi-modal facilities for bus rapid transit or other forms of travel. Roads are places too!
I'm not certain that PPS' approach applies unproblematically to the planning of interregional transit, like freeways or medium-distance mass transit. And certainly, freeway expansion disguised as HOV lane is an approach that fails to perform even according to traditional, common-sense, mobility-oriented standards. Nevertheless, the PPS transportation site is provocative. What are the specific objectives of a just, equitable, and sustainable transportation system?

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