I recently watch the TED YouTube “A future beyond traffic gridlock” by Bill Ford of Ford Motor Co. It has relevance to Growth and increased Traffic in our city. I didn’t quit like Fords example of cars on intelligent networks because it lacked innovation in the use of other forms of transportation, but I’d expect that of a top auto executive. More cars, autonomous cars, and networked or not, are that much more space occupying our roads. One must look at even more long-term integrated mobility solutions that occupy far less space, reduce or eliminates the use of energy and production of greenhouse gases, and greatly reduce or eliminate traffic congestion.
The solution must also work for urban sprawl areas like Cupertino since transit buses cannot feasibly serve every neighborhood conveniently. Streets are frequently mazes very time consuming for buses to navigate and not economically feasible to one or two people at a time. Even Uber cars and autonomous cars will eventually add to traffic as their numbers increase. Cars simply take up too much road and parking space on our limited roads and parking areas. Parking lots are often as large as the places they serve. It will take a combination of solutions to solve each situation such as how to accommodate the handicap and elderly or school children or adults commuting to work or shopping.
An integrated long-term solution must involve Smart Growth city designs adapted to urban sprawl, transit infrastructure, smaller motorized light weight vehicles, bicycles, other devices, and walking in a smart coordinated interconnected network something akin to that described by Bill Ford. How can we make our city less dependent upon cars in the short run and totally independent of cars in the long-term to our growing communities to make growth more sustainable and take mobility to the next evolutionary step?
Technology will play a role but it is not a magic bullet. It is simply a tool, though an important one, that will make whatever combinations of solutions exist work together more seamlessly. Mechanical and human mobility elements will still play an essential role. I have been promoting Bicycles on the blog because they are the most underutilized solution to mobility and in my opinion are on an equal footing to public transportation solutions but orders of magnitude less expensive and faster to implement. As I have said before they are The Most Efficient Means of Transportation Devised by Man. And they can be a Joy to ride. They are very useful for getting people living in urban sprawl homes to public transit stops, work, and shopping.
But in the short run they are not the total solution. Bicycles alone are no more a magic bullet than technology. Efficient transit systems will play an important role as will small electric mobility vehicles for picking up seniors and the handicap from their homes to transit stops or other destinations. But technology will be the glue that networks with these mobility elements and manages them most efficiently so no one has to wait long for transportation.
The goal of an efficient mobility system is to get people from one destination to the other with the least waste of time, energy, and pollution safely. There should be sound measurable metrics for measuring the progress of such a system so that improvements can be monitored and optimized. This is another area where technology will play a key role.
As transportation alternatives become more popular excess roadways and parking areas can be converted into housing and business place. Another key element is laying out the city so it can be a more effective place for mobility elements such as walking, biking and public transportation to operate. This means clustering business and housing units closer together so less energy and resources are need for commuting. High density mixed use developments will be needed to enable people to walk or bike to as many destinations as possible since these are zero energy, zero pollution mobility elements. The ideal situation is to live within walking distance of all of ones essential destinations. This is a Smart Growth Is Sustainable Growth strategy. So sound city planning taking all of this into consideration is essential.