2005-03-30

An import we like

One of the areas where the US continues to fall behind Europe is in the pleasantness of its cities, since for the past fifty or sixty years policy has been to make spaces more accessible to automobiles and less accessible to people. The consequences of this have been congestion, pollution, population flight and sprawl. Now Boston city councillor Paul Scapicchio is proposing that our fair city emulate the example of London, which has tried to control traffic in the city center by imposing entry tolls. The larger businesses will probably oppose the plan, but there seems to be some positive reaction both from Mayor Thomas Menino and Massachusetts transportation prophet Fred Salvucci.

Charging fees by itself, of course, is an incomplete policy. The plan would need to be part of a larger effort to develop a center city pedestrian zone and to invest heavily in the city's certifiably wretched public transport system. Malo da se i mi Ameri civilizujemo.

6 comments:

Yakima_Gulag said...

I think that chargeing admission to downtown might be a little harsh, but maybe it's the measure needed in the U.S. The trouble in the Gulag is nobody goes downtown to shop, a lot of the stores are dying from lack of business and the downtown mall died. It isn't just taxes in this case, it's a stupid owner and his decisions ANY ONE could see would put him out of business, stuff like putting in MARBLE floors, and chargeing way too much to rent space in there. It was amazeingly stupid stuff, and now the city as a whole is paying for it. Everyoen blames taxes, but taxes were the least of it in the end. Transport is a huge problem here, what we've got is good, but it's too infrequent on Saturdays and holidays. It's non-existant on Sundays.
Employers play a part too, they often discriminate against non-drivers, right at the outset by advertiseing reliable transportation, or valid driver's license even when driveing will NOT be part of the job description. I think that ought to be as illegal as discrimination against women or racial discrimination, or age discrimination.
If a job requires driveing, as part of the job, like say a trucker or a bus driver, or a delivery person, fine, ask this stuff, but not otherwise. The more people who go to work by bus the better. They'd be walking and getting exercise too!
Another thing, I noticed lunch breaks in Europe seemed longer. The short American lunch break is a contributing factor to obesity. If all you eat at lunch is fast food, with all that fat and sugar, you will get fat very fast. Better to have a decent well made lunch, and a short walk. The downtown here is very short of good places to eat lunch. Many businesses here don't have good places for their workers to store a lunch or to prepare something quick and good. It's pretty typical too, then everyoen wonders how everyone suddenly got so fat.

Eric Gordy said...

It seems like since the fee was introduced in London, it has significantly reduced inner city traffic and increased transit ridership. But then, the part of the puzzle that is missing in US cities is the public transport, it needs to have the carrying capacity to meet the increased demand. Compared to other US cities, Boston is pretty good, but needs to be much better. I often find myself lurching along on the dirty, crowded, infrequent trains of the B line dreaming of Budapest. But then I dream of Budapest when I am buying wine, too, probably this is just a fetish of mine.

DoDo said...

I often find myself lurching along on the dirty, crowded, infrequent trains of the B line dreaming of Budapest.

HA! And when I am riding daily the not too dirty but graffiti-spoiled, crowded and noisy M2 line in Budapest, whereas the still not built M4 would be along the direct route, I am dreaming of Line 3 in Vienna :-)

Incidentally, I mentioned Boston in a draft post on public transport [in which I have my job] I'll post on my blog depending on a current event in the next week or two. I mentioned the planned North-South Rail Link along the Big Dig, whose price estimate mystifies me: I could list several much bigger European rail tunnel projects under cities that costed less than $8 billion.

Eric Gordy said...

The price of the Big Dig mystifies everyone! Probably it could be explained in part by the corruption that pervades the entire project.
What I didnt mention is that my favorite thing about the Budapest transport system is the ladies with the red armbands. Efficient and evocative at the same time!

DoDo said...

The price of the Big Dig mystifies everyone! Probably it could be explained in part by the corruption that pervades the entire project.

Yeah the Big Dig itself is mystery, but how a planned project (the parallel rail tunnel) could be projected so high is truly fourth dimension... maybe future corruption was made room for, or the planners don't want it to be built? (One comparison: Eurotunnel was a truly big mess, but still it cost only twice as much, while it is thirty times as long and more complex...)

As for BKV controllers, HA squared! If by some rare chance it plays in an art cinema near you or you have spare time during an European visit of yours, I recommend the movie Kontroll. A surreal cross-genre film by a young Hungarian ex-expat-in-the-USA, whose loser anti-heroes are controllers on a fictional decrepit East European subway system (with our M2 as stand-in).

Eric Gordy said...

Wow, I have to see that film!