Transportation systems that put cars front and centre cause a lot of damage, we know this. But aspects of our cultural approach to getting around like, the reliance on road salt, are easily ignored. Every winter in North America we dump an unfathomable amount of salt on our roads which subsequently kills off wildlife. The costs of using road salt are high.
Cities are waking up to the damage years of salting their roads have done not only to local ecosystems but also to their budgets. Using road salt isn’t cheap and now cities are looking to alternatives, or at the very least, strategies to reduce the amount of salt they put on roads.
Area officials found that, pound for pound, brine was far more efficient than traditional rock salt. They could protect a lane-mile of road with a solution containing under 100 pounds of salt, roughly one third the amount used by rock-salt trucks.
Last, the towns switched to live-edge plows, which have flexible blades made up of multiple, independently moving sections mounted on springs. These state-of-the-art blades are more thorough than conventional ones. And starting with brine makes the plows even more efficient, says Eric Siy, executive director of The FUND for Lake George. If live-edge snowplows are like razors that hug the curves, brine is like shaving cream.
Traffic is the worst and when people start to regularly work from offices we are bound to see an abundance of traffic. Nobody wants this, yet for the last century we’ve been building our cities and suburbs to cause traffic instead of alleviating it. This past year as the need for outdoor space in cities has increased we’ve seen cities reimagine our streets (not in Toronto though, but elsewhere). People are seeing the benefits of designing cities for people who live there instead of designing for car domination of the public realm.
What about traffic though? Inevitably we’ll need to get around again in the future. This is the next step. Most people don’t need a car (they just think they do) for most of their trips, let’s give people multiple options to get around instead of just one!
Micromobility technology, by contrast, is evolving as fast as fruit flies. As Anthony Townsend notes inGhost Road, the dockless bike operator LimeBike “put no fewer than nine versions of its flagship bike into service during its first year and a half of operation,” while scooter company VeoRide, he notes, can transform a new idea into “on-street hardware in 15 days.”
And yet for all the flurry of micromobility activity, the state ofmacromobility—which in the US means the car—has changed little, and in some ways is going backward. “The curb weight [of vehicles] is higher than it’s ever been, and these are the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions over the past decade,” says Greg Lindsay, director of applied research at New Cities, an urbanist think tank. “The OEMs—who don’t seem to be particularly financially healthy—have basically hooked the earth on these extremely expensive vehicles. It’s like the SUV boom has happened against the backdrop of this supposed mobility revolution.”
Berlin wants to support its local businesses by banning cars, and historically this has worked well for other cities. Cities the world over are converting streets built for cars into places that people can enjoy to help their local economies. Berlin joins in on this people-friendly trend and the results already look friendly. The city wants to go a step further and use some of the land cars suck up for relaxing areas for people – why park a car where you can just have a park?
This summer, the German capital has announced plans to pedestrianize some vital central streets starting in October. One experiment will ban cars from the main section of Friedrichstrasse, a long, store-filled thoroughfare that, before World War II, was considered the city’s main shopping street. Another will test daily closures on Tauentzienstrasse, another key retail street, with a view toward going permanently car-free in 2020.
At Tauentzienstrasse, the street is wide enough for a more radical makeover. If it’s fully closed for good, it could accommodate cafés and what Germans call “lying meadows”—lawns intended for lounging and sunbathing—in its median. Such changes probably make as much sense commercially as they do environmentally. While some stores may worry that restricted vehicle access could deter shoppers, in the age of online shopping, it pays to make the location of your store pleasant enough to lure people who simply want to hang out.
North Americans love cars and that love is literally killing us, and I don’t mean through car exhaust I mean by directly killing people. Over 60 people were needlessly killed by drivers in Toronto in 2018. This is obviously the fault of careless driving, but it’s also the result of a hundred years of pro-car policies (this includes everything from subsidies to the oil industry to high speed limits), which cities outside of North America are reversing.
It’s clear to urban planners and people who live in cities that the age of the car is coming to an end. This is really good life-saving news! Over at Outside there’s a piece comparing New York to how other cities are leading the charge to a pro-person transportation network.
London New Yorkers suffer from a bad case of exceptionalism; “This isn’t [insert lesser city here]!,” we cry whenever someone proposes a new idea. “That shit ain’t gonna fly in this town.” And yes, some of these other cities are somewhat diminutive compared to our mighty metropolis of over eight million people. But you can’t say that about London, a fellow global power that’s equally huge in population and cultural and commercial clout. Sure, they’ve got their car-addled road ragers just like we do, but they’ve also got cycling superhighways, motor-vehicle-congestion pricing, and soon, an ultra-low emission zone. Here in New York, the best we’ve come up with so far is “Gridlock Alert Days,” which is basically a handful of days a year we politely ask people not to drive. Tokyo In New York City, space is at a premium, and this is some of the most expensive real estate in the country—yet we give away much of our curb space for private vehicle storage. This glut of cars has a seriously negative impact on our quality of life. Yet if I owned fifteen cars I could park them all out on the street for free, and while some might say I was simply exercising my rights as an American, what it really makes me is an asshole. But in Tokyo (another gigantic global power city), you can’t even buy a car without showing proof that you’ve secured a parking space for it—and you can’t fake it either, because overnight parking is illegal.
The amount of people who want to drive to work is dropping while the people wanting to take transit is increasing. This is happening despite of 100 years of car-focused urban planing in North America. Companies are finding that if they want to attract smart and talented people then they need to locate themselves along transit lines and not highways. This is a very good sign for a future where getting around is more efficient than today’s selfish car culture.
So instead of having 97 percent of McDonald’s corporate employees commuting to work with each of them alone in a car, Malec says, “right now, we have I think around 90 percent of our folks are arriving in a nonautomobile fashion.”
Chicago isn’t the only region experiencing this business boom along transit lines. From Seattle to St. Louis and Minneapolis to Atlanta, studies show that companies are relocating to be near transit lines, as they seek to attract workers, especially millennials, who prefer living in more urban areas and increasingly don’t want the long, driving commutes of their parents’ generation.
“Talent is choosing to ride transit,” says Audrey Wennink, director of transportation at Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council, a regional nonprofit research and advocacy organization on urban issues, and co-author of a new study indicating that more and more businesses want to be located close to rail and bus stations.