Monthly Archives: April 2013

Long-Range Transportation Planning in Gainesville, Florida

By Dom Nozzi

dangerous header

In January 2000, I submitted a draft of the long-range transportation plan I had written for the city of Gainesville, Florida to my supervisor. My plan was based on a thorough understanding I had developed over the years about effective, sustainable, smart transportation and land use planning, and won the praise of the state planning office.

My supervisor read me the riot act after reading through it. He told me he would need to chop about two-thirds of it out. His comments consisted of an angry tirade from a man who made it clear by his comments that he was a totally uninformed suburbanite. It was obvious that he had strong libertarian leanings, because he kept telling me that we strip3cannot control what the marketplace wants, such as everyone driving everywhere, no one wanting to mix homes with stores and offices, and huge Big Box retailers being okay when they are located next to poor African Americans. I gave him several responses, such as, “Does this mean that we are wasting our time as public planners?”

He claimed the plan should be silent on the issue of what to do about roads outside the city in the urban area. I was stunned to hear that. Not only do roads have a regional impact far beyond city limits, but our city commissioners sit on a regional board and vote on road projects in the unincorporated urban area. Therefore, their votes have some meaning for roads outside the city (a majority vote is necessary for the regional board to take action). As a result, I said, it is highly legitimate for the City to take a stance on roads in the unincorporated urban area.

I went on to point out that “the market” was showing high and increasing property values in the historic, walkable, town center neighborhood in Gainesville (the “Duckpond”) that was faster than anywhere else in the county. Does this mean, I asked, that our plan should state that we agree with the market on how to design neighborhoods, and henceforth, all of them will have narrow streets, buildings close to the sidewalk, no snout houses, sidewalks, curbs, modest turning radii, on-street parking, higher residential densities, and within walking distance of a town center? Also, since “the market” does not find the ability to widen major arterials, should our plan state that local government will not widen either?

Because my draft transportation plan included effective strategies to build facilities that promote transportation choice, and because the plan does not mince words (but instead cites the overwhelming research literature on the subject), my supervisor — as a committed motorist and suburban advocate —became quite defensive. His life was being indicted. He started to defensively claim (using the tired old strawman) that I unrealistically wanted to get rid of all cars. That my plan was not balanced. That I unfairly attacked cars for most of our problems. Pedestrians are often to blame for being run over, he very oddly and embarrassingly pointed out. He told me the studies I cited were not applicable because they were not done in Gainesville and we are somehow “different” (which is a classic anti-scientific stance that exposes a biased, personal lifestyle belief).

The “conversation” with my supervisor supremely exemplified why I had originally declined to author transportation and land use plans for Gainesville after being asked to do so. I knew my views would be completely rejected. I knew we would continue our practice of not being serious about transportation choice and land use choice. That instead, we would continue to pay lip service to all those progressive ideas, and then flog ourselves in the future when we don’t achieve our objectives.

Of course, by only paying lip service to needed reform rather than actually implementing the reforms, we would find ourselves eventually bashing progressive transportation ideas I had called for in my draft plan. Because we opted not to reform transportation and land use patterns and policies to promote transportation choice, our future would be one where nearly all of us continued to drive our cars nearly everywhere. We’d then falsely claim that the marketplace proved we cannot get people out of cars. That people don’t want to live in walkable neighborhoods.

We would conveniently ignore, in other words, the fact that “the market” remained distorted by pro-car subsidies, policies and infrastructure design that made it highly likely that the status quo of car dependency would continue for the vast majority of us. We would wrongly conclude that there was nothing we could do about this unsustainable state of affairs.

It became clear to me that once my supervisor had my transportation plan utterly gutted and emasculated, that I would be completely embarrassed to present the plan at public meetings — because it would seem like such a meaningless, feel-good plan was my doing.

My supervisor was, without question, an anti-planner. And I was in the awful position of being seen as an ineffective, do-nothing planner who had written a do-nothing, feel-good plan.

The discussion made it clear that Gainesville was obviously going to stay on the road to becoming the car-crazed Archer Rd Trafficnightmare of South Florida, Part II. It was quite painful to watch the steps being taken by my community to unknowingly ruin itself, and my being helpless to change the course. As Andres Duany points out, the town drunk has more credibility than a public planner — even, at times, inside his own planning office…

dangerous footer

dangerous footer2________________________________________________________________________ T

My memoir can be purchased here:

Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607

Car is the Enemy book cover

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom@walkablestreets.com

Visit my other sites:

Road to Ruin can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

My Best-Ever Lists blog

http://dombestlist.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

http://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Town and Transportation Planning

Allegedly Progressive Gainesville Loves Cul-De-Sacs

By Dom Nozzi

dangerous header

 

 

 

In 2001, my long list of shameful, spineless, reactionary actions by the Gainesville City Commission grew again due to a cul-de-sac cave-in.

City Commissioners went against its staff recommendation and its adopted long-range transportation plan by approving cul-de-sacs at a proposed planned development (Walnut Creek) in the city.

They did this despite all the lip service this supposedly “progressive,” “green,” “transportation choice-advocating” commission engages in. They did this despite the funny little story I just told them in my staff presentation for their new, long-range transportation plan (I told them about “Little Bobby and his friend Jeff” being unable to play with each other because they are trapped in cul-de-sacs). They did this despite opposition from their Public Works Department director. They did this despite opposition from their fire department (of all people).images

To add insult to injury, even the planned development ordinance for Walnut Creek contained a clause that clearly stated that cul-de-sacs were not permitted — that connected streets are required. This required our city attorney to engage in “creative interpretation” of the language to allow the City Commission to cave in and allow cul-de-sacs.

I learned about this pathetic, embarrassing action by the Gainesville City Commission not because I was at the City Commission meeting, or because I watched the meeting on TV. In fact, it was decisions like this that compelled me to do everything I could to never go to meetings or watch on TV. I didn’t need ulcers or have my blood pressure raised. These inexcusable Commission actions sickened me.

No, I learned about the Commission vote from two fellow Gainesville planners who made it a point to forcefully and loudly fill me in on this atrocious Commission cave-in the first thing the next morning after the meeting, because they knew it would enrage me. They were incredulous.

And get this: I won’t mention names, but the planners who informed me were the two planners on our staff who were MOST pro-car and anti-transportation choice. Even they were outraged, and were throwing their hands up in disgust.

Again, the Commission was sending a clear message to staff: “We are conditioning you to be non-visionary, non-innovative, non-cutting edge, and weak negotiators (at least with site plans) because we will not back you up when push comes to shove at public meetings. Instead, we’ll pay a bunch of money to consultants to have them do the cutting edge regulations and plans. And we’ll then go ahead and ignore those as well.”

Progressive, New Urbanist, green City Commission in Gainesville? Hardly. Again, the Gainesville City Commission were quite clearly the Lip Service, Cave-in Commission Par Excellence.

dangerous footer

dangerous footer2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________________________

My memoir can be purchased here:

Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607

Car is the Enemy book cover

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom@walkablestreets.com

Visit my other sites:

Road to Ruin can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

My Best-Ever Lists blog

http://dombestlist.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

http://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

Leave a comment

Filed under Town and Transportation Planning

The Carbon Tax and the Poor

By Dom Nozzi

A great many intelligent people have pointed out the obvious in recent years about our climate change – a change driven by carbon emissions – and our fiscal crisis: It is screamingly obvious that an extremely effective, fair way to reduce carbon emissions (and raise desperately needed govt revenue) is to enact a carbon tax. Increasing the price of Global-Climate-Change3carbon sends a much-needed price signal to people that products, actions and services that directly or indirectly use carbon have an embedded carbon cost. That cost is the climate change and environmental/societal woes hidden by a lack of a carbon tax.

Underpriced carbon is rapidly destroying our world and the future of our species.

An important reason why a carbon tax is equitable is that people using more carbon pay more tax. Such a tax would raise much-needed government revenue by charging people for societally unsustainable behavior.

One would therefore think that political liberals and environmentalists would be 100 percent in favor of a carbon tax. Such people, one would expect, would find such a tax a no-brainer.

But as I often point out, a very large number of desperately needed societal actions are squelched because of the red flag too often raised by liberals and environmentalists: “WE CAN’T DO THAT BECAUSE IT WILL HURT POOR PEOPLE!!!!”

We can’t raise the gas tax…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t put this four-lane monster highway destroying our downtown on a road diet (taking it from four lanes to three, for example)…because poor people won’t be able to get to jobs.

We can’t ease our parking woes, make our town centers more compactly walkable, and substantially reduce the amount of off-street, gap-tooth dead zone parking lots…because charging people money for parking will hurt poor people.

We can’t raise the tax on cigarettes to reduce excessive smoking…because it will hurt poor people who smoke.

We can’t adjust electricity prices to promote energy conservation…because it will hurt poor people.

We can’t charge a tax on sugar…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a Pepsi.

We can’t charge a fee for a background check…because poor people won’t be able to afford to buy a gun.

We can’t charge an impact fee on sprawl residential development…because it will hurt poor people who buy sprawl homes.

[I’ve heard all of the above complaints more than once.]

At the Conference on World Affairs in Boulder Colorado yesterday, I attended a session on how we need to learn to live with global warming because we have passed the tipping point and there is no way we can avoid catastrophic warming in our lifetimes no matter what we do (session title: “Climate Change: Get Used To It”). A question came from someone in the audience: “If we establish a federal tax [like has been admirably done in Boulder and a few European nations] on carbon, won’t it be a very bad idea because the carbon tax would be unaffordable for poor people??”

As you can imagine, the question made my blood boil.

I wanted to leap to my feet and scream to her: “We are driving a car at a high rate of speed towards a fiscal and environmental cliff (given our huge government fiscal woes and our huge climate change woes). Do you mean to say that we should not step on the brakes?? That we instead go over the cliff because poor people cannot afford to brake?????”

_____________________________________________________________________________

My memoir can be purchased here:

Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom@walkablestreets.com

Visit my other sites:

Road to Ruin can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

My Best-Ever Lists blog

http://dombestlist.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

http://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

Leave a comment

Filed under Environment