Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pedestrian safety is more important than commuting times

In reading two different articles about transportation tonight I found a connection, which may seem unconnected at first, but are actually are very closely related. 

The First Article

The latest Planning Magazine (May/June2012) shows the page above about pedestrian deaths, which caught my attention.  As I was looking over the well-presented statistics, I began to think of my friend from elementary school, Casey, who died at the age of 10 one week after moving to the suburbs.  He chased a ball into the street and had his head ran over by a car. The arrow points to the year it happened.  There's a slight bump that year. A bar graph in the bottom-right corner shows "motorists" as the top reason people feel threatened with the highest percentage in the rural. 

The Second Article

This was not actually an article but a book.  A rather dumb book in my opinion, Still Stuck in Traffic. The general thesis is that congestion is bad and we should work to solve it. As an example, Anthony Downs, writes about free parking and suggests that perhaps employers should offer free parking or a "cash-out"option. While it may work, it's just another subsidy to the automobile.  Limit parking and charge for it.  Duh. That's another post. In the middle of the book he shows an interesting pie chart with commute times. The context of this chart is summed up when he writes, "A powerful motive influencing many commuters to travel long distances or tolerate time wasted in traffic is their desire to work and live where they choose [far apart]."

Public vs. Private Concern

The first article highlights an example of a public problem. This occurs in the public realm and is something that decision-makers should care about.  The second article is not.  It is a private issue.  It should only be a private concern. If people want to live in low densities far from everything they need, fine.  That is their choice. We should not be concerned about whether they need to leave five minutes earlier to arrive at work in private vehicles. We we should concern ourselves with trying to make changes to the streets to marginally reduce their travel time. Instead we should lower speed limits and focus on pedestrian safety.  That is the public concern.  People can move.  If their commute is too long, move.