The Walk ‘n’ Roll City (Vision, 1992)

A VISION OF A “GREEN” FUTURE FOR URBAN SETTLEMENTS

by Chris Bradshaw, Ottawa, Canada
[presented to the 1991 and 1992 International Auto-Free Cities
conferences in New York City and Toronto in 1991 & 1992]
revised 94September23

I. THE CONCEPT:

The “walk-and-roll” city is one that relies for mobility on
only walking and the rolling modes of cycling, “bringhies”
(small, slow human- and electric-powered vehicles), and for
heavy cross-town movements, a “gravitram”.  The last is an
automated, neighbourhood-to-neighbourhood system, running mostly
on gravity through deep, underground tunnels between stations
located near the surface, using surprising little energy, thanks
to its “roller-coaster” principles.

II. THE ARGUMENT:

What will cause us to change to this type of city?

1) The absence of fossil fuels due to shortages, high prices,
insecurity of supply, and unacceptable environmental costs,

2) anger over the negative impacts on people and community,

3) near-gridlock on the surface, and

4) the high cost of expanding and maintaining transportation
infrastructure to meet demand that grows at least twice as fast
as the population.

The costs of the change-over will be borne primarily by user-pay
and polluter-pay policies initiated by various levels of
government.

Simultaneously peoples’ attitudes will change:

1) users of motorized vehicles will be viewed as social pariahs,
like those who still smoke in public;

2) as travel costs rise, people will look for alternatives;

3) there will be growing interest in the value of “local life”
that is so important to the young and old, and to those wanting
to slow down and make more sense of their lives; this will lead
to public support for strong neighbourhoods with mixed land uses,
higher densities (but low-profile), and good transit service;

4) as shorter trips prevail, there will be more of a demand for a
neighbourhood vehicle, as larger vehicles will be shared or
rented (and perhaps stored at the edge of the city);

5) neighbours will demand that their streets be redesigned for
community life rather than through traffic by large, fast vehicles.

We already have examples of this kind of environment in
specialized environments: airports and high-end amusement parks
like Disney World. People are attracted to these domains in good
measure BECAUSE of their vehicle-free nature. “Transit” consists
of open-cabin trams (which are usually free) or above-grade
automated cars. Even bicycles are banned. All goods and garbage
are moved underground by special electric sleds to perimeter
loading docks. The airports move massive numbers of people and
must keep cars far away from the planes. Suitcases are moved by
automated systems at no cost; inter-terminal shuttles are free;
and intra-terminal movements are assisted with smaller trams,
moving sidewalks, luggage carriers, not to mention wheel chairs
and a fully accessible environment. Above- and below-grade
corridors and tramways are linked to parking lots which are
located quite a distance away. Taxis and buses, which need only
momentary parking but carry many people, are given priority over
the personal and rental cars.

Why can’t these environments be duplicated for the rest of our
cities? If it weren’t for the arrival of the automobile earlier
in this century, cities would probably be that way now. The car
moved our thinking towards the horizontal (sprawl), offering
immediate access to the countryside that lacked the perceived
drawbacks of the cities of the day.

The continuing love affair with the car caused leaders to assume
everyone either had a car or would fairly soon. Transit was
abandoned by private interests; the “bargain” municipalities
received soon required heavy subsidies, as patrons turned to
automobiles. The car provided access to lands previously
impractical for urban purposes. It also made it possible to have
the country cottage AND the high-paying city job. It also allowed
the occupant to ignore urban ills. Over the last 75 years, North
American cities have witnessed the abandonment and privatization
of public spaces — parks and road corridors — as individuals
and companies have invested in their own infrastructure of
“gated” communities and private, enclosed vehicles that operate
on roads that openly discriminate against the community-enhancing
modes of transit, cycling, and walking.

III. THE ELEMENTS:

1. “Green” Transportation Hierarchy

The existing “transportation hierarchy” is in the process of
being inverted (or “greened”). The single-occupant car being
driven at excessive speeds on cross-city trips will be relegated
to the bottom rung. The human-powered traveler taking a short
trip at slow speeds will be the one that will be crowned the
savior of everything that is wrong with cities. They will
pressure cities — and eventually state and federal
governments — to shift road construction funds to accommodate
the environmentally-friendly traveler, leaving motorized traffic
to “do” with the road space that exists now, or more likely
reduced space.

In the long run, the bottom-rung trips will simply be relegated
to segregated underground corridors (see “gravitram” below).

2. Road Pricing

Schemes are already being used in Texas and Singapore whereby
vehicles with special “chips” are detected by electronic loops
installed in roads. In the most elaborate scheme, drivers are
charged fees, based on such factors as weight, size, fuel,
pollution class, and speed. Monthly statements are sent to
each user; those choosing anonymity would use a pre-paid credits
scheme, similar to the payment system for postage meters.
Already, machines exist that can instantaneously “read” the
pollution from the tailpipe of a passing vehicle, allowing even
pollutants to be charged for.

3. Main Streets Renaissance

The changes will spell revival for older main streets which have
the potent combination of stores, offices, community services,
and good transit. Such areas are being given face-lifts in most
cities. Toronto is planning to increase densities in these
streets. New residential units may not be required to have
parking spaces, since the streets have good street-car service.
Where people are attracted back

4. The DePoT

Movement of goods would need to change due to restrictions on
truck movements and the growth in computer shopping. Every few
corners in every neighbourhood would be DePoTs (DElivery and
POint of Transfer facilities). These high-tech versions of the
corner store would become the all-purpose places to pick-up mail,
buy convenience items, pick up (and try on, return, and view)
other major purchases, pick up and drop off film and laundry-
bound clothing, and get access to high-end communications
services.

There would be one large one in each neighbourhood, part of the
gravitram station, plus 20 or so smaller ones distributed around.
Residents would have the choice of using the central one, the
local one, or having personal deliveries provided by their
“street superintendent”, who will have a broad range of public
roles provided now by letter carriers, police, crossing guards,
census workers, and re-cycling coordinators.

5. The “Bringhy”

This vehicle would come in three difference versions to replace
cars and trucks for shorter trips in the neighbourhood. Its name
reflects the fact that its role is similar to that of the dinghy
in the world of water travel: short, slow trips to locations
larger sea craft, for physical reasons, cannot make. The bringhy
would be a lightweight “run-about” to _bring_ people and
goods to human-scale destinations within “traffic calmed” areas
within which trucks, buses, and cars can’t move without major
difficulty.

Traffic calmed streets will lack curbs and street surfaces will
be much better to allow the bringhies to have smaller wheels.
They will also be electric-powered, probably recharged by solar
panels.

* Bringhy I would be for personal movement and for carrying a few
bags of groceries.  They would be similar to electric
wheelchairs.

* Bringhy II would be a people-mover version of today’s taxi, but
lighter, less enclosed (closer to a rickshaw), providing local
employment to its owner.  It rely on the “driver” for its power,
but have a small electric motor for hills.

* Bringhy III would be designed for pulling large loads (trams for
neighbourhood transit and containers as large as 4x4x8 feet).
These containers would be big enough to carry the largest items
from a household move (larger items would be moved by a small
electric truck during restricted hours).  They could run on
narrow-gauge tracks installed in the road (and a good way to
overcome the pavement damage caused by today’s trucks).

The vehicles would have rudimentary suspension systems and
weather protection to keep weight down and because they would be
used for such short trips. Finally, with these lower performance
characteristics and weight, they could be licensed to a larger
share of the population

6. The “Gravitram”

This will be a roller-coaster transit system, using primarily
gravity to accelerate and slow down, with small electric motors
to compensate for friction and stations that are not at the same
elevation. Each train will consist of flat cars onto which will
be moved, by automated container handlers, compartments for
transit and parcels, or the above-mentioned 4x4x8-foot containers
and, if necessary, automobiles (which will continue to be used
only outside cities and be available at the perimeter of cities
for rental).

These trains would operate out of stations at-grade or just below
the surface under large multi-use centres in a neighbourhood
activity centre (avoiding the isolation and danger of deep
stations). The tunnels would be designed to drop well below
the elevation of the stations. Each section will run “downhill”
as it leaves each station, then level for the most of the
distance, and, as it approaches the next station, it will
naturally brake as it goes “uphill”. Bypasses will exist at each
station to allow cross-town trains to go directly to more distant
stations.  Another attraction will be the fact that the tunnels
will go below well underground infrastructure and be deep enough
to eliminate vibrations during both construction and operation.

7. Electronic Shopping

Consumer futurist, Faith Popcorn, has predicted the demise of the
shopping mall, the resurgence of neighbourhood business areas,
and the growth of electronic shopping in which shoppers place
orders directly with factories or warehouses. Shoppers would look
through electronic catalogues with advanced graphics in their
homes or at their DePoT to choose their next purchase. Electronic
shopping will depend on DePoTs as neighbourhood places where new
products can be displayed for awhile after their introduction.

IV. THE EVOLUTION:

No vision is believable unless it is achievable. This vision
represents a significant change in urban form and transportation.
It will pass through three stages, each with its own integrity, on
its way to becoming the “Walk-and-Roll City”.

This change in momentum will reverse the present downward spiral
consisting of equal parts of congestion, road-building, increased
building set-backs, more crime and grime, more dependency of car
use, less personal income available to pay the car subsidies.

Stage I. Car Curbs and Traffic Calming

A. Political Values:

During the next decade, the small public outcry against the
automobile will grow, as the public faces the realizations
mentioned in the summary. But neighbourhood associations, tired
of the impacts of traffic in their residential areas, and health
groups concerned about fitness, injuries, and breathing
disorders, will join them. Also, rights groups representing those
denied car access and those injured by automobile collisions will
also join the chorus. These groups will form into a broad
coalition, similar to the environmental, community-oriented
automobile clubs in some European countries.

B. Transportation:

This will translate into restrictions on automobile use: there
will be a growing number of places where cars will no longer be
welcome; limits on times of day they can be in other locales;
further limits on speed with tougher enforcement (Germany is now
introducing “Tempo-30” zones where the speed limit is 30
km/hr (19 mph), but still six times the speed of walking).

Governments will impose surcharges on parking spaces at
commercial and office areas (as Ontario does in Toronto).
Those moving goods will feel the change by finding lanes
narrower, meters at loading zones, and tighter turning radii,
making it harder to use large trucks. Also, courier service will
face extinction from the success of the fax machine.

As a result, one inter-city courier firm will offer a complete
local service through a plethora of local stores the precursors
of DePoTs). They will also provide mail delivery to the postal
service’s “superboxes”.  They will save their clients money by
rationalizing their service by introducing automated
sorting/dispatching locally (as the large courier companies do
now between cities). Door-to-door service will be replaced by
four-deliveries-a-day service to depots and major buildings.
Rather than a hundred trucks from many firms arriving at each
location each day, only four will be needed.

For more remote locations, two levels of service will needed:
depot-to-customer service probably will be provided by operators
using microcars or delivery cycles (that allow quick in-and-out
movements) who work a single neighbourhood with which they are
very familiar; and depot-to-depot service using small trucks.
This courier company may outsource each local territory and each
depot-to-depot link to an operator.

C. Urban Form:

Most public transportation funds will go to transit, but much
will be used to redesign the rights-of-way for a new mixture of
modes, including simply improving the livability of streets. The
rights-of-way of, first, residential neighbourhoods and, later,
linear shopping streets will be transformed. Streets as “living
space” will become a reality in these areas, as the clock is
turned back to what these streets were when originally inhabited,
ignoring the traffic tie ups.

On residential streets, classic woonerf (the Dutch word for
“living yard”) or “traffic calming” schemes will be put into
place, one neighbourhood at a time. Trees will be planted,
benches installed, and lanes narrowed by the sidewalk extensions
(the lower speed limits will allow cyclists and motorists to
share). On shopping streets that double as arterials, rush-hour
parking bans will be rescinded. This will will allow bicycle
parking to be located on the street in place of selected car
spots.

Both changes will increase demand for housing in these areas and
the increase in land values and the “tamed streets” will make
various infilling schemes VERY desirable.

Stage II. “Transportation Cost-backs”

A. Political Values

In about 15 years, the second stage will arrive. Many studies
will have documented the costs of private automobile use to our
environment, our communities, and the public purse. These will
provide the rationale for a wave of assessments of automobile
users for these costs.

B. Technology

Technology will make possible the collecting of fees for using
the public rights of way for trips at the lower end of the
“green” transportation hierarchy. The systems will be based on
systems first developed by large fleet owners — including
transit — highway traffic management schemes, and driver-
information systems on more expensive cars. Coupled with
electronics on cars to control various systems and the increase
in automated billing systems, the stage will be set for a system
of roadside sensors and transmitters that will literally allow
passing vehicle to “talk” to traffic computers and vice-versa.

C. Transportation

Drivers will use the systems to know which routes are best to use
at a particular moment and what driving infractions are in force
at that moment and location. The system might even be able to
assess fees for particular movements that today are illegal (but
with 100% assessment). Further, the vehicle’s own sensors might
communicate their readings to the system. Finally, the system
might even override the driver’s instructions to the vehicle,
e.g. to force compliance with speed controls or bans on turning
or even being on a certain street in at a particular time or in a
particular vehicle.

The first uses of this would be to create electronic boundaries
for neighbourhoods and activity centres and assess motor vehicles
(but not walkers, cyclists, or those using bringhies – see next)
which pass between them (road pricing).

Goods movement will move to another level of efficiency, since
trucks, too, will be assessed road costs for the first time,
including charges to stop at the curb to load and unload at
buildings directly fronting on “calmed” streets. The industry
will have converted to electric trucks for depot-to-depot
movements to reduce high inter-zone fees; and bringhies will be
introduced.

Parcel pick-ups at larger buildings will take a leap forward as
the building owner will assign staff to provide a link between
the front door and the tenants to allow drivers to spend
considerably less time at each stop (to avoid the new stopping
fees). The motivation will be a desire to reduce both delivery
fees and errors caused by drivers not familiar with the building.

D. Urban Form:

This stage will see a continuation of the infilling process along
“calmed” streets. The infilling will overcome NIMBY (“not in my
backyard”) resistance through more local involvement, better
quality planning, and revenues realized by neighbourhood
government (“CiViCo” or City Village Company) charging
development fees to pay for local improvements like tree planting
and restructuring of the streets and the addition of “street
animation” amenities. It will be the practice for people to
locate their residences so as to reduce trip lengths.

Many people will move from standard suburbs to both older inner
neighbourhoods and rural villages with train service because of
their convenient commercial areas and nearby parks with
traditional and natural amenities. New suburban development will
mimic these “neo-traditional” values, although less of it will
occur since much new growth will be accommodated through
infilling of older areas. We will also see demand for traditional
suburbs wane, both because of drops in property values and the
growing number of residents whose income will not allow for
sufficient car ownership – and use – to cope.  Property taxes
will now reflect the average owners’ use of city infrastructure,
resulting in the owners in central — and new and retrofitted
“walkable” — neighbourhoods paying much less.

Stage III. The “Gravitram”: in 30 Years

A. Political Matters

The revenues produced by this road pricing will become a
political nestegg-football. Those being assessed will want the
money spent to provide increased road capacity; those disliking
the motor traffic (and who, by using favoured modes, will be
traveling free) will want to spend the money on better facilities
for their needs, in order to encourage even more people to
switch. The solution will be the creation of a not-at-grade
movement system for formal (faster, longer) trips, leaving the
streets for informal (shorter, slower) trips.

B. Technology:

Each formal vehicle and each parcel will be tracked and “talked
to” by computers. This will allow automated movement control,
removing the need for much personal decision-making for drivers
or for central sorting of goods. There will be talk of the
building of continuous “intelligent” conveyor belts that will be
able to move standard objects — parcels or “people-in-
pods” —  between any points in the city. However, the idea will
be seen as too expensive and will be attacked for taking away
freedom from individuals moving themselves. There will also be
concerns about breakdowns and aesthetics.

C. Transportation:

Instead, the two-level movement system already in place in the
goods-movement industry will gain acceptance. Movement _within_
zones will be informal; movement _between_ zones will be
formal, and therefore more amenable to automation. At the
informal level, the bringhy III will be developed for larger
loads such as household effects; and the Bringhies I and II will
be further refinement for light loads and for individuals to move
at the 20-kph (12-mph) that are the maximum allowed on the
surface.

At the formal level, the parcel moving firms will be showing
leadership in asking for faster routes between zones. The public
will not buy into the use of above-grade technology because of
visual pollution and noise and danger from accidents. Below-grade
will win by default.
The gravitram will provide an automated track system with flat-
bed cars that will accommodate many types goods. There will also
be cars for 40 passengers that will have space for bags of smaller
items and for folding bikes and strollers. Service industries and
repair services will become decentralized so that their
specialized vehicles don’t need to pass between zones too often
(many will probably move into surplus, retrofitted basement
parking spaces, freed up by the drop in automobile popularity).

Repair and renovation tradespeople will convert to peddle
vehicles (a version of Bringhy II) and limit their “territory” to
a single neighbourhood, not only to save on inter-neighbourhood
road-pricing fees, but to reduce lost time and to know their
customers better. [They will also save on advertising by
increasing the chance of word-of-mouth referrals].

D. Urban Form:

The development of the gravitram systems will open the door to a
revival of the large-scale facility with expansive indoor
environments. The differences will be that the planning controls
will be greater and management will be provided by public
agencies. There will be a better mix of non-commercial uses.
These complexes could reach 50 stories and cover 50-100 acres,
and hold 10,000 people.

The present-day road corridors will by this time become abandoned
and converted to linear parks. This will not be much a change
from now, since traffic engineers’ edicts have resulted in these
roadways having no aesthetics or property-access functions except
commercial uses, which, by this time, will have moved from these
neighbourhood edges to their centres, to citizens homes, and to
quaint villages in the rural areas along the rejuvenated rail
lines emanating from most cities.

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