A Mobility Reappraisal Early in the 21st Century

We Need to Distinguish Between the Desire and the Necessity for Travel

November 12, 2014

Principal, NBBJ

Last week I authored a post for the New Cities Foundation blog. I’ve been thinking recently that, while no one wishes mobility to be restricted, we have arrived at a point where a considerable percentage of our travel is caused by the very means by which we get around. As I wrote:

As a result of our faith in the conveniences associated with car ownership, we have created a scenario (certainly in the US and more recently elsewhere) where we must travel often and far, whether we wish to or not. The means to go further most anytime have expanded the geography of cities enormously, inadvertently compelling us to travel more. The proverbial seven-mile suburban auto trip for a carton of milk is an oft-used example. It is terrific that we can do so, but is this efficient, good for the planet, and must such a time consuming and air polluting journey be repeated endlessly? This is the “catch-22” for 21st century transportation planning: How do we continue to optimize mobility while not creating more and more — and redundant — need to travel distances?

… The re-imagining of mobility early in the 21st century, at least for urban areas, might hinge around three factors:

  • Promoting the conveniences of proximity, rather than the illusory convenience of being able to cover ever-longer distances to take care of our affairs.
  • Making peace with urban density, and renewing an appreciation for the pleasures and conveniences of a pedestrian life-style, where the car becomes a weekend’s amenity rather than a daily necessity.
  • Preparing for the era of “stuff coming to us,” rather than having to always travel for sustenance, jobs, products, or pleasure.

For the complete post, visit the New Cities Foundation.

Image courtesy of Mark Fischer/Flickr.

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