Friday, April 25, 2008

new ideas

Transportation planning decisions have consequences that extend beyond the money spent or infrastructure built. There are multiple scales at which these consequences are experienced: individual, neighborhood, city, country, world. Impacts at each scale, of course, differ. The individual level refers to a low-income commuter who can’t afford a home in the city in which he works and so must commute a longer distance than he would rather. He is affected by rising gasoline prices disproportionately relative to a wealthier citizen. The neighborhood suffers health impacts from poor land use decisions that mix residential, commercial, industrial, and military uses in close proximity. The air pollution (and thus cancer, asthma, heart disease) burden which they experience as a result is disproportionate relative to those who mix only more desirable land uses (e.g., residential/commercial, residential/commercial/non-industrial employment). Conversely, suburban development spares neighborhood residents the health impacts of air pollution but trades it for the perils of a sedentary lifestyle where walking is that mode which is used only between parking and destination. Cities are shaped by their transportation systems whether dominated by freeways or transit (examples of the latter are quite rare, but an oft-cited example is Curitiba, Brazil). The country ingests its average transportation system and excretes ads for sport utility vehicles, and intertwines visions of The American Dream with same. These visions in turn drive xenophobia, fear of the other, and the need for ever larger vehicles. The global impacts are both identifiable and immediate—poor countries rushing to buy vehicles, oil and gasoline price increases—and vague and temporally distant—global climate change.

Question: what is the role of local planning in this process? how does a reconceptualization of local planning towards communicative rationality help us on these other scales? can studies of neighborhood- and city-scale planning events help us understand larger phenomena of global change?

Further Questions: what methods are useful for addressing this type of problem? what information do we need from stakeholders-on-the-ground to carry out annalysis? which/what analysis(ses) are useful in a broad sense?

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