A Look at Traffic

Case studies to allow an analysis of traffic.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Transportation by Feet

How would you move through your city if you didn't have a car, bike or bus available?

When I imagine my life without a car or a bike or a bus, I look to walking to get around. While most people would begin to feel a little uneasy (not to mention fatigued), I propose it can be free and exhilarating way to live life to it's fullest. Life slows down when you walk and this slower pace of life can be more enjoyable as the minutes and hours pass more freely. It forces one to spend time and energy to get somewhere. Often riding my bike to places instead of driving is just as quick as if I had driven my car, so the alternate form of transportation is not an inconvenience in time. It's when the mode changes from driving or biking to walking that I am free to forget about timed schedules and constraints and just enjoy the outdoors. The walking trip is a positive addition to any activity, for example driving to the grocery is just a means to get to the store, but walking there is a stand alone activity that is an end to itself; it's just that powerful.
I am not sure what it is about walking that makes it an enjoyable activity, but people have taken it to the extreme and have walked across America, or from South to North [Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide, Appalachian Trail]. there must be something about "putting one foot in front of the other, don't look back, just keep on going" that is just so enjoyable.
     Sometimes in our lives we are faced with situations where we don't have the "luxury" of having a car. For example, when traveling by plane, assuming we don't rent a car, we become dependent on public transportation and rely on our feet more to propel us. However when we are home, with our car so accessible, we use it. I have tried parking my car far away from my place of residence, or left a minimal amount of gas in the gas tank to limit my driving, but this only lasts for so long. It becomes more about changing my perspective of walking and planning my day accordingly.
What makes an area Walkable? What helps improve way finding? The Promenade in Santa Monica is pretty walkable, but still requires a drive and a parking space for visitors. The neighborhood of Woodbridge in Irvine is designed to be walkable, but has yet to be a prime example of "Walkable America". What if a city were given a rating on how walkable it was? Well, they have an app for that, as well as a website: http://www.walkscore.com/ where a score of 0-100 is given to a city based on a
patent-pending calculation. Which I believe is a "as the crow flies" distance to each of the amenities of a city. Amenities include things like, grocery stores, coffee shops, schools, parks, etc. etc. etc.

It turns out they are looking into a more sophisticated walk-ability algorithm. For example, using "intersections per square mile and average block length" they can better determine how walkable a place is, rather then "as a crow flies" distance to various locations. This is great stuff they are pursuing and excited where this will go! This more sophisticated calculation reminds me of an idea I had about intersections. I will share the idea here, hoping someone will steal it and actually implement it! The idea goes like this:

A wiki(a) for intersections in a city. Similar to how Wikipedia has a page for every topic in the world, this Wiki (crowd sourced, collaborative community) would have a page for every intersection in the country (or world). Allowing visitors to add to the existing intersection information or creating new pages for intersections that don't exist yet. Each page would be filled with a bit about theintersection, including (but not limited to), 
  • Location of intersection (latitude, longitude and cross streets)
  • Pictures of the intersection 
  • If the signal light's are timed or detected
  • If they have a pedestrian button and a bike button
  •  How many crosswalks their are, and how much time they give you.
  •  How long the yellow light is in each of the directions
    Besides this general information, they would allow for the history of the intersection and previous accidents in the intersection, as well as a safety index for that intersection. Also users could mention future improvement options for this intersection. Giving a place for people to complain about the signal timing, or pedestrian safety (using 8-oh-my-stuck, of course).
 Again just an idea...Some of the city's that are pretty walkable are here from the walkability site.

    Although the walk score is a great promotional tool for real estate developers, it is also interesting to note that it could prevent people from attempting to walk more because their address has a low walkability score. This could help citizens rise up and argue for better walking amenities

    Mobile phone software developers have also developed apps for guided tours for different city's at: http://www.gpsmycity.com/ A good app idea indeed, however, a little on the pricey side for an app. However this could make for a great tour guide for a city. Although, a local tour guide might give you more information, while helping support the local community better. I had a similar idea to this, but more "wiki" based, again here are some initial details of the idea;
The idea is to Geo-tag people talking about their location at different places on the planet. Essentially a phone app, where it would record people talking and record a persons GPS location. This would allow people to see a map with overlays of different people talking about their surroundings. Similar to a guided tour at a museum, when they give you the audio tour. Except this would be the real world, and just random people mentioning what they are seeing. However, with a collaborative wiki online website, they would be able to mix other people's recording into one well done recording, of course keeping everything Creative Commons (ShareALike Licence). Just a thought.
  I feel that a walkable city can be more beneficial to citizens mental health and well being. After all there's no parking to worry about! It gives a great use of the often underused legs, and it's FREE! So what is that secret component to making a city more walkable? Maybe it has little to do with the city's design, and more of people's perceptions of walking.


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