Motordom
February 13, 2019

Nationalism, Carbon Emissions & the Autobahn

Germany’s autobahn which began in the 1930’s is the highway built for vehicular traffic only. Germany has a rather complicated history with their love of roads and cars. It was the Nazi dictator Hitler who advocated for multiple laned  highways crisscrossing the country. Karl Benz developed the first car here, and vehicles are a cultural way of life.

The autobahn does have speed limits on one-third of its 8,000 miles . Those speed limits are near city centres and also reduce speeds for safety reasons on certain sections.  The rest of the autobahn has no speed limits. But you never hear from autobahn limitless speed supporters that “The number of deadly accidents on stretches of autobahn that have a speed limit is 26 percent lower than on those without.”

As The New York Times writer Katrin Bennhold writes Germany has extremely high carbon emissions which could be lowered if speed limits were imposed on sections of the autobahn with no regulation. The speed limits would also have the secondary benefit of saving lives too, as lower speeds means higher survival rates in crashes. But when a governmental commission suggested limiting speed, opponents somehow tied in speed limits with nationalism. Even the transport minister lost the fact that it was his department trying to lower automobile emissions when he came out and stated that “A highway speed limit was “contrary to every common sense”.

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Tom Durning picked up on news from the Valley:

I didn’t see this important meeting covered in the Vancouver-centric MSM nor much in the electronic media. Yet the mayors of the Fraser Valley had a meeting recently to discuss development out that way, ably reported by experienced Black Press reporter Matthew Claxton:

  • Read how Langley Township Mayor recognizes that widening Highway 1 is not the answer to transportation problems
  • See them discuss ride-sharing without resorting to the negativity from the slanted reporting by Mike Smyth

Unless there is a gangland killing in Surrey or Chilliwack, a major pile-up on Hwy 1 in Langley or a barn fire in Mission, these municipalities don’t get the coverage they deserve.

From the Langley Times:

The Urban Development Institute Fraser Valley hosted mayors and councillors from the Langleys, Abbotsford, Surrey, Maple Ridge, Chilliwack, and Mission for a discussion at the Langley Events Centre on Thursday. …

Every city in the valley is dealing with massive growth, with Mayor Pam Alexis of Mission noting her city was expected to double in size in the coming years. …

Abbotsford has about 1,600 housing units under construction, and 3,600 in the stream to being approved and built. …

On transportation, each community is wrestling with more traffic and expects even more issues in the future as density increases.

“Almost 70 per cent of Mission leaves every day,” noted Alexis.

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As only The Onion can report, they have narrowed down how pedestrians can stay safe crossing roads. While it is a spoof, it is telling.

Pedestrian  Adam Hartsell in Chicago “reportedly made sure to look up at the driver of an approaching vehicle Thursday to ensure they would feel extra guilty in the event they failed to stop and ran him over. “

The 26-year-old pedestrian has two approaches walking across intersections~ he “emphasized the importance of not only locking eyes with each and every oncoming driver, but also delivering a hard stare that conveys a stern moral appraisal of any who would not brake their vehicle in time. “

“In this way, I will be able to haunt their dreams long after they’ve struck and killed me. If I have enough time, I also make sure to look any passengers dead in the eyes, so that they, too, will be hounded for years by debilitating remorse. It’s important to take these small precautions.”

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The short-term closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle a few weeks ago was predicted to result in massive congestion, nicked-named ‘Viadoom’.

You can guess what actually didn’t happen.

From the Seattle Times:

The Alaskan Way Viaduct carried 90,000 cars a day before it was shut down. Where did they all go?

Since the closure of Highway 99 through Seattle on Jan. 11, commute times have been slightly above average — but have fallen far short of the most dire predictions. And fewer cars and trucks than normal have been traveling on the region’s other major highways.

There have been some bad commutes, and we’ll forgive you for knocking on wood before reading too much further. But about halfway through the longest highway closure in local history, Viadoom hasn’t been that doomy.

 

From City Commentary:

… this phenomenon of reduced demand is so common and well-documented that it is simply unremarkable. Whether it was Los Angeles closing a major section of freeway to replace overpasses, or Atlanta’s I-85 freeway collapse, or the I-35 bridge failure in Minneapolis, or the demolition of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway, we’ve seen that time and again when freeway capacity is abruptly reduced, traffic levels fall as well.

… in the next few weeks, keep an eye on Seattle: If the one of the nation’s most bustling cities can survive the loss of a freeway segment that carries a hundred thousand vehicles a day, its a strong sign that more modest changes to road systems really don’t have much impact on metropolitan prosperity.

 

Clark Williams-Derry at the Sightline Institute has been writing about this project for over a decade, arguing not only for viaduct removal but also that Seattle could actually thrive without a waterfront highway.

From Sightline:

Now, for these few weeks, we get to see what Seattle’s transportation system might have been like if we’d torn down the Viaduct and replaced it with nothing at all. And maybe, just maybe, that experience will offer at least one piece of evidence that Seattle without a waterfront highway could have been a lot more livable than so many of us thought it would be.

 

After the Viaduct removal, there will still be an eight-lane surface highway in addition to the four-lane tunnel as depicted above.  How long should we guess before there will be a movement to remove the highway?

 

 

 

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Trust the New York Times and Austin Frakt to tell it like it is~driving on your commute to work is hazardous for your health. If ever we needed more evidenced based rationale for why promoting walking, cycling and transit as the only ways to commute, they are right here.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimates that in the United States the average commuter is stuck 42 hours a year in traffic.That figure doubles in Los Angeles, and traffic issues are identified as the top concern of citizens over personal safety and affordability.

The cost of lost time and idling fuel is estimated at over 100 billion US dollars a year, along with personal and environmental health impacts.

Another toll is to psychological well-being, stemming from the sense of helplessness we experience in traffic, and its unpredictability. This, too, can be quantified. One study found that to save a minute of time spent in traffic, people would trade away five minutes of any other leisure activity. Another study found that we deal better with the commuting delays that we can anticipate.”

Here is a troubling finding~an article in the Journal of Public Economics documented a link between congestion and domestic violence, finding the examination of one section of Los Angeles highway congestion was associated with  ” nighttime domestic violence” increasing about 9 percent.

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From the Twitterverse,  @busdriverlife has found this “auto strap for front-seat tots” which can also be used as a walking harness. But what is the history of car seats for kids in vehicles, and are they tied into safety improvements?

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There are some pretty troublesome trends that are in a parallel universe to the direction that cities are heading. While towns and places are encouraging walking and cycling to enhance retail bottom line and to make citizens healthier and more connected, the automotive industry is involved in their last private ownership/carbon gasp. That involves trucks and SUV’s, colossal rolling living rooms insulating occupants from the surrounding landscape, and splashy new items just unveiled in Las Vegas.

Reuters.com reports on the trend of  vehicles becoming “a display centred world”. Part of that trend shows screens  expanding on car dashboards including one that is 48 inches (1.22m) long in the Byton M-Byte car.

“Besides the center console, instrument clusters, which house driving controls, and rear-seat entertainment displays are both growing in size. Automakers like Audi (VOWG_p.DE) that combine the center console and instrument cluster often refer to a “cockpit,” necessitating a wide, sweeping screen, like Byton’s, and more consolidated computing power.”

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Back to Delta, which unfortunately still advocates for through vehicular traffic befitting a 20th century suburb and does not champion safe walking and cycling design as a first priority on their streets.

Residents in Tsawwassen on Upland Drive, Beach Grove, and now at 16th Avenue at 53A Street have separately asked the City of Delta to ameliorate traffic problems and to slow traffic down to make it easier for local residents to walk and live safely and comfortably. The response for Upland Drive which is used as a shortcut and carries three times the volume of the surrounding streets was a set of speed bumps which keep vehicle movement on the speed  bump to 50 km/h. However this does not slow speed on the rest of this curving street with no sidewalks, and does nothing to stop the commuter shortcutting.

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