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October 24, 2017


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Every time I drive through Ahwatukee, Chandler or parts of Tempe I see self-driving cars with more and more regularity. It used to be relatively rare. Now I see 2-4 on a short drive.

Self-driving cars coupled with dispatching software like Uber or Lyft are the future. Light rail is going to be a relic of the past. Light rail is certainly fun; I just returned from a trip to Poland where I used light rail in both Warsaw and Krakow. However, going forward I believe they will be tourist type attractions, like the cable cars in San Francisco.

re self-driving cars, another delusion to keep Happy Motoring going:


But downtown Glendale isn't the suburbs... light rail isn't taking "those people" to Arrowhead Ranch. Maybe the the Glendale council doesn't want to spend money on "those people" and don't have a plan to displace them from downtown Glendale in the near future. So, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise--I mean, unless "those people" are forced to move from the area and the council approves light rail at a dramatically augmented cost. The most likely outcome. But such is America...

Affordable, safe and zero emission self-driving cars are the future.

If this helps enable greater productivity it will change tradition.

If you're going to have a decent city you'll also need good mass transit. Phoenix will never be great - the sprawl prevents that - but it can be better than it is. Light rail is one means of achieving that worthy goal.

When I left Phoenix, my one overriding desire was to live in a city that wasn't completely ruined by cars. Portland is far from perfect but it actually has a dozen or so walkable retail districts along with a vibrant downtown. Most streets are not nearly as wide as the ones you see in Phoenix. This means there's a city you feel comfortable walking in since the ambience is not that of a freeway. It means casual encounters are more numerous. And it means many buildings are designed to be seen by walking humans rather than automatons driving cars. This is crucial. When a city is seen through a car window at 35 mph, it degrades the architecture since there's no need for intimate scale or space. The toll this takes on the human spirit is inestimable. It means citizens who don't love their cities beyond their own private comfort and ease. The alienation here shows up in the voting booth, too. If you vote like you live, you really don't give a damn about your fellow citizens. In truth, they're not people you want to know anyway. At best, they're impediments to your speedy arrival at the other end of nowhere.

I obsess about the beauty of small things because that is where love is visible. There's nothing lovely about freeways (or the major arterial streets that are equally wide and forbidding). We used to build magnificent cities in this country. That has all changed. We build cheaply and thoughtlessly for fast bucks and fast cars. It's why we think we love our country when we stand for the national anthem but live as if the value of our communities lies only in the ability drive from one place to another. You might as well be a Republican given those values. You're not a conscious citizen so much as a mindless consumer.

Actually Glendale had a light rail system. In 1911 an extension was added to the Phoenix Street Railway system from 7th and Glendale avenue to 58th Avenue. The extension was never a financial success and was abandoned but you could ride it from downtown Phoenix to downtown Glendale while it operated.

Does anyone have an estimate of how many cars could be removed from the streets if we had self driving cars dispatched by uber or left?

Studies so far indicate they will make congestion worse. This isn’t a binary choice. We need all sorts of ways to get around. But read and meditate on Soleri’s post above. Cars hurt quality cities and our civic life. Light rail, subways, commuter rail, intercity passenger rail and high-speed rail need to be in the mix. America is so behind.

Jon, you could add another big cost of car-dependency: the massive subsidies to cars created by minimum off-site parking requirements. A detailed assessment of these subsidies can be found in the 2005 book "The High Cost of Free Parking" by UCLA Urban Planning professor Donald Shoup. He estimated that the total subsidy amounted to somewhere between $127 billion and $374 billion for the year 2002.



The future:


or maybe:


Bottom line, 7.5 billion folks and they all want a car.

One could judge Glendale's lack of civic foresight way back when they enthusiastically guaranteed the debt on an arena for a hockey team with 41 home dates. The quickest way to bring an NBA, NHL or MLB team to its knees is to locate it out on the fringe. No one apparently took note, least of all the geniuses governing Glendale at the time. Woops. Glendale's may be the most amateurish, myopic, dangerously flawed mayor and council in America. They're certainly a finalist for that "award."

Next time you're in town Jon I'd encourage you to drive up 19th Avenue and see the "benefits" of light rail. Vagrants who free ride the train from downtown to it's end point at Dunlop. Much higher crime rates and dramatically increased shoplifting at the stores along the route and spillover property crime in the nearby neighborhoods.

In a perfect world it would be great for Glendale to extend light rail through downtown all the way to Westgate, but in the real world it will just provide more opportunity for crime and vagrancy all along the line which defeats the purpose of providing transport for sports fans or commuter as those people will not feel safe riding.

Also, Glendale is still digging out from the disastrous financial decisions made by the previous Mayor and Council including the debt service on both stadiums and a spring training facility built, oddly enough, just over the city limits in Phoenix without a deal in place to share tax revenues. The current council was pilloried, but financially smart to end the management services agreement with the Coyotes. Spending 100s of millions of dollars on light rail just isn't a good move right now.

Now if only our elected Phoenix leaders would do the same with the planned South Phoenix extension.

Light rail has a huge issue with people not paying to get on. This has allowed a lot of vagrants, who I don't really mind much, to get on and ride around the city. The problem is that this makes people uncomfortable because some of them are unruly and do cause crime. I have seen some of the people who ride the light rail, while I have ridden it myself, and let me be honest and just say that I would never want to see these people again in my life. There are many women who feel unsafe riding the light rail and rightfully so. This one guy was about to start a fight with me for no reason. Like what hell man...

Now you're probably assuming I don't like the light rail. That's not true. I think it's a great thing. Most of the areas that people are reporting as having an increase in crime were spotty areas to begin with. But I do think we should take these concerns seriously. What I don't like about the light rail is that it seems like a half assed project. The city and Valley Metro decided to build the light rail, but didn't feel the need to spend the extra resources to make sure that the light rail is safe and is used by paying passengers. I feel like this is so typical of the brain trust in this area. They reluctantly make an improvement, but they take a half measure step, partly because of the conservative backlash they will face. Then when things don't go as well as they should, those same conservatives blame the entire endeavor as a waste of money. The cycle repeats itself, until there is no real change.

Interesting. The people of Glendale, Phoenix, etc ... seem uncomfortable when placed in proximity to other people.

A person driving a car (or truck) is far more of a hazard to another person than a person is. Criminals use cars and trucks for easy access to garages, and other repositories of wealth, and then silently and anonymously disappear into the maze of roadways.

The "method" of transportation has nothing to do with that problem. I doubt you'll see a person on the "light rail" carting about a pickup truck bed full of stolen tools.

And yes, people are smelly.

Get over it.

You stink too.

In the mean time ... the people of Glendale have been paying their transportation tax for eighteen years (since 2001), and expected that their withering, decrepit city center would be connected and people begin flowing toward businesses there.

The Glendale City Center will never be a Northwest suburban enclave. Not enough space.

It's council's job to figure out how to give the voter, and the City Center, the transportation system they all agreed upon.

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