The Brookings Institution is never far from these pages, …or our hearts, truth be told. This past summer they came up with another big paper directly related to social difficulty in the suburbs, this one about public transit and the economic health of America’s cities. We see suburbs as, yet again, difficult places for transit and therefore maintaining one’s employment, and generally encouraging job growth and invesment there, is correspondingly tough. The findings of the report are very mixed, in some places as little as six percent of typical jobs are accessible to public transit users. A major investment in public transit could only help the American economy and the people struggling along at the bottom of it we would think. Wouldn’t it help out all manner of business activity, too?
Where the jobs are: employer access to labor by transit
photo: Wikimedia Commons
We came across a website with a set of pictures depicting working people carpooling in Monterrey, Mexico. The suburban complex of automobility, commuting, and employment is found there and its humanity portrayed via images taken looking directly down from a highway overpass.
Alejandro Cartagena: car poolers
If an alternative means of powering private motor cars is distributed widely and quickly it might stave off the disappearance of mass fleets of them and the communities designed around them. For many, it seems, the arrival of such a means is nothing more than the continued unfolding of the story of industrial humanity. Electric cars and hydrogen cars and cars powered by ethanol or some totally new discovery are widely assumed to be just around the corner. Others beg to differ. The cost and sustainability arguments demonstrating the end of vast automobility are tough to contradict when laid out in detail, …as is done in the item below. This posting also introduces suburban-poverty.com readers to PeakProsperity: a blog, by one Chris Martenson, designed to examine social and financial assumptions about a changing world.
Demise of the car: doomed by escalating oil and infrastrucure costs
The pleasure is all suburban-poverty.com’s to make mention of Copenhagen’s new dedicated bicycle super-highway. The route from a suburb called Albertslund into Copenhagen is 11 miles/18 kilometers in length and the first component of a serious national network of routes. What a fantastic real world precedent for just about any fossil fuel-using community looking for alternatives!
Cycling is healthy and cheap and empowering. Bikes are sensible tools for fighting suburban poverty. Here in North America, compulsory automobile ownership enslaves working people, drawing their resources into a matrix of requirements for gasoline, insurance, repairs, tire replacement, maintenance, tickets, parking fees, interest payments, depreciation, accidents and injuries, noise and pollution. Something has to change.
The New York Times item covering the cycling superhighway has been picked up in blogs, by the Toronto Star, and in many other places. It’s hard not to envy infrastructure like this and we hope to see more everywhere.
Copenhagen Journal: Commuters Pedal to Work on Their Very Own Superhighway NYT
photo: Copenhagen via Wikimedia Commons
With poverty, the fun just never stops. Now, the automobile in North American popular culture is viewed as a great cultural leveller and class unifier. Montreal’s Department of Public Health just spent four years looking at motor vehicle accidents and guess what they came up with? The poorer your neighbourhood the more vehicular, pedestrian and cycling accidents take place and the more serious the nature of them.
“Gentlemen, start your engines!”
Wealth and traffic accidents: study shows poorer people many times more likely to be hurt
One of suburban-poverty’s interns came to the office looking rather the worse for the wear today. Apparently they could not sleep because of a night terror. She was being driven across the suburbs by an octogenarian relative with very poor eyesight in a twenty-year-old old Nissan Pathfinder with a rusted out frame. The driver couldn’t remember where anything was, and began mashing the gas and brakes on his V-6 engined nag in equal parts frustration with himself and rage at the price of gas. Pothole after pothole battered our poor intern into a queasy terror as the Pathfinder caromed off rotting curbs, felled a rusty lamp post and mangled a disused mailbox before arriving at the half dead mall beside the tent city.
What are we all to do when this nightmare becames reality? Getting around is among the top one or two issues for suburbanites. How old age improves on that issue we don’t know. Readers may share our intern’s concern about the future of motorized suburban living. Indeed, right now, a threat to the ability to drive about at whim would undermine the entire quality of life of possibly tens of millions of North Americans. Particularly for the elderly, we worry about the future of car-dependent living arrangements.
On top of the weird economics of suburbia and the shortage of public transit out there in Toofartowalkland comes the aging of physical infrastructure interacting with the aging human bodily infrastructure of suburbia. …assume the crash position, people!
Aging in the American suburbs: a changing population Aging Well Magazine
photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
Leaving core city areas for cheaper housing in the suburbs is one of the few strategies available to lower income people. Thing is, when they get out to the suburbs public transit is scarce and car ownership sometimes mandatory. The financial requirements of getting around, especially reaching a workplace, could easily soak up any gains from the cheaper housing.
These two links are to short items on Wired blogs. They mention a Brookings Institution report into the matter and a recent American civil rights conference which concluded that reasonable access to transportation is actually a human right.
Ever wait in snow up to your ankles for a bus at 5:30 in the morning? Ever have the timing belt snap on a fifteen year old Honda Civic in an industrial park after getting off the afternoon shift? If so, you know what it’s all about.
No public transit? No job…
Transportation as a civil rights issue