The Quotidian

Evolving perspectives on evolving challenges

Tag: transportation

What ‘cash for clunkers’ could have been spent on

by Kai Hsing

With the program’s environmental and economic benefits nearly negligible, billions could have been better spent encouraging more people to buy cars that make a real difference – plug-in hybrids.

junker-clunkerWEB

Much of the discussion around the “cash for clunkers” fervor is as polarizing as the politics involved – you either dismiss the program as a failure in both theory and practice or you declare the program a success while rejecting criticism of the program as GOP firestarting. With further consideration, one realizes that the cash for clunkers program actually has a lot of moving parts to consider before disassembly – unlike what they’ve been doing to the clunkers themselves.

On one level, cash for clunkers could be deemed a success – the program has so far increased sales in its brief period of activity, with Ford posting its first sales increase in two years and the overall industry posting its best month of 2009. The overwhelming popularity of the program has also been lauded as a measure of its success (or irresponsibility), with $1 billion exhausted in $4,500 increments in just one week.

Despite the fact that the Ford Focus (mpg: 24 city/35 highway) has been the top-selling one of the top-selling vehicles among those who traded in their “clunkers” for new cars, a closer look reveals that six out of the 10 best-selling anti-clunkers were from foreign automakers. Read the rest of this entry »

No cars go

by Kai Hsing

If you’ve ever wondered what else could be done with a single parking space – here are some ideas.

With PARK(ing) Day 2009 fast approaching, here’s a look back at some of the wonderful projects people came up with for the event in San Francisco a couple years back.

If you’re not familiar, PARK(ing) Day is a one-day, worldwide event that raises awareness about the use of public space and urban planning issues by transforming parking spaces into public parks, guerrilla-style. Ordinary citizens take over one or more parking spaces for the day by feeding the meter and then reinventing their borrowed space by installing a putting green, croquet course, or even a chicken farm.

The San Francisco-based creative collective Rebar started the event in 2005, and it’s been growing steadily every year with more cities across the country and the world participating.

I hope that this video will give you an impression of what an amazing and transformational event this can be. Also, given that PARK(ing) Day 2009 is roughly three months from now, this is the perfect time to start planning your own project for September 18. Check out the PARK(ing) Day 2009 Web site that’s been revamped with wonderful digital tools to help you get inspired and started with a project of your own.

Thanks to Sarah Evershed for her help with producing parts of this piece.

What a $300,000 parking space means for the rest of us

by Kai Hsing

Recently, a parking space in Boston was purchased for $300,000. What does this sale say about our transportation future?

Courtesy wbz.com

Courtesy wbz.com

Apparently no one told the buyer of a $300,000 parking space in Boston that there’s a recession going on. Yes, that’s right – a parking space recently sold in the upscale Back Bay neighborhood of Boston for more than the value of the average American home.

Paying exorbitant prices for a slice of personal pavement might be a growing trend in places like Boston, as the winning bidders for the uncovered, outdoor space beat the previous city record of $250,000 that was set just last year by another space in the same neighborhood. At the moment, Boston might even have New York beat for the most expensive parking space in the country, as a space in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood went for a mere $225,000 a couple years ago amidst some publicity.

The growing trend in the U.S. of “re-urbanization,” a reversal of post-war flight to the suburbs that now sees the middle class re-orientating towards city centers has been seen by many as necessary to reduce carbon footprints and create more sustainable communities. With density as a key mantra of the movement towards sustainable development, apartments and condos appealing to the middle class have been rising in central areas of cities everywhere from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, offering alternatives to the long commutes and reliance on cars that often plague suburban living.

It’s clear that living in more compact spaces and owning only one car may be a price that more people, especially young professionals and empty nesters, are now willing to pay to be closer to work or local shops and businesses. The surging trend has manifested itself in the various urban renewal projects across the country in recent decades, as well as an increased popularity in the planning ideas of New Urbanism for suburban developments.

However, the $300,000 question becomes twofold for those interested in sustainable development – whether people are willing to dramatically reconsider the role of the automobile in their daily lives, and whether re-urbanization will be economically and socially inclusive. Read the rest of this entry »

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