Columbus as “Smart City”

I’ll take a pause from Austin for a moment to look ahead to one of my July destinations: Columbus, Ohio. My Facebook feed is atwitter with urbanist friends congratulating Columbus for winning the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge, getting $50M in federal funds for so-called “smart” transportation.

My take: No thanks..

Take a look at Columbus’ pitch video. What is it missing?

Did you notice? There’s not a single bicyclist or pedestrian. That’s because the USDOT program is based on old, broken ideas about what the street network is for. Ideas like platooning single-occupant cars to increase road capacity.

You know the best way to increase road capacity? Get people out of cars. Here’s an image that demonstrates the problem:

Canberra, Australia demonstration of road capacity

There’s no way technology can address the fact that cars take a lot more space in the city than bikes, pedestrians, or transit. Using platooning and signal timing to increase the single-occupant-vehicle capacity of freeways or arterial roads will make those facilities even more human-hostile and city-hostile.

Human-scale design is the only way to build good cities.

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