The AIA|LA Design Advocate :: Reflections on the Architecture of Transportation

Last Updated: June 30, 2011

The AIA|LA Design Advocate :: Reflections on the  Architecture of Transportation

Last week, I worked with Gwynne Pugh, David Abel, Frances Anderton, Richard Katz and Gerhard Mayer to facilitate The Architecture of Transportation design symposium. It was eight hours of programmatic content and was probably more meat and gristle than anyone had time to chew in single day.

The big idea was to coordinate a series of conversations that not only highlighted the direction we are currently moving in with regards to improving our transportation infrastructure, but to also connect the dots between the condition of our built environment and how it impacts our physical health.

We are becoming quite lazy as a nation. No one wants to climb a set of stairs anymore. In LA, it's challenging to get people to even 'stand to the right' much less actually walk up the escalator. Obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions. We eat cheeseburgers and sip lattes while sitting in traffic.

Nevertheless, there is a change in attitude that is quickly catching on. People are changing their lifestyles! Perhaps not overnight, but with time more and more people will abandon the futility of their commutes and adopt new behaviors and attitudes, that I'm confident will not only improve one's physical health but will lessen one's stress and perhaps even improve one's sense of connection to their fellow citizen. With enhanced civility, and improved mental and physical health - who knows? Maybe we'll even be able to redirect the billions we spend on our penal system back into educating ourselves and living better, more rewarding lives.

Optimistically, I feel we are well on our way to vastly improving our transportation system. Measure R, America Fast Forward and the Vision Los Angeles plan set the framework. Mobility 21, Move LA and METRO are setting the tone. LACBC, CicLAVia and Streetsblog LA are building consensus. UCLA, ULI, AIA, APA and other professional organizations are connecting the dots and leveraging opportunity.

Therefore, in effort to serve as a relevant forum to advance the broader discussions happening elsewhere, let's assume that all of the efforts of Measure R and Vision LA will be realized - and then let's focus on improving their outcomes by anticipating even greater challenges that, if properly considered, can serve as fulcrums for inspiring design solutions that will further enhance the health, delight and functionality of the Los Angeles region.

As a mechanism to direct everyone towards a greater sense of thematic focus, I challenge everyone to consider the following questions and to continue advancing the dialogue.

Creating Perspective

  1. As a population, we were once much healthier. What are some of the more effective strategies to encourage greater physical activity, especially with regards to the design of a comprehensive, multi-modal transportation system?

  2. The Pacific Electric Railway was once the largest electric railway in the world with over 1,000 miles of track and large profits from land-development were generated along the routes. What are the greatest opportunities moving forward to realize future profits along transit routes that will capture even greater value for our communities?

  3. Measure R will vastly evolve our built environment. What are some of the specific changes you are most excited about? And how can we ensure that those changes sustain long-term success?

A Complete Community

  1. What if your community had it all? Everything you needed to access was within walking or biking distance. Yet, you still have a psychological desire to experience movement for the pure sake of the adventure: What are some of the other less obvious cultural benefits enhanced by a healthy transportation system other than simply enabling greater personal mobility and how can these benefits take precedent?

  2. The sidewalk is probably one the most critical components of our transportation system. What are some of the more accountable funding mechanisms available for designing, building and maintaining active sidewalks? And how are these mechanism enforced?

  3. Complete Streets are designed and operated to provide safe access for all users. What regulatory changes need to be made to maximize the greatest place-making potential for all city streets?

Regional Connectivity

  1. According to Vision LA, 485 million hours are lost each year in LA County due to traffic congestion. What is the true cost of that lost time and productivity? What are the health impacts of that inactivity? Instead of collectively spending 485 millions hours behind the wheel of an automobile, what other economic and cultural advances do you envision we could achieve?

  2. Physical space is an extremely valuable resource in Southern California. What zoning and land-use regulations need to change in effort to dedicate more physical space to people, as opposed to motorized machinery?

  3. Energy efficiency is a good thing, but more fuel-efficient automobiles on the road quickly results into less gas-tax revenue to fund the design, maintenance and operations of our transportation system. What are some innovative funding solutions? What are the revenue streams of tomorrow?

Global Impacts

  1. What are some of the less obvious, yet highly relevant connections between transportation policies, our physical health and economic development?

  2. Let's assume you have all the choices in the world. You're educated, healthy and young enough to establish roots anywhere your heart delights. The year is 2050. What city do you want to live in and why? How do we ensure that Los Angeles remains compelling and competitive for future generations?

  3. LA is home to some of the world's most prominent architects. What are some of the unforeseen consequences of exporting so much design talent and systems solutions to other countries? Do we risk becoming uncompetitive globally, especially given that climate change may very well make Southern California less pristine?

The Political Will

  1. Identify Southern California's political leadership. Who is willing and able to risk their career on making some difficult decisions? And what will the most difficult decision be?

  2. Quite a few people love the status quo and/or mistrust change. What are some of the more effective methods for building consensus in effort to move Los Angeles towards a healthier transportation system?

  3. LA isn't the center of the world. It's not even the center of the United States. We risk becoming even further marginalized due to a relatively ambiguous constituency. Therefore, given that political reality, how does Southern California compete more aggressively for funding?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

  1. ACTIVE DESIGN GUIDELINES

  2. VISION LOS ANGELES: Clearer Roads, Clearer Skies and a Brighter Future for Los Angeles

  3. A BIGGER VISION: Moving LA Fast Forward

  4. Active Transportation for America

  5. Building Healthy Communities - LA County Department of Public Health

For more information, please contact:
Will Wright
Director, Government & Public Affairs
AIA Los Angeles
Tel: (213) 639-0764
Email: Will Wright

Last updated: 11-Dec-2012 07:52 AM
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