The Architecture of Transportation Design Symposium -- Join the Discussion with Bonnie Nelson

Last Updated: May 10, 2011

The Architecture of Transportation Design Symposium -- Join the Discussion with Bonnie Nelson

"The Architecture of Transportation" Design Symposium
Friday, June 24 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)
Los Angeles Convention Center, West Hall

Please CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

On June 24th, as part of the annual AIA|LA Design Conference at Dwell on Design, we are coordinating a series of candid discussions about how to design transportation systems that will support and strengthen healthier, more functional and more livable neighborhoods.

In an effort to inspire advance dialogue, Will Wright reached out to several of the participating speakers to hear their thoughts.

Here is an in-depth response from Bonnie Nelson, who is a Principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco, CA.

From a regulatory framework, what needs to change so that we can facilitate a transportation system that supports healthier, more functional and more livable neighborhoods?

We need to recognize that our environmental framework is designed only to measure level of service for cars. It does not allow us to look holistically at the transportation system and envision a way to move people and goods that goes beyond looking at auto level of service. There are many improved techniques and many good examples of projects that do exactly that, but they are often stymied by the legal nature of the environmental document.

The other major change that needs to happen is our views about parking. It turns out that parking management is at the root of both our transportation problems and our solutions. The era of "plenty of free parking" being required for every development is over. Managed and shared parking is the new reality in our urban places, both for cost effectiveness of development and for urban form.

How can we maximize our investment in the next round of transportation improvements?

We need to look at opportunities to improve our cost effectiveness and get the most out of every inch of space in our transportation system. We cannot continue to assume we'll grow our way out of congestion. On the transit side, focusing on investments that both increase ridership and reduce the cost of providing service is key. BRT is a good example of that - reducing end to end travel times makes a service more attractive to more riders but also makes it less costly to provide a quality service.

The other thing we can do is to look at ways to share everything with a wide range of users. Complete streets that work as well for bikes and pedestrians as they do for cars. Highways that consider goods movement, high occupancy vehicles including both carpools and buses. It's all about maximizing the number of people and goods that can be moved in every foot of space.

From a global perspective, how far behind/ how far ahead is California?

We're ahead compared to much of the US, but SOOO far behind when compared to most other places. I marvel at the European capitals I have visited over the years and the extent of pedestrian improvements and transit improvements they have been able to make in the past two decades. High speed rail is everywhere. Trams, buses walking and biking zones...I hate the assertion that "we're different here or we just love our cars"...the two cities in the US with the highest biking commute percentage are Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis, Minn....not exactly hospitable climates. Is there something different about those folks too? I think it's a case of: When you provide comfortable safe and convenient infrastructure, they will come.

Another thought...the great recession has given us the opportunity to rethink our urban form, where we work and where we live. No one was EVER in love with the idea of a 2 hour auto commute to work...yet many people were saddled with that to be able to afford a home. It's not surprising that the hardest hit places for housing deflation were the over built exurbs and the inner cities generally did much better. Let's trade the mega house for something more modest and user (and wallet) friendly where we can walk to the corner for a quart of milk, where we can share rides and live more healthfully....

What do you most enjoy right now, when it comes to our current transportation system? What's working well? What's the 'baby' you don't want to throw out with the murky bathwater?

I feel the tide is really turning, in part because there is not enough capital to build big things. Instead, there's an interest in trading the one mega project for the 1000 small ideas that make the existing network work better. Cities like Glendale, CA that I never thought would be interested in parking management are suddenly pushing the envelope, and pushing their policy makers. When we started thinking about parking management in Glendale the Council said "absolutely not" to meters on Brand Boulevard because a prior council had been recalled over meters. By the end of our project we had the business community in the chambers ASKING for meters, and the Council graciously complied. Since then, their over capacity parking problem has abated, with 85% occupancy just as we would have hoped!

What is your vision for the year 2050? Share a glimpse of a day-in-your life as it relates to your personal mobility.

I'll share what I call "Jim's fool proof diet plan"....it's what my husband decided to do after he retired 2 years ago...for trips of under 2 miles, walk. For trips between 2 and 5 miles take the bike and don't move the car for trips under 5 miles. Because we live in a walkable place, he finds most of his trips are under 2 miles, and now that he's walking instead of writing memos - he lost 25 pounds with no change in diet. Cholesterol down, blood pressure down, and the car rarely moves from Monday to Friday!

Describe one of your more memorable mobility experiences, i.e., a specific bike-ride, walk, train ride, urban hike, road-trip, plain-trip or sea-faring adventure that still resonates even after all these years. What made it special? How can we create equitable opportunities for others to enjoy these types of experiences?

I think it has to be my first trip to Venice (Italy not California, although that's memorable as well). We had come from bustling and loud Florence, before they made many improvements, and I was immediately aware of how QUIET the streets of Venice were...and how you could hear the sounds of feet, of commerce and of life on the street. How you could SMELL food stalls and markets and all of the things that are blocked out by auto exhaust. Wow!

Join the Discussion, Share Your Perspective

You're encouraged to share your own perspective with AIA|LA. Answer the following six questions: (or feel free to add your own)

  1. From a regulatory framework, what needs to change so that we can facilitate a transportation system that supports healthier, more functional and more livable neighborhoods?

  2. How can we maximize our investment in the next round of transportation improvements?

  3. From a global perspective, how far behind/ how far ahead is California?

  4. What do you most enjoy right now, when it comes to our current transportation system? What's working well? What's the 'baby' you don't want to throw out with the murky bathwater?

  5. What is your vision for the year 2050? Share a glimpse of a day-in-your life as it relates to your personal mobility.

  6. Describe one of your more memorable mobility experiences, i.e., a specific bike-ride, walk, train ride, urban hike, road-trip, plain-trip or sea-faring adventure that still resonates even after all these years. What made it special? How can we create equitable opportunities for others to enjoy these types of experiences?

The author of the most compelling response will receive a complimentary pass to the "Architecture of Transportation" Design Symposium.

Share your perspective by writing Will Wright at will@aialosangeles.org with "The Architecture of Transportation" in the subject line.

"The Architecture of Transportation" Design Symposium
Friday, June 24 (9:00 AM - 5:00 PM)
Los Angeles Convention Center, West Hall

Please CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Last updated: 11-Dec-2012 09:11 AM
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