The Architecture of Transportation - Join the Discussion with Gerhard Mayer

Last Updated: May 11, 2011

The Architecture of Transportation - Join the Discussion with Gerhard Mayer

"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 Gerhard W. Mayer, AIA of Mayer Architects.

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 should pursue the design of our transportation / transit system simultaneously with landuse policy/ planning in an integrated, cohesive community planning effort.

  • We need to create a logical foundation for an economically efficient and mobile city. We should amass and publish data that explain required min. densities - depending on the means of transport - in proximity of new transit stops to make sure new transit lines will be economically self supporting.

  • We should never punish people for having to park their cars in locations where they have no other choices for mobility. However, within transit nodes/ zones, we should make having a car an option, not a requirement. For residents inside such a zone, we should reverse our planning standards from minimum requirements to maximum parking percentages. And we might consider connecting the purchase of a car with a demonstrated ability to store it off street at the owner's cost.

  • We should mandate below grade parking for new urban development. That alone will near double the buildable land in Los Angeles without creating any expansion of our boundaries.

  • We should use market mechanisms to reorganize communities into density zones /nodes around transit hubs/ stations. However, density and transit alone will not be enough to create more livable cities. We need to equally focus on creating quality accessible and contiguous open space for everybody.

  • We should create/use/encourage market mechanisms such as development rights transfers (similar to air right transfers) to affect a rapid and occasionally sweeping re-organization of our land use patterns and of urban form. For instance, in order to create open space in our relentlessly sprawling suburbs, we could incentivize people to sell their existing development rights to double density on some properties, thereby freeing up other properties to create open space.

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

We should...

  • re-use already developed land and shy away from any new greenfield development for a while.

  • incentivize below grade parking and turn above grade land into usable areas, with an equal weight on additional buildings and on the creation of public open space.

  • identify nascent transit / density corridors and intensify them with new transit and new density.

  • identify existing urban nodes, convert them into pure pedestrian (commercial) environments (a la Santa Monica third street promenade) and connect the nodes with transit.

  • increase the attractiveness of new developments by generously carving out open space / park land from currently developed area that is not conveniently close to transit nodes.

  • create a regional transit system by empowering an organizational body to coordinate all existing means of transit in greater LA and establish a coordinated time table and a unified transit fee structure.

  • oblige freight rail carriers to allow high frequency commuter trains on their alignments. Create a political mechanism that pursues freight rail buildout / multiple use upgrade with transit.

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

California is a transportation monoculture that has been getting weaker and is in dire need of new genetic material and diversification. This need is large and urgent, but it also carries with it very big implied opportunities to provide more livable communities and create a whole new economic boom for our state.

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 hope we will keep our scenic roads and highways, and redefine them not as required transit corridors, but as occasions for voluntary joy trips.

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 see us having many more choices in terms of means of transit for getting to where we want or need to go. To some locations, we will still need to drive, because there will not be another connection. But for most common day to day transit needs, we will be able to choose between efficient - fast connections using trains or rapid buses, or meandering leisurely sightseeing paths through the city in e.g. a surface bus, or riding a bike part-of-the-way through partially reclaimed open space. For the fast efficient transit connections, we will enjoy much more certainty in terms of trip duration and arrival that we have today.

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?

Please choose among the following:

a) When I was a student in Vienna, we often spent the weekend in Venice. There is a direct train connection between those cities, with one of the trains running overnight. The distance is about 390 miles, the train left at 9 pm, it had a dining car and sleeper berths. It was fairly inexpensive, with a student pass. We had dinner on the train, slept and arrived at 5 am right on the Canale Grande, in the heart of Venice. Many many students traveled the same way, so you got to meet new people and spend two days in one of the prettiest cities with little cost or stress.

b) One of my favorite vacation places is Cinque Terre, a series of villages in Italy that decided to keep all cars outside the city boundaries. All five villages are connected by a backbone train line that runs along the coast, more through tunnels and on bridges than on solid land. The pedestrian character of the towns is such that when you get off the train, practically everything in town is within walking distance. Trains run all the time. You can hike from one town to the other and take the train back - or you can take a train right from there and easily reach big cities; and connect to the world. I have never experienced a more intimate small place that simultaneously could effortlessly and efficiently connect you with anywhere in the world you wanted to go; while being a very small scale highly attractive place with no cars by itself.

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 09:09 AM
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