Is Los Angeles' Car Culture on a Collision Course with Economic Ruin?

Architect and planner Gerhard W. Mayer asserts that a city developed to accommodate cars is no place for paltry public transit offerings; Los Angeles needs major changes to its DNA if it wants to remain viable.
September 3, 2013, 9am PDT | Alek Miller
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Jeff Turner (JefferyTurner)

"Decades of development and sprawl are rightfully blamed for the degradation of our quality of life, and for our near unbearable congestion. This has turned many Angelenos against development and into NIMBY activists ready to object anytime to anything. But contrary to NIMBY creed, we cannot do nothing. The path we are on is really an economic fiasco in waiting," writes Mayer.

"In greater Los Angeles, we are using more than 60 percent of our land for our automobiles (roads, parking lots, landscaped buffers, traffic islands, etc.)." This, he says, is a recipe for economic disaster because a smaller proportion of the city creates value. He offers a vision of a new Los Angeles where the millions of dollars currently wasted in traffic can be diverted to a vibrant local economy and where quality of life is excellent.  

"Imagine our city with bustling pedestrian zones, coffee shops, and corner stores, markets, plazas, and lots of housing options surrounding our public transit hubs. Then imagine those hubs separated by low-density areas filled with picturesque narrow residential streets, bicycle networks, community gardens, and parks. All could be connected with public transit, and all of this in our near-perfect climate, and you could still drive, if you chose to."

"But we cannot achieve this by only making minor adjustments to our land-use laws based on the popular consensus of people who want to continue to drive yet want all the other people to get off the road. We need to change much more rapidly and radically and we must get people mobilized toward change. We must create grass roots “YIMBY” (Yes, in my yard!) movements that demand different solutions; that is really the challenge of our time."

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Published on Thursday, August 29, 2013 in The Architect's Newspaper
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