The growth in hybrid car sales is a welcome sign that a major change in the automobile industry is afoot. The shift to transport infrastructure that is not based on the archaic complexity of an internal combustion engine, with its hundreds of moving parts and compressed fuel explosions, has been long put off by an automobile industry, happy with status quo, partnered with oil cartels with the power to price their product as if it were in endless supply. But with smack-in-the-face-reality fuel prices last summer, the collapse of the so-called “Big Three” over the winter, and the simultaneous heralding assertion of alternative energy technologies (Daimler AG bought a 10% stake in Tesla Motors last month!), the fallout of western economic near-collapse has changed everything we’ve known to be sacrosanct; Leonard Lopate even waxed nostalgic about the “Death of the Car Song” yesterday on National Public Radio’s local station, WNYC.
Once again, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) delightfully surprises the design community with another major leap forward in making city streets a public realm for all users (I can’t tell you how odd it still feels to write that). As if the impressive, incessant roll-out of bike lanes, successful implementation of the “Select Bus Service”, and the unprecedented changes to Times Square and its environs weren’t enough to pique the imaginations of New Yorkers used to streets built for cars, NYCDOT has just issued their “2009 Street Design Manual”. Planners and Engineers, get ready for a thrill!