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Toyota will transform 175-acre Japan site into a ‘prototype city of the future’ (theverge.com)
189 points by sndean 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 218 comments

Shouldn't a prototype city of the future be built around walking and public transit with cars being more of an afterthought?

Maybe I'm too cynical, but I don't think the car manufacturer Toyota is likely to build a city that doesn't focus on demonstrating how cars will continue to be a significant part of our, and their, future.

The irony here being that Japan already looks like this. It has wonderful public transportation and cars are almost non-existent in Tokyo and Osaka.

You see a lot more cars in the outskirts and in smaller cities (like Kyoto) where they haven't hit critical mass, or there has been mismanagement of the transit infrastructure.

> It has wonderful public transportation and cars are almost non-existent in Tokyo and Osaka.

What version of Tokyo have you been to? Cars are everywhere in Tokyo. A quarter of commuters drive alone.

> A quarter of commuters drive alone.

That's really low compared to NA where even in a metro area I'd guess it's at least 50%.

Sure, it's lower, but it's hardly "non-existent."

Non-existent is seemingly hyperbole (never been to Japan) but I can imagine it might be shocking if OP were from NA and he/she are actually witnessing traffic volumes cut in half or more.

Definitely not non-existent but can appear that way when you compare it to southern california.

I'm not certain how to parse your comment. If 25% of people drive in Tokyo to commute, that means 75% of them don't, which supports my point. Compare that to most cities in North America where more than 85% of commuters drive.

If 25% of people drive in Tokyo to commute, that means 75% of them don't, which supports my point.

Your point was that "cars are almost non-existent in Tokyo and Osaka", which hardly is supported by the fact that 25% of commuters drive.

Here's a link to some photos on my last trip to Tokyo. This is in and around Akihabara and Asakusabashi, and I think there might be one in Shibuya. I realize this can be considered anecdotal or "cherry-picked", and I'm sure there are parts of Tokyo which have way more traffic (most likely closer to the outskirts), however, this was the experience that I've had in many parts of the city the multiple times I've been there.


In my experience, most US cities, even those with terrible traffic, are not uniformly packed with cars. That's because there are lots and lots of roads in a city, but only so many cars. However, usually there are certain corridors that one practically has go through if one wants to get from one area to the other, and those are the most congested.

For example, I live in Seattle, city with one of the worse traffic situations in the country. However, if you stroll on most of the surface streets in downtown, you'll never notice that. Most congestion in the metro occurs on the major freeways that allow one to travel through the area on a north-south axis: SR-99, I-5 and I-405, and on the surface streets and ramps directly leading to these freeways. Before you get to these, and after you get off them, you'll see rather little traffic, and pretty much no congestion to speak of.

They're looking to use it to research the possibilities of integrating autonomous vehicles into cities more tightly I suspect. It makes sense that they're in no hurry to deprecate their own core business.

What I find interesting is there wasn't really any illustrations of the reported three layer road system, and the majority of the illustrations are of huge, open walkable areas. I would love to see how they're looking to address separating slow speed traffic from high speed traffic while keeping them both useful.

I don't understand why cars are bad. ICE are bad because they contribute to global warming, sure. But things that move small numbers of people to exactly where they want to go -- are those bad?

In fact, a lot of science fiction I can think of describe Disney-style people mover things that quickly and efficiently take you exactly where you want to go. I guess they aren't exactly cars, but they aren't exactly trains either.

As someone who grew up in the States, I never really understood this either, until I lived in Korea and visited Japan.

There, residential zoning is mixed with business zoning. There is no such thing as a "suburb", because you have apartments nestled right next to grocery stores, cafes, and restaurants. I don't think I ever had to walk more than 2-5 minutes to get to a convenience store. Cars still existed of course, but so many people walked, rode bikes, or took public transit. (It helps that both countries have extremely good public transit systems).

Once I realized how nice life could be, I started hating suburbs. I hate having to drive 10-20+ minutes just to get food or groceries because the only thing around you is a vast sea of houses. I hate that public transit is basically nonexistent, or if it does exist, it's slow and not on time. I hate having to drive, which is both unsafe and prohibits me from studying or getting work done, because I have to pay attention to the road.

Centering around a suburb model is one of the US's greatest structural failures.

Neighbourhoods built to car-scale rather than human-scale are isolating and hostile. Try walking to get lunch from a hotel or office park in suburban America and see how it feels.

Regardless of gas or electric, cars are dangerous and kill more citizens than just about anything in modern society. Furthermore, encouraging people to drive everywhere rather than walking or cycling only exacerbates the obesity crisis (another major driver of mortality).

"things that move small numbers of people to exactly where they want to go" -- I can describe feet in the same way! My feet also work after drinking, they don't take up space, they gave me independence at a young age, and they provide health benefits (even the thirty minutes a day of walking needed to get to public transit and do grocery shopping makes a big difference over a totally sedentary lifestyle).

A lot of that science fiction was written by Americans.

Cars per se aren't bad. There are legitimate use cases they fill, even in majestically walkable cities.

Their overuse, rather, is bad.

Exactly, this is a big car company's idea of a city.

It’s Japan. That’s just the city of the now.

Toyota city in Aichi is a pretty futuristic place already, even by Japanese standards. They even have a world-class modern art museum.

I'm not sure what you're talking about, here. Used to live in Nagoya and have been to Toyotashi many a time. It's a pretty average small Japanese city.

Weird comment. I also lived there for many years. Odd that you feel the need to dispute my impression of a place. Says more about you than Toyota-shi.

"Modern art includes artistic work produced during the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s"


That's "Modern art" not "modern art"

Not if it's built by a carmaker. Perhaps the point is to show that we'll never separate ourselves from personal transportation vehicles (cars) but the future of the symbiosis will be far smarter and efficient.

So, Amsterdam?

Walking around doesn't scale indefinitely. No form of transportation does, but walking scales significantly less. Plus, designing with public transit in mind makes it more accessible, which becomes a serious concern if you want anyone over sixty to live in your city.

I live in Tokyo, and for me, the combination of walking and a proper train network scales surprisingly well.

I think that's what the parent is saying. Everybody wants to score virtue points for loving their feet or bike but at the end of the day you need to compliment that with some sort of public transit network to give them the distance covering power they need to be truly practical.

I don't think anyone was arguing that. We obviously have to cover distances that are not practical for walking, so public transportation goes hand in hand with a walkable city.

That is still a tremendous improvement over having to drive everywhere. The quality of life is so much better, it's almost indescribable.

It's disgusting how navigable most of Japan is. It makes even urban Europe seem like garbage.

These kinds of announcements are always full of hype. Panasonic has a similar concept in Denver. Google / Sidewalk Labs in Toronto. The practicalities of executing on real estate development at scale is always underestimated or neglected. Between regulations, the labor force, and tastes of eventual residents, the end result ends up close to the mean because the stakes (amount of capital involved) are so high and many decisions are prohibitively expensive to reverse.

This reminds me of when blogger Mr Money Moustache proposed a car free city in Colorado, and then was flooded with media requests about when he was building it and how.


I want this so badly it hurts. I ache for it. I _hate_ the fact that I'm too terrified to let my kids cycle on city streets, or suburban streets, or country roads, and they're completely trapped on a small patch of land surrounded by asphalt ribbons of death on all sides.

https://culdesac.com/ is close, but only in Arizona I believe

> I _hate_ the fact that I'm too terrified to let my kids cycle on city streets, or suburban streets, or country roads, and they're completely trapped on a small patch of land surrounded by asphalt ribbons of death on all sides.

This is an irrational fear. In 2016, there were about 245 children under 14 killed by cars as pedestrians in the entire year: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/.... There are about 75 million children under 18, so let's say 40 million between ages 5 and 14. That's 0.6 child pedestrian deaths per 100,000 ambulatory children. That's about 1/5 as likely as the risk of a white person being killed in a homicide in any given year.

Moreover, about 332 children ages 5-14 were the victims of homicide in 2017: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/LeadingCauses.html. Us urbanists ridicule suburban parents for worrying that their kid will be shot if they live in an urban neighborhood. Your child being killed by a car while playing in the street is even less likely, and having any special anxiety about it--apart from the general terror of parenthood--is equally irrational.

We could certainly do better on this front. I'm pretty lucky to live in a pre-zoning code suburb with narrow little streets and houses close together, where I can let my seven year old play outside with my one year old as long as they're more or less within visual range. Neighborhoods like mine are illegal to build today. But, I grew up in a standard suburb, and we played on standard suburban streets starting at age 6+. It's pretty common outside big cities and pearl-clutching millennial parents.

Those kids were killed despite a culture that puts "NEVER GO IN THE STREET" front and center in how children should interact with their built environment. This came as a result of cars killing many, many people - cars that showed up on streets where kids (and adults) had walked for centuries without being run over.

I mean, if I fill the local pool with sharks it is indeed true that shark deaths will fall to 0 pretty quick.

Pretty close.

If you fill the local pool with sharks, then you're still going to have a few people killed by sharks, because they chose to ignore all the warning signs about the sharks. The death toll will be pretty low, though, because most people will stop swimming because of all the sharks, but there's always a few people who refuse to obey.

This still doesn't fix the problem of why we stupidly put sharks in the pools to begin with.

This came as a result of cars killing many, many people

When was this? I can find no time period in which child pedestrian fatalities were all that significant.

> Those kids were killed despite a culture that puts "NEVER GO IN THE STREET" front and center in how children should interact with their built environment.

What exactly does this mean? Most children go in the street. 20% bike or walk to school: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/12/03/report-more-kids-are-.... It's 1/3 in temperate California: https://saferoutescalifornia.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/tra.... In a sampling of children 5-17, 61% rode a bike in the last month (with about 2/3 riding at least once a week): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5189688.

It's not irrational at all. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people aged 5-29 [1].

Even if there are other, larger, causes of death, that still doesn't make it irrational to want a city where one major cause of death for children has been eliminated. Especially when the cause of death in question is something as unnecessary as using a car to move around a city.

[1] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/road-traffi... [2] https://www.nsc.org/driveithome

Not only is it not irrational, we're also ignoring what we're being forced to give up because of all these cars. Kids can't just run or bike around their neighborhoods safely without worrying about (or their parents worrying about) them being killed. So kids are just staying inside all the time, playing video games and getting fat.

The streets in my neighborhood are crammed full of kids walking, playing, and biking. Maybe this is an idiosyncrasy of the neighborhood you live in, and not a generalizable truth about America and cars.

I'm quite sure what you describe is not at all normal for suburban America. Maybe there's a few pockets here and there where kids have found some safe spaces, such as in cul-de-sacs, but overall subdivisions have too many speeding drivers for kids to be safe leaving their yard.

As my experience lines up with ‘tptaceks I’m curious if there is some objective measure we could use to determine if we are the outliers or your experience is.

Presumably that metric would track back in time to some pre-time where suburbs were safer from cars and kids didn’t have to hunker town in front of screens for safety.

Well, I'm in Oak Park, a dense adjacent suburb of Chicago, there are cars everywhere, and there are kids on every street. Is Chicago somehow special?

Ok, so there's cars speeding around your neighborhoods, and kids playing on these very same streets without somehow getting hit by all the speeding cars? Sorry, I don't buy it.

That is indeed what is happening. It's how I remember things growing up on the south side of Chicago, and how things were in Ann Arbor when we lived there with our young kids, as well.

So you let your young (under 10yo) kids bumble around on bicycles in the streets with traffic whizzing by at 30-45mph?

Why are you assuming that traffic is moving at 30-45 mph through a neighborhood.

In my neighborhood the speed limit is universally 25 and the stop signs & one way streets keep traffic speeds down.

My son doesn’t know how to ride a bike yet but there are certainly under 10 yo all around riding in the streets. Further my son does walk to the park down the street by himself or with friends with the usual guidance about cars (“look both ways” etc).

>Why are you assuming that traffic is moving at 30-45 mph through a neighborhood.

Because that's what I see in the suburbs here in DC.

>In my neighborhood the speed limit is universally 25 and the stop signs & one way streets keep traffic speeds down.

Those aren't typical American suburbs if there's 1-way streets. That sounds much more urban in fact. The suburbs I typically see have wide streets, and 35mph speed limits, and people driving around quite a bit faster than that in their huge luxury SUVs. I also don't see kids in the streets at all, and for good reason: it's too dangerous. I don't feel safe at all on my bike, even though I ride very fast and as far right as I can (I only ride in the subdivision near me so I can get to the multi-use trail on the other side).

My kids are in college right now, but everyone else in Oak Park seems to, as did everyone in Ann Arbor, as did --- to an even greater extent --- every family --- every family; it would have been extremely weird not to be allowed to ride your bike in the streets in the 1980s --- in the south side of Chicago when I was growing up, at a time when traffic fatalities were more than twice as high as they are now. I don't think your argument is rooted in facts.

It is in fact illegal in Chicago to ride your bike on the sidewalk. Your contention would have to be that children have simply ceased using bicycles, which is obviously not true.

It is in fact illegal in Chicago to ride your bike on the sidewalk.

How has this thread lasted so long without a single reference to the seminal work of Campbell, Algar et al[1] on the topic.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rroZv3rFEoU

I thought about it but I've never once seen someone in Chicagoland play hockey in the street. I just can't in good conscience cite it.

I’m curious when the turning point for this would be? Given that suburbs themselves are effectively a product of a car-based commuter model, wouldn’t suburbs have always had car traffic as a basic part of their formula?

Pre-ubiquitous-cars, suburbs didn’t really exist. So it seems that any suburb-dwelling children would have always had to deal with streets used by cars.

5-29 doesn't exactly mean children playing in the road, it can also be drunk teenagers and their car encountering a tree.

How much of these deaths are passengers inside the car vs outside?

I don't think those numbers really capture the full story since the majority of children rarely or never cycle on the road. I couldn't find a resource for the number of children who regularly cycle on roads, but one of the main reasons children might be doing this is going to and from school. Only 1% of children commute this way. There are certainly other reasons children might cycle on roads, for the sake of argument let's add another 1% for children who regularly ride on roads but do not ride to school. Using your estimate of 40 million children between the age of 5 and 14 that gives us just 800k regular cyclists and a 30.6 child pedestrian deaths per 100k.


The fatality statistics aren’t just biking, it’s all traffic fatalities where a child is a pedestrian. While few children bike to school (2.2%) many walk (20%). See: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/12/03/report-more-kids-are-....

Biking and other road activities is even more common for recreational use: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizwomen/news/latest-news/2019/0...

> A recent national poll by the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital asked parents about bike habits among children ages 4 to 13 and found four in five parents said their child rides a bike, 50 percent ride non-motorized scooters and 17 percent use skateboards.

245 children killed in totally avoidable accidents is still 245 too many.

If 245 kids were killed in a plane crash or building explosion there would be media outrage. Yet we are so numb to constant deaths on roads that we just accept it as ordinary.

too many is not particularly useful. We have to accept some level of risk, because exactly zero risk is physically unachievable.

And reducing risks comes with exponentially more cost, at some point those costs may become other lives. E.g. if we took the extreme measure of banning any and all vehicles, period, then millions of people might die because economic networks sustaining society would collapse. But hey, almost no children killed by vehicles (some might still die, e.g. by being crushed under a decommissioned vehicle).

>E.g. if we took the extreme measure of banning any and all vehicles, period, then millions of people might die because economic networks sustaining society would collapse.

There's plenty of cities outside the US where most people do not use personal cars to get around, and where it's perfectly safe to get around by bike. Just look at Amsterdam and Copenhagen. The economies there are doing just fine, and much better in fact than many American cities.

I was literal about any and all vehicles. That includes delivery trucks and trains. And bicycles. Bicycle accidents can kill people.

So if 240 children killed by vehicles is too many and we set a goal no other than perfection then we have to get rid of vehicles.

Or we accept a statistic greater than zero.

This is an idiotic strawman argument. People don't get killed by trains and bicycles in remotely near the numbers that they do by cars, especially when you count all the people killed in car accidents.

Your entire argument is "we can't completely eliminate ALL deaths from any vehicle of any kind, so we need to keep our society car-based."

> People don't get killed by trains and bicycles in remotely near the numbers that they do by cars, especially when you count all the people killed in car accidents.

I never said the amount is equal.

> Your entire argument is "we can't completely eliminate ALL deaths from any vehicle of any kind, so we need to keep our society car-based."

Not at all. Neither did I say we cannot reduce the number. I said too many is not a useful statement. That is all this is about. Too many does not tell us what the correct tradeoff is. My concern is that people only see a number and want it go down to zero without taking pareto efficiency into account.

We don’t need to ban vehicles. Just put greater emphasis on making roads, and vehicles, much safer.

Ok, the magical fairy has implemented the measures you had in mind, now 24 instead of 245 children die every year. Is it still too many?

If yes, where exactly does too many stop?

Going from 245 to 24 would be an enormous success. So long as there are practical technologies and designs to improve safety, and there are many, then yes - zero should remain the goal.

> So long as there are practical technologies and designs to improve safety [...]

Sure, this is a reasonable condition since "practical" subsumes about any caveat. But it is fundamentally incompatible with:

> zero should remain the goal.

You can asymptotically approach zero, but you cannot reach zero. So setting it as goal is aiming for something unachievable and thus a policy failure. It would be better to set goals that are actually achievable within some timeframe.

Don't use the "but think of the children" argument. If makes no sense and just plays to emotions, rather than logic.

I have two friends that died while cycling. It is kind of crazy how much people put the blinders on when looking at cars. I really wish more people could envision a different future than a car-centric one.

They do, but not in the US.


Summary from @bicycledutch

"Utrecht, Netherlands, plans a new neighbourhood with 4 to 6K homes for 12,000 people where everything is within walking and cycling distance (including the Central Railway Station). The design deliberately makes cars unnecessary."

This is one of the top reasons my wife and I tried to build our life to get EU citizenship, and why I tell anyone from my former country who wants a better life about the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, letting any American who can employ themselves move to the Netherlands.

This is true, but it's not trade-off free. It requires tight control over zoning and any new housing development.

It is difficult to do this type of development in the United States without a much higher degree of centralized planning and/or restrictive zoning. In the US, freedom afforded to property owners / zoning especially in more rural areas, not to mention an immense amount of open, "unused" land that makes this kind of car-centric development the norm. I imagine it's also much "cheaper" for the developer (if we ignore the cost to the commons)

Your reply boils down to "It's hard, so we shouldn't try".

Which is exactly the reason nothing is getting better, FYI.

If it's worth doing, it worth fighting tooth and nail for.

Define "better?" Being able to drive everywhere in a climate-controlled vehicle regardless of weather is pretty great. Not getting rained on, not getting your shoes wet, not having to huff up a hill, having the kids' crap always at hand, etc.

You're missing a link in the logical chain. It's hard to build transit/bike lanes in America because that requires central coordination, and Americans don't like central coordination. That's why Americans love cars so much. Driving and road construction is extremely decentralized. Few towns are sophisticated enough to build rail, but pretty much every place can pave a road, and connect it to roads to neighboring jurisdictions without too much planning. So as long as Americans prefer their decentralized system, advocating for things like transit that inherently require a level of central planning is swimming upstream against the culture.

I meant that American society in general is not getting better. The healthcare sucks. The education sucks. The debt sucks. The infrastructure sucks. The access to affordable housing sucks. The Public Transport sucks.

All of those things are true because people gave up trying when it got hard to fix/improve them.

You need to understand America on its own terms. Americans don't really believe in redistribution, so measures that look at overall overages tend to make it look worse. The healthcare sucks if you look at the averages. But most Americans have employer-provided health insurance, and are happy with it: https://news.gallup.com/poll/245195/americans-rate-healthcar.... 69% rate their insurance coverage "excellent" or "good" and 80% rate their healthcare "excellent" or "good."

If you look at the most well-off subgroup of Americans, Asian Americans, you see some remarkable statistics. Asian Americans live an average of 87.1 years, longer than people in overwhelmingly Asian countries like Japan and Singapore. Asian American kids have higher scores on the PISA test than kids in any European country, or Japan or Korea. (Just below Singapore.) Median household income for Asian Americans is double that of Japan or Singapore. Asians don't have access to a special version of America. They participate in the same health care system, the same public schools, etc. They're just disproportionately represented in the "somewhat above median" category, and America does really well for those people.

The infrastructure and public transit sucks. Which is fine. Americans don't want public transit. They want to drive everywhere. That's why we invented the drive through. The pervasiveness of driving is why Americans have some of the shortest commutes in the OECD: https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/14/world-of-commu....

Affordable housing may be an issue in some American cities. But most Americans don't live there. Most live in suburbs/exurbs, or satellite cities. American mortgages as a percentage of income are on the lower side for the developed world: https://www.oecd.org/els/family/HC1-2-Housing-costs-over-inc.... 15% in the United States, versus 23% in say France and 17% in Germany. Rents are about in the middle, but a much smaller percentage of Americans rent than Europeans.

Despite paying similar amounts on housing, we have truly massive houses in the United States: http://demographia.com/db-intlhouse.htm. The average new house is 2,200 square feet, versus 1,200-1,300 in France or Germany.

We eat 40% more meat per capita than the EU: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/08/these-countries-eat-t.... We have the second-highest per-capita consumption expenditures in the world, a hair under Hong Kong, 33% higher than Switzerland, and 86% more than France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_household....

> The healthcare sucks if you look at the averages. But most Americans have employer-provided health insurance, and are happy with it: https://news.gallup.com/poll/245195/americans-rate-healthcar.... 69% rate their insurance coverage "excellent" or "good" and 80% rate their healthcare "excellent" or "good."

Are they happy with it, compared to being uninsured, or are they happy with it compared to what it should be?

Are they happy with it because they haven't yet had non-trivial interactions with the healthcare system, and have not yet gone through that layer of billing hell?

> The infrastructure and public transit sucks. Which is fine. Americans don't want public transit. They want to drive everywhere.

Likewise, do they 'want' to drive everywhere because they've not built working public transit? Or do they actually want to spend $4-8,000 a year on buying, maintaining, fueling, insuring, licensing, and storing a car (Times two for two-car households)?

Inferring 'wants' from polls and statistics is incredibly easy to taint with whatever bias the poller brings to the table.

>Are they happy with it, compared to...

I think a lot of it is that most of them haven't ever been outside their own country, and seen what it's like in other places. You're right about "billing hell", and of course that we get much worse outcomes for more money than anyone in the world, but if you say this to most of these "happy" Americans, they'll say something about long waits in Canada, or worse, "death panels".

The specific question is:

> Overall, how would you rate -- [the quality of healthcare you receive/your healthcare coverage] -- as excellent, good, only fair or poor?

That's quite obviously asking people to rate it on an objective scale, in comparison to some perception of "what it should be." Interestingly, half of privately insured were even "satisfied" with the cost.

> Likewise, do the want to drive everywhere because they've not built working public transit? Or do they actually want to spend $4-8,000 a year on buying, maintaining, fueling, insuring, licensing, and storing a car (Times two for two-car households)?

People like the idea of transit in the abstract, but tend to reject it when faced with balancing their other wants and needs. There's a handful of cities with decent transit (New York, Chicago, Boston, DC), but ridership peaked in all of them in 2014-2015: https://www.geekwire.com/2017/seattle-area-transit-ridership.... The only major city where ridership is growing is Seattle, which has the benefit of starting from a very low baseline.

Moreover, New York, Chicago, and Boston are all losing domestic residents to other cities: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2014/04/2-very-different-migr.... DC is growing, but Metrorail ridership has been declining for a decade, ever since Uber/Lyft became available. Most domestic migration is to cities with poor or non-existent transit, like Dallas, Phoenix, etc.

Gallup should ask those people the same question when they get seriously ill - which would, statistically speaking, always be a small minority group. Most people are healthy, and don't need healthcare. Even if satisfaction with insurance when you actually need it is 0%, you can still have great satisfaction scores from people who aren't actually using their insurance. (Routine checkups are not something anyone should need insurance for.)

> People like the idea of transit in the abstract, but tend to reject it when faced with balancing their other wants and needs.

For the most part, they just don't want to ride in a shaky, loud bus that comes every 30 minutes. It's not a matter of balancing wants and needs, it's a matter of taking the least bad out of two bad choices. Expressing the desire for transit, but not using transit probably means that people want transit... To be better, before they use it.

The amount of money that is poured into transit, though, is a pittance compared to the amount of money that is poured into private automobiles, which is a large part of why the transit option sucks as much as it does.

The reason for why large, expensive metro areas are losing small numbers of people is probably not 'people want to drive'. It's 'the cost of living is too damn high'. And it's not the buses or the subway that's driving up the cost of living, it's land speculation, foreign buyers, and rock-bottom interest rates on 25-year mortgages.

And, again, people are horrible at actually measuring how much their lifestyle choices cost them. They whoop and holler at the lower rent from living in suburban sprawl, but don't notice that the various costs of car ownership are nickel-and-diming them, and their municipality's budget.

>They whoop and holler at the lower rent from living in suburban sprawl, but don't notice that the various costs of car ownership are nickel-and-diming them, and their municipality's budget.

They also don't make the obvious connection that driving everywhere and never walking is what's causing them all to get so fat.

> Most people are healthy, and don't need healthcare.

On average, people who rate themselves as in "good" or "very good" health still spend $4,000-$6,000 on healthcare annually. Younger folks have kids, and deal with childbirth, ear infections, allergies, ear piercings getting infected, broken bones, etc. They also have routine illness (I had a bad cough this year, my wife had a sinus infection a few years ago, I had surgery for a deviated septum in high school). 78% of people 30-49 report that their healthcare is "excellent" or "good." 70% of folks 55-64 have at least one chronic condition: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/health_policy/adult_chronic_conditi.... 80% of those folks, who are too young to qualify for Medicare, report receiving "excellent" or "good" healthcare.

American healthcare is really quite good if you've got employer-provided insurance. Going back to remarkable asian american facts: Japanese Americans have an infant mortality rate 33% lower than Japanese in Japan, and also live several years longer. They have Kaiser Permanente or Aetna, just like everyone else. It's also extremely convenient, especially in the suburbs. I walked into an urgent care for my kid's ear infection yesterday, and made a next-day appointment with his pediatrician for a follow-up. We also saw the pediatrician to get our daughter's ears pierced, and visit her regularly to remind our daughter to eat vegetables before dinner. When I had a cough earlier this year, I booked a same-day appointment with an app.

> The amount of money that is poured into transit, though, is a pittance compared to the amount of money that is poured into private automobiles, which is a large part of why the transit option sucks as much as it does.

This is why I used Chicago, Boston, New York, and DC as examples. These are well-funded systems. D.C.'s Metrorail has a bigger budget than Stockholm's subway, despite having half the ridership.

> The reason for why large, expensive metro areas are losing small numbers of people is probably not 'people want to drive'.

People don't "want to drive." They want low taxes, flexibility, and big, affordable houses. The average new house in the United States is 2,400 square feet and costs $275,000 ($115 per square foot). There is no urban area in the developed world where you can buy condos that large near transit for that kind of price. I bought a house on the water in suburban Maryland for $175/square foot. To get that kind of price in a city, I'd have to go to western China.

I am continuously impressed with your ability to cite your sources in comments like this. Do you find them in real time or do you just keep a file somewhere with this stuff indexed?

LOL. Usually, I remember reading something with a particular statistic, and it's pretty quick to pull things up on Google with a couple of key words.

I thought my reply boiled down to “we’d need a lot of people’s opinions on policy to change to set things up”. I was mostly providing a counterpoint to “of course bike friendly cities!” opinions which may not consider the limitations imposed on citizens in order to achieve this kind of objective.

Having experienced NL bike culture first hand a great deal I think it’s awesome, but it’d also be frustrating to have a bunch of rules imposed on new development at a state or federal level. This stuff has got to start locally.

Agreed - you should fight for that and support it, especially in your local community.

Rural areas aren't going to be walkable car-free paradises anyways.

Most of the people in the US do not live in rural areas. They either live in urban areas that are already heavily subjected to zoning laws [1], or in suburban areas which are... Also heavily subjected to zoning laws.

The US is unique in that it adds another level of centralized planning + restrictive zoning called an "HOA" - but that level exists in addition to the municipal one.

Also, car-centric development is not cheaper for the developer. The more units they can cram onto their plot of land, the more money they stand to make. Parking requirements, and offsets, and low density zoning restrictions cut into their profits.

[1] Yes, you can name a few major cities that don't have zoning laws, but that does not cover the majority of the US.

Wow this is the first I’ve heard of the Dutch American Friendship Treaty, it sounds like a great program.

Note that those 4 to 6K homes (and others planned) are already too few for the planned population growth. Utrecht is also certainly not a car-free city, but probably about as close to it as you're going to get today.

Cities like Utrecht show that you don’t have to be car-free to be cycling friendly.

You can drive a car in Utrecht when you really need to, but most of the time it’s better and more convenient to walk or cycle.

The first time I visited Amsterdam it blew my mind. I don’t know why the rest of the world doesn’t use their streets as a model for more bike friendly cities.

Live in Amsterdam and can confirm. They are systematically whittling away at space for cars here and it just keeps getting better!

https://ecourbanhub.com/amsterdam-city-center-eliminating- parking-spaces-11200-dijksma/

My 6-year-old and I bike 4km (2.5 miles) to school every morning, 75% on dedicated bike lane. We cross 10 roads and have right-of-way at most crossings anyways. I have no safety concerns and my kid is super fit!

Amsterdam works because it's a very flat and very dense city. I bet there are potential candidates in the States, but not as common as you would find in Europe.

About the density, everything is just closer together over here. Public transportation is well-built and trains work great for anything further than that. Cars are mandatory by design in the US.

"everything is just closer together over here."

It's not "just" close together like it happened. The US has made it illegal to build human-scale dense neighbourhoods for 50% years.

Parking minimums, density restrictions, street width minimums, LOS (level of service) planning, etc. all combined to make the US an unwalkable, uncyclable, unenjoyable place to be a human. As a reward the US gets about 35,000 people a year killed by drivers, and many many more indirectly through lung disease, cancer, obesity, etc. as well as parents terrified to let their kids ride a bike.

Lots of free parking though.

This is a fantastic series illustrating the effect of urban design policy in the US


>It's not "just" close together like it happened

Development gets done in whatever way makes best use of the available resources at the time. The overwhelming majority of the cities and towns in Europe were built out before transportation over land was slow and expensive so you had dense town centers surrounded by farmland and dense cities surrounded by even more farmland so to avoid spending precious resources on transportation. The practical limits on transportation constrained development.

By comparison huge portions of the US were built out after the advent the automobile (often tearing down and building over places that were previously more densely developed) and being geographically large there was always more land to build into so you got sprawling development because overcoming distance was fast and cheap.

The way we have more or less not built any infrastructure since the 20th century despite increasing population (and increasing clustering of the population in urban areas) is starting to catch up and incentive density but it will take time and policy sticks/carrots if you want it to happen faster than it organically would.

So yes, Europe to a large extent did win the lottery in that regard though they didn't know it at the time.

It's not all historical accident. The US also bought into a vision of an auto-centric future that featured multi-lane highways right through downtown neighborhoods. This vision was pushed by specific people, notably Robert Moses[1], who advocated strongly for highway systems over public transport, and who succeeded in having a number of dense urban neighborhoods demolished to make way for highways.

There was also the General Motors street car conspiracy[2], which saw car companies buy up privatized public transit only to run it into the ground.

The fight against this future being imposed is also fascinating reading, particularly the work of Jane Jacobs[3]. She correctly saw past the hyperbole to the unfortunate consequences, fought against the vision but lost.

The reason not much infrastructure is being built these days is simply that cities are running out of money and credit. Every road built comes with a price tag for building it, and an ongoing price tag for maintaining it. The building price was so often done on credit (bonds), but the maintenance price is usually not considered. Given that roads bring in basically zero income for a city, every road built comes with an obligation for the city but no way to pay for it. In the past credit was issued on the assumption that future growth would somehow provide some payback, but after 50 years cities have hit the growth limits and still not seen any payback. Strong Towns[4] is an excellent book on the subject.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Moses [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_consp... [3] https://shelterforce.org/2016/05/10/jane-jacobs-defender-of-... [4] https://www.strongtowns.org/book

Jane Jacobs is an interesting case in that many of today's urbanists read in her what they want to read.

She was indeed against highways going through the middle of cities and in favor of walkability and mixed use.

At the same time, she also opposed rationalist urban planning like Le Corbusier's clusters of towering skyscrapers. She would likely not have favored the mass building of vertical housing that many of the same people who oppose cars want in order to reduce housing prices.

Le Corbusier's clusters of towering skyscrapers aren't really a good solutuion either. They were implemented in Glasgow with disastrous results[1].

My (limited) opinion, is that auto-centric opponents want dense, walkable, cyclable cities. That doesn't imply towering skyscrapers, six stories of apartments with mixed retail, office, and light industry are sufficient. That should provide enough density to make public transit a viable option, if road space is reclaimed from cars.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/oct/16/urban-living-...

One of the challenges is that you have an existing city that isn't that. The towering skyscrapers at least are something you can implement in a relatively limited area a la classic urban renewal. (Which mostly doesn't work well.)

(But you'll find no shortage of people arguing for basically bulldozing the Mission and building a bunch of high-rises.)

The other has to be more organic but takes a lot of time and tends to generate a lot of resistance if 2-story zoning is turned into 6-story zoning.

> Development gets done in whatever way makes best use of the available resources at the time.

Can you explain what you mean? I’m having trouble squaring that with my model of developers, which is that they try to make money, not make efficient use of resources.

Are you talking about Europe specifically? I live in America.

Efficient use of resources is one of the main ways to make money!

On a micro-scale, yes, but if there's an incentive to externalise costs that that's what'll happen, even that course of action in aggregate reduces everyone's profits. Tragedy of the commons.

True, but we have a lot of experience with designing legal frameworks and property rights that align individual and aggregate incentives.

>Cars are mandatory by design in the US.

This is the heart of what needs to change in the US. World-class bike cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen were just as car-centric in the 20th century as any American city. It took decades of deliberate, systematic change to make what they are today. This is just as possible for American cities as it was for their foreign peers.

>everything is just closer together over here

To this point, human-scale cities with fewer cars directly enable closer and denser habitats. Cars are a direct impediment to more livable cities. If you remove the cars, all of a sudden you have more space for people.

If you could afford a large house with a yard, a few minutes drive from a walkable downtown, would you want to be told that instead of building that home you have to live in a dense downtown because you cannot build your house with a yard to preserve farmland and promote 'walkability'?

Would you want someone to tell you that your choices are limited because your city prefers "human scale" instead of whatever you prefer on the market that is totally doable?

While I acknowledge that in the United States the culture is extremely car-centric and that must change, some of that is history / culture / lobbying but a lot of it is because not all of us have the good fortune to be Dutch. As a result, housing choices and preferences are much different.

Making a more bike-centric culture starts with a number of things, not just bike lanes and denser cities. The city as a whole has to want it, first, and then continue to prove out the concept that bike-friendly can still be business friendly. (See: the old saw that "if my people can't park they won't shop here")

Note: I'm in favor of denser cities, but I also acknowledge that it removes choice and it's not just my opinion that matters. Also, I can't afford a house in Amsterdam.

Thing is, we have more rules forcing people to be low density than we do forcing people to be high density (in the US). So we have, indeed, removed choice - from those wishing to be in a compact area.

To give just one example of these many, many, many rules, I just spoke with an architect about changes to my house and one of the rules is I need at least 2.4 metres of basically dead space where I meet the road because it's assumed I'll be sitting there in a car looking left and right before exiting. Saying "nah I ride a bike so I'm going to put a hedge up there" isn't an option.

"house with a yard, a few minutes drive from a walkable downtown,"

Problem is that every time you drive to that downtown you make it a bit less walkable by virtue of bringing your car. In effect, everyone there is paying a little bit of their quality of life for your parking. Sometimes, this makes sense (having a place for ambulances is good), but sometimes you end up with a tragedy of the commons.

You may have a bike now, but there will be times when you or others visiting may need to use cars there. If you have a delivery made, yes they will back out of your driveway. If people visit you in a car or taxi (do you think they will all walk from the train station, including your 65 year old grandmother?) you need it.

You get sick and need a taxi to the doctors office? Need it. Tumble off the bike and break or sprain something, and you rent a car while you recover? Need it.

Do you plan on selling the house, and the buyer is a tradesman who need a truck to do landscaping or carry his tools?

You're not going to cycle always and forever. A lot of people here one day are going to get old enough where cycling is a chore, even with a ebike. At that point the hedge becomes an expensive nuisance.

Just because someone might need a car at some point, doesn't mean that everything should be designed around them.

Relevant: https://twitter.com/mlroach/status/1216078001709780992

"News article: can bicycles replace many car trips for some people?

That person: nobody can ever replace any car trips with a bicycle trip because I drive cross country every week with 14 hockey players and their equipment."

> yard ... farmland

Those are two very different things.

Housing with yards, by and large, makes the city sprawl more, which takes away farmland.

If you want to dwell in a single family unit - that's great! You should absolutely be able to.

But other people ought to be able to be free to make different choices.

Sorry, I wasn’t super clear there. In the Netherlands you are prevented from building new dwellings in many places to preserve farmland. This is an explicit decision by the government (and the Dutch people) because that part of the culture is important to preserve, especially in some of the green belt areas. This makes the landscape awesome and amazing, and also keeps cities tighter knit.

Obviously in the US more and more acreage around urban areas is being bought up and turned into housing stock and some of these areas can be quite far away, far apart, and not subject to as many zoning restrictions especially where population is already somewhat spread out (thinking of SW Ohio here, particularly)

Oregon (US) has something similar in the Portland area; they call it the "urban growth boundary".

This seems like a reasonable way to ask the question "do we want to expand" as a population every so often, provided it's not to hard to change, and it doesn't promote NIMBY issues that reduce supply and overall growth opportunities for the city.

Growing a city with a growth boundary is very, very easy. All you have to do is tear down some older structures, and build new, taller ones. Or fill in empty space.

The reason this isn't done is purely because of stupid zoning laws and NIMBYism.

I think the solution is pretty simple: make a state law that bans municipalities from making any zoning laws at all, and only allows the state government to control zoning.

All Oregon cities have an UGB.

It's not a hard boundary, and can grow as the city demonstrates a need.

> Amsterdam works because it's a very flat

It's also super-windy. Places that have massively adopted cycling rarely have the best environmental conditions for it. Minneapolis, for example, has some of the highest bike commuting numbers in the U.S., despite it's high snowfall and frigid temperatures. We're pretty good at making excuses, and "grass is greener"-ing places that make it work.

> ... very dense city

Chicken/egg scenario here. U.S. cities are sprawling because cars both require it and make it possible.

Exactly. Whitehorse in the Yukon has the highest number of bike commuters per capita in Canada despite the -40 winters.

PS it's like a different planet riding you bike around in those temperatures!

What is interesting to me is that cycling technology really didn't come about until cars came. The first reasonably safe bikes were from the 1880s-90s and the car came in 1886. I wonder what would have happened had the cycling tech of today been around for awhile before cars?

Amsterdam works because the residents and the government want it to work. You can find any number of cities with similar attributes such as flatness, density, etc. that do not have the same desires and thus do not have the same success.

American exceptionalism is a blessing and a curse. It gave the whole world the Internet, reaching the moon and the microwaves oven, among many other things, but at the same time, it is used as facile excuse to avoid any kind of change:

-Cheap high-speed Internet-> It won't work in America because...

-Universal health care -> It won't work in America because...

- Mandatory vacations -> It won't work in America because...

How did American exceptionalism, specifically, give the world anything? Would people not have invented things if they didn't believe that America was magically special?

Internet and reaching the moon would have not happened for many many many years if not for the US (this from a guy who is pretty stingy with his compliments to America). This only was possible due to the unique combination the US had of high income, high investment on science/technology, large population and a generally optimistic attitude towards technology. No other country in post WW2 had all those qualities (the closest being Japan). So yeah, by all that account we have to thank America exceptionalism for that.

America and "American exceptionalism" as a mindset/ideology are very different things, though.

The form of "American exceptionalism" that seems to be most common today is one of "we are uniquely important and many rules don't apply to us in the same way they would others, because of [various usually underlying differences like "freedom"/"democracy"/religious dominion/destiny]."

The difference between "we're going to reach the moon because we're special" and "let's spin up this massive program to do it in response to discovering that another nation might be dangerously ahead of us."

So, I'm not exactly a booster for the US, but having lived outside it for a while I really miss the can-do attitude and (even misplaced) optimism. I'm really sorry for the cliche but after you've been in a place where tall-poppy syndrome is _real_, trying to have some business success is called "notions", and making a mistake like a failed startup is considered some sort of personality disorder, it is, in fact, something I really miss about the US.

People look over the pond and they see, oh, Germany has universal health care and pays half as much per capita. They then conclude: "if only we got government more involved, we could do that too."

That last bit of logical reasoning is, in my opinion, not supportable. Let's look at the things the government already does in America in compare it to what the government does in Germany. Germany spends $11,000 per student on public education. We spend $12,800 per student. But our schools are much worse. Transit is the same story. Germany spent $250 million per kilometer to build the U55 line in Berlin. New York spent $2.2 billion per kilometer for its most recent line: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/1/14112776/ne....

So yes, America is exceptional. For whatever reason, we are uniquely bad at running public services. Contrary to popular belief, its not because of "lack of funding." (The American government does less, but in the areas it does something, like education, it usually spends more to get worse results.)

Americans understand this intuitively, and that's why they say "it won't work in America because." They may not be able to pull up statistics about how their municipal water/sewage system is poisoning kids and destroying the environment, but they perceive that their government just doesn't do a good job. When polled, they say so. Since 2006, 80-90% of people polled reported being "frustrated" or "angry" at their government: https://www.people-press.org/2015/11/23/2-general-opinions-a.... Even in 1997, 2010, and 2015, all during Democratic administrations, only 1/3 of Democrats thought that the federal government did an "excellent" or "good" job running its programs. For the population as a whole in 2015, 33% said it did a "poor" job, and just 20% said it does an "excellent" or "good" job. As of 2015, 53% would rather have a "smaller government" offering "fewer services" than a "bigger government" offering "more services."

The most remarkable statistic is for millennials: https://reason.com/wp-content/uploads/assets/db/140488628178.... When you ask millenials whether they want a smaller government providing fewer services (with low taxes) versus a larger government providing more services (with high taxes), 57% want a smaller government with fewer services, while just 41% want a larger government with more services. Basically, when you ask millenials--the most pro-government demographic there is--whether they want more of a European-style government, they say "no" with a 3:2 margin.

Yes, America is exceptional. Americans hate taxes, hate their government, and frankly, on various measures, their government isn't very good at what it does.

This reminds me a lot of Italy, where the people voted to ban nuclear power in the country, not because they were anti-nuclear and were afraid of it, but because they didn't think they were competent to do it safely. So they preferred to not have nuclear power, and instead purchase nuclear-generated power from the French, who they perceive as the most competent to safely operate nuclear plants.

Given how many problems Italy has had over the years with massive corruption, it's really a rational decision.

As a millennial, I agree with pretty much everything you've said. Given the current state: I would rather less taxes for less benefits specifically _because_ my perception is that government is inefficient. I don't mind paying taxes if there were more obvious signs of where the money is going and the results were more tangible and obvious.

Amsterdam is far windier than people realize though. Wind makes for more difficult cycling.

Seems like a strong argument against biking, not cars.

This is exactly what GP meant by "blinders" — people (including children, the elderly, the disabled) should be free to engage in healthy, enjoyable, green recreational activities without fear of death by two ton tank.

why stop at bicycles? lets make cities safe for horses too, while we are at it. Thats what bicycles are closer too when it comes to planning for traffic.

There are some pretty big differences. Bikes don't poop, for one.

Horses are more stable a riding platform and much more visible. Point is that trying to retrofit bikes in a city is much more similar to making horses work in a city; both simply do not work particularly well in any form of mixed traffic.

That's like saying shootings are a strong argument against school (in the US at least)

It's an argument that cars and bicycles don't mix well.

Unfortunately, I do need to go to work if I'm interested in continuing to live.

Walk/drive/train/bus are options too.

2hrs/Illegal for medical reasons/doesn't exist/doesn't exist

You and me can’t be the only ones.

It would be nice if there could be one big city in the world that fully embraces the ban of private cars.

Me too. I live in a small town that is very walkable (30 minutes to library, 15 minutes to the food bank where I volunteer, 10 minutes to groceries and our movie theater).

When I retired last spring I gave my car to my granddaughter and shipped it to her. I can use my wife’s car and use Uber in a pinch, but I like walking.

Safety is an issue. A friend’s roommate was walking in our town and hit by a car and killed before Christmas. I would enjoy walking even more if we had more sidewalks, and more dedicated lanes for the bikers.

>I want this so badly it hurts. I ache for it.

How badly? Because I assure you, there are many communities (caveat: I'm Canadian) where the idea of letting your child bike the streets is not equivalent to signing a death warrant.

Here's the rub: you have to leave the metropolis. Not many people are actually willing.

There's some really nice bike riding areas around Manhattan. The Hudson River Greenway is a continuous car-free bike route that goes all along the Hudson River. On the New Jersey of the Hudson River, there's also a beautiful walkway that extends for miles with bike share bikes all along it.

That's great! Can my child ride on it to school, and can I ride on it to work?

no one will use it to ride to school or work for 3+ months out of the year. This is the Northeast, with constant rainfall and low winter temperatures; short of wearing heated gear, much of the year will be miserable to ride that bike on anyways.

A lot of people here seem to never have actually ridden bikes. I have, did so for 20 years, and it gets very miserable, very fast if the weather is nothing short of perfect.

So I live in a Kibbutz in Israel, and well, it's just one giant green space for kids to run around in. I can't imagine living in a city.

This is a landing page. Is there anywhere to see more info?

Davis, CA?

Davis is just a college town that has a large number of bicyclists because it hosts the largest (by area) of the UCs and as a result has formed a bicyclist quasi-culture. There's otherwise nothing special which lends itself to any kind of bicyclist utopia and in many ways I found it to be a bicycle dystopia from a frequent-pedestrian, sometimes-driver perspective.

Davis made a concerted effort to put in bicycle infrastructure, especially near the university, and it has paid off in "not quite horrible" bike modeshare. Lots of towns/cities have big universities. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has a large surface area and tens of thousands of students and that town, at least when I lived there, had pretty bad cycle modeshare once you got away from the immediate campus area.

So the tremendous number of bike paths don't count for anything?

I'd rather bike in Davis than in Daly City, but it is not a model of a bicycle utopia, which in my mind would separate bicycle, pedestrian, and motor vehicle traffic far more than is done in Davis and would include methods for getting into and around town.

The center of Davis is devoid of bicycle paths outside of some parks that don't actually go anywhere or connect to any other paths. If you're on the south side, you can get downtown fairly easily mostly by bike path (especially from campus), but you won't find any bike paths when you get there (and actually, depending on what you consider downtown, only one path actually makes it all the way there).

So sure, the paths 'count', but I wouldn't even call Davis bicycle-centric. I definitely don't think it's what the original poster has in mind.

I know it’s not as bad as cars, but cyclists also contribute to creating asphalt ribbons of death... nice dirt path walking routes get paved over so cyclists can whizz along them at top speed. And unlike cars they’re completely silent and share your space, so woe betide you if you want to walk your dog along the river without constantly being nearly knocked into the water with no warning.

If I had to pick between walking on a road at night vs a cycle path I’d pick the road for safety every time, at least you can hear and see cars coming.

That's why you're supposed to have separate bike lanes for bikes to ride on at full speed. Lots of cities have something like this.

A path that cyclists use to actually get somewhere in a short time should not be the same path that loafers with dogs use to bumble around and relax on. Cycling isn't just for fun; lots of people actually use it for transportation, because it's much faster and more efficient than walking. And there's nothing wrong with bumbling around with your dog (on a leash), but it's a very different activity than what the cyclists are doing.

Similarly, you wouldn't have the busy airspace over an airport shared by people playing around with their R/C planes and drones.

Prior art from HST's 1971 campaign for sheriff of Aspen, CO:

"Rip up all city streets with jackhammers" and "sod the streets at once ... All public movement would be by foot and a fleet of bicycles, maintained by the city police force."


> a car free city

How ironic if the utopian, factory-city for Toyota is one free of cars.

Toyota makes lots of other stuff too, they're very much like Mitsubishi in that regard. TBH I get it, they see the writing on the wall that a city without cars is the only way in the future, and they want to get ahead of the curve.

Yes, if only bicycle manufacturing giants (haha) could generate the same kind of hype

I am writing a futuristic version of Italo Calvino’esque Impossible Cities. I started with coming up with designs of fully automated farms and then figured it was also fun to imagine cities and towns and futuristic village.

I have so far written 17 chapters of Jellicles farms, villages and cities. I am doing city design now. Any inspirational material to read would be much appreciated.

During farming season, I spend most of my time writing about imaginary future automated farms as I am in the zone already. Off season now and I have more time to read and write about new cities. I have been reading old archeology finding reports, JBS haldane and Sci fi..old will be new again. Only better.

I’ve been rereading that book over the last couple of weeks and recently did some consulting in the ag space - so I’m really intrigued by what you’re writing! Hope to see it up here one day.

Please keep it up. That book is a treasure. Do you have a draft copy?

Yes, I have a work in progress draft. English is not my first language. While I don’t struggle to communicate, I find that mental images are harder to write in English. I guess I still ‘think’ in my native language when I write/think for myself. So..to write this, it is like I am translating myself for myself. When I showed it to someone, they didn’t quite see it as I did and so now I am changing how I write/choose themes and words. For example, the choice of a colour means a whole lot more to me than just a hue. For others, it’s just a colour and the nuances that are easily accessible to my mind is lost to them. Blue to me means meandering and I think they see it as curvy streets as I do..but they don’t.

I want to finish at least 36 by this year end. I want to have had at least one blue print per month since I started but I have been lagging behind.

It was to be a five year project ending in 2020. 60 seems unrealistic at my pace, but I would feel better if I did 3 years worth of cities. I am lagging behind because lots of research involved. But I will finish it! I only wish I could do 3D models. I never learnt that when younger or could cultivate the skills needed for model building. My dream would be to create miniature model cities with forests and oceans and farms and mountains. And keep connecting these cities. Keep building out. My vision of the future is clusters of city states. No more nations and countries.

2000 people is not even remotely like a 'city', it's the size of a remote island village, especially in Japan.

It's called a "danchi". Basically a company builds a little town and settles its employees in it. Usually they are pretty boring, but I guess Toyota decided to spice it up.


I know what it is, but that's not what's written in the article since they especially mention "prototype city". That's not what people understand by "city". It's a 'dormitory' in English.

The word prototype is important, and the phrase is probably supposed to invoke EPCOT.

Kaizenland, or maybe Demingworld.

Historically related, reminds me of Futurama, an exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair, sponsored by General Motors, which included multi-lane highways within a futuristic looking city. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurama_(New_York_World%27s_F...

Disney tried this too, as well as other companies. They don't tend to turn out well because when things get complicated the profit motive tends to win for these companies serving as shepherds of the communities.

I feel like the only way for this to work is for an individual with the rights connections and background to pull together an all-star team for all of the areas of expertise needed for city designed. Then combine all of these experts with some strict policy barring corporations over a certain size from doing business there, and limiting the number of properties a singular entity, individual, or groups of entities can control. Add in some actual infrastructure design choices that physically limit the ability for large scale businesses to operate efficiently and maybe it would work? So basically combine physical infrastructure limitations with policy limitations to influence culture.

Promoting only small lifestyle type businesses and limiting the ability for one person or business to dominate the landscape might be able to deter the city from becoming just like any other.

Obviously designing and running a city is incredibly complex with an unknown number of variables so the probability of success if very low. Still something I like to daydream about occasionally.

Disney didn't actually try. Walt had plans and died. The Walt Disney Company board couldn't see the endeavor as profitable and so changed EPCOT plans into another theme park.

Disney did take another swing at it in later years with Celebration, Florida. Unfortunately like EPCOT the Disney Board didn't see the profit in it and let the project go.

Car manufacturer's vision of the future seems likely to be something less than wholesome given what people need. My guess is this will be a city where everything is made to measure the environment, and the consequence will be that everything, including its occupants, will be managed in a way few other cities ever have been.

Aboard Axiom: "Leave The Flying To US! AUTOPILOT", also "Hoverchair!", and "Family Values! Because at BnL we know that the family that 'Pays Together, Stays Together'".

These things almost never end well. Real cities evolve gradually over time, because they're impossible to plan out to a finished state. But hey, maybe we'll learn some stuff along the way, so good to see experiments.

I'm really leery of the whole idea of living in housing provided by your employer. We've tried this, with mining company towns and such, turns out it's terrible for workers' rights.

Not everywhere I assume, my grandfather worked 20 years as a miner in Belgium and his employer left the housing to the city only if they will let the miners stay there for a symbolic some (+-50€). Once the owner died the city immediately tried to change the rent to 500€, but the local miners union fought it and kept the old rent until the union chief died also of old age. There were no one capable of Fighting the legal battle. Basically the city ignored the owner's will to profit from coal miners.

Well I believe Bjarke Ingels (BIG) could be the right guy for the job. He already designs buildings that look like the future.

But overall this is just an announcement that BIG will design employee housing for Toyota.

Is anyone living in Masdar City yet? This was supposed to be a planned city in the Abu Dahbi, using all kinds of fancy tech, while also being "green". Haven't seen any updates re that in ages, so I'm assuming it got canned?

Not sure if there are (m)any examples of prototype cities or planned cities that ever amounted to anything?

Cities are some of the biggest capital outlays that humans create, and they generally sprout up naturally in prime locations of some sort.

There are exceptions, like Las Vegas, of course. Or many newer Chinese cities.

To acquire hundreds of acres of prime land suitable for an urban environment is generally something only a government can do. And to additionally provide for the infrastructure and/or buildings would send the cost into the stratosphere.

Masdar has been canned, yes, but they have talked about replacing it with a new city called NEOM. It is projected to cost at least 500 billion dollars, assuming they stay within budget. No private actor has that kind of cash to spend.

Smaller private company towns have been commonplace, though. And many existing towns meet that definition.

Disneyland, Disneyworld, and Celebration, Florida are more obvious examples.

Lesser known examples would include Pullman, Illinois or Columbus, Indiana (no relation to the capital of Ohio)

> Columbus, Indiana

I don't think Columbus fits into this category. It is one of hundreds of pre-automobile county seats that exist all over the US (east of the Rocky Mountains). It has an urban-like street grid with the county courthouse in the middle. What sets Columbus apart from the rest is having a successful multi-national manufacturing corporation that refused to let the town die. On top of that, the founder created a foundation that will pay the architect fees for any civic building if they use a famous architect. The government or church or bank or whatever still has to pay for construction, so you end up with a city with outstanding architecture that is sized exactly for what a small city needs.

If you spend time in Columbus, you'll notice that their hugely successful downtown is mostly old buildings in excellent condition.

Masdar has been canned, yes, but they have talked about replacing it with a new city called NEOM. It is projected to cost at least 500 billion dollars, assuming they stay within budget. No private actor has that kind of cash to spend.

Indeed, I can only think of a few ground up examples for cities that "suceeded" and they're almost always new capital cities where the Government can literally create demand for jobs via moving the bureaucracy. Examples include Washington DC, Brasilia(Brazil) and Canberra(Australia). But these cities often do not have a lot to offer unless you work for the government. DC has a large private sector, but it's attached to Federal work.

The rigidity of top-down planning removes the ability of the city to adapt to new things and it often misses the nuance of what makes a place livable.

DC wasn't started from the ground up. There were two mid-size cities already inside it when it was chosen as the federal district: Georgetown, MD and Alexandria, VA.

Yes, but considering how it grew after it may as well have been.

Las Vegas is also a prime location - legally in Nevada (gambling), yet close enough to the West Coast (lots of people). It doesn't have to be a natural advantage - this is what the Mississippi boat casinos were doing since forever, just several orders of magnitude larger ;)

True, but it also shares that distinction with pretty much anywhere in Southern or Western Nevada. My understanding is that the particular site was simply where the mob chose. But, having looked it up just now, apparently all the Hoover Dam construction workers created some demand for entertainment, so that seems to be the real reason for that particular spot.

Also the federal government created a city called Boulder City to get the workers away from Las Vegas. Another planned city. So clearly the location of the workers was less important than the location of the mafia.

In spite of being in the desert, Vegas actually has a good water supply from aquifers (though not really enough for the current city) which is why it was a railroad water stop and, in part because of this, why Las Vegas came into being in the first place. But it really took off when the Hoover Dam construction started in 1931. [1]

In the twentieth century (even early 20th century), US cities just didn't get planned/organically evolved in a car-light way. Irvine, CA is a pretty classic example of a planned city and it's mostly industrial office parks and spread out suburbs.

[1[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Las_Vegas#1930%E2%8...

Interesting...I thought that Boulder City was supposed to be a temporary habitation for the workers neart the construction site; perhaps I was mistaken, perhaps that was only the overt intent.

>To acquire hundreds of acres of prime land suitable for an urban environment

Land isn't really the issue. You do need access to water and you probably don't want to be too far from an existing road network. The bigger problem is bootstrapping an environment where people would both want to live and where their would be employment opportunities.

Las Vegas is a prime spot. It was is the closest empty unregulated area that’s near to western seaboard populations. Regulations are a kind of natural formation as well.

I wish Walt Disney had lived long enough to complete his vision for EPCOT (turning it into a real community) instead of it becoming just another theme park.


It strikes me as weird to see no mention of Disney or EPCOT in the article, given how similar the concepts are.

If you're interested in concept Epcot and Disney design philosophy in general "Walt and the Promise of Progress City" might be worth a read.

I have dreamed of building the city of the future for more than 20 years now. My last startup even tried to do something about it (then pivoted to something else in real estate).

I will keep dreaming.

If they make it semi-lattice instead of trees it could work https://cpb-us-e1.wpmucdn.com/sites.northwestern.edu/dist/6/...

To everyone reading this topic: I would love to work on a project like this. Really, doesn't matter if it is this one, or Google SideWalk, or Microsoft secret project. IF any of you are working on this already, I'd love to chat!

Seems like a lot of deep-pocket tech cos are investing in building "future cities". What does it look like when tech companies start burring lines with government? What does "privacy" look like in this future?

Seems all the commenters here want a socially idealized city, and that's fine. Toyota's not going to build that.

If we want that, we need to write plans, find residents to invest (?), buy land, and build it. Who's with me?

Or perhaps more practically,

1. Try to drive change by local involvement. Many US cities have become incrementally more bike and pedestrian friendly over time

2. Make an effort to move somewhere that's closer to their ideal even if it means giving up salary and other aspects of where they're living today

It's seems like out of smart cities concept only smart grids really happened. Autonomous vehicles are still a long way off.

If a city (or small neighborhood) were specifically designed for autonomous vehicles (with sensors and guidance tech everywhere) then it would probably work. Ironically, I think this could backfire by showing just how much additive and connected tech -- and demarcated lanes where humans shouldn't step -- will be required for properly operating fully self-driving vehicles. Folks living in "legacy" neighborhoods will look at this and say "No way" for the most part.

What kind of guidance tech would we need beyond lights, lines, and signs?

A corporate sponsored city is a city of the future? I actually think it is, sadly.

I expect a lot would be elder friendly. And robots to exclude manual labour.

2000 people on 175 acres is a very modest density.

Another Epcot.

Waste of money and space.

This is why big incumbent car companies will lose against people like Tesla. The amount of organisational energy and capital required for a project like this is huge, and it's pay off..? Not so sure.

This is exactly the kind of project that Elon would announce. Things with high upfront cost, nebulous goals of improving the state of the art for technology, and a gamble on future payoff, are essentially the checklist for Elon Musk projects.

Now, there’s potentially a worthwhile discussion about why Elon has seen more success with these kinds of endeavors than larger incumbents have seen, but it’s exactly an Elon-style project.

I was thinking that China will likely make the next announcement to follow this.

And likely complete it before Toyota.

Can you name a big ambitious investment Tesla has made with a nebulous goal?

"SolarCity" ...city... “People do not understand the magnitude of the business," Musk said. "Solar will be the single largest source of electricity generation".

I was talking about Elon’s overall portfolio, of which Tesla and SpaceX are both examples. But if you’re specifically curious about Tesla, I’d point out that Tesla’s mission was to give everybody an electric car, and they decided to start from ~“make a crazy fast electric sports car” and go from there. Along the way, some ancillary nebulous goals ~“also become experts in building our own batteries” and ~”also solar for everybody’s homes”.

Those goals all seem very concrete? What does nebulous mean to you?

Good question, but my first thought was to ask what is nebulous about this project. It has clearly stated goals and Toyota has identified tech and capital.

Tunnels under cities to decrease traffic?

That’s not Tesla, nor is it a big investment. Boring Co is funded by merch and client work.

The SolarCity acquisition.

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