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Cars Don't Kill Cities (Silly Assumptions Do) (isaacsukin.com)
7 points by IceCreamYou on Jan 26, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments



Atlanta is rapidly consuming Barrow County, so I think I can comment as someone in Atlanta. It's much easier and far more practical to get people to change the kind of car they drive than to change what moves them.

I like to be able to take a peaceful ride along the highways that run through Barrow and go right up to any place along the way, then go back at will.

Cars have come a long way, and their impact on the environment will be just about none by the time we could get a ring of walkable suburbs built just outside the perimeter. The problems seem to be going away. Dense cities are potentially more efficient, but Georgia is a nest of roads and sparse population and still manages to be clean and productive. Forcing everyone into a skyscraper is probably overoptimizing.


// Cars have come a long way, and their impact on the environment will be just about none by the time we could get a ring of walkable suburbs built just outside the perimeter.

Your comment is uninformed. Cars lead to ever-expanding roads, which results in:

- Deforestation

- Poisoning of ground water sources (your soon to be drinking water) due to chlorides in rock salt used on snowy and icy roads, as well as the oils, grime and toxins that are released off the roads when it rains

- More air pollution (you think everyone can afford a Prius?)

- More taxes for YOU, regardless of whether you live in the suburbs or not. New suburbs require garbage trucks to go farther out to service the new areas, as do fire trucks, police and rescue. The power grid, plumbing etc has to be extended as well

- More taxes for YOU AGAIN, because now these roads need to be maintained and fixed regularly

- A greater reliance on cars, more accidents, more death to domestic animals and wildlife alike

- More suburbs, more roads and more driving results in higher blood pressure, road rage, higher risk of depression, flu and even heart attacks

And the list of harmful effects go on. Cars aren't just killing our cities, they are emptying our pocketbooks and compromising our physical and psychological health.


Sukin is using "over-engineering" to mean multi-purpose, which isn't what Edwards is saying.

When the Edwards article uses the "over-engineering" term, it's in the context of a long-distance vehicle being used for a short-distance, mundane errand. Edwards is simply contending that the "average American sedan" with the specs he gives is, by its very design, supposed to do one thing and one thing only: go on road trips. Citing multi-purpose items like computers or calling out more people who use machines against their designs (Sukin's example with Jeeps) doesn't refute Edwards' argument.

Cars Kill Cities makes a fair point that the frequent short-distance commute is a misuse of the "average automobile," done so at the expense of large cities and even other motorists themselves; the fact that it's convenient is what makes it so problematic.


On the contrary, part of my point is that cars are designed for city use, not road trips: "Cars are built for the city roads where they are overwhelmingly used, not for the once-a-year roadtrip to Florida." Ask the manufacturers; that's the truth.


What's making it difficult for me is that, even with your explanation on the difference between Atlanta proper and greater Atlanta, your article doesn't include much in the way of facts that would undermine Cars Kill Cities. If indeed most "cars are designed for city roads," that's amazing. Where did you hear that?

Edwards lays claim to some persuasive evidence. You're certainly free to call his numbers bogus, but simply saying "Ask the manufacturers; that the truth" isn't enough for me. Which manufacturers? Do they make something like the "average American sedan" cited by Edwards? No lie, you would kill Cars Kill Cities for me if you provided the following two examples: 1). An "average American sedan" that somehow gets better city mpg than highway; and 2) the same "average" sedan that somehow takes up less than a full parking space.

These two points pretty much sum up Edwards' entire article; face these points with examples that contradict them, and maybe the issue will then be that we're all just driving the wrong car.


Well, first, consider this: why would anyone design a tool for the 10% when they know from their own research that its primary use is for the 90%? That's the situation with cars. They are overwhelmingly used in cities, not offroads or on road trips, and car companies know that and design cars for the common use case. I am not sure how to quantify this, and I don't have any literature offhand on it. But perhaps you'd like to compare a luxury sedan to a military vehicle that really is designed for offroad terrain? I don't think I have the burden of proof here, either; I'd be happy to learn of any evidence you have that cars really are designed for long trips. Just because a car can be used for long trips doesn't mean it was optimized for that purpose, and Derek states that cars are over-engineered without any other justification.

"Cars Kill Cities" assumes that environmental friendliness and space are the most important criteria when choosing a method of transportation. My article points out that these criteria are secondary to convenience and location preference for many people. My goal was not say that Derek's criteria are irrelevant, just that they are less important than other criteria in many cases.


"Beautiful green spaces" does not describe the suburban experience. Highway medians, drainage ponds, and generic billboard-studded forests are not examples of natural beauty. If you're willing to go out past suburbia to the real country, sure, there you may have natural beauty, but the notion that seas of parking lots and cheaply constructed strip malls are more beautiful than traditional cities is absurd.

In fact, almost any infrastructure which supports a large number of cars is going to result in bad scenery, because the wide highways will dominate the field of view, and every possible element of visual interest will be too far away to have impact. You need some pretty dramatic hills to restore visual interest to a four-lane highway.


North Georgia has some pretty dramatic hills: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Georgia_(U.S._sta...

And I see more trees than road thanks to all the curves.


This piece doesn't address the issues brought up in the original article. Your dry cleaner is a 10 minute drive away? Surely there is a more efficient way to make that same journey that won't involve an "over engineered" car with a massive possible range. Certainly you don't need four passenger seats when traveling to the dry cleaners. Thus, you could probably get by with a smaller vehicle or a smart form of public transportation to accomplish the same task (and reduce the amount of space used for parking lots).

I think I am putting more thought into this comment than Isaac Sukin put into understanding the original piece.


No. One of my main points is that "efficiency" is not necessarily the right goal to strive for.

Not to mention that I explained that there isn't a more efficient way to make the same journey without undue effort.


Isaac doesn't really refute any of the original article's points. He (clearly and persuasively) asserts that Atlanta's development pattern reflects the preferences of Atlantans.

The original author of "Cars Kill Cities" seems to hope that all cities can be more like NYC. A laudable goal, but an unlikely one. Many cities, like Atlanta, are low-density and high-parking because their residents like it that way.




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