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Reverse Zone, weblog on urban planning, sustainability, and technology.

Martin Laplante

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Mon, 26 Jun 2006

Contested Streets: The Movie

I just noticed this on the Curbed web site. Contested Streets is a movie about the evolution of New York City's streets from public space to a conduit for efficient conveyance of cars and trucks. The premiere is tomorrow.

New York is very different from other U.S. cities. When doing any comparative analysis on urban issues, and particularly transportation issues, you have to exclude New York City as a special case. I've done it myself a few times - exclude New York and the data lines up in nice smooth straght lines. Include it, and the lines move up and down, and you have to change the scale of the graph to allow for some enormous densities and extreme transit use. A third of the country's transit users and two-thirds of the rail users are in NYC. Most households don't own a car. So when the streets are taken away from pedestrians and given over to cars, we are talking about the majority giving up civic space for a minority.

But New York is also a special case of sprawl. Its suburbs keep on getting bigger and lower in density, without any population increase. This is a sign that sprawl is not caused by population growth or by lack of public transit.


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