Walkable City by Jeff Speck

I stopped buying books after about the third time I moved, realizing they weigh a ton, but after checking Walkable City by Jeff Speck out from the library, I wished I had just purchased it. The number of sticky notes stuffed into the book from reading on the bus caused me twice as much work as I transferring them to my notes later. All the sticky notes reflect what a great source of knowledge and ideas this book is. I found many quotes, including this one from page 3:

We’ve known for three decades how to make livable cities—after forgetting for four—yet we’ve somehow not been able to pull it off
— Jeff Speck

The book goes into the theory of walkability which states a walk must satisfy four conditions: be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. To be successful you need all four components, not just some, otherwise there is no trade off to driving. What most American's do not realize though is that driving has a higher risk of injury, is unproductive, and leads to increased levels of stress. I have yet to meet a person that enjoys sitting in traffic. While I used to say I could listen to a lot of podcasts while driving to work, I realize now that instead I can exercise in the summer while biking and during the winter months read a book or listen to a podcast while on the bus. All are far more productive and peaceful than driving in traffic. 

The author is not saying the car should disappear, far from it. But he does say "every city has an obligation to free its residents from the burden of auto dependence. When a city does, everyone benefits, including the city." The car has its place, but it should never be the only option. In my home city of Lincoln, I had little option beyond the car for my transportation. The city realized their obligation to free residents from the requirement to drive and have added more trails and bike lanes and attempted to address their transit system.

Portland always seems to find their way into discussions about great cities. Here was no exception. A graph of Portland I found fascinating is their highway construction versus real estate values. Highway building on the chart has been inverse to real estate values. When the city stopped building highways, the property values went up. Something other cities should consider. There is also the proven fact that when you build more roads you get more cars. A 10 percent increase in lane miles induces vehicle miles traveled by 4 percent.

I could go on endlessly discussing the lessons from this book, but I will end with a short recap of parking. According to Speck, we should not get rid of parking, but we are building too much and not managing it the right way. Parking should be managed collectively under a city wide plan that includes congestion pricing, off-street permits, and on-street permits. We should get rid of minimum parking standards in our ordinances, but include maximums. This way the free market can decide what they need for their business to be successful, without creating entire blocks of surface parking lots. I will leave end this post with a last great quote from the book:

If every American biked an hour per day instead of driving, the United States would cut its gasoline consumption by 38 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent meeting the Kyoto Accords instantly.
— Jeff Speck