Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

This volume is about prioritizing the needs and aspirations of people and the creation of great places. This is as important, if not more important, than expediting movement. A stronger focus on accessibility and place creates better communities, environments, and economies. Rethinking how projects are planned and designed in cities and suburbs needs to occur at multiple geographic scales, from micro-designs (such as parklets), corridors (such as road-diets), and city-regions (such as an urban growth boundary). It can involve both software (a shift in policy) and hardware (a physical transformation). Moving beyond mobility must also be socially inclusive, a significant challenge in light of the price increases that typically result from creating higher quality urban spaces.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

1. Urban Recalibration

Beyond Mobility is about reordering priorities. In the planning and design of cities, far more attention must go toward serving the needs and aspirations of people and the creation of great places as opposed to expediting movement. Historically it has been the opposite. In the United States and increasingly elsewhere, investments in motorways and underground rail systems have been first and foremost about moving people between point A and point B as quickly and safely as possible. On the surface, of course, this is desirable. However, the cumulative consequences of this nearly singular focus on expeditious movement have revealed themselves with passage of time, measured in smoggy air basins, sprawling suburbs, and—despite hundreds of billions of dollars in investments—a failure to stem traffic congestion, to name a few. An urban recalibration is in order, we argue, one that follows a more people- and place-focused approach to city building.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

Making the Case

Frontmatter

2. Better Communities

Connections between and within cities are vital to the inner workings of a community. People need convenient access to schools, offices, and shopping areas to go about their lives. Unfortunately, much of twentieth-century transportation infrastructure has had damaging effects on communities. Dangerous and difficult-to-cross intersections and multilane roads have hindered people’s ability to move freely and children’s opportunity to play. Urban sidewalks are often unpleasant, unwalkable, or even nonexistent. Transportation infrastructure, epitomized by highways cutting through American neighborhoods in the 1960s, while connecting people on a regional level, had an unfortunate local side-effect: It reduced personal interactions within communities and obstructed their access to places.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

3. Better Environments

The transportation sector’s environmental footprint is immense and growing. To gain political traction and public acceptance, making places that are attractive, accessible, and highly livable must also meaningfully contribute to better environments. By better environments we mean fewer emissions from cars and buildings but also reduced fossil fuel consumption, stabilized climates, protected land and natural habitats, and in general, healthier, more resourceful places in which to live, work, learn, and play.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

4. Better Economies

Connections—between and within cities—are vital to sustained economic growth, prosperity, and healthy living. Country roads connect farmers to markets and agricultural extension services, allowing the sale of crop surpluses and increasing food security. Metro lines connect skilled labor to good-paying downtown jobs. Bikeways also have utilitarian value plus the added bonus of promoting active travel and providing access to nature and the great outdoors. For avid cyclists, they make work–live–play balance possible. Decades of research convincingly shows that transport infrastructure is among the most powerful tools available for growing local and regional economies and enhancing quality of life.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

Contexts and Cases

Frontmatter

5. Urban Transformations

The transformation of the core city is a global phenomenon found in virtually every major postindustrial city in the United States and Europe, parallel with back-to-city migration. Chapter 9 focuses on urban and suburban transformations of the Global South; its fundamentally different conditions merit a separate chapter. The projects discussed in this chapter concern the reuse of former industrial properties of Western cities, including docklands, warehouse districts, and freight rails. Although there are many more cases of urban transformation, here we focus on the upgrade of former industrial transportation sites to accentuate the overall argument of the book: an urban recalibration from conduits to move goods to people-oriented places with a strong accent on aesthetics, amenities, and place-making.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

6. Suburban Transformations

Suburbanization is a truly global phenomenon, fueled over the past half-century by modernization, motorization, and growing affluence of cities and their inhabitants. Also at play are the location-liberating effects of information technologies, the desire to escape central-city crime and congestion, and a general preference for more spacious, large-lot living as household incomes rise. The first wave of suburbanization—residents moving to dormitory communities, triggered by streetcar investments in the late nineteenth century—was soon followed by a second phase: retailers migrating outward to be closer to consumers. Suburbanization’s third wave saw companies and businesses following suit, leaving downtowns and setting up shop in office parks and corporate centers to be closer to labor markets and to save on rents, that is, the suburbanization of employment. Robert Cervero, America’s Suburban Centers: The Transportation– Land Use Link (Boston: Unwin-Hyman, 1989). With regional activities, and thus trip origins and destinations, spread all over the map, to no surprise the private automobile steadily gained ascendancy over these three waves of suburbanization. Suburban gridlock and environmental problems associated with it soon followed. Robert Cervero, Suburban Gridlock (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Press, 1986); Suburban Gridlock II (Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Press, 2013).
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

7. Transit-Oriented Development

Public transport is touted worldwide not only for its ability to relieve traffic congestion, reduce energy consumption, and cleanse the air but also for its ability to support sustainable patterns of urban development.1 One would be hard-pressed to find a policy document today on climate change, smart growth, or social inclusion that did not enthusiastically support expanding the role of public transit.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

8. Road Contraction

We opted for the somewhat broad term contraction in this chapter’s title because it best captures what this chapter is about: shrinking the footprint of channel-ways given over to private cars and trucks and reassigning this space to other, less disruptive, more people-oriented uses, such as greenways, pedestrian zones, bike lanes, and public parks. More common terms are traffic calming and road dieting, although such measures are less about reclaiming land and more about slowing traffic flows to the pace of cyclists and pedestrians, or thereabouts. Even more extreme measures have been introduced to rein in the amount of pavement given over to cars, notably the demolition of elevated freeways, replaced by boulevards, greenways, and linear parks. Each is a different form of pulling back in recognition that the past half-century of transportation policies and investments in many corners of the world have been tilted heavily in favor of auto-mobility, at the expense of community quality and place-making. Contraction, we believe, is an apt term to describe a host of actions, from intersection neckdowns to freeway teardowns, aimed at reordering mobility priorities in favor of more sustainable modes and giving as much attention to place-making as to movement. Contraction is a form of land reclamation, which, as discussed in this chapter, involves reassigning land for place-making and green mobility purposes.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

Looking Forward

Frontmatter

9. The Global South

The United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development met in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016 to launch a new global commitment to sustainable urban development. Habitat III, as the conference is called, resulted in the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, which prioritizes the relationship between urbanization and sustainable development and promotes a global vision of just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient, and sustainable cities for all. These objectives fit well with the call for planning beyond mobility. However, as the New Urban Agenda emphasizes, the challenges of sustainable urban development in the Global South can be daunting. High poverty rates and poor access to jobs and education hinder economic and social opportunities. Achieving a better balance between mobility and place might seem less important in places where there is not enough investment in mobility or place, not to mention education or other infrastructure. Nevertheless, poor design around new transportation infrastructure increases travel times, decreases safety, and encourages a shift to private cars. By ignoring the safety and comfort of pedestrians and cyclists, local governments not only treat poorer residents like second-class citizens but virtually guarantee that they will switch to cars and motorcycles as they get wealthier.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

10. Emerging Technologies

The digital revolution is giving way to a robotics revolution that is likely to touch nearly every aspect of human life. Scientists and enthusiasts are working to perfect the three-dimensional printing of meat, machine guns, and nearly everything in between. Medical advances are leading to longer, more active lives. Virtual reality goggles are not only changing how people consume videogames and movies but could change how they conduct meetings and communicate with loved ones. Auto manufacturers, technology giants, and startups are working to perfect the technologies that will allow cars, trucks, and buses to drive themselves safely on city streets in the coming decades. Many of these technological innovations will shape not just how people travel but how much they travel, where they choose to live and work, and what kinds of cities they inhabit.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

11. Toward Sustainable Urban Futures

This book advances the idea of moving beyond mobility as a platform for achieving more sustainable urban futures. The first chapter adopted the term urban recalibration as a framework for doing so. Rather than sweeping reforms or a Kuhnian paradigm shift, urban recalibration calls for a series of calculated steps aimed at a strategic longer-range vision of a city’s future, advancing principles of people-oriented development and place-making every bit as much as private car mobility, if not more. Rather than driving down sustainability metrics such as vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per capita in one fell swoop through dramatic changes, it entails a series of 1 to 2 percent recalibration “victories”—intersection by intersection, neighborhood by neighborhood—that cumulatively move beyond the historically almost singular focus on mobility, making for better communities, better environments, and better economies. With urban recalibration, change is more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Robert Cervero, Erick Guerra, Stefan Al

Backmatter

Additional information