Zombie planning ideas

Not a real zombie...

This is a day late, but I wouldn’t want to let Halloween pass without joining in the spirit of the walking dead.

So here’s my starter list of urban policy ideas and misconceptions that should be dead but are still staggering, walking or, in most cases, still running full pelt:

  • Freeways solve traffic congestion
  • Public transport solves traffic congestion
  • Drivers would willingly change to public transport if only it were better
  • Cars are irredeemably bad – they have no role in making transport more sustainable
  • The suburbs are dormitories – most jobs are in the city centre
  • There’s heaps of spare infrastructure capacity in the inner city and suburbs
  • Buses aren’t real public transport – real transit runs on tracks
  • Increasing density is all good – there are no downsides
  • Increasing density is all bad – there are no upsides
  • All fringe growth is irredeemably bad and makes settlers worse off
  • Sprawl can be stopped without having to redevelop established residential areas
  • The only new housing needed is apartments on major arterial roads and in activity centres
  • Every activity has to contribute equally to the task of addressing climate change
  • Australian cities are among the most geographically extensive and lowest density in the world

This is a starter list – I expect I’ve missed out on some. I’ll add more when I can.


15 Comments on “Zombie planning ideas”

  1. Ian Woodcock says:

    I thought it was 1 April when I read this. Lots of straw men up there, be interesting to see if things catch fire on here.

  2. Michael says:

    I have some of my own zombie ideas that should die already
    – Australian developers can create interesting vibrant places
    – The building industry can regulate itself
    – Families can only live in detached houses
    – People only ride bikes for recreation
    – Everyone can drive a car
    – The only function public transport serves is to efficiently/cheaply get people to their destinations
    – The current status quo is the revealed preferences of the population
    – There isn’t a property bubble

  3. Bruce Dickson says:

    Not a bad list Alan and also a great concept.

    Off the top of my head I think I would add:
    – Politicians and government ministers listen to planners
    – Bike riders obey the road rules and traffic signs.

    In relation to your item – “Buses aren’t real public transport – real transit runs on tracks”, I think the real issue here is not this rather false divide, but instead that just about anyone – given the choice – actively prefers rail because it is so much of a better way to travel than a lousy, uncomfortable, crowded and frequently noisy bus! (Sure rail can get crowded too, but at its best it is usually a lot more relaxing.)

    • Joseph says:

      But what exactly is it about buses that is so unattractive?

      There is surely an element of snobbery, Edinburgh are currently going to vast expense to replace bus routes with trams and a large part of the reason it seems is that some people consider themselves too good to travel by bus.

      There is also a comfort issue – buses spend more time driving in traffic so stopping and starting continually but this doesn’t stop people travelling by car and can be alleviated with busways.

      It is possibly also the case that buses are too slow since there are too many bus stops but trams are similarly afflicted.

      So is it something inherent in buses that is the problem, is it the way buses have been deployed to date that has given them a bad image or is it just that poor people travel by bus?

      • Bruce Dickson says:

        Think you nailed it Joseph with buses spending more time in traffic and stopping and starting all the time, making the trip a lot longer than by car (or rail) – unless on an express run or the bus is travelling in its own priority lane.

        Rail, when provided with its own traffic free access route, has always been the better way to cover a distance. And if not travelling in unduly overcrowded carriages, reading a paper, drinking coffee or using web devices or whatever else you like to do is very relaxing by contrast – even when a timetable delay is experienced!

        The other unexplored issue is the extra capacity a train in particular (not so much with a tram) permits. Rail has to rethink its approach in relation to the added opportunities it provides. It could for longer runs (and possibly even shorter) create expedient ways to provide commuter extras like good coffee, snacks and much more. Revenue raisers too. And if some patrons don’t want a service like a media screen in their face by way of example, limit the options to particular carriages for those who do.

        Also trial such innovations first as a sensible approach to see if they work or whether modified approaches to their means of delivery will work even better.

        Intercity trains and interstate trains seem to like removing some of the most basic enjoyable extras and pleasures that are quite feasible in these regards – or that have been provided and enjoyed greatly in the past and then ‘self defeatingly’ taken away in the name of modernity or cutting costs! (No wonder patronage has fallen off at various stages related to this behavior, before rail began trying to reinvent itself worldwide.)

        Stark and very simple examples for me of this poor thinking include the loss of seats with head rests (once always built in) to match the equally stupid and undesirable airline practice of having no headrest either – a practice even the airlines are now reversing with the restoration or addition of ‘wings’ on the sides of each seat head. Cramping the seat size probably loses more than it gains too.

        Another example of stupid ‘progress’ is the sealing and airconditioning of trains (with no provision for opening windows to let air in under suitable or necessary conditions)! A practice also emulated in some bus designs and even more stupidly in many modern buildings! The fresh air is nice outright let alone when the a/c breaks down as it most surely will occasionally.

        Seemingly little things, but extremely important options and comfort factors in themselves.

        Many interstate and intercity trains also downgraded their food services – they just don’t take advantage of their most significant advantages (space capacity being one of them). And just how hard is it to, as a management policy, train people to make and serve genuinely tasty, good quality prepared (fast and slow) foods and drinks. Or for management to insist on monitoring this and keeping it that way to create even greater customer satisfaction and service.

        I find such stupid oversights extremely annoying because (unlike timetabling it would seem) they are extremely easy to fix if the will is there … As simple as many of Australia’s coffee shops simply channeling patrons to the counter down minimal sections of roped area, so that those who arrived first actually get served first, rather than experiencing what is commonly a totally unnecessary free for all! (Channelling customers this way is an everyday practice in US coffee shops by the way, and it again very simply solves the underlying problem.)

        More thought and intelligence please! So called little things matter a lot.

  4. Bruce Dickson says:

    Would also be great to hear people’s zombie lists for politics and economics and the media.

    Probably topping my list would be:
    – The trickle down effect is real (and is not a con the rich use to keep the wealth to themselves at everyone else’s expense).
    – Economists are experts who accurately understand the way economies work.

  5. Chris Greenleaf says:

    Here’s my two bits worth:

    – The majority of people would choose to drive their car for their daily commute, rather than ride a bike.

  6. Russell says:

    Disagree with your freeway comment – as population grows you need to add more railcars, and more lanes to freeways, more schools etc. – freeways do solve congestion as cars move quicker to where people want to go. Too many sets of traffic lights cause congestion.

    My urban planning misconception is that you can plan new developments with no thought as to their place in the wider environment. I could give you 100 examples from Perth, but a current one is to dramatically increase densities (big tower blocks) in a leafy residential spot near a train station. The glossy booklet promoting this scheme made no mention of a very large shopping centre (retail, commercial, medical etc) about two miles away (by car). What? There is no connection between having thousands more people crammed in here, and all those facilities over there?

    • Alan Davies says:

      Expanding freeway capacity will permit more people to travel but it ultimately won’t stop congestion at peak times due to induced demand.

      • Russell says:

        Not sure about ‘induced demand’. More and more people will need more freeways because they need to travel. If you build a freeway, which makes travel faster, people will be attracted to use it. Yes, that’s the point.

        We have a crummy museum in Perth, if we wanted to induce more people to visit it, we could build a nice, new large building and fill it with the treasures now in storage. We would do that if we wanted people to visit museums. Apparently, we don’t want museums as much as we want freeways.

        If we want to travel faster on freeways, we build freeways. If people are attracted to faster travelling, we may need to build more freeways. If the population keeps growing there may come a point, ultimately, as you say, where expanding freeways becomes self-defeating. But if we haven’t reached that point, well, we can keep building them.

  7. TomD says:

    To Russell: Not sure about your adding more lanes to freeways point.

    Have you ever experienced the freeways of San Diego and LA – ever expanding lanes, up to 10 or more along some stretches! Only problem with them is that when they inevitably merge down to fewer lanes or into connecting freeways with fewer lanes, the congestion and delays have to be seen to be believed! A nightmare to drive at peak times (which is virtually all day, except for the late and very early hours. No-one seemingly really wants to go through this but they have little choice.

    • Chris says:

      Off topic a bit but I’ve seen some funny videos of people riding their bikes in between the rows of stopped cars on LA freeways.

  8. Russell says:

    TomD – Well, perhaps you would do a lot of other things apart from just add lanes: maybe road pricing to reduce trips, more working from home, staggered start/finish times, reducing the huge cost of moving (buying and selling a house), and limiting the size of the city.

    Maybe in Perth’s case we should build a fast train line to Bunbury and release cheap residential land there.

  9. wilful says:

    Buses suck. Anyone who thinks they’re OK clearly doesn’t have to catch one.

  10. Riccardo says:

    My top 10:

    1. That there were good old days. [There never were]

    2. That Australia is somehow ‘special’ [No Australia is very, very ordinary and mediocre at most things]

    3. That the special needs of the middle class and upper working class should be paid attention by government at all

    4. That people are ‘equal’ and that systems should promote ‘fairness’ [Nope, people are very much unequal in intelligence, strength, wisdom, creativity, size and so on – hence the need for government for ex-post redistribution]

    5. That the standard of living needs to stay as it is now, or ‘improve’ [Again, I don’t get this]

    6. That people should always ‘have a say’ [not just that governments should listen, but that people should even feel that everything is worth commenting on]

    7. That politicians have any special right to decide things simply because they won an election. [I liked especially Rudd’s idea of having a replacement parliament of worthies appointed in 2008 straight after one was elected, to come up with equally as useless ideas as the elected one.]

    8. That people can’t live in high rise buildings if the government tells them they should [I don’t see why Australians think they are any different from people in Sing or HK – if the government decrees high rise living, then let it be done]

    9. That Australia’s Anglo heritage is worthy of preservation [I just don’t accept this. Don’t give a frak if it all disappears, might be nice to leave some footnotes at a museum that it once existed but that will do]

    10. That the media is rigged. No, the media is rigged just the way the Australian people like it. They would buy their big issues or green lefts or even enrich the Falun Dafa by driving up the price of advertising in the Epoch Times, if they saw fit to do so. Murdoch would be a poor man if people gave up on celeb trash, footy and baiting of the working class. But they haven’t managed to, just as they read this crap in the ‘good old days’ which is a time just beyond the edge of your memory.

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