Project motivations

I thought it'd be helpful to explain what motivates my work in A/B Street. These are just my personal values; I don't intend to make a careful argument about these here. In no particular order:

  • Transparency and reproducibility: if city government uses data, modeling, or simulation to inform a decision affecting the general public, then anybody ought to be able to repeat that analysis.

    • This means code and data should be open.
    • Businesses like Sidewalk Lab's Replica and Remix still need to generate income, but it's unclear why governments use taxes to pay for something only they see.
    • Decision making should be documented clearly. Why were the 35th Ave bike lanes scrapped? Was the amount of on-street parking on nearby residential roads factored in? Was there analysis of how trip time is impacted by parking in the neighborhood and walking a few blocks to a business on the arterial?
    • I'm personally inspired by approaches like vTaiwan and PDIS
  • Accessibility leads to participation: There's overhead to taking small ideas to advocacy groups or inconveniently timed public meetings. If the planning process is easier to interact with, more people will participate.

  • Short-term changes: ST3 is exciting, but 2040 isn't close. There are much cheaper changes that can be implemented sooner.

    • Most of the edits in A/B Street are inspired by tactical urbanism; they could be prototyped with signs and paint.
  • The US is too dependent on cars: This has an unacceptable impact on the environment. Even ignoring that, many cities are out of room to build more roads. We can't keep scaling population like this.

  • Autonomous vehicles will NOT save the day: They can squeeze more throughput out of existing infrastructure, but only up to a point. They might encourage people to move and tolerate longer commutes. Mass transit and dense land-use patterns handle population growth better.

  • Compromise and trade-offs: I see lots of rhetoric calling for extreme, sudden change. I don't want to ban all cars from downtown Seattle, because that's not realistic. I want to focus on immediate steps forward. I want to come up with estimates about impacting drivers by a median 3 minutes in order to save a bus route 1 minute, and to shift public discourse towards that.