Saturday, May 25, 2013

Reading response: Access to Choice by Jonathan Levine

Jonathan Levine contends critics on urban design based on accessibility. Urban sprawl influences on travel patterns to have long travel distances, and it creates cities in United States as a more automobile dependent society. Negative impacts of urban sprawl include congestion, inefficient gas consumption, air quality, equity issue, and etc. Jobs-housing balancing, transit villages, and New Urbanism are designed to focus on accessibility rather than mobility. This article refutes critics on these new ideas on urban design, and proclaims that urban design focusing on the ease of access would provide various ways of life styles associated with land uses and travels to accommodate households' needs and preferences .

The first critic is regarding the limit of people's choice by applying new alternative urban designs. Levine argues current local government regulations exclude some urban development design, and it constraints various choices of some households regarding land uses. Current some local land use policies need to be loosened.  The second, it is argued that the new alternatives for some cases increase congestion. New alternatives provide better accessibility, and it might not reduce congestion although it would reduce vehicle mile travel. Levine contends that there are better valuable goals than automobile movement at free flow speed, and if there are demands for new alternative land use options, it should not be regulated, and let market choose it. Third, some researches regards neighborhood self-selection as an example of invalidating alternative land use, because it is hard to prove the effect of urban design on travel behavior. Levine thinks self-selection would be desirable behavior because it shows how households react to alternative transportation oriented urban design although it is not easy to be estimated.   

It is quite a interesting debate regarding association between land use and transportation. I am agree with Levine in a sense that traditional urban designs triggers people to choose only automobile as their primary mode. It is hard to consider other ways to live without automobiles in sprawl urban form because both accessibility and mobility will be reduced without vehicles. Traditional urban form might restrict various needs and preferences of households having different lifestyles. Several alternative travel modes including a bus, light rail, a bicycle, and walk are not competitive to automobiles in terms of travel time and convenience. Households might suppress other values except travel time and convenience because the gap between automobile and other modes  regarding these values are quite large which means there might be no room to think about other values. Recently, people are aware of  negative effects of automotive dependent travel patterns such as air pollution, physically low activity level, and inefficient energy use compared to other alternative ways of life style. Alternative urban form might not satisfy all needs and preferences of households who seek for a more healthier life style rather than constraining their values only on efficiency in terms of travel time and monetary value. However, it would work as alternatives for traditional urban form. Also, as Levin discussed, market would prove whether urban form focusing on accessibility is what they want and need. 

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