Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

GRIDLOCK, the Solution is Simple

The traffic problem is like the weather - everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it - except to try to build more freeways lanes. The September 5, 1998 issue of The ECONOMIST magazine includes an excellent 16 page insert on traffic problems in cities around the globe. In its usual elegant and advanced style, the authors explain, analyze, and evaluate the many modes of dealing with this world-wide urban gridlock problem. The November 17, 1999 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle lays it all out in "Bay Area Traffic Ranked Among Worst in Nation". But nowhere do these articles offer much hope.

Never does The ECONOMIST suggest solutions to this technologically and socially solvable problem. Pehaps they haven't heard of "Smart Growth". As if trapped in some Medieval religious dogma, The ECONOMIST seems mired in MOM's market forces, restricted by a taboo against applying human values to the problem of gridlock. Consider this dissociation of human intellect from human problems a shared collective psychosis.

Consider at least this one simple remedy: Modify zoning codes so that employers could coordinate with realtors to build homes near by - enabling people to walk to work, and also to stores, schools, medical facilities and community centers.

With proper planning and good architectural design, these new blocks of homes could grace spacious and well groomed industrial parks with small residence communities. With re-zoning, each block unit could have its market and cafe, eliminating much of the routine driving to shop and dine. The new arrangements need not be crowded, since crowding is a problem of organization.

Imagine the savings of expense, time and living stress in such a block. If the movement caught on, gridlock would decline enough to make pleasure driving a pleasure. Placing the garages on the outside of the community would make the inside area a safe place for children and adults to play and walk, enhancing the social environment.

Thoughtful real estate developers, planners and architects might well include a community center with the shops and cafes. Schools need not be large, given the modern technology and computers. A small community school would lessen the stress and danger of interacting with strangers. Curriculum could easily relate to the nearby firms as well as local gardens - a blossoming of wholesome programs and activities for people of all ages.

A wide variety of planned communities already exist, but it is easy to understand why such programs are so uncommon and difficult. One objection commonly raised cites old images of the `company town'. People object to their lives being consciously influenced. They project their own authoritarian insecurities when they see planning as coercion, yet they accept the mindless demands of market forces. More hysterical reactions include, "You can't tell people where to live." and even "Why are you trying to take away my car?" A planned community invites democratic input, provides a safer environment for children. It also allows plenty of privacy alleviating isolation so common in the burbs.

Consider another drawback: If the program gained momentum, serious economic consequences would follow. Gas stations would loose business and auto repair shops would suffer. Some shopping malls would loose their precarious profitability. Some sectors of agriculture might suffer if gardening became popular. TV ratings might drop as people began to talk more to one another and less to the set.

Not only gasoline, but energy use in general would decline. The so-called GDP would decline, based as it is on the great waste that keeps the money going around. As the quality of life improves, the economy contracts.

The compulsion of marketplace values drives people and institutions to maximize their profits, often at the expense of efficiency, ecology and culture. Governmental regulations occasionally inhibit, but generally support this unfortunate `economic growth'. These market forces continue to overwhelm the human instinct to build a better life for real people.

This solution to the gridlock problem offers the good life on a global scale. Modern technology can easily supports a very high quality of life and culture at much lower economic cost - not only to wealthy few but also to poorer multitudes who now support the present wasteful design.

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