Petition for Smarter American Land Use Planning

2018 September 27

Having been fortunate enough to experience better ways of doing things, I am saddened by the vast miles of my native country I see scarred by the pavement of gargauntaun parking lots and ravenously wide streets and expressways choking on pollution and traffic.

In Netherlands you can go weeks and never see a big parking lot, all the while doing everything you need for daily life more easily than you could dream of in the U.S. Most Americans would also probably be surprised how much countryside is left in Europe after white folk living there for thousands of years.

There is a mathematics to this: on average a person takes up X square feet of space driving - include safe following distance (if only other drivers would not fill that space) and a proportional share of the parking - versus Y square feet on the train or W on foot or Z on a bike. A picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case a thousand formulas.

All the space that isn't wasted on enormous parking lots and roads, is both space you don't have to traverse to get where you need to go, and space that can be used for useful things like storefront and living space. The last time I stayed in Amsterdam there were 2 full grocery stores, numerous restaurants, and a laundromat, all within a walk of about 5 minutes or less (and 2 tram lines and a bus line right outside).

There is public health dimension to this too: people are physically healthier walking and biking than sitting on their asses in their cars in traffic and at red lights, and mentally healthier seeing other smiling faces on the street and on the train, instead of just the steel and glass of vehicles, which are almost always in a rabid hurry, and frequently angry as well.

Like a poster child for the aphorism that "pride cometh before a fall", my native country wholly fails to appreciate the scarcity of natural resources, and more generally across many diverse policy areas persistently doubles down on broken and backwards policies, even in the face of flagrantly visible evidence of their foolishness and unworkability. In my lifetime I have seen the sprawl consume like a cancer of pavement vast amounts of beautiful and ecologically valuable land. The traffic gets worse all the time. In some parts of America it is almost impossible to get anywhere now. The thoughtless refrain is always to widen or build another road. Will there be any nature left when the country learns?

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