Transportation Power and New Shapes of Employment

The redesign of neighborhoods must include transportation, link-■.i it to other changes. Rising transportation costs for both vehicle opera tion and road maintenance will be a major catalyst in altering the foi neighborhoods just as the widespread use of the car affected, over the century, existing settlement patterns. In the present social context, t" portation is a primary product, crucial to manufacturing. Automobile inesses employ one in five Americans and consume nearly forty per of the six point seven billion barrels of oil used in the United States ev year. For many of us, ownership of a car spells freedom and mobility and come to seem a birthright. Cars will continue to be made, but our cities c sustain them. We will use fewer as other options open, and be glad to j up the problems they cause. We can look ahead to new kinds of taxis, co muter buses and elegant, light rail, inter-city trains. We will begin to see attractive commuter bicycles, motorcycles with climate and body protec tion, and small airships-extraordinary light airplanes as maneuverable ' their medium as cars in theirs. Sailing ships will appear and give us alternatives to rail and plane. These may include auxiliary bioshelters on board and be self-sufficient village farms in themselves-a far cry from our luxury entertainment liners, but providing safe, interesting travel experiences. Transportation will conserve energy while increasing the quality and diversity of travel. The emphasis will be less on speed than on genuine mobility. Possibilities for travel could range from health promoting exercise to convivial transportation that offers watching scenery, dining, and studying or taking courses, like languages, electronically en route.

Changes in transportation and changes in the structure of cities are co-evolutionary. We are going to focus, as a culture, on integrating different transportation systems to create greater overall travel efficiency. In this way neighborhoods could truely come into their own, becoming neither bypassed or disconnected. A variety of new linkages and options for internal neighborhood development should begin to emerge in the next few years. Bicycles, small scooters, and walking will become increasingly popular within the neighborhood. The most desirable neighborhoods will come to be those with diversified merchants—not huge shopping malls, but merchants situated within walking distance to housing.

One of the best thinkers and designers of ecologically sound transport is Christopher Swan. His drawings indicate how transportation can evolve, from tiny electric city cars, to highly efficient taxis, to van commuter buses that provide relaxed commuting for six to nine people. In commuter buses commuters could read or watch television and have tea or coffee en route to work. Automobile development will increase in efficiency, but em-

phasize preciseness of fit for each mode of transportation. Opportunities will expand for private neighborhood transportation companies, employing taxis and vans which, depending on the time of day, could shuttle four to thirty commuters as well as a cargo of supplies and materials. Other commuter transport will provide auto and bus transportation to major transportation links like subways and light rail trains.

Christopher Swan's light rail trains are the inheritors of electric trolley technologies rather than traditional heavy trains. They are designed to be powered entirely by the sun. His company, Suntrain Inc., is planning the Northwestern Pacific Railroad for travel between San Francisco and Eureka in northern California. Trains such as his represent a new and flexible dimension to mass transportation. The light rail cars can carry commuter bicycles. They could offer many kinds of cooking, solarium cars, curtains to create small compartment-like spaces, bookstore and newsstand cars, sauna and shower cars, sleepers, even movie cars. These trains are not reluctant Amtrak technology, but utilize rather the same kind of imaginative thinking and high technology that goes into Hobie Cats, Ocean Pickups, wind surfers, hang gliders, and other high performance off-shore boats and aircraft. What makes Christopher Swan's designs and ideas unique is that they are framed within concepts of ecological development for the regions through which they pass.8

In its early years, in the late 1800s, the bicycle was seen as a serious transportation device. For many years it came to be classified as a means of leisure, exercise, or sports equipment until the 1970s when it again began to be used as a serious transportation machine. Road capacity is designed exclusively for cars. People would use bikes more if safe pathways to ride them were designed wherever roads are built. A street network for bicycles-some streets becoming bicycle streets throughout a city-would be optimal. As for walking from place to place, developers of shopping malls, like Jim Rouse who built Harborfront in Baltimore, Faneuil Market in Boston, and South Street Seaport in New York City, proved that people like to walk when it is safe to do so, and made interesting and attractive with a mix of shops, sidewalk vendors, and restaurants. Then they prefer to park their cars and cover the ground on foot, to better enjoy the activity and the. scenery. The pursuit of architectural, energy, and agricultural solutions to many urban problems simultaneously create uplifting pedestrian environments. A child, an infirm or old person, as well as a briskly walking adult should have a vari-

't avenues for walking. In Christopher Swan's plans for what the urban -ix could become, he has portrayed possibilities in architecture, conation, renewable energy, bioshelters, street farming, waste recycling, < and fountains—a combination of strategies which together contain possibilities for the rebirth of communities. Although it is unrealistic o be apprehensive, the future need not be frightening. Emerging from ndustrial era into a post-industrial culture will include a rediscovery of is meant when we say we truly live in a given place. A renewed sense of e and responsibility may emerge, echoing the lines of the poet/farmer dall Berry when he said:

All my dawns cross the horizon and rise from underfoot. What I stand for is what I stand on.9

What kind of work and economic activity could grow out of the re-mi of communities? As neighborhoods, towns, and cities become r: > of vigorous economic life, new work will also be created. The pro-: >n of compost for soil, the growing, recycling, harvesting and man-in ing of food and materials in this new world will create industries of -■vir'v products. The jobs will be local to the community, and connect in Die web of alliances and opportunity which used to exist in coherent ■vi unities in America but which has been lost for so many of our young-Too many of us are strangers where we live, needing to invent and into being a "networking" that should partly be happening naturally e communities we live in. More businesses would be at home or close to r "•o children would see what it is we do during the day, and in many be a part of it, an education in itself. Sterile streets and city blocks, nor-cleserted during the day while the adults are at work and the mothers : home tending the children—or the mothers are at work and the chil-are together in daycare-these streets should be active with a life of rd community as the city surrounds and gives everyone a role. The com-itself, made carefully by its members, would be endowed with a sense .jce and beauty and its own quiet, but important identity and destiny, ad of feeling estranged and lonely in a city which is too big and too r>onal, every living space would be part of a smaller neighborhood ' mid be knit into one whole by the necessity of running operations to-ev. Bits and pieces, like The Developing Neighborhood Associations of

Kansas City are already in place working all across the country. Product! meaningful work in the sense of the dignity of holding a job as well as necessity of making an income is the basis of a sustainable future anywhe

Ecological design generates new complexes and systems whi make an impact on manufacturing. It has become possible to dovetail nc manufacturing into communities and to integrate production, educatio" food production, waste treatment, housing, and the environment into am; ecological whole. Almost all of the assembly and much of fabrication that today is done in large plants and factories could be decentralized and transferred to small shops. In recent years sophisticated micro-electronics and machining equipment have transformed manufacturing. Increasingly, many sophisticated machines, computers, airplanes, hang gliders, boats, and even automobiles are micro-manufactured. Christopher Swan wants to have his railroad cars manufactured in buildings which are part bioshelters along the right of way. He plans to plant forests of fast-growing trees along the route which would be cropped and converted in small factories to wood/epoxy composite materials to be used in building the railroad cars. Already aircraft, giant windmill blades, and high performance boats such as the Ocean Pickup are being built with wood/epoxy composite materials.

Micro-manufacturing can mean cottage industries which would strengthen local economies but do not break up neighborhoods. In the city of Bandung in Indonesia there is a neighborhood where many of the residents are employed by the Phillips Company, the Dutch electronics giant. In an interesting mixture of old and new industrial practices, Phillips has fostered a cottage industry in which people work at home in tiny rooms amidst their families, building parts for subsequent assembly into the various sophisticated Phillips products. It may come to be as pertinent to ask what manufacturing cannot be miniaturized and decentralized as what can be. Perhaps one day a steel foundry could be prebuilt to fit into a neighborhood.

Linked to the challenge of restructuring manufacturing into a larger social and ecological context is the need to rethink the ways in which energy is produced and used. The production of energy should be intrinsic to pro-cess-meaning that each unit, in as much as is possible, produces its own power and is designed to function around the natural oscillations of sunlight, wind, and gas production. The first step, one that is already beginning, is a heavy emphasis on reducing power needs through conservation and integrated design.

Communities have considerable potential as co-generators of power.

An Ecologically Planned City

In partnership with other co-generating communities, they can be linked each other by existing power grids. As the application of renewable ene matures, the miniaturization and spreading out of production becomes * creasingly possible. Initially, the utilities will need to provide back up fi the whole system, but will not need to produce at peak load capacity beca communities will be designed to continue to function when the grid fai Sophisticated computer programming could provide both energy producers and users with a range of options matched to the source and amount power being produced. Such internal self regulation will not be unpredictable and erratic. At the user end, whether house, factory, or transportation device, adaptive techniques would have to be built-in to deal with variable inputs.

As a neighborhood becomes revitalized, every activity will yield varied kinds of employment. One of the major areas will be the growing, processing, and distribution of food. Remodelling, construction, and rebuilding buildings and streets will also offer openings for many skills. Energy production and waste recycling component units will need staff. Communities could consider incorporating specialized and unique, either mass-produced or hand-crafted, components in their rebuilding, making quality, longevity, and durability hallmarks of their work. Eventually it may pay not only in personal but in economic terms to build for one's grandchildren again. Hopefully they will stand near us as we work.

As a neighborhood becomes a center of integrated activity, there will be virtually unprecedented opportunities for young people. Adults as well will have an increasingly balanced talk-do ratio while learning new jobs, skills, and sensibilities. Educators might have to rethink what is meant by learning. In a community functioning in ecological balance and with its parts exposed to full view, the patterns and cycles, natural and human, are balanced and interconnected. The community itself is the school; because it is designed after the larger workings of nature using biological precepts of design, it is like a world in miniature. Living in such a place young people may take an integral part in all that is going on and want to participate in the peaceful transition of the planet from one based on the production of goods, to one dedicated to a fulfilling life-base for all its living creatures.

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Getting Started With Solar

Getting Started With Solar

Do we really want the one thing that gives us its resources unconditionally to suffer even more than it is suffering now? Nature, is a part of our being from the earliest human days. We respect Nature and it gives us its bounty, but in the recent past greedy money hungry corporations have made us all so destructive, so wasteful.

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