Redcar hypothesis & questions

Ken Greenberg, August 16, 2010:

I understand the appeal of coming up with a system that can cope with the highly dispersed polycentric pattern we have inherited in many US cities, notably LA. The REDCAR concept proposes to address this reality with a distributed transportation system, utilizing existing infrastructure (highways and roads) and emerging P2P communications.

Question: What are the design implications for the built & social environments? In other words what will be the potential impact of such a ubiquitous, distributed and autonomous system on urban planning / architecture and the public realm? If we believe that the goal (and urgent need) is not just to facilitate mobility in more efficient vehicles so as to reduce some of the more toxic social and environmental impacts of auto dependency, but to actually create a fabric of denser urban places that are inherently more sustainable, foster walking, overlaps and connectivity that allows people to do multiple things in one place, create economic synergies etc. then the question is does REDCAR do that?

The REDCAR hypothesis seems to be that consolidated “development will naturally emerge (as a self-organizing system) from the urban fabric” “in response to social activity hotspots triggered by both physical space (Redcar vehicle / transit-mode transfer) and social swings – the overlay of efficient route-processing software upon the physical realm will cause serendipitous social and transit “hot-spots” to emerge thus creating an organic evolution of true TODs”.

Question: Does this really work? And how and why would these organic TODs or emergent nodes ‘naturally’ form? Absent any physical, policy controls, economic or operational constraints or fixed attraction points what would cause the urban fabric to congeal at these points and not just continue to atomize and disperse along the roadway network? Don’t we need some additional tools to produce the “emergent nodes”? Are we over-relying on technology? Short of relying only on expensive fixed rail solutions, are there not already low-tech versions of flexible vehicle sharing in the developing world, for example, that we could learn from such as “collectivos, guaguas, or jitneys”?
I clearly don’t have the answers, but these are the questions that the REDCAR proposal raises for me. I look forward to the discussion at the Colloquium.

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