THE AUTOMOBILE AND THE ENVIRONMENT: An International Perspective by Ralph--Ed. Gakenheimer


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Five papers commissioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to confront environmental problems generated by the automobile have been gathered into a volume whose thoroughness, clarity, and fine-tuned optimism should benefit not only professional planners but also interested lay parties. Together, the studies present a survey of the methods taken or under consideration in OECD member nations to deal with the glut of cars in urban areas. The first, on public transport, is notable for stressing service improvement, not technological innovation, and to that end discusses specialized bus systems (e.g., bus rapid transit on separate rights of way, buses-on-demand in local areas) and the conjoint development of tramways (a.k.a. streetcars), rail rapid transit (subways), and suburban railroads, or hybrids thereof--operating in Boston, envisaged in San Francisco, furthest along in Europe. Also evaluated, however, is the present state of automated systems, including the ill-starred Morgantown, West Virginia, project. (The book's one major drawback, indeed, is the lack of an index for easy access to individual programs and proposals.) Even more revelatory, perhaps, is the section on methods for limiting traffic, which offers 35 tested ways to discourage auto use, from closing roads (traffic restriction), to providing bicycle and pedestrian facilities (traffic restraint), to land-use planning (traffic avoidance). Guided growth to forestall traffic problems has a high priority in the section on developing nations, which makes the point that universal car ownership is to be expected--as a measure and badge of prosperity--and need not be economically or physically deleterious. Practicability is the emphasis too in the final section on pollution and noise control, where an exceptionally lucid and detailed review of suggested measures weighs economic costs as well as health benefits. The one dispensable section is that on administrative planning, which theorizes rather than reports--whereas the others, with their source notes, offer an inventory of ideas to act upon.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: MIT Press