Pound-miles and Person-miles

It was easy to be radical in the ’70s, the early ’70s. We all knew we needed new and no one had yet been made afraid of new ideas or lost their shirt in the game of change.

I and my crew erected an exhibit for the American Institute of Architects 1973 convention in the state’s Museum of California History in Oakland (their joke website here). The museum’s vast Great Hall became a ‘Main Street’ with a dozen ‘storefronts’ on each side as high as 25 feet. Each decade from the 1900’s was on display.

America, the planned developmentHistorical pieces and artifacts of each era were props, such as a turn-of-the-century sidewalk clock, a mid-century neon sign or an early retailer’s aluminum window frame with it’s painted poster of 12 Eggs for 49 Cents, pallets of boxes and a great variety of goods, a classic car. From a collection of photographs, flyers, adverts, drawings and public records spread over a work area the size of a football field, staff and docents edited tens of thousands of pieces over several weeks to display our world for just the few days of the AIA gathering. Money was different then.

A 40ft arch was over the entry, Americaville, painted in red, white & blue. I don’t remember if 500 or 1,000 architects arrived opening night. I was enjoying the white wine and truly jumbo prawns. A few architects were angry with this exhibit. I remember their scorn. Most were intrigued and impressed because I remember their quizzical frowns and praise.

America, the GridThe entire large room was showing error, decade by decade, where architecture was losing to planning and planning was lost to transportation.

The exhibits were the actual pieces and records, undeniably easy to see that asphalt and concrete and utilities were the prow of our towns while architectural scale and human living had become an unimportant afterthought. This exhibit disturbed the members, pointing to the destruction of human community, the erasure of detail and art, the dominance of brand and cheaper brands on skies of advertising, the rude criss-cross of highways and stark roads to parking lots, the other tiki-taki, the staccato-timing of human travel, the mechanization of our bones and tissue, the rude intrusion of a handful of mass distributors and their enabling King Car…!

In one century we have re-worked America into a damn grid and a warehouse.

Merely keeping it lit is pilfering our pockets. Confused and bewildered, we truly need GPS gadgets to peek from the sky. It was clear then and it’s clear now that intermodal, multinodal and consumer transportation has changed our living more than any penciled neighborhood or artful facade. We said in this 70s exhibit that planning and architecture had lost its potency to become a minor usher on a huge moneyed floor we see all around us.

America, the WarehouseIn the development game, it’s not architecture or design, however pretty or smart each fashion or style. It’s TPD. Trips Per Day, the fundamental term that is the actuary of distribution hubs and the feasibility of malls for the proximity of our hastily built homes.
Every product and every person is part of millions and billions and trillions of trips.

Every day developers lure and capture these trips. We ask for very little else. There’s much inefficient cost and overhead in this buzz to focus our cash. It will not be fixed by worker payroll or the margins of the Big Three versus Foreign Imports. It’s not fixed bullying OPEC’s gasoline or being bullied by Cargill’s ethanol. Nor with hybrids from mailorder showrooms nor a new trillion dollar electric grid. None of these will make us solvent nor sustainable unless we re-work trips.

An entire shift “back to the land” isn’t needed. Bio-fiber tents and solar television and filtering our water through a straw? Power plants or lettuce farms on rooftops may not be needed everywhere, but why not a few? Breakthrough ideas will come along here and there without breaking our future or blindly hoisting another empire atop us again and again. For many of us, local is old and new again. Local foods. Local workspace. Local culture and education. Local humanity. For these, we’ll need local leaders again.

America, the Costly Grid and WarehouseFailing to require ‘total accounting’ is the true free ride. Lifecycle and impact costs, some are runaway, can easily be controlled along with keeping the books on production and distribution and triple-net profits.

Society is coughing up while profiteers and shareholders are long gone. But that’s another story.

We waste too much weight and time in distance.

For our goods, for our services, for our work and our fun too, a tremendous first step in our energy and impact crisis is merely counting all the steps. And trips.

From Wiki, on Trips Per Day

The Institute of Transportation Engineers‘s Trip Generation informational report provides trip generation rates for numerous land use and building types. The planner can add local adjustment factors and treat mixes of uses with ease. Ongoing work is adding to the stockpile of numbers; over 4000 studies were aggregated for the current edition.

ITE Procedures estimate the number of trips entering or exiting a site at a given time (sometimes the number entering and exiting combined is estimated). ITE Rates are functions of type of development, and square footage, number of gas pumps, number of dwelling units, or other standard measurable things, usually produced in site plans. They are typically of the form Trips = a + b * Area OR Trips = a + bln(Area). They do not consider location, competitors, complements, the cost of transportation, or many other obviously likely important factors. They are often estimated based on very few observations (a non-statistically significant sample). Many localities require their use to ensure adequate public facilities for growth management and subdivision approval.

Other keywords and phrases:

Per capita person trips per day…

The average household trip rate is 11.1 trips per day (all modes), but vary over the week. Mondays are the lowest, with 10.1 trips per day…

Traffic estimates for a planned Wal-Mart suggest that the store won’t overburden nearby roads… 2000 trips per day and ultimately over 16000 trips per day, obviously requiring an enlarged roadway…

Increase in vehicles trips per day: (Note: The applicant may be required to provide the necessary engineering studies…)

Americans average 9.7 trips per day per household.