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City Drivers & City Systems

Below, MKSD Intern Jordan Keller shares his thoughts on urban transportation systems and the frustration we often feel traveling to and from a large city…

traffic

When us country folk venture into the city, we are appalled by the aggressive and erratic driving of the locals.  They angrily switch lanes, yell out the window and push the car in from of them.  Many of us ask ourselves, “What is wrong with them?  They are crazy!”  The reason they seem so frustrated, to me, is obvious – they wish they were on the subway . . . or the bus.  In the city, the car is the slowest, most uncomfortable, most frustrating way to get around.  If you are driving to work in the city, that is your first bad decision of the day (assuming that you put on matching socks).  Imagine that you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic with a red light every 500 feet and a train full of people is flying to work on the rails, through the ground beneath you.  Yes, I would be honking too.

The well-organized city is the only place in America where your legs are more important than your wheels.  And in fact, your legs aren’t even that important.  As long as you can make your way a couple of blocks to the closest train station, you are minutes from your destination.  Your legs will take you to the grocery store, the drug store, the shoe store and the pet store.  On the other hand, in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania where I grew up, your legs will not get you to any kind of store.  In Breinigsville, Pennsylvania your legs will probably get you to your neighbor’s house – maybe to the nearest church or post office if you’re lucky.  And I love Breinigsville, but I also love the convenience that urban transportation has to offer.

train station

The city has it figured out.  The system of transportation is efficient and convenient and makes everyone feel connected.  Of course some cities have more reliable systems than others.  And yes, it is possible for a train to break down just like a car.  But no matter what city you are in, there are guaranteed to be less train stoppages per week than there are traffic jams on route 22.  I do not know how, but the suburban and rural areas of the country need to learn from the transportation system of the city.  Maybe we all carpool to the nearest community building where we take a trolley to work together (probably not the answer).  What kind of buildings can we as architects provide to encourage connectivity and mass-transit in a suburban/rural setting?  Whatever it is, there is something to be taken from the speed and convenience that the city’s system offers.

Hopefully, one day, we are all bad city drivers.  One day, the car will be the last resort for all of us, no matter where we live.   Just the thought of driving in traffic – the thought of being bumper to bumper and late for work – will make us ball up our fists as we step onto the rural train line, where we breathe a sigh of relief and remind ourselves that those days ended fifty years ago.

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