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Rethinking the Automobile (with Mark Gorton)

For more than 100 years New York City government policy has prioritized the needs of the automobile over the needs of any other mode of transport. Working under the faulty assumption that more car traffic would improve business, planners and engineers have systematically made our streets more dangerous and less livable. As a result, even the idea that a street could truly be a “place” – a shared space for human interaction and play – has been almost completely destroyed.

During his decade long effort to understand and improve the streets of New York City, entrepreneur and livable streets advocate Mark Gorton has gathered together a compelling set of examples of how transportation policy impacts the quality of our daily lives. Mark is regularly invited to speak in public about these issues.

In his current presentation “Rethinking the Automobile” Mark explores the history of autocentric planning and considers how New York and other cities can change. Filled with ample video footage of dozens of Streetfilms, we’ve worked with Mark to create a version of the presentation here.

As the founder of Streetfilms, Streetsblog, OpenPlans, and the New York City Streets Renaissance Campaign, Gorton has been on the front lines of the battle to transform New York’s streets. But Mark is not done fighting. He contends that the recent improvements that have been implemented in New York should only be considered as the “tip of the iceberg” and that a truly comprehensive set of changes are still necessary.

For more on Mark’s continued efforts to make our world more equitable, livable, and safe visit www.rethinktheauto.org

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  • Dan Allison

    None of these are new ideas, but to have them presented together in an organized and passionate manner is great.

  • Dave444

    Great job!

  • Harold K.

    Long, but worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Nice & informative presentation but he left out one of the major reasons I've heard people give for not taking mass transit instead of driving: "it's not safe because of all the dangerous, scary, dirty people who ride the bus/train/subway/lightrail"   not just a fear of violence/theft/but disease (viruses, etc.) or just "dirty" people. 

    One form of transport in NYC 100 years ago, that of transport by horse or horse drawn vehicle was not particularly safe (horses spook or panic fairly easily & a runaway team of horses can do damage).   Also not that clean, droppings, flies in the summer.  Often a hard life for the horses too.  Small quibble, overall a very good presentation and argument. 

    Chances are, if the rich in the city can't ride in their limos, etc., they'll go by helicopter instead and increase NY's noise pollution. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1302033737 Andrew Potts

    Cycling does not make you sweaty and smelly, cycling a bike with a sports baised design surprisingly makes you hot . If you cycle a Dutch style bike which is baised around walking postuer you dont get hot as you use far less energy then walking.

  • Noah Tutak

    I wonder what percentage of Americans this applies to - seems very Manhattan-centric.

  • Michael

     Well done and informative. Keep going, you're on the right track!

  • Jason R.

    Very well organized! Smoothing out a few rough spots (ending) would make it an excellent piece for sharing with municipalities and political figures as a way to educate, motivate and help them build their own vision.

  • Gerhard M.

    OMG - a brother from another mother! I love that he isolates the main problem with cars to be that they are using up too much space and are squeezing people out! And I love the line that cars are basically rural transportation systems, not adequate to serve cities efficiently.

    Not only is this on the right track, I believe this holds the key to liberating the American Dream from the hypnosis of needing a car attached to every human being by an invisible umbilical chord.


    Gerhard W. Mayer
    founding board member railLA

  • http://twitter.com/kantor57 kantor

    The presentation is complete and accurate; the only part I did not like was the one about BRT (Bus Rapid Transit). The numbers show that it may work in small places with not much congestion or else in third world countries with cheap labor. In any other case it is simply not convenient in a long run wrt to streetcars or light rail. In other words, if all you want to do is to reserve a lane, then go ahead but do not call it BRT. If you have to build a separate ROW then it is simply not the case.

  • Brendanwillig

    Currently taking a city planning class. Very helpful!

  • http://www.shippersmarket.com/ car shipping

    That concept was good. the rethinking concept will brings great advantage for designing different automobile types and it extremely be one most beautiful ideas after this rethinking could be fully emphasized.

  • Anders Barfod

    Right on the money... For a lot of people a car equals freedom,, a part of the american dream...
    But traditional 4 seater 3000 lbs gasoline cars have no merit in the city... when most people drive those cars alone..
    And they are made to go more than 60-70 mph which is neither safe or an option in a city,,,
    Get back to bicycles and bicycle paths, smaller vehicles such as electric scooters and small lightweight electric cars and hybrids for the roads.. The only large vehicles on the roads should be ultra efficient trucks to get the commodities around town..
    Most importantly plan future cities with public transportation and bicycles in mind...

  • Nalani

    Is there a list for his sources? I'm interested in where the chart on how many people crossed bridges in NYC came from

  • Nalani

    It applies to the cities, he made that clear. While NYC is an extreme example of congestion, any city with a decent sized populaton would benefit with more public transit and less cars