(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 376: Ctrl Alt Delete for Transportation

March 31, 2022

This week we’re joined by Kevin Krizek, Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and David King, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, to talk about their book, Advanced Introduction to Urban Transport Planning. We chat about access, justice, and why this book is perfect for changing the conversation around transportation.

You can listen to the episode at Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited transcript for this episode:

Jeff Wood (1m 23s):
Well, Kevin Krizek and David King. Welcome to the Talking Headways Podcast.

Kevin Krizek (1m 43s):
Thank you.

David King (1m 43s):
Thank you very much for having us

Jeff Wood (1m 45s):
Well. Thanks for being here before we get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves? We’ll start with Kevin and then we’ll go with David,

Kevin Krizek (1m 49s):
Kevin . I’m a professor of environmental design at the university of Colorado, Boulder, and PR prior to that, I was at the university of Minnesota and that’s where David and I met.

David King (1m 60s):
And I’m David King. I’m on the urban planning faculty at the school of geographical sciences and urban planning at Arizona state university. Before that I was at Columbia university, I did my PhD at UCLA and my master’s degree at university of Minnesota when Kevin was there.

Jeff Wood (2m 16s):
So how’d, y’all get into cities or transportation planning. It’s something that I think some people come to early on and some people come to later on in life. How did you all get into that?

David King (2m 24s):
Well, I’ll start. I took a really strange path to academia. I dropped out of college when I was 20 and opened a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, and I was not interested in being a college student. I, I did this restaurant. It was called cafe solos and the warehouse district in Minneapolis. Then the warehouse district now it’s called north poop. And I did that for almost a decade. I got that up with the business for many reasons, close the doors locked him, threw the keys in the river and never went back. But during my time of running a restaurant and I got really interested in how cities dealt with certain things. And I was very interested in the changes at the warehouse district, going from a very arts oriented neighborhood to a very sports bar type of neighborhood.

David King (3m 5s):
But I also got really interested. I didn’t have to deal with parking requirements as a downtown restaurant owner. And I had friends who wanted to open a coffee shop in uptown Minneapolis. They actually had to tear down the house next to the house. They wanted to put in a 12 seat coffee shops so they could build parking. And I thought that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard, and I didn’t know anything about it. And then when I was working on my master’s degree, I had learned about Don Shoup and the high cost of free parking and learn that this is a whole thing I could study. And so I ended up going to UCLA to study parking under Don chute. And that’s sort of my, that’s a very condensed version of my very strange path from small business owner in downtown Minneapolis, to academic, who is worried about local transport policy.

David King (3m 51s):
Like I got very interested in what can cities do? What can neighborhoods do? Not what can the federal government do, not within the state view, but what changes can we affect that the local level? So that’s what got me into it.

Kevin Krizek (4m 0s):
You know, a lot of people, Jeff, they come into the profession and they say that they had this Eureka moment when they went to London and rode the underground. And when they write, and for me, it’s never been that it’s just been this kind of iterative, incremental attraction to understanding what it means to be doing transportation and getting around in suburban and urban environments. I remember when I got my driver’s license at age 16, my dad gave me access to our family sedan, but he said, you’re going to be paying 18 cents a mile to use it. So, you know, I quickly learned the costs of driving and I quickly learned that driving was a whole heck of a lot more expensive than taking my bike to places. And then you go through your undergraduate and then you find out that this is actually a field that people study and can approach it from all sorts of different angles.

Jeff Wood (4m 43s):
It’s interesting, you know, w we’ll have that discussion about the current discussion about gas taxes, but that 18 cents a mile is interesting from a current perspective we’re seeing around the country and the world for that matter. Well, I want to talk to you all about the book Advanced Introduction to Urban Transport Planning. What was the impetus for putting the book together?

Kevin Krizek (4m 60s):
Well, I think it’s fair to say that those of us who are coming into the field and, you know, I first came into the field in the late nineties and ever since then, we’ve been struggling to find a good text that approaches the issues in a forward leaning avant-garde way that doesn’t necessarily repeat the same processes that we’ve been doing in the past. So, you know, for example, I think in 2005, David Levinson, and I started to kind of get our minds around this concept that there wasn’t a good book that did this. So we wrote at the time it was called the first edition was planning for place in plexus, but that never really took off, I think because a, the title, but B it was just a little bit too much for people to absorb who work outside the field.

Kevin Krizek (5m 45s):
And if you look at all the titles that are on your bookshelf across your desk, you’ll, you’ll probably won’t see one Jeff that really kind of tries to get at what’s the problem with our transportation systems and how can we better orient the priorities in new directions. And when Edward Algar approached us to initially write this book, you know, we said, huh, what do you mean the whole, the whole ballywick of urban transportation planning, 50,000 words. And the more I thought about it, and the more I kind of talked about it with David, it just, it made sense. So for example, I love Jonathan Levine and Merlin and Joe Green’s book. It’s a great book. It’s not very accessible to those who are approaching the subject matter for the first time.

Kevin Krizek (6m 30s):
There’s a lot of other great books talking about enforcement, talking about all these other things, walkability, but they’re not framing the issues in terms of accessibility. It might be kind of loosely referenced. And the lacuna, if you will, is that there’s not really a good book out there that does that unless I’m overlooking.

Jeff Wood (6m 49s):
No, I don’t think so. I feel like, you know, you’re basically taking a lot of the high points from a lot of different books and research and putting it into a really understandable and basic format. I appreciate that a lot, because I do think that, like I said, I’m looking at my shelf right now and I’m, I don’t see anything. That’s kind of covering all these things. There’s a lot of things on a lot of subjects that’s very focused and even books that you might think would go there. Don’t really.

David King (7m 13s):
Yeah. And I, I mean, I’ll add to that part of our frustration was we didn’t want to text, it was going to teach students the bad ways of doing things, which are the way we do things. But we wanted to start with this premise of, if you are going to start from scratch, what are the concepts that you would teach? And, you know, we both, both Kevin and I agree when we talked about this at length, but if we want to do something different, we have to start with different ways of doing things. If we could just keep on doing the same planning and the same analysis and use the same data and have the same metrics, we’re going to end up with more of the same of what we have. And we wanted to start with this idea of what are the core concepts that actually matter when we’re teaching urban transport planning.

Jeff Wood (8m 0s):
Well, that’s the thing is that, you know, you mentioned that the start of the book that you can’t cover everything there’s so much, how did you decide what to keep? And then what to put aside? Like, what were those core concepts that you felt like needed to be in the book? And then what got ejected?

Kevin Krizek (8m 12s):
Well, a lot of the thought is being expended about transport these days. As you know, now there’s many reasons for this, this safety, environmental, climate oil, et cetera. Right. And thoughts. Good. But all that thought is you kind of have to question it is all that thought being put to the highest and best use. And is it focused around the right problem? And once you read this book, but you don’t have to read the whole book, you can just read the first chapter. You hopefully are alerted to the answer to that question is a resounding no, I mean, we haven’t been prioritizing the right things. So what gets included and what doesn’t get included, I think of this work as a kind of a transition book. So you need to have enough of the old two grounded.

David King (8m 51s):
And what we focus on in this book is starting with this concept of, and we’re certainly not the first to bring up accessibility versus mobility, but accessibility is the idea of how easy is it to get to the places that we need to go and want to go. Whereas mobility is focused on how easy is it for us to travel overall. And if we’re really thinking about what’s important in urban transport, it’s about, can we get to the places that we want to go? It’s not about how fast we can go to get there. And so the way our transport planning systems are set up is they’re oriented around speed and an artifact of focus on speed and increasing speed is that congestion is the most serious problem to traditional transport engineering.

David King (9m 44s):
This is what we’ve been trying to solve for decades. And yet our streets are still congested. You know, we haven’t really made any progress on congestion and we do things like we continue to build road miles as though that’s going to solve congestion. When we know from decades of experience and decades of research, that’s not going to work. There’s a whole thing on induced demand that I know that you’ve covered elsewhere and so on. And this focus on accessibility. If we really think about how easy is it to get to the places we want to go, that changes our mindset to start thinking about concepts of proximity, of how do we locate people and places where they can get to.

David King (10m 24s):
And prom, we start thinking about travel choices of we can get to the store by bicycle as quickly as we can get to the store by car, within a certain distance, within a certain timeframe. If we make that bike lane safe, if we make it easy to bike and so on. And this concept of accessibility changes the dynamic of transport planning, because we’re not just focused on traffic or the streets themselves and the roads themselves, the infrastructure isn’t simply about free-flowing traffic. It’s not about orienting towards cars, but it doesn’t really matter how you get around. It really matters. Is it easy to get around? And it’s easy to get around on foot because you can get around on bike.

David King (11m 6s):
It’s easy to get around by transit and so on. And if we focus on making it easy to get around on foot or by bike, it’ll be easier to support things like these new innovations that are coming on like electric scooters or bike share, even transit doesn’t work, unless you make it easy to walk because a transit rider is always going to be a pedestrian at some point. And so if we focus on more of these issues of accessibility, it opens up opportunities for multiple modes of travel. One of the points we make in the book that I think is really important to understand is that a focus on designing a transport system around cars makes every other mode more difficult.

David King (11m 52s):
Because if you plan for cars, you need a lot of space. Cars go fast. They’re large, they’re incompatible with walking, they’re incompatible, biking, they’re incompatible transit, and they make all of those other modes more difficult. But if we focus on making all other modes easier, they all become easier for you. Focus on making, walking easier. It makes biking easier. It makes transit easier. If we focus on making biking easier, it makes walking easier and transit easier and all these other innovations that happen. And then the only inconvenience is towards driving, which is not an minor inconvenience, but it gives more people, more options. And ultimately what we want to focus on in cities and our urban transport is letting people use what works best for them rather than using this mode, which would be driving.

David King (12m 41s):
That makes it harder on everybody else. We want to encourage as many people to use the modes that make it as easy as everybody else to get around. And so that’s a different orientation in transport planning. And part of that is it opens up these ideas that we also explore in the book of focusing on some of the complicated trade-offs that we have in transport planning of justice, of what to do about climate and the environment, what to do about economic issues and financial issues associated with it. And we, as we argue through the book, there’s these multiple crises that we have, you know, we, we look at issues of police enforcement and racial targeting of blacks and Latinos.

David King (13m 26s):
For instance, when we know blacks and Latinos are pulled over at a far higher rate than whites, we know that that’s true, whether it’s on bike or on foot. We also know that we have to reduce our carbon emissions from transport, if we’re going to solve our climate problems and to do that, what does that mean? And how does climate interact with issues of justice? And then we have issues of finances. We mentioned it earlier, Kevin was talking about paying for driving the federal government. Hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1993. The federal system of paying for all kinds of transport and investment is sort of broken in that federal transport spending is now competing with other federal dollars and other federal priorities.

David King (14m 13s):
And there’s a shift towards more local sources of funding. And lots of cities, lots of states are trying to decide where do they allocate their maintenance costs? Where do they allocate their expansion costs? Where do they allocate their infrastructure spending? And so we have all these different aspects and these different important policy decisions that require significant trade-offs within the transport world. And we haven’t been doing a very good job within the transport planning process of really pushing forward on, you know, making these difficult trade-offs explicit. And by focusing on accessibility and rethinking the way we teach transport and rethinking what it means to be a transport planner, we’re going to be in a much better position to tackle these often intractable problems and be able to work with the public and come up with solutions that really worked better for cities overall.

Kevin Krizek (15m 7s):
I think that was a very clear and justified description about how and why we chose to include what we did. If we are continuing to educate the next generation of transportation planners with the same skills techniques, thought processes, as David mentioned, we’re really just going to be creating the same types of problems. So how do we get out of that and how do we allow people to be empowered, to have more intelligent conversations then, oh, that pothole that is in the middle of the road that you hit, I hit, we all hit it, right? And so we need to fix that pothole. Well, you know, here’s an example of, of something. Okay, great, smart cities, digital governance, let’s figure out a solution to get the pothole fixed.

Kevin Krizek (15m 48s):
Okay. W w what are we going to do? Let’s put some cameras onto the chassies of garbage trucks, which drive every street in the city, and we’re going to have a great inventory of where the deepest potholes are and how we’re going to then provide a strategy to fix them. Right. And so we get stuck in this cycle and we’re going to have a $4 million program to do that, for example, well, is that going to fix our problem? That’s the first question. And if we do that $4 million and we distribute, say, for example, 1 million on providing residents with lighter, cleaner forms of mobility and 1 million on building out a new network for where they want to go 1 million on an economic development program, and 1 million on a curb access program.

Kevin Krizek (16m 30s):
These are four different examples of how their access, their, their ability to get goods and services could be increased at a much reduced cost.

Jeff Wood (16m 39s):
I mean, it begs the question of how we can make these ideas kind of puncture the existing status quo. I mean, right now we’re having as folks know, I mean, we’re having this huge conversation that maybe is not necessarily like the right conversation about gas prices and trying to like break that kind of pop culture or mainstream media discussion about transportation is really difficult. How do you switch the point of discussion away from that towards the discussion about access or discussion about better ways to address what needs to be done rather than the technological solution,

Kevin Krizek (17m 14s):
Ask the right question to make sure that the right question is on the table that’s being addressed. Right. And the second thing is to understand how steeply bread into our culture and regulatory and design processes that broken process is. And everybody’s at a different level of the spectrum in their own understanding of that. So for example, your readership is much further along, and we’re probably preaching to the choir in this respect. However, I would claim that the average transportation planner who’s working in whatever city in whatever X state probably doesn’t have a solution set that they can turn to. And they just don’t know where and how to propose an alternative mindset to their elected officials, other than we need more protected bike lanes.

Kevin Krizek (17m 59s):
And what we’re trying to do is empower those individuals with stronger arguments.

David King (18m 4s):
Another reason that we’re tying our argument of accessibility, to issues of justice, issues of climate issues of economics, and how we pay for transport is that where we’re also suggesting that there are new coalitions to be built, new coalitions of bringing people into the fold, that if you care about racial justice, you need to care about transport. You need to care about local transport issues like I’m currently in Minnesota and Minnesota is where Philando Castillo was shot by Falcon Heights, police officer, a number of years ago, shot and killed. And he was killed when he was 33 years old, which is the age I was when I moved away from Minnesota.

David King (18m 45s):
And so he, in his 16 years or so of being a driver in Minnesota, he got pulled over 35, some odd times. And that was largely because of the color of his skin. And he knew how to get pulled over, refuse as pro as you could get. And he still was shot and killed with his girlfriend and his child in the car. And I got pulled over, I don’t know, seven or eight times. And I was a dunderhead when it came to driving. And yet there’s no doubt that there are racial issues that are associated with why I was able to get away with it for the same number of years he wasn’t. And these issues of justice are baked into our transport system.

David King (19m 27s):
These issues of climate, you know, it’s frustrating to us when well-meaning transport folks are climate activists say, well, we’re just going to get everybody to ride transit, or we’re going to have, we have this golden ticket, that’s going to solve everything to some degree. That’s fine. And we don’t disagree with any of the solutions that are brought up by a climate activists or transport activists. You know, we support public transit. We think that that’s wonderful. We think that bike lanes are wonderful, but it’s also the case that no, I live in Phoenix and Phoenix is for the perceivable future going to be a region that is dominated by private automobiles. There is no public transit solution. That’s really going to make a debt and Phoenix.

David King (20m 8s):
Now, unless we’re going to start restricting where people can live, it’s going to be very difficult to stop people from moving to Phoenix. It’s hot in the summer, but people like to be there, which is evidenced by how they’re moving there. So we have some trade-offs that we have to make in the context of environmental issues of climate issues that, you know, we can’t pretend that we are the silver bullet, but that works for everything. And then when we’re thinking about economic issues in our, our transport finance system is broken, like some of what we’re talking about with the price of gasoline right now, because of the invasion of Ukraine. Yeah. Gas is super expensive. Everybody’s talking about it. And now we have these what we are short-sighted policy proposals to put the gas tax at the state or federal level on hiatus.

David King (20m 54s):
Well, that’s a terrible idea. You’re like, you know, the cost of driving is too low. Having high gas prices is actually a good thing when it comes to environmental issues and we support that. But on the same token, if we take away gas taxes, even if it’s bad policy, we’re taking away a lot of revenue that’s needed to pay for all of our infrastructure. And we can’t, we simply can’t continue to pay for infrastructure the way we have been and expect that we’re going to be able to invest in rail systems, invest in bus systems, investing in all kinds of things. So we have this transfer, as I mentioned earlier, of what we can even consider a devolution of transport, finance, to local issues, more cities and counties and regions are now responsible for picking up a greater share of their transport spending.

David King (21m 43s):
And at that point, we think that it’s going to change their priorities. If the federal government comes in and says, we’re going to pay for 50% or 80% or 90% like they did with the interstates of all these projects, there’s going to be a lot of ways for product X, but if the cities and the counties and the states are, have to spend money on their projects, that they then have to maintain, they’re going to make different choices. They’re going to make more efficient choices if that’s what we think will happen. So we introduced these issues of justice and climate and economics so that we can build these broader coalitions. So it’s not just trying to convince people of a good idea, but it’s actually building a political support system that is all focused around accessibility and a better transport system,

Jeff Wood (22m 31s):
Which can be hard. Right. I think I shared an article recently about Lamesa near San Diego in California. The region is focused on a road user charge and thinking about the future 20, 60 or so. And that was like a hot button issue because it got a more conservative legislator elected. And then the politics of it switched. And it got really complicated for the democratic legislators who were actually on board before and now they were getting pushback from constituents. And so the politics of it gets really complicated too. I mean, it’s just, we know in, in transport planning kind of how things might be able to go, but then there’s all these, that wrench of public opinion politics and the power of how they get those done.

Jeff Wood (23m 11s):
So, you know, one thing I, I love the book, but one thing I didn’t notice was kind of the power dynamic discussion about how things get done necessarily. And I know you can’t fit everything in a book, but was that something that you considered and left out or was it something that was too complicated to cover? Obviously every place has their own little fiefdoms and there’s structures that are really complicated to explain, especially when you get to different levels. But I’m curious about that.

David King (23m 34s):
So on that specifically is that last bit that you said the different fiefdoms that exist that really precluded us, including a lot of that, because like in the Western us, for instance, there’s a lot of transport referenda that there’s transport projects, either individual projects like the California bullet train or transport sales taxes, like work, like we’re doing a miracle per county where there’s a 20 year sales tax that’s being debated right now. That’s going to go in front of the voters and they have to vote it up or down. But the referendum like that don’t exist out east, for instance, they don’t exist back east. And so there’s a lot of variation in that. There’s a lot of variation in what the interests are and something like Costa Mesa, California tends to be more conservative.

David King (24m 18s):
And they’re going to have a different set of outcomes than spending priorities. If you were looking at Los Angeles or if you’re looking at other cities. So ultimately we decided from a space constraint that we couldn’t fit that within the book because, you know, studying those local issues and sort of the political economy is a tremendous challenge. I mean, a couple of years ago with David Levinson, who Kevin has also written a book with, but Dave Levinson and I wrote a book called the political economy of access, which got at some of these issues, more local issues. And thinking through some of the ways that we should approach the politics of these transport issues,

Kevin Krizek (24m 54s):
You know, one thing that is relatively ubiquitous across every context that we’re aiming to address here, Jeff and I think the short answer is exactly what David just suggested, which is there’s probably too much variation across all of the intended readers of this book to have a single source solution. Right. But the one thing that is universal is that we see a lot of value in thinking creatively and differently about that right of way in cities, right? And most of that right away is owned by local municipalities. And that really underscores the importance that local change and city councils can do to enact the type of change that we’re, we’re suggesting now, how does that change happen?

Kevin Krizek (25m 41s):
That change happens through lots of encouragement from citizens to allow their city council people to be empowered, to make that changes. That’s just one example that we want to, you know, further allow city planners or transportation planners or anyone who’s a civil servant to have that kind of policy entrepreneurship to advocate for.

David King (26m 4s):
Yeah. And quite frankly, this is one of the things that got me interested in local transport planning is that we can do a lot, like the number one thing that we should do to improve our transport system is get rid of parking required. If we got rid of parking requirements, a lot of these other factors would end up being solved. We’d open up a lot of land for new development. We’d open up a lot of opportunities for new innovations. Like one of the things that Kevin and I feel very strongly about is with the electrification that that is happening of the fleet and electrification that’s happening of these new mobility innovations. We should really encourage that and we can encourage the local level. We don’t need to wait on federal spending like we did with interstates or with a massive train program to redesign our roads.

David King (26m 52s):
We don’t need a massive federal infusion to put in a bike lane. Like these are things that are affordable at a local level. We can actually do this. And we would like to see that type of local power and that type of local autonomy be exploited by, by the people who are looking for a better transport system. You know, it’s not a, it’s not so much a top down system as it’s a bottom up system. And there’s no question there’s going to be lumpy lumpy distribution of effects. Some places are still going to go all in on cars, but other places are going to go in all in on bikes. Other places are going to go all in on neighborhood electric vehicles or electric cars or golf carts or whatever it might be. There’s a lot of different ways that we can solve many of our transport problems.

Jeff Wood (27m 35s):
Y’all do a great job of connecting the dots between a lot of things. There’s transport justice, there’s access there’s four-step models. There’s all kinds of things in the book that kind of connects everything. I’m curious what the hardest concept was to kind of explain in plain terms. I feel like the way that the book is written, everything is very clear and clean and easy to understand. So if you gave it to like, you know, a city council person, for example, I feel like they would easily get the concepts and it would make a lot of sense. And from my perspective, as somebody who talks to a lot of folks who are doing this stuff and thinking about this stuff, I feel like trying to make it simple is a very valuable thing, because we can have a conversation for an hour about transport justice, Carol Martins, but making it into like a paragraph or two is actually maybe a better way to go for a lot of people, rather than trying to jump into the Rawlsian philosophy of it all.

Jeff Wood (28m 23s):
So I’m curious, what was the hardest part of trying to take all these really difficult concepts and sometimes not so difficult concepts and put them into plain terms like you all have.

Kevin Krizek (28m 32s):
We don’t have a shortage of transportation solutions, experts who are all pointing towards accessibility as the solution there’s growing and increasingly kind of consensual agreement that that is where the golden nugget lies. What we don’t have is good pathways to create that accessibility. We don’t know how to do that. And we know that the century long practices of ensuring mobility or in particular auto mobility have, have really cemented a lot of our thinking. So I would claim that one of the most difficult parts of the book is to basically allow the reader to have not one, not two but 15, 20, 30 different points to allowing that Eureka moment to kind of seep in.

Kevin Krizek (29m 19s):
And you can’t just have one chapter on accessibility. You’ve got to have a whole book about accessibility, but you don’t want to just knock everybody over the head with the hammer of the accessibility hammer in every chapter. So how do you kind of roll out this issue and allow the reader to see different pathways to a meaningful solution for,

David King (29m 42s):
Yeah, and I think probably one of the concepts that’s very difficult gets at the core of what we do as researchers and also sort of the way transport is planned is that we tend to focus on what we can collect data about. And then we analyze that now that’s great. We, Kevin and I are researchers like we trade and data. We do analysis. We write papers about this stuff, but one of the problems with data, especially when we’re getting into the data of transport is we tend to focus on what we can get a lot of data for. And a lot of that is what we can collect easily. It’s really easy to collect data on vehicle close. It’s really easy to collect, collect data on vehicles that leads us to overemphasize flows and speed, as what’s important.

David King (30m 30s):
It’s not really important, at least in the context of what’s important for a good city, but it’s very important because we can measure it. And so we can, we can do the analysis. We can, we can present that. And so what we’re arguing in the book is a bit more of taking a normative approach and not being so worked up about what is easily measured and easily analyzed, but spending a little bit more time, actually spending a lot more time on focusing on what is actually important to urban dwellers, what is actually important to making a good city. And that is often not as easily measured, and it’s not as clean to describe, like you can describe congestion pretty easily and people understand it.

David King (31m 15s):
You know, it’s like, I am sitting in my car and I am not moving on the freeway. I am in congestion. Right. But if you start talking about accessibility or things like that, it’s not as intuitive of concept. And so that is sort of where, when we’re trying to prescribe these changes to make of the planning process and some of the changes we’re advocating lead to more normative approaches and normative being things that should be rather than things that are, that was a real challenge to write about. And certainly something that we’re, that we’re continuing to write about because it’ll take a long time to get these changes in active.

Jeff Wood (31m 53s):
Yeah. You talked about data and collecting data and using the data that’s easily available to, you know, monitor speeds and those types of things, which makes it hard to go against the manuals and the things that have come out in that way. So the mut CD and the Greenbook and all those things, what’s the balance between the needed standards and say, unnecessary restrictions that keep you from doing that normative planning.

Kevin Krizek (32m 14s):
That’s a very good and timely question. Jeff. I don’t think anyone has a good answer to that. It’s pretty clear though, that they’re all centered around a performance goal that is causing a lot of problems. And if we start to question that performance goal and allow people to see that that is quite not going to be the answer to the problem, then it really causes a quick unraveling of the purpose of all those standards. And I think that that’s going to be a very exciting space to keep an eye out on the next five, 10 years is the role of these standards because those cities that are making change are the ones that are throwing out those standards quickly. Right. But they don’t have great evidence to suggest that what they’re replacing them with is really more than just a, an incremental advancement.

Kevin Krizek (33m 1s):
I think we need a three or four or five kind of step change with respect to accepting those standards. And this is my last point. It’s hard to know what the new standards should be, because there’s not consensus around, for example, the new shape of a vehicle, the new speed of a vehicle and all those types of things. So, but unless we start to have that conversation, we’re not going to be making progress that is needed.

David King (33m 25s):
Yeah. And I think part of that to build on what Kevin just said, you know, I think those of us who are working in this space and probably most of the people who are gonna listen to this, understand the planning process is very auto oriented. But I think a lot of us don’t realize just how deeply ingrained that is and just how difficult that’s going to be to dislodge. And we talk about the legal challenges that all of these changes that we would advocate for are going to have to survive. You can Sue on environmental grounds in certain places that certain types of development or certain changes will affect driving time.

David King (34m 6s):
And if they affect driving time, you know, you can lose a lawsuit, even though something would be environmentally beneficial. And there’s a lot of ways that legally and environmentally and others, we’re so ingrained to thinking about how cars get around that we’ve lost sight. That there’s other ways that don’t involve cars. Like as an example, you know, California recently did away with their level of service. And so level of service is where you have grades a through F of, of essentially traffic flow from free flow to standstill. And that was how road projects were evaluated. And now California is switched to a vehicle miles traveled metric where vehicle miles traveled and is used and does what’s the effect on total vehicle miles traveled overall, but that can even go a step further or many steps further.

David King (34m 60s):
And you can think about how does new development improve access. Maybe we’re not interested in vehicle miles traveled at all because we’re interested trip substitution completely, you know, and so there’s different ways that we could approach that that would be not incremental changes from where we are, but, you know, we actually may need more radical approaches that introduces a whole new way of thinking about transport. I mean, Kevin just mentioned the size and speed of vehicles. You know, we, in the planning and transport, we often talk about, you know, cars are the problem, you know, that there a problem with safety, there are problems with, you know, with the environment, there’s all kinds of problems associated with them sprawl.

David King (35m 41s):
So on and so forth. And yet our solutions almost never focused on the car itself, our solutions focus on, we’re going to build more housing. We’re going to build, you know, apartments. We’re going to build transit. We’re going to do all these other things. But what if we focused on the vehicle as our object of concern and there’s regulatory reasons that this is difficult, but you know, if we switch from, you know, a giant SUV or a giant electric SUV to something that Kevin and I have written about, it’s called the, we consider human scale. And we say that here’s an outline of a vehicle. It has to be electric. It can’t wait any more than a few hundred pounds.

David King (36m 23s):
And it can’t be more than 40 inches wide and a hundred inches long within that envelope build whatever you want. And we will build our infrastructure. So that that’s supportive. That would be one way of approaching a problem with sort of a radical solution of rethinking the vehicle itself while preserving accessibility and giving us an opportunity to rethink our existing infrastructure that could be adapted very quickly into ways that would have dramatic changes in how people get around cities and the environmental footprint of cities and, you know, and justice implications and financial implications and everything else.

Kevin Krizek (37m 2s):
And Jeff, just to further strengthen that point, I think one of the key tenants to this conversation is that while that may initially be a solution that is just clearly a bridge too far for many people to accept, hopefully after reading the book, you will gain an appreciation of the rationale by which that is a solution that is arrived at that makes the most sense. So for example, I mean, just take from a, how quickly could that solution be enacted? Well, pretty darn quickly. I mean maybe three or four months, we already have the network it’s called Rhodes. We just need to appropriate them differently. Who has the power to do that? Well, the local municipalities, are they willing to do that?

Kevin Krizek (37m 42s):
No, because they are going to get too much blow back if they were empowered to be able to understand and communicate that issue and that solution set to their constituents or vice versa, you know, you can see the rationale by which a powerful solution could and should be enacted.

Jeff Wood (38m 1s):
That’s something you got will mentioned in the book is the power of the status quo is kind of dangerous. It seems like something that needs to be addressed. And I, at the end of the book, I mean, I was reading about your ideas for smaller vehicles. I was like, yeah, that could work. That could, that could work. Why not? Why don’t we all drive around in an electric, golf carts and little vehicles here in San Francisco? I mean, there’s no, there’s no reason not to, aside from taking transit, walking and biking. I mean, like, you know, if you really needed to get in a vehicle to go to golden gate park or whatever, why not just get in a golf cart? You know, it’s not going to be any slower necessarily. You know, I’ve even thought of getting an electric Vesper. If I needed to do something, I haven’t done it, but it’s something that I thought, cause I was like, oh, well, you know, I’m not, I’m not going to leave the city necessarily, but it’d be good to get around a little bit. Maybe I can get to the Richmond district more often, but I did see myself kind of following that trail of here I am with the access transport justice, et cetera.

Jeff Wood (38m 49s):
And then I’m getting to the end where I’m like, oh yeah, that makes sense.

Kevin Krizek (38m 51s):
Well, at least we got one person. So

Jeff Wood (38m 56s):
Is there something you all would write differently about, you know, maybe in 2019 than you wrote in 2020 or 2021, is there something about the pandemic that changed your thinking about what you wrote in the book?

David King (39m 7s):
So the pandemic is an interesting case because we’ve actually published a couple of pieces elsewhere since then. And the pandemic really solidified for us how quickly things can change if we want them to. And that’s one of the reasons that we want to frame these things of justice. We want to think frame safety, which I’ve been remiss in not mentioning, but safety is a crisis as well and the environmental crisis and the economy’s a crisis. You know, if we have these crises, our solutions should meet that urgency. And the pandemic really established that we can change the way streets function. We can change the way people get around. We can change the whole choice set as we put it in.

David King (39m 49s):
You know, we can, we can change the Overton window of what’s possible very, very quickly. And, you know, and that’s what we would focus on a bit more in the book if we were to write it today, as opposed to pre-K and Derrick

Kevin Krizek (40m 2s):
And furthermore, Jeff, I think it’s important to point out that if we approach issues of people easily getting the goods and services that they need on a daily basis in metropolitan areas, urban or suburban that’s achieved through three different means. The first is mobility traveling on the network, which we’ve basically just given over to Automobility. The second is the proximity lever, right? Bringing close, bringing destinations closer to one another, that has a long fuse that has, you know, and, and there’s a lot of blowback with zoning and stuff like that. But the third lever is connectivity, including digital connectivity. And, you know, the COVID has really taught us how much we can do with digital connectivity in terms of being able to satisfy some of the daily travels and have some of those daily travels come to us.

Kevin Krizek (40m 48s):
So I think that’s an important element to bring forth as well, in terms of trying to see how the prism of transport access and envisioning the solutions through the prism of, of access opens up a solution set.

David King (41m 2s):
There’s also the economic change of post pandemic. What does a local economy look like? How many people are working in an office, how many people are working from home? This is an opportunity to make serious changes in our transport systems. And this is an opportunity that we shouldn’t waste, you know, and we don’t know what it’s going to look like. We don’t know how many people are going to be back in the office. Full-time there’s going to be hybrid or whatever else. It’s certainly worrisome the initial post pandemic, or we’re not quite posting, but the initial numbers of, you know, transit ridership isn’t rebounding the same way that driving is. There’s a lot of people who have ended up buying cars, you know, is that going to be a permanent condition or are there ways that we might be able to get some of those people who were buying cars and do electric bikes or something like that that might be environmentally more beneficial if we don’t end up with a firm recovery of a downtown core, what does that do for transit ridership?

David King (42m 1s):
Because most cities with their transit ridership really rely on a Monday through Friday rush hour to really support the system and does transit in places like Phoenix, which doesn’t have a strong downtown core, you know, two and a half million jobs in the region. Only 58,000 are in downtown Phoenix. You know, is that going to be a type of system where you can have a strong transit response or is transit going to become more of a social service? And these are policy responses and these reflect values that we bring to our transport system. And when I was talking earlier about the normative values that we bring to our transport system, it is about these values of the society that we’re trying to instill and the transport choices that we have reflect the values that we can think about our response to the pandemic of how many illnesses and deaths we’re willing to tolerate from a virus.

David King (42m 55s):
We’re not having the same discussion with the number of injuries and deaths that we have from our transport system. You know, almost 40,000 people a year are dying on us roads, you know, in far more than that are being injured, you know, and this just reflects sort of what we’re willing to accept. And in many ways we have to reset as Kevin put it, we have to reset, like, what are the values that we’re bringing to our system? What is it that we actually want to achieve from our transport system? And how do we, how do we actually design a system that reflects the values that we think we have as a society?

Kevin Krizek (43m 27s):
You know, Jeff never before in this 25 year career that I’ve been plugging away at, have we been so close to a solution now we’re so far still away from any meaningful solution, but we are so much closer than we have been. Now, if we accept the fact that we are going to continue down the same path with the same likely problems, it’s really not looking great that train’s gonna be crashing a lot sooner than people think, but I think people just don’t know of another alternative. And so, I mean, for example, if we assume that standard cars will indefinitely require the amount of energy that they currently have, this presents a big problem for critical minerals and electric version of the Ford F-150 is going to weigh almost 2000 pounds more than its internal combustion counterpart.

Kevin Krizek (44m 13s):
Right? So what this means is that projecting current demands, the top selling car in the U S is going to have to have enough energy to propel us in the same way. And we’re really just swapping one problem for another,

Jeff Wood (44m 24s):
You know, you wrote your own, me that email the other day, about how we’re not talking about the resource issues related to electric vehicles and everything that goes along with that. And then I started writing down kind of all these things. So heavier vehicles equals larger batteries. Larger batteries equals bigger energy grid. Larger batteries equals more mining, larger batteries equals more weight, larger batteries equals larger range, larger range equals more brake dust, more rubber particulates, more larger range equals more sprawl, more sprawl is more habitat loss, et cetera. I go on and on, but you know, those are all the things that are interconnected that goes kind of to David’s point about all the reasons why we need to think of all these, these other topics outside of transportation planning that are tied into planning, including justice, including environment, but it’s hard to get people to kind of see the bigger picture when you’re focused on what’s right in front of you.

Jeff Wood (45m 9s):
And to David’s point as well. You know, the other day I was, I take the 24 bus from my house to here in San Francisco and we go in the middle of the day and it’s, it’s packed and it’s not a downtown to downtown trip. It’s more of a neighborhood to neighborhood trip and all this discussion of ridership being down, it seems like ridership on this corridor is up. And so, you know, there’s a real interesting kind of rethinking that we could possibly do about transportation. That’s away from those downtown specific transit system and where we put our money and things like that, all these lines that aren’t necessarily suburban to downtown or, or the work trip focused, they might actually be flourishing. And it’s something that I’ve noticed that, you know, people are talking about that as a positive from ridership perspective.

David King (45m 51s):
And what you’re describing is, is a focus on access and letting people get to where they need to go. And that’s not necessarily downtown, you know, a transit system that makes it easy to get where you have to go. There’s a transit system that’s designed around accidents and that whether it’s transit or whether it’s bikes or whether it’s e-bikes or new electric vehicles or whatever it might be, that’s what we want to do. That’s the type of focus that we need to have in our transport planning,

Jeff Wood (46m 20s):
For sure. Who do you all want to read the book? Like if you could give a thousand copies away for free, who would you send it to?

Kevin Krizek (46m 26s):
Well, there’s undergraduates who are entering the field. There’s the novice researcher. Who’s looking for a catalog of issues to spark research questions. There’s the planner who’s moving into the transportation arena. They would benefit. I’d like to think that senior advisors to mayors would say, Hmm, this is something that we can get our minds around. And mayor so-and-so, this is a solution set. All of these are potential. And I think influential next generation thought leaders. And the idea is to help explain the principles of transportation and healthy transportation to the constituents who seemed, you know, just focused on automotive congestion as the sole definition of the transportation problem.

David King (47m 6s):
Yeah. And th the book was written to be used as a complimentary text in a course, but also written in a way that it’s meant to be accessible for people who are just interested in, as you mentioned, it’s not terribly long, it’s not overly technical. We’re trying to focus on the arguments at hand, if it was used in the course, we would hope that additional materials would be used to further substantiate the arguments that we’re making. But it’s really aimed at somebody who has an initial interest, or is really looking for arguments about why we’re doing everything wrong. Even though, like, we don’t have a new solution that hasn’t been introduced in the last 50 years.

David King (47m 48s):
Like everything that we’re talking about is revolutionary. It’s something that’s been around for decades. It just happens to get a lot of venture capital behind it at this point, you know? And so why haven’t we been engaging with these solutions? Why are we still fighting these same battles of road expansion? Transit frequency is not treated as a priority as it should be. Why are we still not allocating space on our road networks for people to get around by human power modes? So these are all the same battles you’ve been focusing on for a long time. And so ideally it’s people who are interested in solutions that might help move the needle in those ways.

Jeff Wood (48m 28s):
All right. My last question for you all, what’s your favorite part of the book? What was the most fun part to write?

Kevin Krizek (48m 33s):
Well, I love the challenge of trying to say the same message in different ways with different media. And I think that we were successful in that. In other words, if you only spent two seconds with the book and you opened it up and you saw one of the graphics, hopefully you got something out of it. If you spent two minutes with the book and you just read the headers to each chapter, you got something out of it. If you just looked at the first picture on page six and everything kind of flows from there. And if you use those as, as anchor points for the potential reader and they say, oh, why actually I want to see how that is referenced and what they’re talking about here.

Kevin Krizek (49m 15s):
I found that that was one of the more challenging, but also rewarding parts of assembling the message that we aim to do.

David King (49m 22s):
And I would say I really enjoyed the writing of the justice chapter and tying some of these other crises into transport planning. I mean, this is a transport planning textbook, and the second chapter is devoted to justice. And I think that that matters. I mean, that was an intentional choice on our part that we wanted some of these other issues, not just traffic flow to be really what are some of the first principles that people learn about when we’re thinking about our transport system and some of the problems of our transport systems, the main problem of our transport system is not congestion. The main problem of our transport system is not that people are stuck on freeways.

David King (50m 4s):
The main problem of our transport system is about justice. It’s about safety. It’s about the environment, it’s about the economy. That’s where we should really focus our attention and getting those concepts and those crises into, you know, a transport text. I thought it was very rewarding.

Jeff Wood (50m 21s):
Well, the book is an Advanced Introduction to Urban Transport Planning. Where can folks find it? If they want to get a copy,

David King (50m 27s):
You can find it easiest would be online. Can certainly order it directly from Edward Elgar or Amazon. One of the things that attracted us to the book was it was affordable. It’s roughly about $20. And we made sure that that was going to be the case wherever it was sold. So it is available anywhere, any major retailer, and it shouldn’t be more than 20 or $25.

Kevin Krizek (50m 49s):
A lot of local bookstores are covering it, Jeff. So you can go down to your local bookstore and ask for

David King (50m 54s):
It. You can certainly order it through your local bookstore. Yeah.

Jeff Wood (50m 56s):
Yeah. Usually if you go in and ask them, they can order it for you. Right. So I’ve done that a lot of times, and that’s probably the best way to go as big. Can I get this book? And then they can usually find it.

Kevin Krizek (51m 4s):
You’re the one that taught us Jeff, that a that’s one way that we’re supporting our local bookstores is to go ahead and order it rather than us order it.

Jeff Wood (51m 11s):
That’s right. Exactly.

Kevin Krizek (51m 12s):
Listen, I listened to your show, Jeff.

Jeff Wood (51m 14s):
Good, good. You got bookshop that or go to bookshop.org and if you can find it and if you can go to your local bookstore, that’s, that’s even better.

Kevin Krizek (51m 21s):
I think one of the, one of the most important points Jeff, that we talked about is that what we’re looking for is a control alt delete for our transportation systems. Most of us agree on that. We don’t have a clear solution for what that looks like, and everybody’s going to come to a different solution based on where they’re coming from. But success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And what we’re allowing through this book is people to be prepared to have the right conversations.

Jeff Wood (51m 47s):
Well, I definitely recommend people picking it up and changing their conversations because I think it’s important. Kevin and David, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate your time.

Kevin Krizek (51m 55s):
Thank you, Jeff.

David King (51m 55s):
Thank you so much for having us

Listen to the Talking Headways Podcast


…the first thing I read every morning is the newsletter to see what’s been out there. It’s great to have an aggregator that pulls everything together so nicely.

Joe Cortright, City Observatory

I think that the email newsletter that you do every morning is the best one that I get, and I get a lot of them.

Mary Newsom, The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute

Really is the best daily urban newsletter out there.

Eric Jaffe, Editorial Director Sidewalk Labs


To Receive The Overhead Wire in Your Inbox Daily

Premium Daily Subscription

The Premium Daily Subscription is our most information packed offering, chock full of over 30 pieces of news every single day. Included are popular features such as the quote of the day and the most read article from the previous day. Also included is our weekly roundup for times when you are strapped for time but need to know what’s going on.

Premium Weekly Subscription

The Premium Weekly Subscription is for professionals constantly under a time crunch. We take the most read items from the week before and share them with subscribers along with more in depth analysis of a single popular topic.

Learn More and Subscribe

Top Links

of the past 48 hours

Video of the Day

Friends of The Overhead Wire

Back To Top

Welcome to The Overhead Wire

What Can We Help You Find?

Try Our Newsletter For Free