(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 474: Thinking Differently About Vehicle Design

March 14, 2024

This week we’re joined by vehicle designer Dan Sturges to talk about his book Near to Far: A Design for a new and Equitable Transportation System. We talk about new ways of thinking about vehicle design, mobility for low density areas, as well as pop culture perceptions of small vehicles.

To listen to this episode, visit Streetsblog USA or our hosting archive.

Below is a full unedited AI generated transcript for the episode:

Jeff Wood (2m 7s):
Dan Sturges, welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.

Dan Sturges (2m 10s):
Thanks for having me. Great to be here.

Jeff Wood (2m 12s):
Awesome. Well thanks for being here. Before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Dan Sturges (2m 16s):
Okay, I am a 60-year-old human. I started life actually as a car designer, so it’s a little bit odd, I guess, to be on a show talking about living a better life without owning as many cars and making mobility better in our cities better. I live now in Boulder, Colorado, and I’m back to where I went to high school in Boulder and in high school I couldn’t afford my car, so I bought a Vespa scooter and I was like, this is great. Get around Boulder, 40 miles an hour, does what I need cheaply, but it, it’s not good for the rain or the snow and I can’t carry much cargo. So I said, why can’t I get a bigger vehicle? And so ultimately it led me to create the first neighbor electric vehicle, which is now known as the GEM car.

Dan Sturges (2m 57s):
So I designed a new vehicle in 1988 and went through a lot of years and finally got into production in 1995. We could only keep that company going for about three years and then it fell into some other people’s hands and, and now it’s being made by others. But it was a great experience to bring a new vehicle to the United States and to get the federal government to recognize a new category vehicle, the low speed vehicle. But the silver lining for me was by 97 I realized that I was going to do a lot more work than just make a small vehicle. The whole Transportation system would have to be changed to make a small vehicle to be able to fit in the system. So I went out and worked with Dan Sperling and Susan Shaheen at the Institute of Transportation Studies in 97 and proposed the first new mobility center.

Dan Sturges (3m 39s):
And that’s when I saw all these options. And there was the first bus, rapid Transit, the first car sharing first tele centers and said like, can’t these snacks all come together and be like a meal and replace that car? And that’s over 25 years ago now. So anyways, and I’ve gone from there and I’ve worked in all kinds of places and after the collapse of 2008, another startup had trouble. So I actually drove a city bus here in Boulder, Colorado for five months. So I’m a rare car designer with starting company experience but also bus driver experience. Anyways, I’ve done a lot of things and I just got a book out in the world called Near to Far that’s on Amazon, 250 pages, a hundred of which are pictures.

Dan Sturges (4m 23s):
And it’s someone called it My Manifesto on the Future of Transportation. But it’s really my blueprint on how we can go forward and really move past this car ownership model. And I’m really focused on the United States, but mostly focused on the lower density, more suburban areas where most of us live. And car dependency is just such a hard thing to get us to move past. So that’s just out in the world now and and I’m glad to be here and talk about that. And anything else? Well,

Jeff Wood (4m 47s):
The book is Near to Far, designed for a new Equitable and sustainable transportation System. Thanks for signing this for me. By the way, when I, when you came by the house late last year, it was great to see you and hang out for a bit. Let’s get into the book a little bit, but before we get into it specifically, I kind of wanna lay down some terms and ideas that everybody understands so that when we say these things, people understand what we’re talking about. So if you can indulge me, can you tell us a couple of things from the book, like the difference between thick and thin cities and then also these tiers that you’ve set up for transportation modes? So I’m interested in hearing those two ideas and then I think that once we lay those down, I feel like that kind of unfolds the conversation to all of the topics that you cover in the book.

Dan Sturges (5m 27s):
Yeah, thank you for that. I guess it’s a new vocabulary. So first off, fixed city, thin city is referring to our urban densities. And having worked in this mobility space for a long time, fixed city, thin city is a term I’ve been using for a while within my network and people I work with. And so fixed city refers to a very dense city. Let’s think of Manhattan and New York City, 40 story buildings or something, or downtown Chicago or downtown San Francisco, skyscrapers or tall buildings, a lot of of the first and last miles done on elevators. A lot of people are not car dependent. That’s thick city. Thin city is the more lower density suburban areas, whether it’s Phoenix, Arizona or it’s San Jose or Fremont, California or Minneapolis or Denver.

Dan Sturges (6m 12s):
I mean most United States I would say is thin city. And so essentially to me they’re almost like two different worlds from a transportation perspective because in thick city, , less people own cars. You can walk across the street, get to the destinations you’ve got in Manhattan, you’ve got choices. I mean if I’m in in lower Manhattan, I need to go Central Park, I can go on the surface on a bus, I can bike or whatever. Or if there’s traffic, I can go underground in the Subway, but I don’t have that option in density city, the United States. So that is really important to me is to have this difference between this density that’s very dense and this lower, more suburban density because the car dependency is really rooted in my opinion in thin city.

Dan Sturges (6m 55s):
And I would say that in thin city in the United States, we probably have less than 1% bicycling to work or bicycling every day. And it’s really an issue. So from a design perspective, how do we solve things? I kind of need to know, are we talking about an environment that’s a fixed city or a dense city core or are we talking about something more suburban? Tier one, tier two, tier three. So in the book, I call it dual tier, and Steve Price from CNU just wrote an article based off my book and he just called it two tier, which is fine. It’s really the idea here is to look at these different scales of vehicles in our world. And so tier one for me is a more local vehicle or a form of transit that’s for a shorter distance trip, probably not for the highway.

Dan Sturges (7m 40s):
Tier one would be a bicycle. It could be a bus that just drives around downtown Oakland or something. But it’s basically local transportation. Tier two is we’re our automobiles. So we’re close to 300 million automobiles, light trucks, SUVs or whatnot. And tier two vehicles to me are, they’re highway capable. They can go 70 miles an hour. They can drive us around our cities, they can drive us around our regions if need be. They can drive us across our country, but most people don’t do that. Now we have then tier three. Tier three is very high speed, long distance travel and that is mostly in the form of an airplane in our country. Unfortunately we don’t have much high speed rail, but tier three is that I need to go further than two or 300 miles or something and I need to do that fast.

Dan Sturges (8m 28s):
So in our country right now, we do have elements of all three of those tiers but really, really have a lot of tier two vehicles and we’re using those tier two vehicles for a lot of very short trips that those vehicles are way overbuilt for and just oversized for. And then we do have some tier one, we have the bicycles, we have the bike shares, we have the Scoters and we have these kinds of smaller vehicles, but across the country, they’re not in big numbers. here in Boulder, Colorado, we have a supermarket down the street and A BMW last year came out with a paint changes color. And my dream is that I could just magically make every car in Boulder be colored white, but if you drive less than a mile and a half and get outta your car to go somewhere, the car turns red.

Dan Sturges (9m 17s):
And then I could go down to the grocery store and look out and say, reforce those cars in that parking lot are red and those cars I could probably drive in New York City at 80 miles an hour. It’s like drinking soup with a shovel. It’s just total overkill. So we need, in my world, my view, we need a lot more tier one vehicles. We need less tier two vehicles and then the tier three, these regional things. Now the reason I call it a dual tier system is most people don’t get on an airplane every day and fly across the country. So most of our mobility every day is inside the region we live in. So I’m really interested in how we start to look at two tiers and really build up that tier one, the local mode and get those applied and used where it makes more sense.

Dan Sturges (9m 60s):
And then because it’s now been 30 years since the digital Revolution, the internet came out 30 years ago, so this doesn’t work for everybody. But for someone who might work from home , that second car becomes a smaller vehicle. It could be an e-bike, it could be a cargo bike, it could be a golf cart, it could be a little smart car, it could be something you haven’t seen between the golf cart and a smart car, but it gets you around locally, it gets you the store gets the kids around. But when you need to go far, you then go to a mobility extension where you get a tier two vehicle or a tier two mode. So it could be public transit that takes you further down the peninsula there on the east where you live, or it’s to get a highway car share vehicle.

Dan Sturges (10m 41s):
But it’s the idea that you can use a smaller vehicle from most your local trips and then when you need to extend your mobility, you actually get on demand, either a transit ride or you get some sort of a car share vehicle. So that’s the basic idea. And the thing is, what I just explained, we do already, but with these bigger vehicles, the tier twos and the tier threes, so an airport in the United States, I would actually consider a mobility hub, just a giant one, a very, very expensive giant mobility hub. And so here in Denver, a lot of people drive their automobiles out to the airport, park them and then get out of their cars and switch to another mode of travel, the tier three mode.

Dan Sturges (11m 22s):
And they’ll fly, let’s say to Chicago. And when they land at another giant mobility hub, they will switch to a tier two mode, whether it be a Uber ride or a rental car or whatnot. And go the last 10, 15 miles to their destination. So I’m talking about that idea shrunken down or shrink it down to a smaller set of vehicles.

Jeff Wood (11m 43s):
I hope some of them take the blue line ’cause that works too from the Chicago airport, but I imagine that a lot of them that are driving there are gonna end up driving when they get

Dan Sturges (11m 51s):
There. And there are some vehicles that you could could say like, well what’s the smart car? Is that tier one or two tier? ’cause the smart car goes on the highway. Well there are some things in the middle of what I’m saying that we can discuss . So that blue line, that’s basically a tier two service in my mind that moves you around the area of that Chicago land. So

Jeff Wood (12m 9s):
Well it feels like a lot of what you’ve written, the book is basically an introduction to possibilities of what could exist if people kind of dreamt a little bit more. I’m curious, was that part of your intention was to introduce people to a lot of these ideas for different modes in that tier one frame?

Dan Sturges (12m 25s):
Well, I want to obviously see us really improve transportation in a big way. And I think as a designer I I would look at a major new transportation innovation as very empowering to reshape the urban forum. So I would just go back to the automobile. I mean I’m sure your listeners have seen a lot of the negative sides of automobiles, but it has been a big part of transforming our society and being very much a positive thing as well as the negative things we see more today. But the point of it is , if you looked down from space in 1900 on our cities in Chicago we just talked about, or Denver, I mean these were very compact cities, but what did the automobile do? It enabled us to build the suburbs and it changed the urban form on the planet of where humans were living.

Dan Sturges (13m 8s):
And same with the elevator. I don’t think you had skyscrapers before the elevators invented. So I have had this ambition to like really transform how we do mobility and as a result how we improve our communities and our cities. But how do you do that when you’re talking at such a big scale? You’ve gotta start putting those ideas out there. And the book for me was a starting place. I mean if I had the budget to do a whole set of YouTube videos and really show people how it all works and at least how I think it can work, that would be even better. But I just had to start somewhere and the book was the place to put these ideas down. in the book, I’m also bringing up the idea which I call the cellular model , which is really based on mobility hubs. And I’m sure your listeners are familiar with mobility hubs and it’s not like we have millions of them around the United States at this time, but the Mobility Hub again is this smaller airport and all this, and I’m having to think about a cellular model, I don’t even know if cellular’s the right name for it.

Dan Sturges (14m 2s):
I mean I act, I called it also Z, like it’s a zone and it’s a network of zone. So maybe it’s a Z, it’s a new name. But , when I hear people talking mobility hub just one, I’m like, wait a minute. Like if you’re giving me one mobility hub to get onto the light rail in Pasadena, but it takes me down to Long Beach and I need to go five miles from there, I need another mobility hub. Like don’t get one airport, get me two. I need that network. And so how do you build these networks? I needed to start somewhere. And that’s where I put these ideas in the book.

Jeff Wood (14m 33s):
When you talk about networks and zones and the Z areas, I’m wondering where do the ideas come from? Is it from the want to think differently about transportation? Is it from your years of being in the car design circuit as it were? And how does that fit in? Like when people hear about them, what do they respond with?

Dan Sturges (14m 49s):
Well, and this has really been my adult life life working with these smaller vehicles. So when I started to put my vehicle into production and we had to raise money and we finally got our first neighborhood vehicle into production by 1995. So I spent a lot of time with that. I went to communities, I would go to a variety, we’d go to like Davis, California, we’d go down to San Diego and talk to elected officials and the United States government kind of said, you’re really not gonna go over 25 miles an hour this vehicle. And that was a problem, 25 mile an hour vehicle has less utility for people. So anyways, this was my early career where I started getting exposed to all of this and I had to design a vehicle that would be taller than a minivan that didn’t have airbags that you could get into and easily .

Dan Sturges (15m 32s):
So there was a lot of issues to deal with about safety. But now since that time in 95, we’ve just watched our automobiles get bigger and bigger and we’ve seen majority now our SUVs or some sort of compact SUV or crossover. And now we’re also seeing these electric cars come out that are 4,000 pounds or something. And we’re kind of just taking this idea of the electric car and stuffing it into this model of the automobile that’s been around for so long. And my friend Dan Sperling, , ITS Davis would say we’re selling cars to people like it’s 1940. I mean we have not really advanced beyond this ownership model. And so essentially the issue I come up with when I start showing people smaller vehicles is they, the first thing they get nervous about is the the safety .

Dan Sturges (16m 18s):
I’m gonna get killed in that little thing or I’m gonna crushed in that little thing. So , it’s required me to think very deeply and comprehensively about how to address those kinds of concerns. I mean we have millions of people that will ride on a golf cart and enjoy it and smile. Some might even drink a beer because they’re on a golf course on a bunch of grass, but it’s when you put it into a street environment with larger vehicles around you, it’s a whole different take on how that person feels around that. So I’ve had to think about all of that and how to advance that and that’s what’s led me to this new sort of a framework or principles of a new mobility architecture of a system.

Jeff Wood (16m 58s):
In the book you talk about the binary choice, and I think this relates to what you just mentioned about EVs, but like the choice of EVs versus active transportation as these two things that you can do. And there’s like a spectrum inside of that where folks aren’t looking at the spectrum because they have that fear of safety in their minds because of the big vehicles. But why is that the wrong frame? The the binary choice that we’re given

Dan Sturges (17m 19s):
, I guess I sometimes it’s not really talked about that much in my book, but I’d call what I talk about of getting a smaller vehicle that might have more car-like features, the things that we like in our cars, a personal vehicle that’s powered. I mean I actually started one of the first shared electri bike companies in the world back in 2007 and I had people saying like, why would you support an electric bike? And like why is it pedal bikes? And I’m like, because we wanna make it easier for people to get out of a car. And I get a lot of pushback. Some of those people that used to push back on that are now the biggest e-bike fans in the world. But here in here in Colorado, it gets cold, it snows, yeah, I guess you can dress really warm or something like that. But why is it if I need to go a mile and a half to get to the store or to take a kid to school or to go to wherever I need to go to do some yoga, why if it’s cold now I can’t drive my e-bike, now I have to have an automobile, something capable to go on a highway to New York City, a thousand, 2000 miles.

Dan Sturges (18m 11s):
So this never made any sense to me. But the issue is, so on one level we’re saying okay, we have a climate crisis, we’ve gotta move fast here. So the automakers are just taking these large full-size cars, which we know in the United States 90% of them are going to work with only one person. So basically approach number one is let’s take this conventional automobile, let’s sell it to someone and let’s now put , take the motor out, put a bunch of batteries and go get those from difficult parts of the world and mines and all the stuff you’re gonna get into and in this $50,000 average price vehicle. So that’s a real problem. And then the other part is all of the really good comprehensive conventional transit stuff that you are so knowledgeable about.

Dan Sturges (18m 59s):
But at the same time, obviously a bus is not door to door Transportation. And so it’s been really hard to see progress with the conventional transportation options. And then we’ve had , Uber calm and we’ve had the pandemic and people started using Zoom and working from home more and all of this. So, but the issue for me is the conventional transportation approach. here in Denver with RTD or with active transportation with bicycles walking, all of that. To me, if people still have to own a car and then ride the bus or then ride the bike, that does not make me happy. I don’t want people have to own cars. So how to get people from saying, I don’t need to own a car, I don’t wanna own a car because I have all these great options.

Dan Sturges (19m 45s):
That’s where I’m trying to go. So I don’t know if that really answered your question about the spectrum, but like if you are in New York City and, and you and I created a new mobility service and we went in there and said, oh, we’ve got this new thing, it’s not Uber Lyft, it’s something different. Well , if only 20% of people in Manhattan own a car or something less than that, that next morning, any of those people could wake up and try our service because they’re not tied to a car. But if we go to Phoenix, Arizona and people wake up and they’re making their car payment payment for the next three years, , what are we gonna ask them to do? Use our service and still pay for the car that sits in the garage. So it’s a really hard problem. How do you free people from having to own this car? And then you just look at like a study that came out, I think I mentioned in my book from Miami-Dade County, which was last year or something and they said If you own a car you can get to eight times more jobs than if you ride public transit.

Dan Sturges (20m 37s):
This is a huge problem. This is a huge, huge problem. So for me it’s like the first way is let’s make all our cars electric. Number two is conventional alternative transportation, which for me is it’s comprehensive, it’s more active, it’s got so many benefits, it’s just not getting the traction we need. And then third way for me is to take some of that of that car that we like but shrink it down, start to build a multi mobility network around it and start to get the traction that we need. And in the process help that household save $5,000 a year, help them use that e-bike more, get out on the trails, meet their neighbors, be more convivial, do all of this stuff.

Dan Sturges (21m 18s):
And TOD and all of these urban planning remedies are super important. But we need to move fast in my opinion and and ideas in my book Tamir are like, it’s like acupuncture. It’s like going into a a sprawling area with high car dependency and saying, okay, how long will it take us to eliminate to reduce the level of car ownership in this region by 25%? And do that not by forcing people to do it, by creating better options for them that they actually are gonna like more than owning that car. And I would like to see that happen fast.

Jeff Wood (21m 59s):
There was an article in the Philadelphia Enquirer a couple days ago, which doesn’t happen very often. I, I’ve been noticing these articles popping up from the sources that I usually don’t get news from for the newsletter, but it continues to surprise me and happen. But there was one about how a whole bunch of people in Center City Philadelphia got rid of their cars and now they’re saving tons of money and they’re happy about it, right? And they’re just trying to share with everybody what you could do if you did that. And I find that there’s a lot of changing minds and changing frequencies going on in people’s brains I think because as things get more expensive, you talk about trying to replace people’s cars. Now if someone goes to the car lot and they want an electric car, they’re gonna pay like 40, 50, $60,000 for a car instead of what they might have paid before, which is . They could have gotten a car for $18,000 or whatever it is.

Jeff Wood (22m 41s):
And so I think that there’s a change going on in people’s minds and it’s, it’s a good time to act on that change that’s actually happening. And, and I’ve read studies that said the best time to change someone’s behavior is when they move, right? They they move into a new house and you give them a bus pass and you give them the map and tell them, well you could do this now if you wanted to because you’re changing a whole bunch of other stuff. Why don’t you change the change this as well? And so I feel like we’re kind of ripe for those ideas to come to the forefront.

Dan Sturges (23m 5s):
Yeah, I totally agree with you and I’ve heard you those ideas of people moving as a good time. I totally agree a hundred percent agree with you. And yes, I mean even my friends that are car designers still, they talk about their kids who don’t even wanna own a car. So we hear all that stuff. We hear about the younger generations doing this and, and the center cities, I mean my book , it’s called near Far, but it could have been called, the main heart of the book is Solutions for Thin City because , yes, center cities downtown Manhattan and s maybe the center of Philadelphia. We need to do more there too. I mean I think last I heard the average speed in Manhattan was six miles an hour. I mean not much faster than walking. So there’s need for innovation there.

Dan Sturges (23m 47s):
But when you have car dependency levels so much lower and people are thriving socially in a way that we just aren’t in our suburbs, it’s kinda like if if the United States was a human that walked into the doctor and the doctor says What’s wrong? I’m like, I don’t feel good. I don’t think the doctor would go straight to the center cities or to the, to the thick cities and look at the problem. The doctor would look at your fin city, your suburban areas and your car dependency and say, oh my God, we gotta deal with this, we gotta treat this. And I would probably, I can’t prove this, but I think that like even Manhattan, when you have the boroughs around it or you got to Long Island or to New Jersey, if you have car dependency wrapping around a a core city , if you can start reducing that car dependency in those thin series on the outskirts of that fixity, you will find yourself in a better situation with a fixity as well.

Jeff Wood (24m 37s):
I wanna talk a bit about energy usage in vehicles as well because I was really struck by the comparison between the three different types of vehicles that you’ve mentioned in the book. And so an e-bike weighs 50 pounds and uses 0.65 kilowatt hours of battery and neighborhood electric vehicle is 500 pounds and uses 6.5 kilowatt hour of battery and then an electric car is 5,000 pounds and uses 65 kilowatt hour batteries. And so I think that those three different tiers really speak to not just the money people can save, but the energy they can save and the amount of energy and money that we put into moving people when it doesn’t have to be like that.

Dan Sturges (25m 16s):
Yeah, when I was talking to Dan Sperling recently, I mentioned from ITS Davis , he said, first off, in terms of our climate crisis, there’s two things we have to do. We have to move all of our energy to a renewable sources and we have to electrify our transportation. Well, when you start talking about renewable sources, , he would say solar and wind. And then he said some other things. And then the other things was a nice way of kind of not mentioning nuclear power and , I don’t wanna talk about nuclear power on this show very much, but I will say if we have to have nuclear power to survive, okay, whatever, I’m not very thrilled about the idea of storing toxic radioactive waste for a thousand years. But if someone tells me we need nuclear power to move people around a loan in their 7,000 pound SUVs in the Bay Area, I’m like, I’m not, I’m not down with that.

Dan Sturges (26m 6s):
But I real quickly wanna come back to one last thing you said about the cost of all this . There is one page in my book and it’s that page where it’s $50 a day. And I think most people in that stage just don’t know that. If you look at the AAA figures of car ownership, it’s o actually now over $10,000 average per year. But I basically break it down to $25 a day for two cars. So it’s like you go to a household and the car dealer man woman comes to your house every night at eight 30 and ask for $50. So Monday night, knock, knock, knock $50. And I was like, oh that’s not so bad. That’s cheaper on my cell phone. But they’re back the next day, $50 on Tuesday and Wednesday $50 and on the weekends $50. I mean I think if people had to pay for their cars that way we, it’d be like the frog jumping out of the pot.

Dan Sturges (26m 50s):
We just don’t think about how much these things really cost. And that’s just the consumer’s perspective. It’s not the citizen’s cost of it all.

Jeff Wood (26m 56s):
I have it written down here actually, like imagine if somebody came to your house to collect $50 a day and you probably wouldn’t be very happy. It reminds me of when I see bills every month, even for like cable and electric bill and all that stuff. I mean one of the reasons why I just got solar on the roof is because I was like, okay, I’m kind of tired of paying for all this gas bill for the heater and let’s, let’s change that up a bit. There’s some incentives and things like that. Obviously the federal government gives through the inflation reduction act that’s helpful. But also like nobody wants to see a $300 energy bill ’cause the house is a little cold and the city of San Francisco won’t let you replace your windows very easily.

Dan Sturges (27m 31s):
Yeah, no, and to your point though, the smaller vehicles, we just need to be efficient with our energy use. Yeah. Not just go to electric energy, but to go around in a 5,000 pound vehicle where you have all these rare earth metals in it from other parts of the planet. And actually you’re not really a safe vehicle in the street driving a 5,000 pound vehicle. I mean I saw a video of a Volkswagen electric car in Europe, I guess someone was driving too fast, had an accident, the whole battery module came out one across the street. I mean like it didn’t hit anybody, but if had it, it would’ve just been like, you’re dead. I mean like getting hit by 2000 pounds of batteries. This huge cassette the size of a piano.

Dan Sturges (28m 11s):
So it’s absurd to me, but we need to do a lot better. But again, I’m, I’m this odd person, somehow been a part of the car world, totally understand the alternative transportation world. But I’m looking for a new blend of how we solve this problem.

Jeff Wood (28m 27s):
Are you excited about the things that are going on in European cities like Paris? They just had attacks, they passed, it was low turnout election but they passed 54% for a three times tax on parking for SUVs. And the deputy mayor came out and basically was like, I don’t want as many private cars in the central city. I would like to have people , you can go to the outside and use their car. It’s kind of similar to your cellular idea. You can go outside of the city and use your car, but inside the city we’re walking, we’re biking, we’re taking other modes because the Streets are for people is basically what he said.

Dan Sturges (28m 58s):
Yeah, of course I’m pleased with that. , when I, when my friends talk about like Amsterdam or Copenhagen with so much bike usage, I mean I think it’s wonderful that those cities exist. , if I president of the United States, I would somehow make funding for like elected officials from all over the country to go over there and experience this kind of great future or world that’s less car dependent And to spend a week there and to experience it. And at the same time , when I see pretty pictures of like, oh the cars are all gone and everyone’s riding a bike or it’s snowing or something that people aren’t happy or , I’m also thinking like how are things moving? I’m thinking about the businesses, how are they still getting people to their businesses?

Dan Sturges (29m 38s):
So I, I don’t want to see cars taking out and an access reduced. I want to basically see access be better. I just think we can do better in the right sizing. I’m not for high tech just because it’s high tech. I’m not for low tech just ’cause it’s low tech. I think on a beautiful day in Palo Alto going a mile on a bicycle is better than any autonomous vehicle ever invented. But at the same time, like I see a lot of people talking about how Amsterdam is the best thing and they keep sending me pictures of all the great stuff there and I’m like, it’s great to see it but I’m not seeing any reaction here in the United States. We’re doing anything meaningful to really improve things here in United States.

Dan Sturges (30m 19s):
So I get a little tired of just like how great it is over there now in Paris , I have friends over there who would say the suburbs of Paris are car hell. So it’s great what they’re doing in the city centers there. And then you’d read about like places like Oslo and they wanted to build this car free center. And you see all this pushback actually. And again it’s like same sort of problem. It’s like in Ozo, Norway they have a ton of electric cars, a lot of electric cars more than probably anywhere in terms of penetration and sales, but they’re not getting many people to use transit. So I’m actually getting contacted by some people talking about smaller vehicles in this kind of third way where we can have what we like about our car but in a smaller form factor for people who would their movement patterns.

Dan Sturges (31m 3s):
It works for them. They don’t have to go 20 miles every day, the same , whatever. You could also make thinner cars for our highway, which I cover a bit in my book as well. So I think your listeners in the world that you’re in, you guys do all this incredible work at the same time. You’ve got this 280 million cars in the United States and I’m a part of designing those cars and that’s what I learned how to do. I worked for General Motors in my career, but basically those cars are not set in stone. They don’t have to be that size, they don’t have to be that way . And I’ve had a lot of frustration that people like me that can actually change the shape of the vehicles pretty much are rarely brought to the table when we talk about how to improve things from a city’s perspective.

Jeff Wood (31m 47s):
I wanna talk a little bit about smaller vehicles and I’m wondering , you’ve worked with Segway, you’ve worked on a number of different things, but one of, I think the frustrating things is you can design these vehicles but the marketing and the kind of the public perception of them can be twisted by pop culture to a certain extent. So the Segway had trouble because of people expected it to be something that it wasn’t that you have Wally, which is another example of Pixar pointing out people on pods. And so that turns into what people’s main idea of what pods and what single occupancy small vehicles might be. So what’s kind of your feeling about some of the public perception missteps that have been happening about smaller vehicles, smaller electric vehicles that could be really useful?

Dan Sturges (32m 30s):
It’s great that you bring these up and the Wally one in particular has been a real thorn in my side and I’m friends with Jay Schuster who designed Wally over at Pix up, but I, I do write a my book with Segue and . To me that was pretty unfortunate how it all happened that this book came out and they started talking about Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos seeing this vehicle. They didn’t tell us what it was, it was gonna change our world. And for most Americans or people in our country, their Transportation is an automobile that not only does local travel, but it takes ’em on the highway, gets ’em everywhere they need to go around their city or their region. So I think people were imagining hovercrafts or things that Levi, I don’t know what people were imagining, but they thought something radical was coming in when they revealed the vehicle in Good Morning America.

Dan Sturges (33m 13s):
So 13 mile an hour, very high tech scooter and people were really let down, right? So and then it was like they wanted to go on the sidewalk and then people said, oh well it’s, it’s replacing walking . Ultimately if you support an e-bike, you should be able to support a Segway. It’s just a very teeny vehicle that takes teeny amount of electricity that can move you down a path so much more efficiently in terms of using very, very little space. In fact, , Elon Musk I know told the industrial designer for the Segway to his face that he thinks the seg is ridiculous. And I’m like, that is not good because the segway probably gets the equivalent of a thousand miles per gallon if it use gas and it’s teeny and it’s more efficient than any Tesla will ever be to go on a short trip on the Wally Mobile, which they show on this spaceship city where everybody is very fat and heavy with their big gulp on their computer screen.

Dan Sturges (34m 13s):
This is really unfortunate because first off that spaceship, what it lacked was any active corridors, it didn’t have any places for people to walk. It didn’t have any places for people to bike. And so everyone was on this Hubbard chair as they call it. And so when I show a little what I call my book a Seat mobile, people go like, oh, I’m gonna get fat on that. And I’m like, are you kidding me? I mean, so I just think of like anywhere, like let me go to , downtown San Jose, California. Someone comes off the highway and they Tesla or their Audi four seat, five seat Audi or their Tesla and they come off the highway and now they’re gonna go at 25 miles an hour a mile or two towards their destination off the highway in downtown San Jose.

Dan Sturges (34m 58s):
Well if they had gotten out of that Tesla or that Audi in those, that five seat big car and got into that little Wally vehicle, which is really the size of a mobility scooter or a wheelchair, they would’ve saved so much land. You could have actually, if everyone was doing that, you could make your bike lanes five times wider than what we do now. If people would get outta that big car and take the little Wally mobile that last mile. But no, everyone saw the movie and they think like, oh this teeny vehicle’s gonna get me fat, but the fact that I’m in the Tesla or the Audi going that mile, I’m not gonna get fat. I’m just taking four empty chairs everywhere I’m going and taking up this huge piece of of land. It’s just absurd.

Dan Sturges (35m 39s):
But we as humans, somehow our mindset is still so part of this automobile culture and the inertia of our automobile culture is just massive as we all know. And this idea that this car takes us everywhere is so ingrained in us. I talked to Dave today with Dave Brook who started the first car share in the United States car share Portland in 1997. And even in, I think the numbers I put in my book in 2019 is we have like 20,000 car share vehicles in the United States out of almost 300 million cars after almost 20 years. Like that is not a lot of success. So we’re having a problem with our mindsets on this. And so I think that’s what we get into with these kinds of things.

Jeff Wood (36m 19s):
In your section on three silos, you, you wonder why state dots or dots more generally are always having to respond to challenges rather than being more proactive. What would happen if you got like vehicle designers in a room with government officials to think about these things together rather than just throwing stuff out and then having the DOT or U-S-D-O-T respond every time?

Dan Sturges (36m 40s):
Well that’s a nice question. Thank you. Yeah, if I think the posture of of the DOT changed from that more reactionary mode, which is really what they’ve been since the beginning. So the automobiles came and there were no dots and then the dots were created to manage things better for the residents and the businesses of that city federally as well. But to your question, I think we’re at a new time. I mean when I’ve dealt with people at transportation planning firms like Fair and Piers, I’ve worked with people, it’s almost like I think of the transportation planner who designs the street or the path, the bike path of the corridor. And it’s like they walk in, I think I’m like a plumber with a toolbox and they walk in and they open their toolbox and they pull out an automobile and that automobile either came from Detroit or it came from Tokyo or from Germany or something or China now.

Dan Sturges (37m 27s):
And then they pull out a bus and they pull out a bicycle and they pull out these different modes. And I’ve been out working on neighborhood vehicles for 30 years and they finally go, Oh, yeah, we’ll pull out a neighborhood electric vehicle. I’m like, great. But we’re also in this new age where we have 3D printing where we have low investment manufacturing where we can actually create things more customized. I mean , if someone said We wanna design a bus for Southern California and it’s nice out and it doesn’t snow out. I mean you could start, look, I mean I would, I don’t think it would be the trolley from San Francisco, but you could think about a convertible bus or open si. I mean you could think about a custom vehicle for that type of a climate. And I think that if you looked at all the warm climates in the United States or other markets like that, you’d have a big enough market that would warrant the investment needed to make that type of design.

Dan Sturges (38m 14s):
So to your question, if you then actually had the DOT on, it’s really probably the MPO that looks over the larger region or mega region. So you’re either looking over Northern California or you’re looking over southern California, like in Southern California, maybe you go to LA County. I mean you can’t really solve these problems to me if you don’t deal with the entire environment, which these automobiles are mainly used every day, you kind of need to have a canvas big enough that deals with pretty much most of that movement. And maybe LA County would be a workable frame for that, I don’t know. But it could be all of Southern California or whatever. But to your point, when you bring in a vehicle designer, you’re gonna wanna bring in more than them. You’re gonna wanna bring in the Transportation planners, you’re gonna wanna bring in the new mobility service providers, kind of the Uber Lyft.

Dan Sturges (38m 58s):
If you wanna talk about autonomous or automated transit or like the new company Glide ways. I mean you’d wanna look at the new companies that are bringing in services that could be a part of that new system. But I think if you started to like say, what could be this system, we don’t know if we can get it funded. We don’t know if the public will like it, we don’t know if the public will adopt it, but let’s design a concept of what we think this transportation or mobility system could look like. Goods movement, people movement, all of it we could just start to dream about. And the internet and all the digital technology not only allows us to do 3D printing and all this new types of manufacturing and development, it also allows us to do co-creation.

Dan Sturges (39m 41s):
So we could actually be including people, the public, the interested public in some part of that process of dreaming about what is that new future transportation system for that region. And then I think once you start to look at what could be, it’s not a show car, it’s a show system and you start to look at , what that could possibly be. And then I think you start getting into some really good conversations about what’s possible and then you start to drill down on like , maybe we need to do some market research or some pilots on some of this. And then I think there’s this possibility once that starts to gel into a much better system than what we have today, you could turn the process around and say like, okay, which automobile company or mobility company or tech company wants to actually bid?

Dan Sturges (40m 25s):
I’m building this part of the system. So rather than coming to it with a bunch of piecemeal elements, which is really where we’re at because Uber came out in 2009 and we were talking about things like Uber at uc, Davis in 97, 12 years earlier. But I almost think like today it’s like here at the Denver airport, it’s like the airplanes on the runway, but it’s not assembled. It’s like the fuselage is sitting on the tarmac, the wings are to the right, they’re not bolted on, the engines are sitting off to the side, the tail’s laying down on the side. I mean we have a plane here, it’s just not been assembled. And we continue to just come at this thing piecemeal by piecemeal and we can’t seem to provide a unified, cohesive alternative system that says to the consumer, you don’t have to own a car to have a happy, great, thriving life, even in thin city, suburban America.

Dan Sturges (41m 18s):
I really think it’s quite possible. I’m, I’m probably in the few that think it’s possible, but I do believe it’s possible and not that far away if we wanna do something like that.

Jeff Wood (41m 28s):
That reminds me of the interesting picture in your book of the deconstructed Volkswagen Golf. Yeah. As as someone whose first car was a Volkswagen GTI, which is a golf, my dad basically gave it to me after he was done using it and seeing all the parts laid out on the floor was really fascinating to me. I was like, wow, that that’s a lot, that’s a lot of parts to put together one little vehicle. That’s an amazing kind of deconstruction of why a vehicle costs as much as it costs.

Dan Sturges (41m 53s):
It speaks to the excess of it. And , it all made sense in 1970. We didn’t have the internet now with Apple music, what do I have 10 million songs or something? I don’t own them. I get, I listen to what I want to and I wanna listen to it. But we’re still buying these cars and we know they sit parked for 95% of the time and we’re paying all this money and we’re squirming about how to pay all our bills and and we’re devoting how much land to our cities. I mean it used to be in the day 50% of land in LA was all for transportation, parking lots, Streets, and all the stuff I mentioned here in Boulder. If three-fourths of the cars turned red ’cause you were using this giant vehicle to go a mile.

Dan Sturges (42m 34s):
If you only use half the parking lot. So what happens when you recover half of the parking lots in a, in a major region, all of a sudden every parking lot, every grocery store, you only need half of that, that parking lot. What do you wanna build housing places to grow food, skate parks, I mean city park, what do you wanna build? Like the footprint of our transportation system is still from 1970 basically. It’s absurd. We just haven’t made any real progress in it. And so I think we can though,

Jeff Wood (43m 3s):
Going back to the collaboration idea. Yeah, you taught students at car design school and you mentioned that a number of them kind of were just thinking about automobiles and they wanted to design supercars or whatever it was. And so it made me wonder kind of how much priming do we have to do in order to kind of get people to get out of that like silo of thinking about just , we have our cars and our buses and our bikes and this is the kit of parts that we already have and maybe dream a little bit bigger or dream a little bit different?

Dan Sturges (43m 31s):
Yeah, it’s a hard process. It’s a transition to me it’s like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. It’s a culture change. And I was actually the school I mentioned I College of creative studies in Detroit where I taught in 2015 to 2016. I was actually gave a online presentation a week ago and they actually now have my books in their bookstore and they’re signing the books to the students and they’re testing the students some, some of my chapters, which is fun. But those students are going to school and they wanna get a job when they get out. So who exactly is gonna hire them to design some sort of , comprehensive, innovative, new type of seamless advanced mobility system? It’s not gonna be any city I know of. And I don’t really know of any major automaker that’s actually in that business right now.

Dan Sturges (44m 14s):
So those students will hear me talk about this, but they’ll say like, I wanna get a job when I graduate in a year’s time. And if General Motors is showing up or Toyota’s showing up and they’re hiring people to design cars, then they feel like they’re gonna have to have a pretty good car design portfolio and the stuff that I’m talking about, they don’t know when that’s gonna come to bear and when that’s gonna provide them economic opportunity. So it’s just a transition. And some of those students don’t come from places like Los Angeles where the freeway sometimes don’t move. And so it’s just part of this culture change. And , Michael Moore will go out and do movies about guns in our country and if Michael Moore could just take some of my brain and put it in his head, he would probably do a movie in his style about our relationship with our automobiles because our automobiles and our guns and a lot of the stuff , it’s, it’s part of our craziness.

Jeff Wood (45m 4s):
Let’s talk about street design. How do you think all these vehicle types can fit on the right of ways that obviously they’re huge and we have space, but how do you think that that works?

Dan Sturges (45m 13s):
It’s gonna take work for sure, and the hard part with all of it is you don’t want to go spend a bunch of time and money developing some new street formats if you don’t know the public’s gonna take to the new vehicles or use this type of a new arrangement. So we’re gonna have to do some types of testing. We might have to do expositions or things where people can go sample some of these new arrangements, maybe some smaller Streets , my friend Steve Price just wrote a nice article and seeing you based on the ideas of my book and he contributed to my book, which was great. And he’s showing some of these smaller vehicles and how they could be applied. As I said earlier, one of the biggest issues of course with these small vehicles is safety.

Dan Sturges (45m 56s):
And so you get to this issue, we have these cars getting bigger and bigger and while our cars are getting bigger and bigger, I think that’s leading us to the straw that broke the camel’s back or something. I mean, I think we’re getting to the place that the cars have gotten so big that it is time for this one type of motorized closed Transportation to break into two categories, the small and the big. Obviously that’s the basis of my book, but all of us, when we were in our mother’s womb, we were once one cell and then we had to divide into two cells. And I think we’re at this place where we have to divide into two cells and I have pictures of my book of like just a harbor off the ocean and I see this , a 60 foot yacht come in from the harbor and then it parks and it’s like, then they wanna go get a beer across the harbor.

Dan Sturges (46m 36s):
Well, they’re not gonna fire up that big yacht. They’re gonna get into the little dinghy. I once said like, , every yacht needs a dinghy. I mean we need to, to me, we need to kind of split this off and get into these smaller vehicles. But to your point, , we’re not gonna go and change our Streets without having some sense that the public will accept this change and that the vehicles that we need to use, those new street designs, that those vehicles are gonna be available. So it’s a lot of different parts to make this all happen. I get it, it’s ambitious, it’s difficult. But here’s the thing. Right now across the United States, there is a place that people in no vehicles at all, just in their own clothes. A parent with a child interface with a giant 5,000 pound SUV, it’s called a parking lot.

Dan Sturges (47m 20s):
And whether you’re in a parking lot of Walmart or you’re a parking lot or Target or anywhere else across the country, we have millions of people that are walking through those parking lots next to cars that are driving in cars, that are parking cars that are backing up. We have to deal in that parking lot with people with no protection next to these giant vehicles. And we do the best we can to make it safe. But it’s a zone, it’s an area and there’s a, an expected behavior within the area. And I would say we need to now create a new type of an area that’s not a parking lot, it’s not a highway, it’s not Anterial Road, but it might be the local street. I mean, we have some level of behavior on our residential neighborhood, Streets, .

Dan Sturges (48m 1s):
They’re usually 25 miles an hour and when you put my little vehicles on ’em, they actually become sort of the AlphaVu dogs. And you have enough small vehicles going 30 miles an hour, they’re like driving speed bumps. They actually kind of control the speed of the traffic. And if I was the police officer, I would love the small vehicles, whether they’re segues or golf carts, I’d love ’em because not when people are gonna go Rob seven 11 and try to get away on a golf cart. So these little vehicles can make our community safer and let these kind of high speed home invasion vehicles stand out more because we’re using these smaller vehicles. But I digress. But anyways, the point of it is we’re going to have to do some level of focus on these travel environments and we’re probably just gonna have to slow down these bigger vehicles too.

Dan Sturges (48m 44s):
I used to think that a vehicle over a certain weight should actually have to go slower down the street. Like the speed limit for a vehicle over a certain weight should be slower than a vehicle that can break easier, stop easier, maneuver better. I mean whatever we’re, I could probably go on for hours with different ideas of how to deal with this, but we just have to address that infrastructure. And all of the little bird scooters shared e scooters, they all have geo-fencing now. I mean for 70 bucks you could have a device in every car and any car that’s gonna drive or the speed limit could have themselves send a ticket electronically right away. Not people are gonna support that. It’s, they’re not gonna like Big Brother in their car like that. But anyways, we’ve gotta go there.

Dan Sturges (49m 24s):
That’s where we have to go to start to right-size this to get into a sensible, smarter transportation future to start making safe. Not for these small cars, but for bicyclists. I mean, to go buy a white bicycle and see someone has died, just riding their bike somewhere is just absurd to me. And so it’s really about the safety for everybody. But we’re just gonna have to slow down these bigger vehicles where we need to and we’re gonna need to get better options of different small vehicles out there. We’re gonna have to do a lot of education, but ultimately we will reduce so much carbon. We will get on top of climate change. We will at the process, help a household save $5,000 a year.

Dan Sturges (50m 3s):
We’ll see more people riding bikes and getting healthier active transportation. I mean it’s just, it’s like which big thing do you want to solve? You wanna help traffic congestion? I mean like there’s so many things that can be better when we do this and it’s everything you already work on. I’m just infusing a little bit of that car, car sex appeal into that and hoping that we’re gonna get more traction together.

Jeff Wood (50m 25s):
You’ve dreamed up some ideas yourself too for this and put them in the book. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the thinking that you’ve put into it, aside from the hubs and things like that? You designed a little town. Yeah. You designed vehicles.

Dan Sturges (50m 37s):
Yeah, so it’s been a lot of years in my life, so there’s been a lot of frustrating times of it. So back in around 2012, I think I just had been tired of trying to see some of these small vehicles find more adoption without much success. So I started to say, well, maybe it’s time I just start to think about a new community. And actually when I started my company with my first partners, we were brought into Disney Celebration, which was a congress, a new urbanism kind of endorsed project. It was bringing back the traditional porch and the more of the old fashioned density, more walkable type of community. And obviously nothing like , Walt Disney and Epcot was about, which was a more futuristic city. So we started working in with them in 1992, and I worked with Ply Vista and then Rancho Mission Viejo in Southern California, which is like a $15 billion development in Orange County.

Dan Sturges (51m 25s):
And really in honesty, they’d bring our little vehicles in and really it was like greenwashing. They would kind of bring us in and say, aren’t these little vehicles cute? But again, there was never, or a solution where people were gonna have to own a big car in this kind of proposal. So I’ve worked with these community developers and got to see some of it, but when I started to dream of the project, I called Center Walk because I, I wanted the big cars to park at the edge. And I was like, well, why do I need sidewalks? I mean, you walk in the center of the street, right? There’s no cars. So I call it center walk, but I started to look at the advanced movement systems using automated technology, not so much the autonomous Waymo vehicles you see in San Francisco, but just automated technology, how you could move goods, how you could move people.

Dan Sturges (52m 9s):
Because when you kind of look at urban development or housing development, I mean like where in the United States does someone have to park their car the farthest from their apartment? I mean, probably in some student housing or something. Maybe your car is a hundred yards from your apartment. I don’t know, you’d have to carry all your groceries. It’s not convenient. People wouldn’t pay much for that. But if you started to think, I, I started to look at Center Walk, it’s just a, a place I looked at a mile by a mile piece of land up in Lancaster in the LA County High Desert where you’d have 25 million people that could come and visit. And I wanted to basically build in an experimental showcase of what could be done and give something that people could try.

Dan Sturges (52m 49s):
But the idea was you would walk out of your apartment or your townhouse in center walk and there would be no cars out front. It would be green space people walking and biking, kids playing no automobiles to risk the life of your kids. But if your grandma had to come and visit you, you can see it in the book. Every apartment had the front door going to the green space, but every apartment or a town home on the inside was part of a high tech alleyway where an automated type of very small vehicle could bring someone from the town or the community center, right, to your apartment, right? So if, if you couldn’t walk or you needed to move things. But this gets into what you can do if you kind of move past this idea of a world of bicycles, automobiles, and conventional buses.

Dan Sturges (53m 33s):
And you then start to look at computer driven technology, the types of things that I’ve mentioned, the company glide ways and others are working on. So that’s automated, but then the self-driving autonomous. But either way, you look at the advanced technology, then you bring in new vehicle design and form factor and then look at the user needs. And I think you can actually create a fantastic place to live really inexpensive, way more convenient than even our best places. So now you have that townhouse house that’s like that student housing, it costs that price or less, but you actually get more convenience than even someone who has a garage where they can drive their car and, and park it 30 feet from the kitchen where the refrigerator is.

Dan Sturges (54m 16s):
So it’s about this access and, and when you get into smaller vehicles, the smaller vehicle could go inside the building. So whether you have mobility issues or you’re like my mom 85 or something, you could actually go inside the building or it’s like you’re, that’s where you’re very much in the Wally thing, right? But again, for someone who’s senior that to be able to be in their La-Z-Boy chair and push a button and then the door opens and they can go out into the coffee shop and see their friends or down to the swimming pool in this mobility chair just from their apartment, I think would be wonderful. And I watch a lot of people that give up their car, their driver’s license at old age, and they just take a dive for the worst. And as, as soon as that car goes away, their, their social ability to interact with others just gets really diminished, unfortunately.

Dan Sturges (55m 1s):
So anyways, I, I’m basically saying we can rethink the vehicle in a big way and as a kid I used to like cars. So if you’d come to me and show me a Nissan Leaf or something and said like, Hey Dan, look at this Nissan Leaf, it’s electric. I’m like, well that’s nice . It looks just like a normal car. Oh, but it’s electric. It’s good for the environment, but it looks just like everything else I’ve seen. So I think it’s exciting that what I’m talking about is smaller vehicles. I’m talking about some bigger vehicles. I’m talking about new types of transit systems. I’m talking about not being in this automobile monoculture locked into one vehicle form as we’ve been for so many years. When I see these nude communities, I feel like I’m getting to the train station. We all know what it’s like to, to try to catch the light rail and right when you get to the station, it takes off and you miss the train, right?

Dan Sturges (55m 47s):
I’ve missed the train on all of these community projects pretty much. And there’s one happening California forever out by you right now with some billionaires involved. I’ve pretty much missed that train. Those guys are just out there to do another big conventional development to make as much money on the housing. And they don’t have any real idea at all of what I’m talking about and how transformative it is in terms of building better places to live in better communities. Unfortunately.

Jeff Wood (56m 12s):
I was gonna ask you about California forever because , they’ve set a density minimum of 20 units an acre and they seem to want to think about transportation from a different perspective, but it feels similar to what it’s always been and how are people gonna get to the jobs in the Bay Area and in Sacramento and wherever else they’re going. So it feels like more sprawl.

Dan Sturges (56m 32s):
Yeah, it’s really hard because even at Celebration, I think Seaside was one of the first new towns for CNU. I mean that kind of mindset of CNU, the discipline. But I think it was Celebration because of its Disney and the scale, they could finally get the banks to cover the mortgages for this kind of new form factor, if you will. I mean this different density. So it’s obviously very complicated, but when you’ve got these billionaires involved, I mean they could have really stepped out and just said, , it’s not about just doing something wild and different. What I’m basically saying here is what I’m talking about with this new technology, whether it’s computer driven technology, whether it’s automated autonomous, then you start putting into the new design and form factors.

Dan Sturges (57m 13s):
Then you start really exploring the interface between the vehicle and where it parks. Is it park outside? Does it park in the parking lot? Does it go right into the building? It’s electric so it doesn’t pollute. All of a sudden you’re building and you’re inside and outside in the vehicles. It all starts to be able to have opportunities to be rethought in a very profound way, in my opinion. And I think those elements allow us to create a far better place to live. And when I talk about a new city, people go like, oh, Dan Center walk that’s out there on a greenfield. And I’m like, yeah, I get it. , we, we don’t wanna go build a whole bunch of new Greenfield communities and you can go to a rem cool house, an amazing architect, and he’s like, he wants to build some new greenfield cities. He’s like, we humans live on 3% of the the land of the earth.

Dan Sturges (57m 56s):
We can spread out a bit. That’s what he says. But , we don’t want conventional S fall that we know that’s bad. I’m not suggesting that. But at the same time, we need to do some big things here. And so even to go out on a green field to create an example of a new model, because to me, if we don’t create the new models, I’m talking about a total clean sheet of paper to model with the technology we have and don’t see what we can do. If we don’t do that, we’re really missing out on how we can retrofit our existing world. I think we need to see the new model and then come back and see what can we pull from that new model into our world.

Jeff Wood (58m 32s):
The book is Near to Far, A Design for a New Equitable and Sustainable Transportation System. What’s next for you and the book and thinking forward about new places and models?

Dan Sturges (58m 44s):
Well, thanks for that question. I debated when I did the book what to Call it and all of that. But in the book, besides my sational analysis and covering my years in working in this area and not the new community stuff I just talked about at the very end of the book, the real bulk of the book is around how we can move past car dependency in our, in the United States. Of course other parts of the world too. But for me, so much the United States is thin cities more suburban. So really the book could have been called Solutions for Thin City, how to Reduce Automobile Dependency, buy More Innovative Mobility options, whatever.

Dan Sturges (59m 26s):
So what I will be doing now is setting up a program to start to look at pilot tests and how to advance this ambition, leveraging the book . I would love to see New York City and downtown San Francisco have better solutions, but that’s really not where I think the big need is. The big need is most of the Bay area where you live. That’s not the densest part, it’s the lower dense part. How can we start to say, how do you get Danville, California, Fremont, San Jose, whatever these areas are, let’s start talking about 25% less automobiles owned. How do we get to even that level? And that’s probably gonna start with reducing second cars and helping families.

Dan Sturges (1h 0m 8s):
Maybe people work from home, not having to own that second car and go to some sort of a mobility bundle with that E-bike or cargo bike or something packaged together with car sharing or public transit. And that family then saved four or $5,000. So I’m looking to start a project that I’ll call multi mobility, USA. So multi mobility is the term I’ve used for a number of years. It’s not really used much in my book, but people talk about smart mobility, shared mobility, mobility. A lot of Americans still just think of as transportation, but for me it’s multimodal mobility. So I just call it multi mobility. So I wanna move us to multi mobility. I don’t want people to say I drive everywhere in a car.

Dan Sturges (1h 0m 50s):
, maybe this term’s not the right term, but it’s like, no, I swing around town because I use multi mobility. I’m more like Tarzan, using Vine to Vine to Vine to get around and to be multiple, where most of Americans have only done it through using the airports. I guess we know that can be a bad experience if it’s not seamless and it’s not well done. But that’s what we need to do. We need to move past this idea that one highway car is tied to you always within a hundred yards of you, no matter where you are in your region, anytime of the day, night or week or month or year. I mean, we really need to uncouple ourselves from these automobiles. And that’s, that’s my mission. And multi mobility USA is the project that will start and we’ll be setting up a Patreon account to get support because these ideas are things that the automakers really don’t support.

Dan Sturges (1h 1m 37s):
It’s ideas that are very creative that the government agencies aren’t that focused on. And so I’m looking for people that wanna do this and are tired of waiting around and we’re gonna come together and start going out and doing this to do what we can to make it so, like, can you read the quote on the back of my book? I don’t have my book in front of me. What does Pete Buttigieg says?

Jeff Wood (1h 1m 55s):
He says, you should not have to own a car to prosper in this country, no matter what kind of community you’re living in.

Dan Sturges (1h 2m 1s):
Exactly. Well, I, I wanna make that true. I’m not that focused on the dense urban centers. ’cause I think you don’t really have to own a car there today. And I’m not really focused that much on the rural areas where probably 20, 30 million people live. ’cause I think the car is probably the best answer. But aside from the city center and aside from rural, that whole other area of lower density suburban United States, I wanna see Pete Buttigieg dream come true. And I, I need the coalition, the willing people that wanna work on this To Join up with us and, and make this happen.

Jeff Wood (1h 2m 30s):
Awesome. I’ll have a link in the show notes for folks who are interested in doing so. Where can folks find you if you wish to be found?

Dan Sturges (1h 2m 36s):
I have an Instagram account. It’s Transit authority. It’s just actually just anything I see around transportation, I post it. I also have a, a website design camp d zn.camp.

Jeff Wood (1h 2m 48s):
Awesome. I did read the book in full and I really liked it. And I think that folks will get a lot of joy out of this. It’s actually Amazon exclusive, so you have to go to Amazon and get this one.

Dan Sturges (1h 2m 58s):
Yeah, and I, I wanna thank the designers at Zuora Design who contributed a lot of the design. Just amazing design team over in Germany who did it with me. Awesome.

Jeff Wood (1h 3m 7s):
Lots of pictures, lots of great ideas. Check it out if you get a chance. Dan, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate your time. Thanks

Dan Sturges (1h 3m 12s):
So much for the time

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