Some quick shot updates and observations to start this week’s contribution.
Kids are doing wheelies in areas with heavy concentrations of pedestrians in places other than Springfield as it turns out. Commercial Street in Provincetown is the finest example of a shared space corridor that I have seen anywhere. For cars and delivery trucks it is a one way street, for bikes it is a two way corridor, and pedestrians wend their way along sidewalks on either side or along roadway.
Twice I saw kids “riding recklessly” up Commercial Street, and I was quick enough to snap a picture of it once:
The shops didn’t close, people didn’t run away in fear, and that despite the fact that in one case the miscreant was clearly of the minority persuasion. On that occasion the cyclist did, in fact, slam into a car, but since the car was barely moving there was no noticeable damage to car, to bicycle, or to the rider.
KMO appears to be getting fed up with Bellows Falls, Vermont. My readers might recall I visited Bellows Falls a few years ago with my wife to attend a screening of the Wizard of Oz, and we passed through it while taking the Vermonter to Burlington. It’s a picturesque little town perfectly situated to be just the kind of community which could thrive in the Long Emergency, but KMO is less interested in collapse these days, and much more focused on the chaos which Artificial Intelligence will unleash upon us all. As is always the case with these questions I think the best strategy is to create a life you love which has facets that can be helpful in as many as possible of the multiplicity of scenarios we may face.
As an interesting aside, KMO has spoken at length, many times, about his view that it was at least in part a crisis in his own life which caused him to latch on to what might be termed “sudden collapse doomerism”. While he still concedes that the Peak Oil phenomenon is having and will have far reaching effects, he regrets that his doomerism caused him to both alter his life so drastically, and distracted him from the impacts technological advances were having on society.
All very reasonable. There’s a lot in the tech sphere which doesn’t interest me, most of it in fact. My lack of interest in it, of course, doesn’t preclude it from biting me in the ass, and so I try to keep abreast through those who are interested in it; like KMO.
On the other hand, I find his assertions regarding “doomerism”, and its correlation to an overall failure in life, interesting. For many people it may be so, I wouldn’t argue against that. What interests me more, however, is the tendency of the depressed to actually be better at assessing themselves, i.e. avoiding Dunning-Kruger, and their life situation. That is to say that people going through tough times may very well be more likely to become doomers, but that not only doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it may mean that they are more likely to be right.
Hampshire College appears to be pulling back from the abyss, but their plan for survival, surprisingly, doesn’t appear to follow the guidelines I suggested. I recommended they sell the entire property so that it could revert to farmland, and that they move their campus to downtown Holyoke. For those unwilling to follow the link, the reason I suggested that is that one of their professors, Michael Klare, is perhaps the world’s leading expert on resource depletion, and yet the campus of Hampshire College is perhaps the finest example of edu-sprawl in the United States with a Walkscore of 17 whereas downtown Holyoke has a Walkscore of 90!
Do as I say, not as I do?
If you haven’t read Chuck Marohn’s series on his transformation from free market ideologue to Strong Towns advocate I recommend you change that. The core of the Strong Towns message is still the most important in the United States today. As with many simple messages it can become corrupted with well meaning but misguided and naive orthodoxies, but supporting the traditional development pattern and eschewing auto oriented development is the key to economic and environmental survival.
To close on an optimistic note, some years ago I remarked on the general skepticism of the public regarding intercity rail in the region by highlighting how two significant local radio personalities mocked the rehabilitation of Union Station and the expansion of CT Rail into Springfield as a ridiculous backward looking fixation on a “choo-choo”. Last week Bax and O’Brien discussed (minute 14)the Springfield to Boston rail study, and their only critique was that the state was not moving fast enough to expand commuter options via rail.
That said, the success of the CT Rail Hartford Line hasn’t been well advertised; I’ve yet to see a story pop up at City Lab or Planetizen despite the fact that the New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield metros it serves have a combined population of 3 million people in an area 1/2 the size of greater Denver. The expansion of service north to Holyoke, Northampton, and Greenfield next month has likewise received no attention despite the fact that it is the start of what I believe could be the most significant transformation this region has seen since the National Armory was situated in Springfield by George Washington.
Those three communities plus Springfield connected, eventually, by frequent and reliable rail service make the region one of the most dynamic its size in the country with: the second highest concentration of universities, lots of low cost housing, major corporate headquarters, abundant water for drinking, manufacturing, and hydro-power, loads of tourist attractions, quick and easy access to a wide variety of recreation, all wedged in neatly between Boston and New York City.