I was initially hesitant in reading Schwartz’s book as one of those same old reads that speak about the same transportation policy issues ad nauseum. My curiosity got the better of me. What the heck. Shit, the book was free anyway. I felt like I was one of those book critics since they receive free copies to critique and/or promote anyway.
Schwartz begins his book with a bit of history about transportation growing up in Brooklyn. At various points, he somehow aligns transportation failures led to his Brooklyn Dodgers moving to Los Angeles.
The book does go through the common transportation mots du jour such as walkability, WalkScores, walkability, Complete Streets in response to the continued ails and fails of past and current planning of sprawl and transportation disgust surrounding the car. Schwartz throws shout outs to the usual suspects in Donald Shoup (parking), Jarrett Walker (transit planning), Todd Litman (everything transportation) and Dan Burden (walkability). He even name dropped my friend James Rojas and his Latino Urbanism.
This is what I feared. Transportation and urban planners have heard all this terminology before and I was ready to stop reading or at least skip to the end. I decidedly read on.
Schwartz was ahead of this time with his plans to improve transportation. I could relate. The naysayers were about maintaining the status quo with service standards, level of service, and transit planning responding to the horrible suburban neighbourhood designs that exist today. It even hearkened me back to a discussion I had with one of my fellow transit planners, let’s call him Greg, while planning a future route network in a burgeoning neighbourhood. It got heated. I wanted to plan for a grid with transfers and increased walking distances while Greg wanted to maintain the status quo. I’m sure this was the type of resistance Schwartz encountered.
Schwartz’s book touched upon concepts of the sharing economy, Uber and open data. The final few chapters interested me. Open data and mobile technology will change how we travel and its coming at lightning speed. Cars will be here to stay, but we need transportation to be equitable, which has been elusive since the Interstate Highway System was built. Transit has been an afterthought.
While I disagree with Schwartz in that we still compete with the car, I agree with him that technology coupled with regulating disruption, will level the playing field. Future policy decisions must be shaped to recognize these changes.
As a scholar of transportation policy and while I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but insert the works and knowledge of Pamela Blais, Gabe Klein, Tim Papandreou, Jeff Speck, Brent Toderian and another Brooklynite Ken Greenberg. One of my goals after finishing the MPA program is to develop a course on transportation policy. Schwartz’s book would be on the reading list.
The problem I encountered over the years, which Schwartz does allude to, are the silos we encounter. We need to find a way to marry policy with planning in the transportation field. For undergrads learning the ropes on transportation, I would highly recommend Smart Cities.