Everyone knows - or should know - about the vast gulf in taxes on petrol/gasoline. Petrol in the UK costs about £1.10 a litre at the moment; the fuel excise duty went up by 2p at the beginning of October. That translate to well over $6.50 a gallon; currently the average US gas price is nearer $2.60. The UK isn’t even the most expensive in Europe.
However, there’s another difference that’s less obvious: the costs of parking. I remember (but can’t be bothered to dig for) incredulous comments when the London congestion charge was set up asking whether they were going to charge for parking next. Of course, that generated an equally puzzled response: that’s been done in London since the 1950s.
Indeed, the wholesale turning over of land to the car really didn’t happen as much in Europe, in cities at least. London has some surface car parks, but they tend to be tiny bits of bomb-damaged land, but your car is far more likely to be hidden underneath a park or in a multi-storey building. You’d never get planning permission for the sort of parking lot that’s common even in the centre of otherwise enlightened US cities. Parking has to pay.
Meanwhile, US cities turn over between 10 and 30% of their land to lots, often free, which in turn leads to issues with water runoff, heat islands, and sprawl. All of this parking land is generally free to use, which means there’s no economic reason to curb demand. It all seems baffling to me, but to Americans, it’s just the way things are.
(This post was languishing in my drafts folder, but I’m publishing it as part of a clearout.)
Many people complain that the houses and flats are not finished as well as they would have expected. Others say that the layout, which is designed to be pedestrian rather than car friendly, has created dark alleys and corners. There have been problems with vandalism and petty crime.
Steven Morris and Robert Booth in a report in the Guardian: Cracks appearing in Prince Charles’s dream village in Poundbury (via)
In other words, it turns out the problems with housing are to do with cheapness and people, not modern architecture. I’m sure Charles will learn from this and stop campaigning against it…
He missed James Kunstler’s assertion that the whole thing should have remained a railroad.
In the early years of this decade, I always wanted to try and walk along the disused railway line from Dalston towards Broad Street. The old bridges dominate the eastern end of what was the the Shoreditch one-way triangle, and the arches form a line of spaces parallel to the High Street, and further north, on the other side of Kingsland Road. However, I never bothered spending enough time to figure out how to get onto it, and I was worried the various bridges would never be safe.
I’ve definitely lost my chance now; the northernmost three quarters of the track bed are currently in the last year or so of the work required to convert them back into a railway line, this time under the auspices of London Overground.
Of course, the geographical surroundings are very different; the High Line is in Manhattan (albeit one one edge), compared to the fringes of central London for the Dalston line, and the need for public transport along its route is far less pressing. (The Eighth Avenue / A-C-E line runs parallel to the High Line, two blocks further east, whereas the new East London line will be filling a fairly large gap in the railway map of London.)
All in all, I suspect the two cities have probably come to the right planning conclusion for each line. Still, I regret not walking what was, for twenty years, London’s High Line.
More on the Oxford Circus junction redesign, including some pretty pictures of people simulations:
John Norquist, interviewed at Streetsblog: “Back to the Grid, Part 2: on Reclaiming American Cities”
via Anil Dash: Getting What You Design For