Dave Reid
Car Culture

Disney’s Magic Highways, Designated Driver Service, Opportunity Lost, and More.

By - May 4th, 2012 03:51 pm
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Car Culture

Car Culture

In this, the second installment of Car Culture, we’ll enjoy a little bit of Disney magic, learn about a long overdue car service which is finally coming to Milwaukee, and lament the loss of an opportunity to make Milwaukee a better place while attracting tourists from across the region.

Disney’s Magic Highways

For years we have been taught that our society is, and will be, oriented around the automobile.  US automakers did it by marketing the automobile as freedom, and the video below shows just how the fine folks at Disney got into the act.  The video presents an idealized version of a car-oriented vision of America.  The video positively proclaims “the shape of our cities will change, as expanded highway transportation decentralizes our population centers into vast urban areas.”  Unfortunately, this has all been too true.  What this video didn’t foresee was the ugliness that this vision created, neighborhoods literally destroyed, homes designed around the car (often with the most prominent feature being the garage), America’s strip mall wasteland, and oceans of asphalt covering up our countryside.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6pUMlPBMQA[/youtube]

Designated Driver Service

Lets face it Milwaukeans enjoy a good beverage, and unfortunately far too often bring their car with them to the bar.  Although I’d normally suggest leaving the car at home and taking a cab when heading out on the town, there will soon be a safe option if you insist on bringing your car to the bar.  Zingo Milwaukee.  Zingo’s motto “Your car, our driver” says it all.  Yes, they will drive your car home for you.  So plan ahead, go out, have a good time, and enjoy the ride home in your own car, just not from behind the wheel.

Opportunity Lost

Stephanie Beecher, of ThirdCoast Digest, writes “Milwaukee’s famous arches are set to undergo a major overhaul next year, and commuters can breathe a sigh of relief: the Hoan Bridge will not be shut down during construction.”  I know this was a big concern for many suburban commuters, though had the bridge been closed during construction it would likely have saved time and money.  If the Hoan Bridge was closed during construction, it is likely these drivers would have spent just about the same amount of time driving on city streets or alternate routes, just as they did when the Hoan was closed in the past.

Beyond the perceived inconvenience, the true problem with this project is the lost opportunity.  After hundreds of millions are spent to fix this bridge, what we will have is basically the same bridge.  The auto-only focus of WisDOT has led to a project that is not an improvement, and has no new benefits.  By incorporating a bike and pedestrian trail on the bridge, Wisconsin had a chance to create a destination, add utility, improve mobility, and quite simply add value to Milwaukee. Unfortunately we’ve missed that opportunity.

Dangerous Roads

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Tweet of the Week

Categories: Car Culture

12 thoughts on “Car Culture: Disney’s Magic Highways, Designated Driver Service, Opportunity Lost, and More.”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    Dave; I want to share a little exercise, I suggested to you some time ago.
    1. Go to Google maps
    2. Search for Milwaukee, Wi
    3. Magnify until you get the downtown area. (Roughly 6th ave to the Lake, National to Brady)
    4. Switch to Satellite view
    5. Print
    Take a Hi-lighter and color in the area’s that are dedicated to auto use (Parking lots, streets, roads, Interstate, Parking Ramps,)
    Ignore underground parking. sidewalks and bike trails.
    Everything you’ve Hi Lighted is lost opportunity. The value of this property developed as tax, job and commercial production is far higher than the path way and parking use for which it is currently being used.
    Oh Yeah, before you do this exercise, guess the percentage of property that is going to be hi-lighted. My guess is you will be low.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Jeff I read this book ‘Lots of Parking’ which essentially talks about many US cities before and after the rise of the automobile, and in the book it contains maps much like you’re discussing. It isn’t pretty. So yes this is actually an article idea I’ve wanted to do, using Google Maps, but haven’t gotten to it yet… one day as I know that % is awful.

  3. Erik says:

    I understand the point, but leave out streets and roads in your analysis; do them separately if you want. Streets and roads were in existence and an essential part of the urban fabric long before the introduction of the automobile. When I get time, I had been planning on doing my own research project on parking, from a different angle; interested to see what you come up with.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @Erik Yes, I was primarily thinking about parking lots. Though and argument could be made that the size of our streets have changed, i.e. they’ve gotten wider.

  5. Hyrax Suzuki says:

    A very good exercise indeed. I recommend doing the same thing for other cities. You’ll see Milwaukee is actually in relatively good shape in that regard.

    However, do the same exercise on an Australian or Canadian city and it’s amazing to see the difference.

  6. Courtney says:

    Dave, were you hit by a car as a child? You seem to really blindly hate them.

  7. Dave Reid says:

    @Courtney I must say I love this comment, made me laugh. But no I don’t blindly hate them. In fact I own a car, but it is important to understand the impacts and costs to us and society of auto-dependency.

  8. Sam says:

    This is a really cool series, Dave. It brings up in my mind how much we need a complete/safe streets organization in Milwaukee..

    PS. Courtney: You just need to walk and bike around this town for a while to be frustrated with drivers and infrastructure in this city. Try it sometime. Drivers often seem to think that pedestrians and bicyclists don’t deserve any rights and most of our streets reinforce that.

  9. Dave Reid says:

    @Sam Thanks… And yeah a real complete streets movement in Milwaukee is needed.

  10. Jeff Jordan says:

    Sam; I agree with your comment about the entitlement some drivers seem to have. I don’t have the legs for a bike anymore, but I ride moped. To many drivers I’m a nuisance, but those I can deal with. It’s the drivers that think I’m a challenge that pass me on the right on Lake Drive because I’m only doing 40mph.
    I also want to share another challenge. I had a doctors appointment on North and Hwy 100. Took the 21 bus to that corner, only to find there is not pedestrian walkway to the office building. Forget trying to find a safe walk to the Mayfair shopping mall. Here’s another ridiculous but true scenario. Say you are at Mayfair and want to go to Best Buy on the West side of Mayfair. You have to drive unless you don’t care about your safety because there is no pedestrian walkway.

  11. Dave says:

    Living car-free is tough in Milwaukee; I did it for 12 years and finally caved so I could get a date. Here are a few other inequities:
    - If you don’t own a car, people assume you don’t know how to drive or are under sanction for DUI or something – even if you have a perfectly valid license. I encountered this in a job interview!
    - If you don’t own a car but bike, walk and use transit, some ignorant souls will attack you as a societal freeloader – even though you pay for roads through property and income taxes and everything you purchase that isn’t made on the spot.
    - If you prefer not to own, but rent cars only “as needed,” you HAVE to buy the rental company’s expensive insurance daily waivers. You can’t buy insurance for yourself, as a driver, if you don’t own a car.
    - Say you like to visit our State Parks with your rental cars; you have to pay hefty daily fees because the annual sticker must be permanently affixed to the windshield.
    - A lot of restaurants, especially chains, have enormous parking lots but no bike racks, and have purposefully eliminated every sign or fencepost, pipe, or other possible place to lock a bike, because they associate bikes with “undesirable” young people.

  12. JTB says:

    Re Subsidy:
    The East branch Library should now (or soon) have a copy of Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking, updated in paperback, full of data on the extreme degree to which we subsidize drivers at the expense of non-drivers, but also full of free-market solutions. UWM is actually cited in the book.

    Re Parks stickers:
    try http://www.windshieldrelief.com/

    Re insurance:
    I think Zipcar takes care of insurance….

    Another inequity is Night parking regulations:
    “Permission will not be granted more than 3 times in a 30 day period.”
    So if you don’t own a car and thus don’t live in a place with a garage, but you rent a car every weekend (say an Enterprise $10/day weekend special) to run your errands, you can only park it the first one and a half weekends. After that you have to ask your neighbors if you can call it in using their address. If more than a third of your block is in this same situation, good luck!

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