Thursday, June 20, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Making Transit Fun by Darrin Nordhal
@downloadLibrary ebook

The BBC reported today that a parking space in Boston sold at auction for $560,000 USD. North Americans have an emotional attachment to our cars, yet they cost a fortune - they are expensive to buy, to park, to repair, to run, they pollute our air, they keep us from walking or cycling and as an investment they suck, devaluing the moment one is driven off a lot. So why do we still love our cars to such an extent that we would pay the equivalent of a whole house for a piece of asphalt no bigger than a station wagon? That is one of the questions that Darrin Nordhal addresses in his book, Making Transit Fun. He argues that we love their cars because they're, well, sexy. We've been made to think they are sexy by the entire auto industry, from the designs of the vehicles down to the tunes used in their marketing. They are status symbols and they are fun. But in cities with large population densities cars are not fun for some of the reasons listed above, and those cities - London, Copenhagen, Tokyo, San Francisco among others - have created alternate transit that is not only healthier alternatives to driving, they are social, less costly and in some cases, just cool. The element most North American transit methods are missing is joy, argues Nordhal. The joy of discovering the staircase is not just painted to look like a piano keyboard, it IS a piano (Stockholm) to be played as you ascend or descend - while the adjacent escalator maintains its whirring monotone. The joy of parking ten bikes in a whimsically-shaped bike corral (New York). The joy of waiting for a bus not in a teeny glassed-in shelter but the spacious, yet cozy interior of a hollowed-out strawberry-shaped shelter (Tokyo), or one fitted with a swing (London) or periscope (New York). The joy of riding a trolley through a wooded meridian as if you are sitting on your front porch (Charlotte, NC), or sitting in the "love seats" of the Copenhagen bus system, installed to create opportunities for people to connect, communicate and perhaps smile a little more - something you don't necessarily have in the solitude of your car (tweeting while driving doesn't count). Nordhal wants North American transit companies and municipalities to invest in making alternative transit as sexy as driving cars, to seduce people out of the driver's seat and onto buses, trams, cycling paths and walkways by using age-old techniques - balancing function, cost and aesthetics, the latter or which appeals to the heart, making it alluring and "sexy". How about it, Stratford? Why not invest in unique buses that allow passengers to see a panorama of our lovely city by replacing the roofs with skylights? What about greenery-lined cycle track son major arteries that give both safety and freedom of movement to cyclists (Indianapolis has an excellent example)? And whatever happened to that plan to close off Market Square to vehicles to allow pedestrians the chance to wander and tourists to shop? Nordhal has some pretty nifty suggestions for the councillor or Chamber of Commerce wise enough to strike a committee or two...  Find Making Transit Fun for your ereader on

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on June 20, 2013. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian.

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