One of the last essays in The New Urbanism: Toward and Architecture of Community is entitled “The Architecture of Community” by Vincent Scully.  In one of several opening paragraphs he mentions the deliberate buy out and destruction of trolleys and train systems in the US and intimates the rise of the car as the death of the city:

“The automobile was, and remains, the agent of chaos, the breaker of the city, and Redevelopment tore most American towns apart to allow it free passage through their centers, which were supposed to be revitalized by affluent suburban shoppers thereby.  Instead the reverse took place: The automobile created the suburban shopping mall, which sucked the life out of the old city centers everywhere.”

I find this mention interesting especially in conjunction with this part of the Charter for New Urbanism:

“In the contempary metropolis, development must adequately accommodate automobiles.  It should do so in ways that respect the pedestrian and form of public space.”

While there is much in the Charter that supports alternative transportation, I find this somewhat troublesome.  Can’t the metropolis find adequate alternatives and therefore replacements to the automobile for transportation of people, goods and services?  I know there are lots of New Urbanist who agree with this perspective, but I also know it is intensely difficult to get most people to imagine life without a car. Just the blankness of responses to the fact that I’ve never had a license for example.

I have been thinking a lot about the significance of when we traded in trains for buses.  What we lost is the ability to transport simultaneously people and goods: you just can’t attach five trailers of wood or produce to the local city bus.

Scully follows with a sketch of Le Corbusier’s concept of a city of 3 million.  Does anyone find this aesthetically pleasing:

Where are the people?  Maybe I am just thinking about my lungs.

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