Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Commons — Nightingale Housing

The Commons — Nightingale Housing:

Last week I spoke at a conference in Australia where the developers of this project, The Commons, told us about it. Amazing in many ways.  No car parking, for example. Why waste money building an underground garage when in five years people will not need parking, because they will get around in driverless electric cars that are shared and park themselves elsewhere after they drop you off at home or work?


Deborah Goonan said...

Who is going to pay for ongoing operation and maintenance of these driverless cars? How will those costs be allocated?

What will it cost people to use a driverless car? Will they pay by the mile?

How will this compare and contrast to public transit? What will become of public transit as it exists today?

How much autonomy will individuals lose by having to wait around for a driverless car to come and pick them up, to bring them where they need or want to go?

Will any of these driverless cars be privately owned an operated by a single household?

Lots and lots of questions.

Evan McKenzie said...

There are different options for driverless cars, as with cars that have drivers. Some people will own cars, but they won't need parking at home because the car will drop them off and pick them up and go park itself someplace else. Why use valuable residential land for parking spots if the car can park itself anywhere? If you own it, you maintain it, of course. But also there are already car sharing operations. Many people are doing this now. A driverless shared car would just get summoned, drive over to pick you up, take you wherever, and then park itself or go pick up somebody else. Car sharing companies maintain their cars. What will happen to public transit isn't clear. One idea they are talking about is more small buses or vans doing special routes that are calculated based on requests for pickup. That is instead of big buses running the same route all the time, which is fine for busy urban areas but not for lower density. I don't know how people's autonomy would be affected. Many Americans are still infatuated with this 1950s idea of a big car sitting in the garage of a vast suburban home with a huge yard and somehow equating that with freedom. Fewer people can afford that every year, and there is no way the environment can handle it. Most of the innovation in transportation and housing is going on in Europe and China.

Deborah Goonan said...

As someone who is a reluctant driver, in a 2-person household with only 1 car (we made the transition in 2010), I am all for not having to drive. I agree that less parking space and more green space or usuable recreational space is better, Evan. Certainly, less impervious ground will improve water management, which is becoming a major issue in the U.S.

As a business model, car sharing companies could be very promising, especially where seniors are unable or unwilling to drive as they age. Busses and trolleys or light rail on fixed routes are rarely efficient or convenient, in my personal experience. So I am all for better options.

I do fervently believe there is nothing inherently wrong with personal ownership of land vs. living in horizontal or vertical schemes (stacked housing or row housing). Where I live, a lot of people actually use their sizable yards or acreage for home gardening, raising chickens, composting, irrigation ponds, and more, as well as providing space for children to play and for pets to run free. The vast expanse of green lawn is gradually falling out of favor. I have plans to convert most of my lawn space over time - a paver patio here, some native shrubs and perennials there. If suburban areas wish to encourage this kind of transoformtion, they need to think about appropriate incentives to reduce upfront costs, and they need to revise their local ordinances to allow for front-yard gardens and play spaces, among other things. Local zoning and HOAs with estate sized lots would need to allow storage sheds, in-law cottages and guest houses, and ease up on restrictions against creative landscape design solutions that make better use of land, requiring less maintenance and more public health benefits.

Not everyone wants to go full urban. And they shouldn't have to.