Judge Doom’s eeevil plot
June 28, 2010, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Cities, Transit

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  Careful who you let be the beholder.  LA, 1947, archvillian Judge Doom (Who Killed Roger Rabbit) plans to sell off the city’s streetcar system to make a car crazy dystopia.

He says, “It’s a construction plan of epic proportions.  They’re calling it … a freeway!  Eight lanes of shimmering cement running from here to Pasadena!  I see a place where people get on and off the freeway, off and on, off and on, all day and all night … I see a street of gas stations, inexpensive motels, restaurants that serve rapidly prepared food, tire salons, automobile dealerships, and wonderful, wonderful billboards as far as the eye can see.  My god, it’ll be beautiful!”

What a visionary!  What villainous intent!  What an idiot!  Yet he is still king, still respected, revered even and still building crap as far as the eye can see across the expansive American landscape.

How does it work?  It’s incredible complicated, no doubt, but probably worth trying to demystify.  How’s this for a theory:  it’s cheap, and therefore very attractive, building houses of stick and vinyl out in a farmer’s field.  That’s the short term.  In the long term, of course it’s very, very expensive to meet the needs of relatively few people spread out all over hell’s half acre:  exponentially more utilities, infrastructure, energy, materials.  But noone sees the long term as all this excess is funded by public money in transfers and incentive programs which don’t appear on anyone’s balance sheets.  Out of sight out of mind, as long as the developer makes his sales and the middle class family has a cheap house to live in, and cheap fuel and cheap goods in cheap big box shops.

What’s the answer?  Put real numbers on the transactions.  Money talks.  Fold the long term cost into the short term.  Identify and defund development that is expensive over the long term.  Essentially, make it sustainable.  Excess will very quickly become unaffordable.

— from James Howard Kuntsler’s The Geography of Nowhere

Here’s the video from Who Killed Roger Rabbit?

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