A weekly conversation on the Strong Towns movement hosted by Charles Marohn. The podcast blends fiscal prudence with good urban design to highlight how America can financially strengthen its cities, towns and neighborhoods and, in the process, make them better places to live.
You can support the podcast and become a member of Strong Towns at www.StrongTowns.org.
Jarrett Walker: ”Prediction and Freedom Are Opposites”
This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn welcomes back a special return guest: Jarrett Walker, head of Jarrett Walker + Associates, a transit-planning firm based in Portland, Oregon. Walker has been a consultant in public transit network, design, and policy for many decades now, and has worked all across North America and other countries worldwide. He’s also the author of the book Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives, as well as the blog Human Transit.
Recently while doing his end-of-the-year desk cleaning, Chuck came across an article that Walker wrote in 2018 for the Journal of Public Transportation titled “To Predict with Confidence, Plan for Freedom.” Upon rereading it (for the fourth time), Chuck knew he wanted to talk to Walker about this piece.
So, join in for this conversation about the limitations of prediction, starting with a story seven or eight years ago, when Walker was developing a proposed redesign for the bus network in Houston…
Additional Show Notes
"To Predict with Confidence, Plan for Freedom,” by Jarrett Walker, Journal of Public Transportation (2018).
Jarrett Walker (Twitter)
Charles Marohn (Twitter)
Peter Norton: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving
Can driverless cars really be the “safe, sustainable, and inclusive ‘mobility solutions’ that tech companies and automakers are promising us”? In his newest book, Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving, technology historian Peter Norton argues that we should treat these utopian promises about driverless vehicles with a great deal more caution and skepticism.
Autonorama exposes how, from its inception in the Depression era, the automobile was a subject of controversy; believe it or not, not everyone initially wanted cars around. Over time, however, a shift occurred that caused us to see automobiles as the solution, and a not a problem, for our transportation needs in cities.
Today on the Strong Towns Podcast, host Chuck Marohn is interviewing Peter Norton about Autonorama. They discuss the history behind our shift in perception toward cars—up to our current societal fixation on driverless cars, the wrong answer for a problem we can solve with resources we already have, and without doing further harm to ourselves and the environment.
Additional Show Notes
Autonorama: The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving
Peter Norton (University of Virginia)
Charles Marohn (Twitter)
Driving Went Down. Fatalities Went Up. Here’s Why.
Americans drove less during the early months of pandemic, yet traffic fatalities increased. There was a sense among many safety experts that this was an anomaly, that fatality rates would revert to trend once people started driving again. That didn’t happen.
Instead, as overall driving levels have returned to normal, crashes and fatality rates have remained shockingly high. These results are not explainable by any theory of traffic safety being used by modern transportation professionals.
As a result, there has been a search for explanations, one that has embraced some of our newest and most divisive cultural narratives while simultaneously managing to rehash some old and worn-out memes. All this while missing the obvious factor that is, in some ways, too painful for industry insiders to acknowledge.
So, what is going on?
Tim Soerens: Reconnecting Churches with Their Neighborhoods
This week on the Strong Towns Podcast, we’re kicking off the new year by featuring a special guest: Tim Soerens, author and co-founder of the Parish Collective. Last year, Chuck read Tim’s books The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community and Everywhere You Look: Discovering the Church Right Where You Are—and even recommended them to his priest!
If you’re not Christian or not religious, don’t worry: Tim’s not here to preach, but rather to talk about community, and the position of churches within a community. His organization, the Parish Collective, is a network of place-based churches and small community groups who are all wrestling with the question of how to reconnect churches with their neighborhoods. Furthermore, they’re encouraging people to consider what part locally connected churches can play in the strengthening and holistic renewal of a place over time.
Strong Towns is, of course, a secular organization. Still, we love hearing about how faith communities and other groups are adopting a Strong Towns approach to tackling the problems in their neighborhoods. In that spirit we hope that you, too, will enjoy this first Strong Towns Podcast episode of 2022.
Two Different Languages
There have been dozens of people hit on State Street in Springfield, Massachusetts, in recent years, including Gayle Ball who was recently killed crossing State Street in front of the Central Library.
Council members are demanding action and they called a special meeting to discuss what can be done. The city’s engineer was there as well, and what ensued was a conversation in two different languages.
One is the urgent language of the elected official, reflecting the sadness, fear, and anxiety of residents who have long dealt with this dangerous street. The other is the language of the professional, reflecting the process, standards, and accepted practices of the profession.
In this episode, Chuck Marohn plays interpreter, explaining to the city’s engineer—in his language—what he’s being asked to do while explaining to everyone else—in their language—what exactly the engineer is saying.
Which Wins Out: An Engineer‘s Discretion or a Book of Standards?
All of a sudden, the new book from Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn, Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, has been out for nearly two months. It’s already received dozens of five-star reviews, and Chuck is out talking about the book around the country, both through events and in the media. Thousands of new people are encountering the Strong Towns message of how to fix the broken—i.e., dangerous, ineffective, wasteful—North American transportation system.
We recently invited the book’s earliest and most passionate supporters—including people who preordered Confessions, Strong Towns members, and members of the book launch team—to a Q&A with Chuck. We spent an hour drilling down into the specifics of how to make transportation better and reform the engineering professions. The questions we received from these brilliant and engaged advocates were so good that we wanted to share the Q&A as an episode of the Strong Towns Podcast.
In this episode, Chuck answers questions about transportation technology fads, about how to convert stroads into a more productive form, and whether an engineer can use his or her discretion if it deviates from the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Chuck also gives an update on the Strong Towns lawsuit. And he explains why, if you have to convince neighbors not to stand in the way of a road diet (or other traffic calming measures), it may be too late.
Awesome podcasts that are informative
Learned a ton
Important topics that shape the quality of our lives but don't get discussed enough in media or public poilcy.
One of my favs
One of my favs