George Jetson on walkable communities: selling the new urbanist dream

Jetson at work at home, courtesy Hanna-Barbera

Transit users can be broadly categorized into two groups, dependent users and choice users. Nationally, the pontification quotient was high last week–on how to sell transformative visions of urban development to the choice users–those who are not transit-dependent due to income or circumstance.

From Ontario to Seattle-based inquires about the true currency of urbanism to selling public transportation as an I-Pad-ish “seduction”, it was hard to be more creative than the next insightful blog-flaneur.

But it is a new week. We asked George Jetson about his views on choice users, after reviewing a Chicago Tribune piece last Fall which contrasted Jetsonian, airborne public transit in a future Chicago with a dense, capped “Blade Runner” model of climate control.

From his Skypad Apartments, an arguably transit-oriented development, Jetson said it simply. “We had it wrong–we forgot about our feet–we assumed that the convenience of automation and technology was the solution. Instead, we should have asked what will get us out of our vehicles.”

On cue, today the Vermont-based Planning Commissioner’s Journal sounded off via Reid Ewing: it is pedestrian-oriented development that will make the sale.

Locally, we had already summarized key findings regarding the the pedestrian element of transit-oriented development in a report–released by the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies for the Quality Growth Alliance.

The study profiled past research on transit-dependent versus transit-choice users. Choice-users own cars and tend to be middle to upper income earners. Attracting choice-users is a primary objective of transit-oriented development and public transit in general. Choice-users tend to avoid transit if their perception of it is negative.

In Portland seven of every ten transit users claim to be choice riders; although sharp differences are found between bus and rail customers; 93 percent of MAX light-rail passengers are choice-users.

Thanks to George Jetson for validating today’s researchers and pundits. Successful urban centers and transit-oriented developments entice transit-choice users by providing good walkability, superior levels of service and access to many areas, jobs, services and amenities, particularly other urban centers.

And lately, it seems that walkability is leading the way.

See the refined and updated version of this post in, here.

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