The Impact of the Mass Use of Motor Cars on Lifestyle and Land Use

by Kelvin McNulty of Glastonbury, UK


The aim of this paper is to take a close look at the effects upon the economic activity and land-use structure of an urban area of accommodating large numbers of motor vehicles within that area. It is important that these effects be clearly understood, not only by the Government and other informed people, but also by the public at large, especially in view of the current public debate on transport policy.

The environmental effects of motor traffic are well known, but often it seems that they are ignored, because of the assumption underlying present (1974) Government and. local authority transportation planning that it is economically advantageous to allow increased volumes of motor traffic to flow. This paper therefore does not discuss immediate environmental effects, such as accidents and pollution, although it does look at the economic effects of environmental impact, these being often of a non-immediate nature.

Conflicting claims are made by opposing groups on the issue of motor traffic and measures to accomodate it. Many (but not all) environmental and public-transport pressure groups oppose the accommodation of more traffic In cities on the grounds that this is damaging to the urban economy, while the British Roads Federation and the many bodies comprising it consider that it is essential to provide for the complete freedom of movement of motor cars except where this conflicts with very strongly held historical or aesthetic values. Meanwhile, many traders and traders' organizations continue to press for more parking upace to be provided for the use of car-borne shonpers.

Who is correct in this debate? The evidence that is considered here suggests that the mass use of cars in urban areas in economically damaging, Further research is urgently needed.

Movement, Accesibility, and Urban Economy

Cities exist because they provide for the concentration of activities in one place. Their success as cities depends crucially upon the efficient interactions between the many arban activities. These interactions, in turn, depend upon access by people to the plots of land used. For example a shopper may wish to visit several shops during a trip. For this to be easy (and therefore for it to happen often), the shopper must be able to reach the shops quickly, and to travel quietly between shops. There are two ways in which this quick access can be achieved: firstly, by keeping distances short; and secondly, by using high-speed transport.

There is an important limitation here, however. This in that movement requires space. If sufficient space is not available then congestion and delay will result, whether in the form of queues for trains and buses, traffic congestion or a crush of pedestrians on pavements. The space required for movement does depend, of course, upon the mode of transport used. The following Table (Table 2.1) shows for a selection of modes of Transport the speed of travel, and the space needed for each passenger.

Table 2.1 Speeds, capacities, and space-demands of Transport Modes

Mode Translation Capacity (users/hr/lane)* Speed (average) km/h Space Demand (sq. m. per user)
Pedestrian 23,500 4.7 0.7
Pedal Cycle + 5,400 12 8
Motor Cycle ++ 2,400 12 17.5
Car on urban street 1,050 12 40
Car on expressway 3,000 40 47
Bus (55 seats) 7,700 10 4.5
Bus (150 seats) or Tram (150 Seats) 18,000 10 2
Tram (250 seats) 24,000 10 1.5
Underground Railway 40,000 25 2.5
*The width of a lane in assumed to be 11ft
+ One user per pedal cycle.
**Average no. of users per car assumed to be 1.5
++ 1.1 users per motor cycle
All public transport modes assumed to be 80% full. (1)

2.3 Table 2.1 shows that while pedestrian movement takes very little space it is slow. Movement by car, on the other hand, can be fast in favourable circumetances, but makes heavy demands on space. Public transport can make very efficient use of space and can also be fast. Clearly, if all urban travel is to be by motorcar then very large amounts of space need to be devoted to transportation, while if all movement is to be by public transport or on foot then although a very compact urban form will be needed to keep distances short, very little space will be needed for transportation purposes. This enables a compact urban form to be easily achieved. On the other hand, movement by car demands much more space, which means that activities be spread out to provide that apace. This in turn means that fast journeys will be necessary and that cars must be used.

2.4 In existing, urban areas, if additional space is to be devoted to transportation, then other uses will be displaced. To understand the effect of this on urban economy and urban form requires consideration of the, "activity densities" of different land uses. These are shown in Table 2.2 (below).

Table 2.2 Activity Densities of Alternative Land Uses
Type of Use Typical Activity Density
SHOPPING Typical trading rate in £320 turnover per square metre of trading floorspace per year (sources East Sussex County Council County Structure Plan Review consultative draft; the figure is that assumed in predicting future shopping trends).
OFFICES Employment density is approximately one employee per 15 sq.m. (source: East Sussex County Council County Structure Plan 1975 Report of Survey)
INDUSTRIAL Employment density is one employee per 40 sq.m. of factory floorspace or 50 employees per hectare of the site, estimated. (source: as above).
HOUSING Suburban: 100 to 150 rooms per hectare
Urban: 125 to 200 rooms per hectare
Houses with low-rise flats: 200 to 300 rooms per ha.
Low-rise flats: 300 to 400 rooms per ha.
High-rise flats: 400+ rooms per hectare.
(Source: Greater Brighton Structure Plan Draft Written Statement, table 9.5).
Average size of dwellings 5.29 rooms in Brighton area, 5.44 rooms in Britain. Average household size was 2.6 persons in 1966.
Future household size is estimated at 2.35 to 2.45 persons per household in 2000 AD). (Source: Briphton Urban Structure Plan Sunmary Report on Housing; Paras. 11,27,30,31).
ENTERTAINMENT No figures are available for the activity densities of common forms of entertainment such as restaurants, dance halls, public houses, etc.
CAR PARKING One car-space per 23 sq.m. of land- or floor-space. (Source: evidence of Andrew Thorburn to Briphton Marina Inquiry, given on behalf of East Sussex County Council; Autumn 1974).
2.5 Using the figures from Table 2,2, and remembering that many of them are approximate, it is now possible to compare alternative uses to which land can be put. For example, 23 square metres are needed to accomodate one parked car. This same area will accomodate as alternatives to a parked car shopping floorspace capable of a turnover of approximately £7.300 per annum; just over 1.5 office workers; approximately 0.6 of an industrial worker (in floorspace terms) or 0.12 of an industrial worker (in terms of total site area); 0.5 of a room or 0.25 of a person at urban housing densities.

2.6 These comparisons assume active floorspace in the case of shopping and do not take into account the storage space needed for trading. Even so, it is clear that if office or shopping are displaced by parked cars, as will be the case if car parking provision in central business districts in increased then the total. level of economic activity in the area will reduce.

2.7 This simple comparison does not consider the road-space needed to cater for the use of cars. This factor in considered in Appendices 1 and 2, to show what the effect of accomodating cars in central business districts is likely to be on the economy of the district. In each of these appendices, certain factors are treated as variables and others as constants. In practice, this does not normally happen, for all factors will usually change in a real situation. However, changes in which certain factors remain constant are not physically impossible and the purpose of the examples in to give a feel for the interactions involved.

2.8 Appendix 1 shows that if additional car-parking- and road-space is provided in a central business district so that users of the district can use cars instead of public transport or walking, then economic activity in displaced from the district. It is assumed in making this calculation that the movement of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport is not hampered by the additional traffic because the necessary amount of additional road-apace is provided.

2.9 Appendix 2 shows that if additional car-parking-space in provided, but no additional road space in provided, then although the displacement of economic activity in less severe, fewer users can reach the centre, because of the increased pressure on road space. The restriction on travel to the centre takes a variety of forms: unreliable buses, unsafe conditions for cyclists, difficulties for pedestrians, etc.

2.10 Do these effects happen? In the United States of America. where cars are used more extensively than Britain there are signs that they do:

It seems, then, that the effect of accomodating cars in central business districts is to displace economic activity and the people that participate in that activity from the district. What happens to the displaced uses and users ?

3. Optimal Urban forms for the Mass Use of Cars

3.1 The answer to the question posed at the end of the last paragraph in that uses and users displaced from central business districts gravitate towards the urban rim or suburbs of the city. Such trends are well established both in Britain (4) and the United States of America (5,6).

3.2 Most authors, in discussing the trend towards decentralization, consider that the process of decentralisation in economically beneficial. Por example. Meyer. Kain and Wohl (5) argue that existing central business districts are outdated because of the growth of motor traffic and that such structures as the suburban shopping centres common in the USA represent the optimum physical layout in present-day conditions. Their arguments are summarised in Appendix 3.

3.3 Meyer. Kain and Wohl (5) make it very clear that the major reason for the trend towards decentralisation is the growth of traffic. Lesser reasons are the growth of air travel (in the USA) and the growth of electronic data processing and telecommunications. The motor car has made possible the decentralisation of both population and employment and this is normally thought of as an advantage of the motor car.

3.4 Although one can argue that the growth of car use gives greater freedom of location and is thus economically beneficial. it is clear from Section 2 above that mass car use is restrictive in that many uses and users are positively expelled from central locations because of mass car use. In other words these uses and users are prevented from using what would otherwise be optimum locations because of the mass use of cars. Looked at thls way round, the mass use of cars looks economically damaging, not economically beneficial.

3.5 It is often stated that mass car use is economically beneficial because of the high speed and flexibility that cars provide for their users. Typical of the arguments used to support this view are those of Meyer, Kain and Wohl, who argue that cars are the cheapest mode for rush-hour urban trips (the relevant paragraphs are summarised in Appendix 4) in the USA. There is a major shortfall in their arguments, however, which effectively destroys their validity. This is that they do not consider the alternative land-use structures which favour car use and the use of public transport. All their calculations are based upon given land-use structures which, presumably, must be able to accomodate the movements by car involved in their calculations. It is hardly surprising that their results show cars as the moot economical mode in much a altuation.

3.6 Meyer, Kain and Wohl do not consider the real alternatives, which are the land-use structures adapted to alternative modes of transport rather then merely the modes of transport themselves. Few authors do consider these alternatives. In fact, no nuch studies are known to this writer.

3.7 In order to discover precisely the types of urban form which are most suitable for mass car use, it is necessary to examine the conflict which exists between traffic and. towns today in Britain, and to look at the solutions which have been proposed, as well as those that have been implemented or have implemented themselves in Britain and the USA. The Buchanan Renort (7) provides many valuable lessons here.

3.8 The main task of the Buchanan Report, an seen by the authors, was to discover ways in which the advantages of the motor vehicle in general and private cars in particular could be exploited within the context of British cities, without construction of new towns and cities or wholesale relocation of existing cities. It was soon clear that major problems were involved. In their study of Newbury, Berkshire, which had a population of 37,000 at the time, the authors of the Buchanan Report concluded that "drastic and, expensive meaeures on a scale hitherto unexpected for a town this size" would be needed, but given these, it would be possible to provide for "virtually all the use of vehicles that people are likely to want".

3.9 In the case of bigger towns, the problems became worse. In Leeds, restraint on car commuting would be unavoidable, yet even with this, masslve redevelopment was seen as necessary. In a study of a central London block, "an almost revolutionary approach to questions of land ownership and development procedures would be needed" (para. 335). The basic and fundamental problem was admitted to be "the awkward truth in that the motor vehicle is really demanding a radically new urban form". The form proposed by Buchanan and his team, referred to as traffic architecture, comprised multi-deck development with traffic and parking on the lower levels, with pedestrian circulation and all land-uses lifted to an upper level.

3.10 There is no doubt that, given the retention of all existing land-uses, with their relationship to each other maintained, such redevelopment can provide convenient access to the shops and other facilities by motor traffic and public transport and walking. However, in those examples of the sort that exist already, results are often unsatisfactory in several ways. Usually, the environment of the lower level is thoroughly unpleasant, although Buchanan did not expect this. Often, the architecture of the upper levels is bleak and the pedestrian areas may be windy and desolate in poor weather.

3,11 What is more important is that redevelopment of the traffic architecture type is costly, and this means that often the existing mixture of land uses cannot be retained. Existing redevelopments of this type are usually devoted to shopping with some restaurants, offices and high-cost housing. Further difficulties are provided by the need to co-ordinate development of large numbers of plots.

3,12 Furthermore, comprehensive redevelopment of this sort is not considered desirable either by British society or the British Government, as is made clear by the recent Government Consultation Document on Transport Policy. If traffic architecture is rejected, what urban form is appropriate for traffic?

3.13 The Buchanan Report (7) does discuss the case of Los Angeles which is particularly relevant as a city which relies almost entirely upon the motor car for passenger movement. Buchanan and his team consider that from many points of view Los Angeles is a desirable place to live (in 1963) yet, Buchanan and team say, given the powers of land use control which are used in Britain, it would have developed quite differently, and would have been more compact, (paras. 422-424).

3.14 Los Angeles began development as a wide scatter of small settlements, associated with the larger town of Los Angeles itself. Before the heaviest growth began, an efficient electric railway system linked the settlements, but thic declined with the growth of motor traffic. At the same time, the settlements spread outwards to form the connurbation which at the time of the Buchanan Report was 50 miles long, and 80 miles wide. Los Angeles did not grow as most cities have done. It was always a somewhat thin-spread community.

3.15 The prime lesson to learn from Los Angeles in the context of the present discussions is that this thin-spread, diffuse city has a structure which has adapted itself to mass car use without the upheavals that would be necessary to adapt many cities to mass car use. Buchanan writes "What Los Angeles does demonstrate is that a big sprawl can function, after a fashion, on the basis of motor traffic, provided that the density of development is not excessive, provided there is only a 'weak' central area .... and provided highway engineering works of the most formidable nature are undertaken," (Para. 424).

3.16 Buchanan rejects the idea of Britain encouraging such spread-out development, because Britain does not have the space for this type of development. Yet, it seems fairly clear from the experience of Los Angeles that sprawl is an urban form which is adapted to mass car use, because Los Angeles has adapted itself in this way, in the absence of stringent development control and in the face of increased use of motor cars by the inhabitants. Sprawl could thus be considered as a form of development which is in equillibrium with the mass use of cars, i.e. given the mass use of cars in a sprawl, that sprawl will not change substantially and will be stable.

3.17 Buchanan's traffic architecture is an attempt to provide the space for cars by vertical separation rather than horizontal separation. He makes abundantly clear the fact that the studies his team have made show that even the extensive redevelopments that he suggests cannot provide for the complete freedom of use of motor vehicles. Presumably, it would be possible to provide sufficient space for motor traffic by yet more elaborate forms of development having several levels devoted to motor traffic (roads and parking) below one or two levels for all other uses, and such forms could be thought of as one extreme of a series of forms designed to accomodate mass use of cars with no restraint.

3.18 The other extreme of this series would be sprawl. Between sprawl. and the multilayered form of traffic architecture would be a variety of combinations of the two, in which unrestricted mass use of cars would be possible. If restraint is accepted on car use then less extreme forms of development will suffice, although these may involve a proportion of either sprawl or traffic architecture. The choice of combinations of traffic restraint and forms of urban development can be illustrated in simple form graphically as shown in Fig, 1.

3.19 The compromises that are possible between sprawl and traffic architecture involve varying degrees of vertical adaption of urban form. e.g. multi-level car parks. The particular form of urban development that will result in any given location will depend upon such variables as the price of land (both urban and rural land), the degree to which the inhabitants of the town wish to have complete freedom to use their cars, the costs of redevelopment, the extent to which these costs are collected from car users, the presence (or absence) of development control and the manner in which development control is used.

3.20 If rural land is cheap and there is no development control, growth in car use will cause sprawl. If rural land is expensive, growth in car use may result in traffic architecture or some compromise between this and sprawl, depending on the price ratio of rural and urban land. If rural land is cheap, development control can prevent sprawl, but the pressure for sprawled forms of development will be ever-present, and may eventually cause breakdown of the development control system in that sprawl will not be totally prevented.

3.21 In Britain, rural land is cheap and there is development control. But traffic architecture is expensive, and has in any case been rejected as a desirable form of development. Therefore, if car use increases, pressure for sprawl will result.

3.22 An example of the manner in which car use promotes sprawl is provided by the new city of Milton Keynes, in which a density of 8 persons per acre has been adopted. This compares with densities of 23 persons per acre in Edinburgh New Town, 32 in part of Bath, and 66 in part of Brighton. The major reason for the low density of Milton Keynes is to facilitate car use (27).

Fig.l. Graphical Representation of Traffic Oriented Urban Form

 Highly elaborate
 Multi-deck                      Each sloping line
 Development*       represents a constant volume of traffic
 "MegaCity" *@        accomodated in the town or city represented.
            *  @          . . . . = Small number of cars per person
 Degree of  *    @                   in use and parked at any time
 Vertical   *#     @      @ @ @ @ = Large number of cars per person
 Elaboration*  #     @               in use and parked at any time
 of town or *    #     @            Note that cars in use occupy more
 city       *x     #     @          space than parked cars. Therefore
            *  x     #     @        for each of these plots there is
 Ground-    *    x     #     @      a trade-off: if there are many cars 
 level      *+     x     #     @     then driving is heavily
 parking    *  +     x     #     @    restricted; if there are few cars
 only, many *    +     x     #     @     then driving is lightly
 bus + train*.     +     x     #     @     restricted or not
 services.  *  .     +     x     #     @      restricted.
 Mostly Low *    .     +     x     #     @
 Multistorey*      .     +     x     #     @
 buildings  *        .     +     x     #     @
            *        Degree of Sprawl - Area occupied by
            *          each inhabitant of town or city
            *         Mostly 1- or 2-storey buildings
            *  "Small Town Idyll"         "Suburban Nightmare"
            *  Plenty of green space    Most land occupied by roads,
            *  between clusters of      suburban shopping centres and
            *  houses and shops.       their car parks, industrial
            *  Farming and wild land    parks and other campus-style
            *  in the green spaces       developments as well as
            *                            housing in large estates

              High Density               Low Density
             of Development             of Development
         Houses close to each         Suburban style houses, set
       other and to shops and       far apart, and a long way from
        workplaces. Easy to move     shops and workplaces. Hard to
      around on foot and by public   get around in without a car.

4. The Economic Efficiency of Alternative Urban Forms

4.1 It has been mentioned above ( Para. 3.6) that few studies have been made of the economic efficiency of alternative urban structures, and that none are known at the time of writing this paper. By economic efficiency what is meant is the ease with which people can carry out their daily business whether thie involves office workers traveling to work, shoppers going to the shops, children traveling to school, businessmen or salesmen visiting, clients, or another form of travel associated with urban life.

4.2 It may be argued, and often is argued, that the changes associated with increased ownership and use of cars are beneficial, because they result from people making decisions ranging from decisions to make a trip by car taken by individual car-users to decisions to built massive highways which are made so as to optimise their own, or society's position. There are several reasons why this argument is not valid, however.

4.3 There is a current public debate about the accounting procedures used for alternative modes of transport. It is very clear from this that the heaviest lorries do not pay their way (in 1974), and this is accepted by the Government (8). The position of private car users and light lorries is less clear. The Government considers that private cars pay twice their allocated road track costs (8), but others think that all road transport is subsidised (9) and that if road users paid their full costs there could be "a general shift back to the railways".

4.4 Many motorists do not pay for the full costs of their cars because their cars are provided by their employers, or because their employers help them with the cost of running their own car. It has been estimated that this group comprises 40% of all motorists (10). These people will often choose to make journeys that they would not make if they had to pay all their coats themselves.

4.5 Many car owners avoid some of the costs by maintaining their cars by either maintaining their cars themselves or not maintaining them at all. By doing this they save about GBP0.015 per UK mile (1974 prices) but often their cars are not kept in a proper condition and will often have faults that make them unroadworthy. Thus, these motorists often decide to make trips that they otherwise would not or decide to buy or keep a car, which they would not do if they had to maintain their cars in a thoroughly fit and safo condition (11).

4.6 Car parking has been subsidised in the past, and even now (at the time of writing this paper) users of garages in new housing estates often do not pay the full cost of the provision of their garages (12). Municipal car parking has often failed to cover costs in the past, and although Government policy now requires parking to cover operating costs, parking does not cover the opportunity cost of the use of the land. Nor does car parking pay into local rates funding whereas all other land uses except public open space do do so. These subsidies to car parking will encourage car owners to use their cars where otherwise they would not and they encourage non-car-owners to acquire cars where otherwise they would not.

4.7 Even if the taxes paid by car owners cover their allocated costs, many cars are owned by companies which pay less in tax than private cars. The amount of tax lost in this way has been estimated at £580M sterling(13). Given the way that car owners pay tax does not reflect their allocated costs in a correct manner for they pay too much (in road fund tax) to keep their cars and too little (in fuel tax) to use them.

4.8 The Government recognises that motorists perceive only a small part of the social costs of using their cars. This encourages them to make more journeys than they would if they perceived the full costs of car use.

4.9 It is apparent, in East Sussex at least (at the time this paper was written), that a full share of the costs of road maintenance at the present time and that the roads in the county are deteriorating encourages more use of cars than is really desirable from an economic point of view.

4.10 The subjects discussed in Paras. 4.4 to 4.9 above do not cover all the sources of subisdy to road users. All these subsidies must and do encourage the ownership and use of cars. The stimulus to the use of cars is so strong, in fact, that Cyril Myerscough considers that the average car owner spends more time travelling than the average non-car-owner, which defeats one of the reasons why many people are persuaded to buy cars (17).

4.11 If people are encouraged to make day-to-day decisions to use cars as a result of the above effects, then they will also be encouraged to make locational changes on the came basis, namely that cars will be available, and will seem cheap to use. Therefore, the locational changes discussed in section 3 of this essay will be encouraged by all the forces that encourage car use.

4.12 Because cars are not so cheap to use as they seem to be for most trips, a heavy social burden of additional cost is generated. Companies have to pay for subsidised trips made by their employees in company cars. Motorists have to pay heavy bills which they do not acknowledge at the time of using the car. Everyone has to bear the social costs of car use which do not fall on the user. It is suite probable, therefore, that all the locational choices associated with car use are in fact not economically beneficial but are economically costly.

4.13 As mentioned above, this does not seem to have been properly studied. There ic an observation however, which appear to confirm that land-use layout changes could be economically damaging. Jane Jacobs has noted that Los Angeles is a particularly difficult city for business people to work in, because they must spend more time to make each call and must keep more staff for an equivalent operation, than in other cities (18).

4.14 Los Angeles is, of course, an unusual city, and it would be unwise to leap to conclusions from a simple observation that business is harder to conduct there than in other cities. Nevertheless, there is a clear need for much further study of the problem illustrated by this observation, namely the costs imposed on travellers by awkward land-use structures. Studies of this problem need to consider land-use and access, and could replace the more conventional studies of land-use and transportation.

4.15 Land-use and access studies would look at transport from the point of view of the trnveller, unlike the present type of land-use and transportation study, which looks at transport from the point of view of the planner. The new studies would consider the range of options available to car-owners, cyclists, and pedestrians in each locality within an urban area (and in rural areas also), and would involve theoretical modeling by computer, like the present studies, in which changes to land-use and transport could be evaluated to see which changes are beneficial.

4.16 The economic wellbeing of a community depends upon the members of that community, whoevever they may be, having easy access to the facilities and people to which they need to gain access. It is a serious shortcoming of present approaches to transport that they consider only how to provide movement, and not how to provide access.

4.17 In Milton Keynes in the UK, development is to be at 8 people per acre (approx. 17 per hectare) (see above). If this density is compared with one of 32 people per acre (about 67 per hectare) as found in part of Bath, and in many other the area covered by a given number of people is 4 times as great and distances are two times those of the denser city. This implies, given that the two have similar land-use structures that journeys must be accomplished at twice the speed for the same time spent travelling. Therefore, in Milton Keynes, the structure may well be such that cars must be used as well as being one in which they can be used.

5. The role of Cars in Urban Areas

5.1 If the mass use of cars is economically damaging to urban areas then what purpose should cars serve? The answer, broadly, is that they should be used for, or by, those people whose time is important to the community and whose movement patterns are random and diffuse so that public transport is unsuitable.

5.2 It is possible, in addition. that further "optional" use could be made of cars, without inflicting economic damage, but such optional users should pay their full costs at the time of use if they are to perceive the costs that they impose on themselves and others. Such "cost immediacy" is essential if a rational choice is to be made to use a car for an optional trip,

5.3 Buchanan (7, para. 74) distinguishes between essential and optional traffic. The former comprises "vehicles used for essential purposes in connection with trade, business and industry" while the latter in composed of cars used for "private pleasure and convenience". This definition is not entirely satisfactory however for given a pricing structure for road transport which reflects full allocated economic and social costs much traffic which fits this definition of essential would be suppressed, such an trips which are presently of marginal value. and freight which would transfer to rail haulage.

5.4 A further fault with Buchanan's definition of essential traffic is that given the compact nature of many British city- and town-centres, many journeys made within them "in connection with trade, business and industry" may be made on foot, or by bicycles or by public transport. Indeed, because of parking difficulties these modes may all be faster than the car. Clearly, if land-use structures become more compact, or if movement by the non-car modes is improved some so-called "essential" traffic will transfer from cars to non-car modes i.e. the total volume of "essential" traffic expressed in terms of vehicles, or passenger car units will decrease. Clearly such traffic is not necessarily "essential".

5.5 These objections emphasise the importance of considering, the use of cars and the purposes for which cars should be used not purely in terms of "essential" traffic, an defined by Buchanan but in terms of the pattern of trips and the value of the user's time to the community (not the value of the driver's time only to himself). The nature of the pattern of trips will be determined not only by the purpose for which the user makes those trips but also by the land-use structure of the urban (or rural) area in which the trips are made. Hence the importance of considering land-use structures for deciding which trips should be made by car.

5.6 It is obviously necessary in most towns, to make some sort of choice as to which trips can be made by car, or should be made by car, and which trips cannot or should not be made by car. The choice cannot be avoided even in small towns given that the Buchanan "traffic architecture approach" has been rejected and that it is accepted that towns must not be allowed to develop into urban sprawl so an to accommodate traffic. The use of land-use and access studies as suggested above, can help in making this choices by giving a clear indication of the range of facilities to which users of various modes of transport (cars, bicycles, walking, public transport) can gain easy access,

5.7 Making such a choice in a conscious manner, having a full awareness of what the implications of the choice are, is only the alternative to such a choice being implemented by default in the form of congestion of traffic, inconvenient and expensive public transport inconvenient land-use structures, and all the other difficulties associated with the growth of motor traffic.

5.8 A further fault with the definition of essential traffic adopted by Buchanan is that many private individuals must now use cars because no alternative is available or suitable for their trips. An example is residents of rural areas many of whom must make almost all their trips by car. These trips are essential to then, and therefore also to the Community. which includes them. But such trips are random and diffuse, so they may be included among the broad definition expressed above (para. 5.1) of those travellers who should use cars.

5.9 This does not say, however, that cars should be used in rural areas and that no public transport should therefore be provided. Public transport is needed in rural areas for many reasons. most of which are beyond the scope of this paper. One of them that is important in the current context is that rural dwellers wish to visit towns for many purposes, and because they make such trips by car, they contribute to congestion in towns (19). The availability of public transport to link rural and urban areas is therefore important to both areas and often these services exist and are the only commercially or socially viable services provided in rural areas.

5.10 Traders in many towns make frequent calls for more public car-parking to be provided, it seems that their reason for doing this is a belief that the provision of car-parking near to their shops will attract more customers, or wealthier customers and therefore that their trade will increase. Yet, since most such traders are located in central locations (which are those where parking spaces are not sufficient to meet the demand for parking) they are likely to lose through more parking space being provided, if the arguments and observations above relating to central business districts are correct, although one would expect that in particular situations traders may gain from the provision of parking space.

5.11 An example of a location in which traders may be thought to gain from the provision of parking space is in out-of-town or suburban locations which simply would not be viable for shopping, without car-parking spaces. But such developments are specialised for car-borne shoppers and are provided primarily (but not necessarily exclusively) for the use of car-borne shoppers. The need to invest in such shopping centres arises from the use of cars for shopping, and such investment is a cost of the use of cars. Although such centres are thought by many to offer economic advantages through economies of scale, these observed economies do not consider the cost of providing road space for the associated traffic. In any cases the provision of out-of-town or suburban centres cannot help established central-area traders.

6. The Economic Importance of a Good Urban Environment

6.1 It is often assumed by transport planners that, whilst environmental damage is important, environmental damage is a largely subjective factor which has no associated economic cost. This is not true. There are important immediate and non-immediate economic effects associated with noise, pollution and damage to the visual environment.

6.2 Approximately one-third of urban residents are exposed to traffic noise of greater than 65dB(A) (in London in 1961, 36% of inner London residents were affected by traffic noise; it is believed that 46% of the urban population of Britain suffers over 65db(A) and 18.6% over 70dB(A) for 18 hours per day) (20)(21). This noise cannot be without economic cost. For example, it may make sleep less restful. In schools, offices and shops, such noise will inhibit conversation and make work more difficult and therefore slower.

6.3 Levels of pollution especially carbon monoxide from car exhausts, are increasing and have been found to be above recommended levels(22). Carbon monoxide is well known for the tendency that it has to make people drowsy and give them headaches and this must have an important, but unknown and non-obvious economic cost.

6.4 Stress has been found to reduce the ability of drivers to perform simple intellectual exercises (23). This must have an effect on the ability of drivers to carry out their work effectively, and must therefore be an economic cost of driving. Other stress resulting from an unsatisfactory urban environment would be expected to have the same result.

6.5 These factors may or may not be significant, and further research is needed to discover this. However significant they are or could beg their importance in hardly an great as the fact that people simply do not like living and working in ugly places. The significant economic efforts of the desire to live in attractive places are discussed by Kohr (24) who looks at urban life from an unusual point of view: he considers that the basic function of cities is to satisfy man's need for "a good life", and that the trading, activities of cities merely provide the means to achieve this ....the good life in the community has at all times; signified the satisfaction of man's three basic social desires to which former planners have invariably given material shape to their structures. These desires are conviviality, religiosity. and politics. Hence the nucleus of these cities with all their variation in styles, consisted always of the same basic structures. Taverns and theatres to satisfy conviviality. churches to satisfy religiosity and city halls-their political temperament. And because fulfilment of the community-creating clearer, required an economic base these structure wore naturally grouped -around the marketplace serving a fourth communal, function - trade. (24, P4).

6.6 Kohr argues that aesthetic beauty in a vital determinant of location of both industry and housing noting as he does the case of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico which continues to be overcrowded, despite the availability of generous incentives to industrialists to re-locate in other places. His priorities as expressed above are obviously of more importance than mere personal whim, and they do seem to be correct priorities, if one in to assume that a prime purpose of life is to be happy.

6.7 It might be said that if aesthetic beauty is so important, then how does Los Angeles manage to be at prosperous as it is, to which the answer is that Los Angeles has a beauty of a particular sort which is different from other cities. Los Angeles certainly has a wide range of facilities and many very attractive places althouph access to them, with few exceptions, is only available to car-users (25). Hence the cost of "a good life" in Los Angeles is the cost of owning and running a car and this cost is avoided in other cities whose "good life" is available to non-car-users.

6.8 The example of Los Angeles shows the importance of carrying out studies of accessibility of facilities and people from urban locations, for the range of facilities and people to which one can gain easy access are an important determinant of the quality of urban life, and therefore of the pressure that will arise to live in particular locations.

6.9 A particular problem suffered by attractive places is the pressure of visitors. This gives rise to traffic problems and to changes in land-use of a nature that favour the visitors rather than the inhabitants, e.g. a growth of souvenir shops, amusement facilities, and the like, designed to cater for visitors rather than inhabitants. On the one hand, such facilities brine money to an attractive place and on the other hand they cause a loss of amenities to the residents, and may impose specific economic costs on the residents, ouch an high prices in the shops. These effects further illustrate the economic importance of an attractive environment.

6.10 Kohr suggests that rather than try to assist the movement of traffic in attractive and congested cities which has the risk of destroying the city itself, planners should try to create alternative centres of attraction which would provide "a good life" for their own populations. He considers that the right urban form to do this consists of squares around which activities can be grouped and which encourage traffic to stop rather than to move, therefore bringing travellers to the centres of activity. (24).

6.11 Kohr's suggested solution has the implication that environmental factors are not only important in specific locations of great merit. In facts they are important everywhere. The environment of places whose aesthetic significance is not of national importance is very important to those who live there, and must be conserved not only for their benefit. but also to reduce the pressure on those locations of great aesthetic or environmental merit.

7. Conclusions - What should be Done?

7.1 In planning transport facilities and predicting trends in transport planning and land-use planning, it is important that the consequences of trends be borne in mind. At presents this is not done especially in predicting and planning for growth in motor traffic. If motor traffic is to grow, then unless the growth is restricted to areas and to times of day when and where additional traffic can be accommodated, then land-use structures must change. The first conclusion of this paper is that this fact must be spelt out clearly for all to understand, as must the nature of the necessary chances.

7.2 Planners, traders and the public must recognise that the economic health of conventional central business districts does not depend upon improving accessibility of such districts to cars. In fact allowing more cars into such areas damages their economies. The economic health of central business districts does in fact depend upon efficient access by pedestrians and public transport and upon a good environment for pedestrians being provided.

7.3 If more cars are to be accommodated in urban areas, then the changes outlined in Section 3 of this paper and referred to in Para. 7.1 above will occur. The assumption has often been that these changes are beneficial. which they are if cars have to be used. But no studies appear to have been made as to whether the urban forms associated with car use are actually economically more efficient than those urban forms not associated with mass car use (given that cars are not used in quantity in such urban forms). A new type of study, a land-use and access study is needed which will provide this information. both for existing and theoretical urban forms.

7.4 Another use of land-use and access studies will be to determine the role that cars should play both in rural and urban areas. The definitions used in the past (of essential and optional traffic) are not satisfactory, A new definition of the role of cars should be that in general, cars should be used by people whose time is valuable to the community, and whose movements are random and diffuse so that public transport is unsuitable and the resulting traffic is not a major nuisance. This definition will obviously be related to the urban form under study in any particular case. Making a definition of the purpose for which cars should be used in a community in better, given that there is a full awareness of the consequences of such a definition, than simply allowing the semi-chaos that prevails at present to continue.

7.5 It is important to recognise the powerful attraction of cities and towns whose environment is attractive. This has important economic consequences. and is a powerful locational. determinant, Attractive cities also attract visitors, as well as residents and industrialists. The problems of excessive attraction of this sort cannot be reduced. and will be made worse by improving mobility to such places and the correct answer here is to conserves and improve the environment of other centres so that alternative attractions can draw the pressure away from over-pressurised but attractive towns and cities.

7.6 This paper has not discussed at length the current trends in land-use in Britain. These trends, many of which are associated with trends in transport, have several disturbing consequences, in particular the rate at which agricultural land is being used for development, This subject has been extensively researched by Alice Coleman, to whose work the reader is referred (26).

7.7 If travellers are to make choices which are genuinely optimal, they must pay their full costs if using cars at the time of use or me near to that as possible. This will require changes in the taxation structure currently in use in Britain.

7.8 There is a need for quick action on all these points. The present state of semi-chaos is not to anyone's advantage, except the short-term advantage of those whose employment is associated with the motor industry and the motor trade. The conclusions of this paper should be incorporated in Government policy for transport and land-use planning.


1. Transportation and Town Planning: Kurt Lcibrand; pp133-134.

2. The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Jane Jacobs; p366.

3. The Heart of our Cities; Victor Gruen; p123

4. British Cities: Urban Population and Employment Trends 1951-71: Research Report 10, Department of the Environment.

5. The Urban Transportation Problem; Meyer, Kain and Wohl; Harvard University Press.

6. Gruen, op. cit.

7. Traffic in Towns, HMSO

8. Sunday Times, 23/5/76

9 Daily Telegraph; Editorial, 10/10/72

10. The Petrol in your Life; David White; New Society, 6th March 1975.

11. Drive, Autumn 1973; The Automobile Association; pp90, 92, 93.

12. The Guardian, 24/12/74

13. the Guardian, 22/12/75

14. East Sussex County Council Transport Policy and Programme 1976/77.

15. East Sussex County Council Budget 1976/77 and Accounts 1974/75.

16. The Evening Argus, Brighton, 26/5/76.

17. Guardian, 1/12/95

18. Jane Jacobs, op.cit., p369.

19. East Sussex County Council Transport Policy and Programme 1975/76, para. 8.3.

20. Changing Directions; Independent Commission on Transport; Coronet Books: quoting Noise: Final Report; Committee on the Problem of Noise; Cmnd.2056; HMSO; 1963.

21. Noise in the Next Ten Years; Panel on Noise in the Seventies; Department of the Environment Noise Advisory council; HMSO.

22. The Times, 18/10/74

23. Independent Commission on Transport; op.cit.; para. 4.17; original sources quoted are: A working bibliography on the effects of motion on human performances; USAF Technical Document no. 62-77, IV,1962.; "A study of the influence of vibration on man"; Ergonomics I;347; Dieckmann, D; 1970; and "Performance and recovery under prolonged low level vibration"; Proceedings of the 4th International Ergonomics Association Conference; Dudsk, R.A., Ayoub, M.M., and El-Mausi; July 1970.

24. "The City as a Convivial Centre"; Tract No. 12; The Gryphon Press; Summer 1974.

25. Los Angeles; Reyner Banham; Penguin.

26. "Is Planning really Necessary?", text of a lecture to the Royal Geographical Society, 3rd May 1976; Alice Coleman, M.A., F.R.G.S., reader in Geography, Univeristy of London, Kings College.

27. Independent Commission on Transport; op.cit.; information supplied by Milton Keynes Development Corporation and the corporations of Edinburgh, Bath and Brighton.

Appendix 1: The effect of providing extra parking spaces in a city centre together with additional road space for the extra traffic generated.

One car-space occupies 23 sq,m, and therefore assuming that either shopping or office uses are displaced, then either 1.53 office workers are displaced, or shopping trading area capable or turning. over between £2,450 and £7,360 (1974 prices) per year in lost, depending on the ratio of storage to trading space, assumed here to vary from 0 to 1 to 2 to 1.

If one assumes the figure given in Tables 1 and 2 for car-occupancy of 1.5 persons per car, then if car-parking replaces offices for each car accommodated in city centre parking 1.02 office workers are displaced representing a lose of earner in that locality of approximately £2,500 per annum.

These losses will be increased by the need to provide further road apace. If car-spaces are used primarily by visitors and shoppers rather than commuters, and it the average stay in one hour in a city centre 2 km in diameter, then assuming, the average speeds and occupancies of Table 2.1, an extra 10 sq.m. of land will be needed for moving traffic. This figure will be larger for larger city centres and smaller for long stay visitors and shoppers.

Clearly if more parking is provided in a central business district having shopping and offices as prime land uses, then fewer users will be able to enter that district.

Appendix 2: The effect of providing, parking spaces in city centres whilst maintaining road capacity at a constant level

The effects of the displacement of land uses will be as described in Appendix 1. There is an additional effect which is the displacement of other modes of transport from using the road space needed by the extra traffic.

If a city centre of 2km diameter in assumed, needing, a journey of 1km within the central area on average, and if all travellers are assumed to stay for one hour then the average space demanded of each car-borne visitor will be 2 z 1/12 x 40 sq.m., or 6,67 sq.m. from Table 2.1.

A bus rider needs from 2 to 4.5 sq. m. while in motion. and travels at an average speed of 10 km/h/h, unlike the err user who travels at 12 km/h, again from Table 2.1. The average apace demand is therefore 0.4 to 0.9 sq. ft.

A cyclist needs 8 sq.m. while in motion and travels at 12 km/h. The cyclist's average apace demand is therefore 1.33 sq. m.

The above figures can be thought of as space-time demands, i.e. they represent the demand of travellers for an amount of space for a period of time. Each car-user needs 6.67 sq.m.hours for his trip to the centres each bus--rider needs 0.4 to 0.9 sq.m.hours, and each cyclist 1.33 sq.m.hours for the same trip. These factors are unaltered by the length of stay of each visitor in the centre.

Therefore for each motorist or car-passenger who visits the centre. between 7.4 and 1.6 bus users or cyclists are prevented from doing so, unless spare road capacity in available. in practice, the form that this interaction taken in not that of bus-users and cyclists finding their way to the centre barred by cars. Buses become slow and unreliable, and often do not turn up, leading to long waits at bus stops and to passengers deciding not to bother another time. Cyclists are deterred from using the roads by the pressure of motor traffic and therefore do not travel, or travel another way. Motorists themselves find the going slow and may decide not to bother another time.

Appendix 3

By way of showing the influences at work in modern cities as seen by researchers, here are some quotes about urban land-use patterns (with comments by this author) from The Urban Transportation Problem; J.B. Meyer, J.F. Kain. M. Wohl; Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1966

"The automobile has made it technically feasible for people to live in dispersed residential locations. while rising personal incomes and mass production have made such a development economically possible. The desires apparent particularly among younger Americans, for single-family dwellings with attached play-yards and lawns historically seems to have been both overwhelming and undeniable ...."

Subtle language here. Was there ever a choice?

"The rise of suburban living has had an impact, in turn, on the location of retailing and service activities...."

So be it, but is the new arrangement of things more, or less, convenient than the old? Cheaper to live in, or move expensive? With or without a better community spirit?

"The rise of the suburban snapping centre also reflects forces other than simple growth in population. auto ownership and personal income For one things it is a function of changing and improving- merchandising ... starting anew in a suburban location often makes it possible to design retailing areas that are more compatible with modern transportation and distribution technologies than in older downtown centres.. changes of particular importance in regard have beer. the replacement of horses and buggies by automobiles; of horse-drawn drays by pick-ups and other small trucks; of stairs by elevators and escalators; of hired delivery by do-it-yourself; and of human labour by fork-lift trucks. Their impact on city life has been to make separation of vehicular and pedestrian traffic much more desirable if not mandatory than it was in an age of low vehicular speeds; to reduce the need for wider horizontal access strips for moving local freight and, in general, the space required for local drayage; to make vertical movement of small freight packages considerably more efficient than in the past; and to decrease the need fox. large on-site inventories or for ware- houses attached directly to the retail store. These factors, taken together with the increased use of private passenger vehicles and their accompanying need for parking spaces dictate that an efficient physical layout for retailing will approximate that of a modern. suburban shopping centre. Indeed, it can be argued.....that the most serious problem of existing CBDs is that they were designed for an outdated set of technological conditional the most serious single problem being an inadequate separation of truck, private vehicular, and pedestrian traffic."

And just how easy is it for the various types of traffic to get to where they want to, compared with how it was (or would be) if there were not the large numbers of cars?

"Some of the more important of these (other) technological changes are concerned with the virtual revolution in the inter-city transportation of both persons and freight. ..... (which have) been sharply dramatised by the current economic agenda of rail passenger travel. Many (who previously used trains) now find it more convenient simply to "hop in" the family automobile and drive directly to their destinations.... For long trips ... the choice has increasingly been to go by air. For a number of obvious geographic, cost, and land-requirement reasons, (airports are normally) located outside of and at some distance from older CBDs."

These authors simply don't mention the noise that air travel generates nor do they discuss the space that airports occupy and the opportunity costs of the occupation of land by airports.

"The growth of both auto and air travel has contributed, of course, to (the observed) decentralisation of restaurants and the proliferation of motel accommodations."

Has this spreading out of accommodations made things easier, or not? This question is not answered by Meyer, Kain and Wohl.

"The rail freight business also has been profoundly affected by recent technological changes ..... Container shipment also acted as force for. decentralisation by extending the range of industries which can afford to be away from rail."

In the UK, where rail freight is much less significant than in the USA, it is the heavy goods vehicle (lorry or truck) that has had the same effect at great cost to those who live next to the roads that carry it.

Other reasons discussed for decentralisation include labour trouble in central areas, the high costs of automated production in multi-storey plants, and the increased use of computers eliminating labour in book-keeping. All the above from Pages 12 to 15.

CBD = Central Business District of a town or city.

Appendix 4

This appendix is included to show how complex arguments can make cars look very desirable when the relationship between cars and land-use is ignored. In comparing cars and other modes, the authors assumes that there will be no change in the spatial relationships of various land-uses. This is very common among those who promote car use - the supporters of the car ignore the way that car use changes land use. Don't be fooled. Just remember how much space cars require.

From The Urban Transportation Problem; J.B. Meyer, J.F. Kain. M. Wohl; Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1966.

"The relatively favourable cost performance of the automobile at low volumes is not too surprising. In our high cost economy (of the USA) automobiles have the great virtue of being do-it-yourself vehicles. If parking space in available at both ends of the journeys a 1- or 2-. person automobile trip will have very little waste motion.... Exceptions occur mainly with car-pooling, which probably explains some of its unpopularity." p244

Things look very different at high volumes.

"In general. an automobile system - through it's operation, occupancy and parking characteristics - offers flexibility and other advantages unmatched by virtually any other type of urban transport. For example, car-pooling can be viewed an a mode of low-cost transit available right now - a mode, moreover, with service characteristics perhaps as attractive as almost any conceivable rail or bus system." from p248

Having dismissed car pooling as a poor-quality system above, it has been redeemed as being better than rail or bus.

"In sum. if quality of service is highly valued or volumes are low, the automobile is almost indisputably the cheapest or best mode of line haul travel; if lower quality service is required, or is all that can be afforded, the bus has advantages at moderate volumes, and either bus or rail serve well at high volumes." P249.

The costings here do not include social costs or pollution or the cost of land occupied by cars and the opportunity costs arising from the sterilisation of this land.

"The cheapest residential feeder mode is extension of an automobile trip wherever the automobile perofrms the line haul function, even aside from the service advantages it offers. The cost advantage over the bus is slight at very high vlolume levels, however." p267. .

Downtown distribution is analysed, in Chapter 11, for three theoretical sizes of city CBD of 648, 270 and 144 city blocks (144 blocks per sq. mile) with 8, 6 and 4 corridors of transportation serving them: "Another aspect of downtown distribution for consideration is the land-use commitments implied by the various modes.... For the small area and four-corridor case, maximum parking needs amount to about 38 per cent of the total land available; ..... Most cities now devote more than 40 per cent of CBD land to streets alloys, and parking, and this figure -,-can be compared with the data in Figure 51 (a plot of land needed as percentage of CBD area for various flows per corridor in the 144 block 4 corridor case). Clearly, very substantial automobile commuter volumes. in the range of 30,000 hourly passengers per corridor, could be handled without violating this 40 per cent (though theoretical) figure.... "

But what about the space? The above paragraph does not properly consider the amount of space that the roads would occupy.

A rail system could handle more passengers in less space - not mentioned here.

"Of course, if downtown curb parking is eliminated....."

bang goes the convenience of being able to park outside where you want to go reducing at a stroke the much esteemed convenience of car travel

".... and if additional highway capacity is needed it may be added either by prohibiting curb parking.- and substituting offstreet parking...."

No discussion of what would be swept away in doing this

"... or by constructing additional roadways, for example, either belt highways or subways. .... a belt highway will be a cheaper means of providing additional capacity whenever the total construction and right-of-way capital cost falls below USD 1.9 million per lane-mile for medium-density or USD 3.7 million per lane-mile for high density." pp296 to 299

Once again no consideration of the full social cost, displacement and disruption that this would cause.

"Indeed, it might well prove cheaper to promote or subsidise small car use than to build elaborate subsidised public transit systems. A small car system has the further advantages of being specialised mainly in its rolling stock and of greater consistency with apparent trends in consumer preference."

Note the use of the word 'small' to make cars sound innocent and unobtrusive.

"It must be recognised, however, that considerable uncertainty surrounds the extent and feasibility of the immediate ecnomics that small cars might promote in highway investments." p315.

Aha. This last paragraph just begins to peek at the impossibility of trying to meet the full demand for car use that will arise if allowed to.

All money values quoted in this Appendix are those applicable in USA in 1966 when this book was written and are in US Dollars.

Line-haul: that part of a journey where large numbers of travellers are moving on the same route.

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