Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

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Automobile dependency is defined as high levels of per capita automobile travel, automobile oriented land use patterns, and reduced transport alternatives. Automobile dependency increases many costs: higher vehicle expenses, reduced travel choices, increased road and parking facility costs, congestion, accident damages a variety of environmental impacts, and considerable health impacts. Beyond an optimal level, excessive automobile dependency may reduce economic productivity and development. A more balanced transportation system can provide many benefits to consumers and society.

Compared to other large metropolitan areas in the U.S., Portland area residents travel about 20 percent fewer miles every day. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation the average resident of the metropolitan area traveled 20.3 miles per day in 2005. The median for the 33 most populous metro areas in the country is 24.3 miles per day. And while vehicle miles per person have been increasing over the past decade, they have been essentially flat to declining in Portland. But, there is still huge difference between Portland and environmentally successful city like Copenhagen, Denmark.

As Peter Calthrope expresses the importance of the issue, “The problem is not individual projects. The problem is how we communicate this message to people.” The message that he and many others are trying to convey is the necessity of a shift in our transportation patterns.

I am proposing a campaign, which will advocate for informing people about how transportation habits could affect their lives. The campaign’s mission will be promoting strategies which could develop alternative transportation choices by revealing the true effects of excessive automobile usage. This campaign will grow roots in early childhood education and hard-wire these influences into children before they become individual drivers. The campaign will also teach them how to approach their parents about this issue.

This campaign will start with a group of students in Portland State University realizing there is a potential and need for enhancing transportation patterns in Portland. And from this point, their activities would expand and involve people from outside Portland State including guests from environmental groups in Oregon. This union will give them opportunity and power to put force on The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and then reach to State of Oregon’s Constitution. At this point, the movement will be able to propose a law to Oregon Department of Transportation to make it mandatory for every vehicle that is going to be registered in Oregon, to implement a programmed chip through Driver and Motor Vehicle services in the Engine Control Unit of the car.

This chip will gather real time data sent to cellular tower from service provider infrastructure and convert the data into comprehensible information for a general driver. This conversion will reveal the true effects of driving and invisible links between health factors and transportation pattern and covey that as a message via vehicle’s audio system to passengers and leave them with their own good judgment which has been previously informed and influenced by campaign’s various types of activity and publicity.

The chip is a subdivision of the campaign and will work in the context of a broader strategy. Currently The potential companies that would be able to make this chip are: Audi (Audi Connect), BMW Assist, Continental AutoLinQ, ChevyStar (GM in Latin America), Chrysler, Fiat Blue&Me, Ford Sync, GM (OnStar), Hyundai (Blue Link), Infiniti (Infiniti Connection),Lexus Enform, Mercedes-Benz (mbrace), Toyota Safety Connect, Volvo On-Call.

During this project, I contacted Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University for technical support. According to their technical information, the production and implementation of this chip is not an expensive process. The chip itself can be made by less than $1 and the implementation will cost approximately $5 per vehicle. 

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