Deaf Urban Planning

I’m fascinated by the lack of listening happening in this world sometimes. Take trains.

Everywhere on earth where public transit is part of everyday life, in very dense cities, it’s a disaster. MTA in NYC, RER in Paris, Underground in London it doesn’t matter: it’s a mess and we’re lucky no big dramatic things have happened. Yet. People deal with it thanks to our digital devices. Without them? I don’t want to imagine.

Meanwhile in LA, many people still believe that underground trains are the future. In one of the most active seismic zone in the world? With big earthquakes a bit overdue? Son. A kid can detect the problem.

So we have examples around the planet showing that trains work up to a point and then don’t. Those examples don’t have the threat of earthquakes. And the city of Los Angeles is like “let’s pour billions into this!”. As if the rest of the world didn’t exist. As if there was only one, quick way to modernize a town.

It’s so weird.

And then, you have cities completely designed to be car-free and which are not because cars are pretty super useful. Independence, y’all. People love that shit. Being able to move some big stuff without thinking logistics is nice. Thinking that American Korean folks used to the US west coast all their lives will move back to high rises in apartments in Korea is cute, if not disconnected from reality. And if they move when they’ll retire, congratulations your city is now a big retirement home. Not that vibrant now, is it?

The conclusion is that cities are not Ikea furniture that fit everywhere the same on this planet. Cities vary wildly. People are complex. Some constants will happen: people love personal space. The convenience of walking to stores is not necessarily a convenience, if at all with delivery being so pervasive. People love choices. Sometimes people even enjoy to drive! There are some heritage to deal with: you can’t build LA-like boulevards in Paris because there’s no room, and you can’t really walk that much in LA because it’s hot as fuck 365 days a year.

I think it’s one of the bias from technology or at least tech sales pitch: we can solve things in a clean and “perfect”, one-shot way. We can’t. We’re humans, we’re all different, it’s messy. So are our cities.

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