Peter Calthorpe Attacks Autonomous Cars

New York Times

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Peter Calthorpe thinks Silicon Valley has it all wrong. He rejects the ideas of tech industry visionaries who say personal autonomous vehicles will soon be the solution to urban problems like traffic congestion.

Mr. Calthorpe is a Berkeley-based urban planner who is one of the creators of New Urbanism, which promotes mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods. His designs emphasize the proximity of housing, shopping and public space.

He is not opposed to autonomous vehicles. Mr. Calthorpe’s quarrel is with the idea that the widespread adoption of personally owned self-driving cars will solve transportation problems. In fact, he worries it will lead to more urban congestion and suburban sprawl.

“One thing is certain: Zero- or single-occupant vehicles,” even ones that can drive themselves, “are a bad thing,” he and the transportation planner Jerry Walters wrote in an article last year in Urban Land, an urban planning journal. “They cause congestion, eat up energy, exacerbate sprawl and emit more carbon per passenger-mile.”

Mr. Calthorpe believes that in trying to solve a very hard technical problem, Silicon Valley is ignoring an easier application for autonomous technology that has the potential to quickly change mass transit and help solve the Valley’s housing crisis. It starts with backing away from solo car trips.

A popular claim by the advocates of self-driving cars is that not only will they be safer than human-driven cars, but they will lead to fewer cars, faster commutes and a radical rethinking of cities where finding a place to park is no longer a priority.

But Mr. Calthorpe, citing a range of transportation studies, has simulated through computer models the impact of self-driving vehicles in urban settings. He argues that if they are used the way today’s vehicles are — carrying a single individual in most cases — they will lead to more congestion.

What a rail station might look like under Mr. Calthorpe’s proposal for autonomous rapid transit.

“The key distinction is the number of people per vehicle,” said Mr. Walters, a principal at Fehr & Peers, a transportation consultancy in Walnut Creek. “Without pretty radically increasing the number of people per vehicle, autonomous systems will increase total miles traveled.”

When it is easier to travel in a city in self-driving cars, Mr. Calthorpe said, everyone will want to do so. And when self-driving vehicles are more affordable — which could take years to happen — people who currently rely on public transit while running their errands will instead send their cars to pick up the groceries and the dry cleaning, adding significantly to what Mr. Walters and other urban planners call “total vehicle miles.”

This year, Mr. Calthorpe challenged Silicon Valley to take another look at its housing and transportation problem in a proposal in which he asked: “Can one street solve the San Francisco Bay Area housing crisis?”

In addition to his planning consultancy, Mr. Calthorpe has created Urban Footprint, a company that offers a software design tool for planners, architects and environmental analysts who want to model different kinds of development in urban and regional settings.

He used his software to show that by changing just commercial zoning to permit higher density along El Camino Real — the 45-mile boulevard that stretches through the heart of Silicon Valley from San Francisco to San Jose — it would be possible add more than a quarter-million housing units.

The Valley’s housing crisis can be explained in data that shows that since 2010, the region has added 11 jobs for every new home built; the median home price has reached $934,000; and rents have gone up 60 percent since 2012. One of the consequences of the growing imbalance between housing and jobs is the increasing traffic and congestion, according to an Urban Footprint report.

To avoid congestion, the plan requires efficient mass transit. Mr. Calthorpe has proposed an alternative — autonomous rapid transit, or ART — using fleets of self-driving vans in reserved lanes on main arteries like El Camino Real. Those lanes would allow the vehicles to travel faster and require a lower level of autonomous technology. And the vans could travel separately or be connected together.

A rendering of El Camino Real with dedicated lanes in the middle for self-driving buses.

Mr. Calthorpe’s plan is an evolution of the concept of “transit-oriented development” he pioneered while teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, in the late 1980s. It focuses on designing urban communities that encourage people to live near transit services and decrease their dependence on driving.

The idea has attracted the attention of public transit activists in Southern California.

“Autonomous rapid transit’s greater capacity combined with lower cost could really be the stimulus for the housing development,” said Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA, a group that has built broad community support for funding improvements in transportation. “We need to integrate autonomous technologies in a setting that will enhance transit use.”

Mr. Zane said the ART technology would dovetail nicely with a planning idea called Grand Boulevards, which has been funded by two ballot propositions in the Los Angeles region and has until now been focused on a human-driven system known as bus rapid transit.

Most recent Silicon Valley start-ups have focused on personal vehicles rather than mass transit. But in July, Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced a partnership with Valley Metro in the Phoenix region to develop a transportation system that would look very much like Mr. Calthorpe’s ART concept.

To gain broad acceptance for his idea, however, Mr. Calthorpe needs to convince city officials like Lenny Siegel, the mayor of Mountain View, where Google is based.

Mr. Siegel is a veteran community activist whose focus is on the imbalance between jobs and housing and the impact of the long commutes made by people who work in the city. He also has expressed concerns about anything that will affect the flow of conventional automobile traffic.

Mr. Calthorpe insists that planners need to take bold steps and argues that rethinking major boulevards like El Camino by filling in with denser housing and adding a more efficient autonomous transit system is the best place to start.

“You have to redesign the street itself,” he said. “You need to add autonomous transit, and you need to get rid of parallel parking and put in bikeways and better sidewalks.”

Armitt to the Government on the ‘Growth Arc’ – Must try harder #CaMKOx


Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, welcomed the chancellor’s announcement, but said: “The Growth Arc is in desperate need of new homes and improved transport links, for the benefit not just of local residents but to the country as a whole. These things won’t happen without continued and concerted effort from Government, and today’s measures, while welcome, will not achieve that on their own.

Paul Miner, of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said such gains remained undefined. Mr Miner added that Monday’s announcement “makes little or no commitment, from what we can tell, to the level of affordable housing”

The Red Book on Letwin and Land Value Capture

Red Book

4.57 Accelerating housing delivery – Alongside the Budget, Sir Oliver Letwin has published his independent review of the gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned. The review found no evidence that speculative land banking is part
of the business model for major house builders, nor that this is a driver of slow build out rates.
The review concluded that greater differentiation in the types and tenures of housing delivered on large sites would increase the market absorption rates of new homes – the binding constraint on build out rates on large sites – and has set out recommendations to achieve this aim. The
government will respond to the review in full in February 2019. In order to minimise uncertainty for housebuilders, the government confirms that Help to Buy Equity Loan funding will not be made contingent on large sites with existing outline permission being developed in conformity
with any new planning policy on differentiation. The government will honour any funding commitments made to sites with existing outline planning permission, regardless of any new planning policy on differentiation.
4.58 Planning reform – The government has already revised the National Planning Policy Framework, implementing 85 of the proposals set out in the Housing White Paper and Autumn
Budget 2017, ensuring that more land in the right places is available for housing. The Budget announces that the government has launched a consultation on new permitted development rights to allow upwards extensions above commercial premises and residential properties,
including blocks of flats, and to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes.
4.59 Land value uplift – The government confirms that it will introduce a simpler system of developer contributions that provides more certainty for developers and local authorities, while enabling local areas to capture a greater share of uplift in land values for infrastructure
and affordable housing. The reforms include simplifying the process for setting a higher zonal Community Infrastructure Levy in areas of high land value uplift, and removing all restrictions on Section 106 pooling towards a single piece of infrastructure. The government will also introduce
a Strategic Infrastructure Tariff for Combined Authorities and joint planning committees with strategic planning powers.

Why the Government Will Have to Implement Letwin @oletwinofficial

Imagine a South East authority that faces a doubling or tripling of its OAN under the SOAN (whether 2014 based or more up to date) – to over 1,100 a year.  It gets 300 or so from windfalls and brownfield sites and needs another 800 or so.  Large sites in the South East rarely exceed 240 dwellings a year completions, it needs around 4 such sites.  Because of its geography it can only do one, so has to assume 4 simultaneous ‘points of sale’ in a rapid delivery model (perhaps involving modular construction)  where the rate of housebuilding would be such as to exceed the absorption rate, and probably push local house prices down (from what they otherwise would have been with economic growth) .  I.e. something a rational housebuilder/landowever would not do and as Letwin rightly concludes would be more likely done in a continental model of the local state buying land at a set value and then zoning it building infra, masterplanning, subdividing and selling.

This is not an unusual situation, though most dramatic in Green Belt areas in growth corridors and areas across England dramatic SOAN rises will be the norm given the 300,000 aspiration (which wont fully work its way up from 276,000 till the new iteration of SOAN next year).  If the government want to see completions anything like 276-300,000 anytime in the next 10 years, whether or not council housebuilding is promoted (which requires land to build on) , it requires such an approach to land assembly, planning, sale and construction.

If any ‘landowners rights’ reps like the CLA, or housebuilders or lawyers who specialise in protecting rentier income, have an alternative delivery model that will hit 300,000 I challenge them, and I cahllenge them to cost it in terms of how much the taxpayer would be expected to subisidse farmers and other landowners to make it work.  They wont because there would be a public outcry if they did.  Which is why Letwin – or something like it, under this prime minister or next is inevitable

So what is the Governments Response into the Thames Estuary 2050 (Armitt) report? 1 sentence only

Original report here

One sentence in the red book on page 72 of the red book.

4.97 Thames Estuary – Drawing on the Thames Estuary Commission report, the government is supporting a study to develop options and consult the local area on a Great Thames Park.

Thats its, nothing on a Kent-Essex rail link for example (which could be done as part of the LTC tunnelling) why?  I suspect because the report panel was top heavy and included the like of Lord Foster and Nick Roberts of Atkins who included rewarmed pipedream ideas from Boris Island,  like a second Thames barrier (which the GLA rightly say is unnecessary) had the report been done within the NIC formally it would have been far more hard headed and included more specific infra proposals.  Also May is known to hold grudges forever and so anything which smacks of Hesiltine or Boris is not likely to be judged a strategic priority whilst she is around.

The study will completely and for the better transform the way the JSP for South Essex is being done.  No longer can it be a series of growth ‘fuzzy felt planning’ blobs, it will have to be landscape led with a natural capital plan built in as part of the vision, as it is for example in the new approach to the Oxford Cambridge Arc.  This is much better as no strategic growth location in South Essex can work at all unless it is landscape led and design led; however this will need a refresh in the skill set , project management and political leadership priorities here as this is not a frontloaded priority at all at the moment. (as neither oddly is infrastructure or transport work).  Yet another set back for South Essex, do they have the political strength and unity of vision to succeed with such limited government support?

So the the study – expect to see large areas restored as ‘Fanns‘ old Essex for fen, new Salt Marsh , Mire and Carr, on the hillsides and tops broadleaved woodland.  Strategic growth locations will have to wrap around them, which is how it should be.

Now what about Kent?

Governments Strategic Approach to the ‘Oxford-Cambridge Arc ‘ (Second new name in a month) – announced #CaMkOx


Its gone from @Carmbridge-Mk Oxford Arc’ to Growth Arc to ‘Oxford Cambridge Arc’ in a months (MK will be so pleased.

Lots of good stuff (natural capital , recognition of heritage assets) , lots of weak stuff (integrating transport and planning, public consultation lack of SEA, very weak governance on joint planning, status of ‘Joint vision statement’ , will it be spatial (no that will be later) , will it be consulted on) here.  Ill comment on it in more detail tomorrow, now signing off after long Budget day.

The response is a little more PR sensitive – no ‘growth’ in title and no especific mention of 1 million homes or any other number I see.

The problem with aspatial visions is as Greater Exeter found, they are totally meningless fluff.

Letwin Review Proposes Radical Approach to Land Value Capture

First what the chancellor said in his budget speech about no evidence that Housebuilders were engaging in speculative landbanking was nonsense, the final report does not mention the terms landbanking or speculation once- that was all in the draft report, and the same analysis that housebuilders were restricting build out to ‘absorption rates’ for reasons of maximising profit is held – that statement was just red meat to housebuilder shareholders and executives who are major Tory donors.

What it does say I wont attempt to summarize.  Letwin has a reputation for detail and mastering his brief.  Read it in full yourself.

I will simply quote the killer para.

To ensure that a reasonable balance is struck between promoting the public interest through increased diversity and faster build out rates on the one hand, and proper recognition of the value of the land on the other hand, I recommend that the Housing Secretary (when issuing updated viability guidance alongside the new planning framework) should guide local planning authorities towards insisting on levels of diversity that will tend to cap residual land values for these large sites at around ten times their existing use value. In the case of agricultural land, for example, this might result in values of around £100,000 per acre – perhaps as little as 5% of the current residual development value of a straightforward site with unconstrained development permission and no major infrastructure requirements in an area of high housing demand.

That is the bottom end of the 10-20x of the Harmen Report,  Good news. Surely 10x what land is worth satisfies the ECHR requirement of compensation, and no ‘dual market’ issues as it would apply to all development land above the threshold, below the threshold, why not include the 10x cap in the PPG on viability – simple no ‘dual market’ the Association of CPO lawyers endlessly wine about.

He then rightly goes full on continental

I recommend that the new primary legislation should also give local authorities explicit statutory powers to draw on precedents in England and on  models of development which are entirely familiar in much of continental Europe.

Development Corporations…e able to buy land on the basis of the value which such land would have in the absence of the development scheme. They are fully staffed and have the resources tocommission proper masterplans that respond appropriately to the characteristics of the site and can be accompanied by detailed and enforceable design codes; in this way they can make the architecture of the site and the landscape and infrastructure of the site internally consistent, congenial and convenient for the inhabitants. Finally, they have the capacity to raise finance, to invest in appropriate infrastructure (including major infrastructure) and thereby to provide well-prepared terrain (or even serviced plots) which major builders, small and medium-sized builders, private rental institutional investors, housing associations, providers of student accommodation, providers of accommodation for the elderly, custom builders,
and self-builders can all use to enter the housing market on the site.

…However, unlike their counterparts in most continental European countries, non-mayoral local authorities in England do not (without obtaining special permission from the Housing Secretary) currently have statutory vehicles capable of governing the development of large sites in areas of high housing demand. Clearly, if we are to see in future the greatest possible well-planned diversity on these sites, it would make abundant sense to empower local authorities to establish a new form of development vehicle which could perform this role inEngland as their counterparts so often do elsewhere in Europe.

The Dutch/German system (France is pretty similar) Yes Yes Yes Yes – it produces best planned and most equitable large sites in the world, what is not to like.  Peter Hall bless hi would be smiling now.

Big Time CPO Powers for New Town Development Corporations

Forget bout acquiring in bits (like North Essex Gaden Communities)this ll only be viable however with LVC.  Back to much the way it was done in the 60s, serve the CPO order then negotiate.


In what circumstances can new town development corporations use their
compulsory purchase powers?
It is for new town development corporations to decide how best to use their land acquisition powers, having regard to this guidance. The compulsory purchase powers
available to a new town development corporation in section 10 of the 1981 act are expressed in broad terms, and are intended to assist with land assembly that is necessary to carry out its statutory objects of securing the laying out and development of a new town.
The Secretary of State will expect new town development corporations to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable steps to acquire the land included in a compulsory purchase
order by agreement. Depending on when the land is required, it may sometimes be necessary for new town development corporations to initiate the compulsory purchase process in parallel with negotiations to acquire the land by agreement.
New town development corporation ownership of land early in the development process may assist with the proper planning for, infrastructure provision in and sustainable development of, a new town – in pursuit of its statutory objects under sections 4(1), (1A)
and (1B) of the 1981 act. New town development corporation ownership of land may also help to stimulate confidence that the new town will proceed, help to secure infrastructure investment, and thereby promote development.
6. Can new town development corporations acquire land even if they have no specific development proposals in place?
Section 10(1) of the 1981 act enables new town development corporations to acquire land
(compulsorily or by agreement) within the area of the new town whether or not it is
proposed to be developed. The Secretary of State recognises that to achieve its statutory
objects, it may sometimes be justified for a new town development corporation to acquire
land for which it has no specific development proposals in place.
7. What level of detail do new town development corporations need to provide when seeking an order?
Given their scale, new towns are likely to be developed over an extended period of time,during which market conditions may change. In this context, the Secretary of State
recognises that it will not always be possible or desirable for new town development
corporations to have fully worked up, and secured approval for, detailed development
proposals prior to proceeding with a compulsory purchase order.
Where a new town development corporation does not have detailed proposals for the
order lands, it will still be expected to demonstrate a compelling case for acquisition in the
context of the planning framework that will guide development of the new town. The new
town development corporation needs to be able to show that using compulsory purchase
powers is necessary in the public interest and that the acquisition will support investment
in and development of the new town.
The Secretary of State will expect the statement of reasons accompanying the submission
of the compulsory purchase order to include a summary of the planning framework for the development of the new town and the justification for the timing of the acquisition, and that
the new town development corporation will be in a position to present evidence at inquiry to support its case for compulsory acquisition.
While confirmation of a compulsory purchase order is a separate and distinct process from
that of designating a new town, the Secretary of State acknowledges that evidence used to
support the case for designation in the national interest may also be relevant to justifying
the use of compulsory purchase powers in the public interest under section 10 of the 1981
8. What factors will the Secretary of State take into account in deciding whether to confirm a compulsory purchase order under section 10 of the 1981 act?
Any decision about whether or not to confirm a compulsory purchase order will be made
on its individual merits, but the factors which the Secretary of State can be expected to consider include:
• the statutory objects of the new town development corporation
• whether the purpose(s) for which the order lands are being acquired by the new town
development corporation fits in with the planning framework for the new town area
• whether the new town development corporation has satisfactorily demonstrated that
the order lands are needed to support the overall development of the new town
• the appropriateness of alternative proposals (if any) put forward by the owners of the land or other persons
• the quality and timescale of both the new town development corporation’s proposals
and any alternative proposals
9. What does the Secretary of State have to consider where there are other proposals for the use of land contained within a compulsory purchase order?
Where owners or other parties have their own proposals for the use or development of land contained within a compulsory purchase order, factors that the Secretary of State can be expected to consider include:
• whether these alternative proposals are likely to be implemented, taking into account
the planning position
• how the alternative proposals may conflict with those of the new town development
• how the alternative proposals may conflict with the new town development
corporation’s statutory objects, and/or the purposes for which it was established.