Friday, 16 October 2009

Development, but sustainable

The morning ride to school made me mull over the capacity of infrastructure as a barrier in the development. This barrier is a bit similar to a brick wall – to high to jump over it, too wide to go round it, but not heavy and not fixed to the ground so that people can push it forward, but their movement is slowed up and it wears them down along the way.

Let’s look at the example of the main roads out of Warsaw, like ul. Puławska. What’s the most effective choice for the roads users? Today the road was packed with cars, but also all buses I saw were packed with commuters. Let’s analyse a few variants…

Variant 1 – everyone who can changes the bus for a car. Buses run almost empty, those who choose to ride, travel more comfortably, but longer.

Variant 2 – some of the drivers give up their cars and decide to commute by bus. The passengers in the buses are packed like sardines, but their journey last shorter, other drivers also benefit from this.

Variant 3 – urban authorities decide to mark out a bus lane. Hard-line drivers swear like troopers, their journeys to work are fifty per cent longer. Buses are packed but run quickly.

I could come up with some more alternatives, if you want more, use your imagination, maybe leave a comment. The option 1 is undeniably the worst. The second has a certain drawback – the drivers won’t get the incentive to leave their cars because the number of buses serving the line will be too small to provide a decent standard of commuting. The third would not accelerate the journey so much. It wouldn’t last shorter off-peak, but would cause an unnecessary traffic restriction. It the rush hours it would speed it up a bit, but not as much as for instance on Trasa Łazienkowska. On ul. Puławska there are too many bus stops and too many traffic lights so the buses wouldn’t even manage to pick up speed on short sections between junctions and lay-bys.

It turns out that to ensure the decent transport link between the capital and the suburban town the authorities would have to either launch buses which would run once in two minutes in morning peak, or to widen the road to six lanes in each direction. But to unclog it would be imperative to remove most of the traffic lights and build a system of service roads (funnily enough I don’t know the Polish equivalent of the term – is it infeasible then?) along ul. Puławska to serve the residents living along the artery…

New estates spring up, the new dwellers move in, living on the suburbs inexorably evolves into a hell. The residents of my locality can be divided in three groups. The first have lived here almost since ever, like their fathers, grandfathers and so on. The second group moved out of Warsaw to run away from the city groan, fumes and noise. In return they lose two hours a day they spend in a traffic jam. Some of them already gave up and returned to Warsaw. The third group consists of people who arrived here from province in search for a better life. They settled down here cause the property prices were lower than in Warsaw. No wonder, they sought a better future for themselves and their children. We all pay the price.

When a developer builds a new estate, it’s interested in selling the flats or houses, reaping the profits. Hardly ever the developers care about the roads which link their buildings with the rest of the world. Even if they repair or modernise them it’s because the local council conditioned granting the planning permission on their contribution to the infrastructure. As far as I can observe, my locality has reached its limits of development. It should be cut back until the new infrastructure is built. Instead of quantity we should opt for a quality – quality of our lives.

Middle of the summer. I leave work, spend over an hour in stinky bus with people getting sweaty, come back home and what…? I can’t even take a shower cause the water doesn’t flow! Once again the infrastructure is overloaded. The underground water resources are scarce, the capacity of water treatment station is limited, so when a selfish jerk turns his garden watering system on, I can’t take a bath. People don’t care by their nature – they’d rather prevent their lawns and shrubs from withering than let their neighbours take an invigorating shower. In some countries (Great Britain, Sweden) it is forbidden to use water for watering the garden plants or car washing during the drought and people tend to comply to it. It someone breaks away, it’s a… Pole. Here authorities can impose bans to no effect…

Can we afford the development? Will the poor infrastructure turn the further development into an obstacle course. Will the electricity outages like the ones after the last winter attack paralyse the industry?

Look ahead, but don’t dismiss the black scenarios…

No comments: