Magazine

Transport and Neighbourhoods

Transport and neighbourhoods book

Transport and Neighbourhoods
Author: Hank Dittmar
Pub: Black Dog
Price: £7.99

Part of the Edge Futures series tackling provisions for an uncertain environmental future, Transport and Neighbourhoods reveals the surprising influence of town planning on our green behaviour and the significance of transport strategy in reducing carbon emissions. Through critiques of ‘muddled’ governmental policy, case studies and analysis of current trends, Dittmar sets out possible reforms, wondering whether sustainable living will remain a daydream without the transport links to realise it.

In one section, we join the fictional Seymour family for An Average Day’ in 2025. Overlooking their unbearable smugness (the children squabble affectionately and look forward to school) and the painfully anachronistic names (meet their parents, Nigel and Sally), Dittmar creates a vivid and inspiring projection of life in the Twenties, where smaller neighbourhoods with centrally-located community hubs create more accessible amenities (no need for cars) and people work from home, commuting when necessary using the trams and high-speed trains criss-crossing country and continent alike.

Dittmar then reveals ‘How we got there’, outlining how congestion charges in major cities and a complete ban on personal cars during the London rush-hour would fund greener means of transport. He also describes how planning regulations would be implemented to prevent properties being built more than 400 metres away from a bus stop, and advocates the convenience of ‘mixed-use walkable neighbourhoods’ to strengthen local infrastructure and improve health.

For all the book’s forecasts, it doesn’t account for the economic downturn, and this does make it difficult to fully get on board with the sheer scale of some of his ideas. Furthermore, the book’s disproportionate focus on the financially well-off (our friends, the Seymours, also own an apartment that they rent out) is rather confusing, and Dittmar’s focus on only building houses close to transport links – inevitably pushing up their value – seems quite ill-conceived considering it would likely out-price those most in need of the infrastructure. By his own admission, ‘The wealthier a household is the more vehicles it owns’, and there are times in the book when this irony appears lost.