One of the challenges of Arcosanti is that its building has not really proceeded very robustly. People have joked that at the current rate of development that it would take about 500 years to meet its current goals of having a population of 5000.
However regardless of the flaws of the project itself in developing an effective process to meet its larger goals of becoming a real prototype for sustainable urban development we need to consider the larger cultural, economic and political environment.
For a car free Arcology (or more realistically an compact Ecocity type development that reduces auto use) to function properly or even a network of them In America today or sometime in the near future, we need a intercity rail transport system to handle transportation between these sustainable urban centers.
Recently I came across a NPR piece that sought to “help figure out why the train system in the United States is so lame…” Writer Ben Jervey went on a cross-country Amtrak trip, New York to San Francisco. He wrote about it in the recent Good Magazine in an article titled “Train in Vain“.
Really there was nothing new about it. Basically Ben said the problem is with the rails. The rail lines that Amtrak uses are a joke and basically operate on 1920 type technologies and designs.
While Europe, China and Japan test out 300 mph maglevs, we fret with 5 mph curves that slow Amtrak’s flagship Acela to a snail’s pace.
It is really about priorities and a failure of leadership. While not wanting to engage in partisanship here, the Republicans have been particularly friendly with the auto and oil related vested interests and quite antagonistic with those who have suggested the need for more mass transit and rail based intercity trasport.
Now we are faced with outmoded rail infrastructure and a huge investment in a car transport system that at 4 dollar a gallon gas seem quite uncompetitive with Europe and Japan’s robust public transportation infrastructure. Possibly this is another sign of the failure of American leadership that has encouraged low density, high consumption type development not just in the USA but around the world through its particular brand of neoliberalism.