Infrastructure in the 21st Century

While the introduction of the car produced radical changes in the urban structure, the introduction of the new technologies is causing a similar shift in the role of the car as the dominant means of transportation in the US. In fact, the car is incompatible with the perceptual demands of telemediatization. On the other hand, public transportation, such as the train and the airplane, are rapidly adapting to these new demands. The incompatibility of driving and telemediatization presupposes the need for forms of transportation that allow the mobile twenty-first-century individual to maintain contact.[1] The transportation needs of the mobile, telemediated individual will certainly promote in the middle and long term a fundamental restructuring of the cities themselves.[2]
— Mario Gandelsonas, “Slow Infrastructure”, 2009.

Mario Gandelsonas, the director of the Center for Architecture, Urbanism and Infrastructure, wrote an article in 2009 on the impact of new media on the car-based low-density urbanism that characterizes the contemporary American City. New media has changed our behavior, and we increasingly become accustomed to the accessibility and immediacy of everything. Gandelsonas argues that the new accessibility and immediacy will have a profound effect in the American car based mobility infrastructure and will require new urban models that take into account the role of new media.

From the chart above we see the confirmation of his hypothesis regarding the incompetence of the car-based infrastructure in facilitating our technology-based lives. The effect of the new media, the recent increase in the price of oil, the recession, and the rise in unemployment have flattened the growth of Vehicles Miles Travelled since 2005, with the absolute growth decreasing from 60,000,000 miles per year in 1986 to 20,000,000 today.

The original article written in August 2009 can be read here.

[1] The dangers of driving while using cell phones for calls or for texting is increasingly leading states to prohibit cell phone use by drivers. Similarly, some teenagers prefer to be driven by parents so they can keep texting their friends, or prefer to text friends in the car with them to avoid being overheard. See Laura M. Holsen, “Text Generation Gap: UR 2 Old (JK)”, New York Times, March 9, 2008.
[2] See America 2050, Regional Plan Association: a National plan for the year 2050. “As metropolitan regions continued to expand throughout the second half of the 20th century their boundaries began to blur, creating a new scale of geography now known as the megaregion”.