Thursday, June 20, 2013

Imagine There's No Vehicles

After spending another day in Venice, I've been thinking more about what a city looks like with absolutely no ground vehicles. Going around the place fairly early this morning, I got to see more of the working city, before all of the tourists hit the streets, and this is what it looked like.

First, it was garbage day.

Hauling garbage in Venice is done with large, high-sided handcarts. The bags are fairly small so that people like this woman can haul them up over the high sides of the cart.

And you know those beautiful bridges over Venice's canals, such as the Rialto?

They're not just handicapped inaccessible -- they're hard on people with strollers, too, not to mention the garbage haulers. I saw a guy with an empty silver garbage cart like the one above, pulling it up the steps of a much smaller bridge than this. Even though the cart was empty, it looked like a lot of work, especially in a hot, humid environment. And that's using a fairly light aluminum cart. Imagine if it was made of wood, as in the past.

In general, there are porters and haulers everywhere. The tool of choice is this kind of cart, which looks like a giant handcart or a dollie on steroids:

Also note the vertical types of carts in the background, at left. They're used to deliver things like linens to restaurants and food to grocery stores. Seeing the workers using these carts made me think about those common English last names, Carter and Porter. I guess this is one route to full employment.

I don't know where the garbage gets hauled to or the food and linens get hauled from, but I assume it's a boat. So the system still relies on a less labor-intensive transit method at some point to get the stuff from Venice to a landfill or burner or to Venice from a warehouse.

The city also lacks any kind of mass transit for its people, beyond rail into the city from the outlying areas (which is great, by the way). Before visiting, I would have thought it wasn't that big of a deal, because I had no idea what the scale of the city was. But now that I've walked it a bit, it seems like more of an problem. Covering a relatively modest percentage of the city, from the train station to a business less than a quarter of the city's width away, took me over an hour by foot.

The closest thing to transit is the vaporetti that run along the canals:

They're like buses on water, but they're priced almost like a ride on a fancy carriage in Central Park: Seven euros for an hour. That's not a mass transit price; it's clearly a tourist price. There are day and other bulk rates, but the lowest it gets is 50 euros for seven days, which is not exactly cheap mass transit.

Part of the vision of a post-carbon future, such as Transition Town, is creating cities that can function without fueled vehicles, that are pedestrian-oriented, with goods and services close enough to support much of what's needed for daily life. Venice clearly has all of that, but there are other logistical and transit needs to consider beyond the immediate area.

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