Melvin M. Webber

About Melvin M. Webber (Edit profile)

Mel Webber passed away on Saturday, November 25, 2006.

Editorial: Spread-City Everywhere

Melvin M. Webber

It happened first in America, but by now spread-city is becoming the standard urban form worldwide. Ease of economic transaction and social interaction among distant partners has assured success for the new-style city, even though it diverges so far from city forms of the past. First there was that historically extensive series of technological developments that, cumulatively, reduced the friction of geographic space: the astrolabe and compass, sailing ships, canals, telegraphs, railroads, paved roads, telephones, radios, automobiles, airplanes, the Internet. All of them connected people located in different places and, increasingly, permitted them to behave as though they were in the same place. Each technological development contributed to parallel institutional developments extending to ever-more-distant locales.

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Introduction: Nobel Prize

Melvin M. Webber

Back in the early '70s, a group of us at UC Berkeley got together to conduct the BART Impact Studies. BART was soon to begin operations, and we were out to capture baseline data that would allow later appraisal of the system’s outcomes. No metropolitan area had built a new subway system since the 1920s. There we were, living in the midst of a huge de facto natural experiment, so we felt obligated to observe it, measure it, and attempt to evaluate its effects. BART had been planned to help strengthen the central city and to reorganize the suburbs. Its planners expected it to reshape land markets and reduce urban sprawl, to entice commuters from their cars and thus relieve traffic congestion, and to increase accessibility and thus promote economic development. In response to so broad an agenda, our research team was a multidisciplinary mix of city planners, transportation engineers, economists, psychologists, and no doubt others.

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2017-05-30T23:09:40+00:00Categories: ACCESS 20, Spring 2002|Tags: |

Editorial: Sustainability

Melvin M. Webber

Despite ever-growing impatience with traffic congestion and persisting complaints about air pollution, the auto-highway system has proved to be remarkably adaptable and sustainable. Even though average annual miles per vehicle have recently declined, cars still consume a lot of energy, exude a lot of noxious gases, and kill far too many people. The immediate causes of congestion and pollution are an increase in the sheer number of cars and trucks. Yet, even in the current economic decline, sales continue to rise.

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2017-05-30T23:07:29+00:00Categories: ACCESS 18, Spring 2001|

Comment: Autonomous Decongestants

Melvin M. Webber

Despite universal complaints and many proposed remedies, it seems there’s still no cure for traffic congestion. As a mirror on a city’s economic vitality and the pace of its social life, congestion is a built-in attribute of the prosperous metropolis. Heavy traffic volumes are a positive index of a city’s range of opportunities and the richness of its residents’ lives. The city with but little traffic is a city that may be stagnating.

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2017-05-31T21:26:22+00:00Categories: ACCESS 17, Fall 2000|Tags: |

Editorial: Electricism

Melvin M. Webber

In this time of occupational specialization, we expect each profession to focus on the narrowly specific tasks it’s responsible for, letting others worry about everything else. Engineers, economists, accountants, land use planners, lawyers—each professional group is expected to mind its own business. But, at the same time, we know that’s not good enough, if only because we know everything really is connected to everything else.

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2017-05-31T21:28:30+00:00Categories: ACCESS 15, Fall 1999|

Editorial: The Land Use/ Transportation Connection (cont’d)

Melvin M. Webber

Back in the 1950s and 1960S, a basic aim for the newly proposed BART system was to curb urban sprawl. The trick was to reinforce major metropolitan centers and create new suburban subcenters. Because land adjacent to BART’s station sites would be highly accessible, its planners expected they’d be powerful magnets attracting offices, shops, and high-density housing. Those concentrations would make for culturally enriched residential life and a more viable local economy. In turn, they’d attract riders to BART and thus help reduce traffic congestion.

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2017-05-31T21:35:52+00:00Categories: ACCESS 14, Spring 1999|

Editorial: Nonconventional Research

Melvin M. Webber

Transportation research used to be focused on conventional civil engineering topics. But growing cadres of researchers have been coming to transportation from fields as diverse as psychology, law, city planning, sociology, and mathematics. Having joined the inquiry, they’ve widened it to nonconventional topics and nonconventional approaches.

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2017-05-31T21:36:51+00:00Categories: ACCESS 13, Fall 1998|

Editorial: Traditions and Neotraditions

Melvin M. Webber

A long-standing tradition has city planners in the role of creative designers of towns and cities. Perhaps that role is best illustrated in the new town plans of Great Britain with their carefully designed settings for modern life, complete with decent housing, spacious parks, nearby job sites, and high-quality public facilities and services. The basic idea holds that good physical settings make for good living. In that context, one of America’s most eminent sociologists once described city planning as the last stronghold of utopianism.

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2017-05-31T21:38:03+00:00Categories: ACCESS 12, Spring 1998|

The Marriage of Auto and Transit: How To Make Transit Popular Again

Melvin M. Webber

They've made it possible for most of us to leave the old urban centers and move into decent houses in the spacious suburbs. They permit most of us to live where we choose and then to accept jobs located at any compass point from our homes. We're free to go wherever we wish and whenever we wish, freed from the rigid schedules of common carriers.

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Introduction

Melvin M. Webber

It seems that transportation planners everywhere are looking for ways of reducing vehicle miles of travel (VMT) by automobile, even as citizens seem determined to drive more. The trend may be especially evident here in California where everyone seems to believe that use of cars is excessive, having conspired to foul the air, congest the highways, provoke traffic accidents, and erode the quality of people’s lives. In response, a lot of creative remedies have been invented – schemes to entice travelers into carpools and public transit and schemes to induce them to stay home.

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2017-05-19T22:58:04+00:00Categories: ACCESS 04, Spring 1994|