Planning History

Teaching With Mel

Elizabeth Deakin

Mel Webber taught both planning theory and transportation policy to graduate students in the Department of City and Regional Planning. I had the good fortune to co-teach the transportation policy class with him in the late 1980s, shortly before his retirement from the department. We each took responsibility for some of the sessions, but both of us participated in nearly every class. When it was Mel’s turn, he rarely lectured. Sometimes he started the class with a slide show or a few transparencies, then opened up the session to discussion. At other times he came to class with brief introductory remarks and an example or two, plus a list of questions to debate.

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Learning From Mel

Jonathan Richmond

I first encountered Mel Webber during a brief stay at Berkeley. I had left MIT with a trail of debt and unwisely registered for a PhD at Berkeley with only partial financial aid. Rather than worry about the unpaid rent at International House piling up on top of the five months of unpaid dorm rent I had left at MIT, I became utterly absorbed in the two most astonishing courses I have taken anywhere. One was taught by C. West Churchman, the other by Mel Webber (very ably assisted by Karen Christensen).

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Melvin Webber and the “Nonplace Urban Realm”

Michael B. Teitz

The question of what constitutes “urbanism” has vexed thinkers for as long as cities have been written about, but few have contributed more profound insights than Mel Webber. Over his fifty-year career, he distinguished himself as a teacher, researcher, builder of institutions, editor, and professional planner, but it is as a theorist and analyst of deep urban social changes that he may have made his greatest contribution. His theoretical insights have shaped the development of many ideas in planning, transportation, and spatial analysis, but none has had more influence than his idea of the “nonplace urban realm.”

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Beyond ITS and the Transportation Monoculture

Daniel Sperling

Mel Webber wrote and thought a lot about cars. He frequently pointed out that cars remain the first choice for transport for most people because their convenience and door-to-door accessibility are unmatched by any other mode. However, many cities are headed toward traffic paralysis because cars are so popular. Car ownership and use continue to increase, but there is little expansion in road capacity.

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Must a Bridge Be Beautiful Too?

Matthew Dresden

In late 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that as part of statewide budget cuts, the design of the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge would be dramatically scaled back. At the time, estimates of the new span’s cost had risen to $5.1 billion from an initial estimate of $1.3 billion. Instead of a single-tower “signature span,” Schwarzenegger proposed a towerless concrete viaduct—a slightly raised road across the water that was compared (unfavorably) to a freeway onramp. The span is being rebuilt because of longstanding concerns by Caltrans and state civil engineers about its seismic integrity. Part of the existing structure collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and since then the bridge has been considered unstable, although it has remained open because it is indispensable to Bay Area traffic flow.

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Economic Consequences of Transport Improvements

T.R. Lakshmanan and Lata R. Chatterjee

Transportation specialists agree that investments in transport infrastructure can generate large developmental payoffs throughout society. But how those effects come about is not readily understood.Variables such as the state of the transportation network, the region’s stage of economic development, the competitive structure of the region’s markets, and technological and institutional changes in transportation, communication, and production systems all affect improvements and the changes they generate, as well as how the overall economy responds. As these contexts vary, so do underlying forces of change, and the consequent social and economic effects. To study them, we can classify these effects along temporal (short-term, long-term) and spatial (local, regional, global) scales. Short-term effects tend to be easier to recognize than long-term ones, but many of the richest effects are subtle and take a long time to be realized.

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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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2017-05-30T22:32:31+00:00Categories: ACCESS 24, Spring 2004|Tags: , |

Director’s Report: The University of California Transportation Center: 15 Years of Accomplishment

Elizabeth Deakin

UCTC has just turned fifteen; so it seems an appropriate time to assess our accomplishments. Clearly, our most important products have been transportation professionals. We’ve supported over a thousand students, nearly all of them now working for state and local transportation agencies and as transportation specialists in the private sector. We’ve helped educate over a hundred PhDs, many of whom are now transportation faculty members at universities across the US. And we’ve sponsored several dozen conferences, training sessions, and seminars for practicing professionals here in California and beyond.

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Putting Pleasure Back in the Drive: Reclaiming Urban Parkways for the 21st Century

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris and Robert Gottlieb

These two assessments of Arroyo Seco Parkway (now known as the Pasadena Freeway) are separated by half a century in time and a sea of difference in perception. They encapsulate the rise and fall of urban parkways. Predecessor of the modern freeway and celebrated transportation model of the early 20th century, the urban parkway has fallen on hard times. Designed for uninterrupted, pleasurable driving in park-like settings with views of surrounding communities, parkways were once hailed as marvels of transportation innovation and design—and as safe and efficient alternatives to arterials and boulevards.

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