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Old 02-09-2014, 09:04 PM
 
Location: East coast
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It can be argued it makes a big difference. For instance, people would want to be outside and walking/biking more in pleasant climates (not too hot or cold) so you would expect more pedestrian streets or public squares in climates the majority of the population finds pleasurable.

In practice, it seems that climate has little influence compared to history (newer or older, built before the car, streetcars, or postwar etc.), local attitudes and cultures (eg. hip, liberal college towns vs. conservative towns and cities).

Sunbelt places (though you could argue, many of them, besides Californian climates have summers too unpleasant for walking/biking) seem no more likely, and perhaps even less so, if they are new developments, to have alternate or non-car mode uses than places with cold climates.

Does climate even have a slight influence or is on the radar at all for urban planners? Do people predict others to be outside more in climates with more days closer to room temperatures of indoor rooms and offices? To me, as I am sitting around typing this in the winter when I'm craving spring warmth, it seems like it would have an influence logically but it does not seem to matter as much as I imagine. It seems like for those who live in colder climates, going outside to stroll, walking the streets, sitting on a bench or lounging outside in an outdoor park or other places in the town or city is much more pleasant outside of winter. I would think it would influence usage of streets, sidewalks, benches but how common is it taken into account for urban planners?
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Old 02-09-2014, 09:52 PM
 
Location: Denver
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Nothing really. Look at New Orleans.
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Old 02-10-2014, 03:53 PM
 
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The biggest determining factor seems to be when the city was built. In general it seems that areas developed before 1950-60 are much less car-dependent than anything built after.

Mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented developments seem to be gaining popularity, but they are still built MUCH less frequently than traditional, single-use, auto-centric developments.

Here in Albuquerque we have beautiful weather, but it's still mostly a 'drive everywhere' city since it was built mainly in the 2nd half of the 20th century.

Portland, which seems to have made more of an effort to be less auto-dependent, doesn't have ideal weather throughout much of the year, but still seems very popular. I've heard Montréal and Quebec city are pretty transit-friendly and walkable despite the cold they have to deal with.

Nice weather would be an added bonus to a walkable, transit-friendly place, but I don't think it's necessarily a requirement.
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:24 PM
 
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I believe it's actually the opposite of what people would think at first glance. That is, I think the climate in the Sunbelt, in South Florida, etc, makes people LESS likely to walk or take transit.

In a hot and/or humid climate the car clearly becomes the better way of getting around. When it's 100F and 100% humidity (South Florida), I'm not walking anywhere longer than a minute or two away, and transit's appeal is greatly diminished when I'm going to have to stand in that to wait for my bus, and when I get on I'll likely have to be around a bunch of other sweaty, smelly people from waiting in that weather. Even the relative misery of a traffic jam is lessened, because the prospect of being in that heat for a second longer is awful.

In contrast, cold and snowy weather doesn't really favor anything, it makes all transport modes equally unpleasant (except giving a boost to rail, which is the only mode largely unimpeded by snow). Walkers and transit-riders have to put on some more clothing and deal with slick/unshoveled sidewalks/plow piles, but cars are just as bad. Cars don't start, snowstorms gridlock every busy road and driving is difficult in general, street parking spaces become difficult to use at best, etc.
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Old 02-10-2014, 06:49 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by millerm277 View Post
In contrast, cold and snowy weather doesn't really favor anything, it makes all transport modes equally unpleasant (except giving a boost to rail, which is the only mode largely unimpeded by snow). Walkers and transit-riders have to put on some more clothing and deal with slick/unshoveled sidewalks/plow piles, but cars are just as bad. Cars don't start, snowstorms gridlock every busy road and driving is difficult in general, street parking spaces become difficult to use at best, etc.
Good point. When it got particularly cold or snowy I actually used transit more. This winter aside we don't normally have a snowpack or anything like that so it's not usually in inconvenience.

Winter weather doesn't really affect transit ridership in places like Montreal, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc.

When it gets extremely hot I also avoid cycling as well as walking for more than a few blocks opting to take a bus or train instead.

In any case, crappy weather is where "next bus/train" arrival info comes in handy.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:00 PM
 
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Transportation use depends on the built environment. Rainy cities like Portland, snowy cities like Minneapolis, and hot cities like Sacramento are all great biking cities because they have the terrain and at least a certain amount of bike lanes (Sacramento is a distant third in that ranking, but flat terrain and a lot of parallel secondary streets make for good biking even without enough designated bike infrastructure.)

Likewise, traffic didn't make everyone want to move to the suburbs. The transportation infrastructure (in the form of government-funded highways) allowed people to move to the suburbs and drive downtown at high speeds instead of on surface streets. But when the suburbs get built out, the highways stop being fast and start being traffic jams. And it's tough to build new highways in a built-out suburb without demolishing a lot of homes and neighborhoods, which gets difficult--especially when developers would rather just have the municipality build those highways out into farms or wilderness, where there are no neighbors to complain and they can start building the next wave of suburbs! It makes traffic worse in the long run, but it makes profit in the short term.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:12 PM
 
Location: East coast
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Quote:
Originally Posted by millerm277 View Post
In a hot and/or humid climate the car clearly becomes the better way of getting around. When it's 100F and 100% humidity (South Florida), I'm not walking anywhere longer than a minute or two away, and transit's appeal is greatly diminished when I'm going to have to stand in that to wait for my bus, and when I get on I'll likely have to be around a bunch of other sweaty, smelly people from waiting in that weather. Even the relative misery of a traffic jam is lessened, because the prospect of being in that heat for a second longer is awful.
Well, maybe not really hot, but wouldn't be the optimal places for non-car transit where you have to stand and wait or walk and bike around be climates like those in coastal California? Climates closest to the room temperature standards or in the 70s F for as much of the year as possible.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:26 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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There's too many other factors such as culture, historical patterns I don't think climate makes much of a difference.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:39 PM
 
Location: East coast
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I realized that there are so many possible factors that override climate but from looking and thinking about it for a little while, I'm surprised to find that there is practically no noticeable influence at all.

Would urban planners at least take it into account a little bit? Like, based on how much snow/ice/rain or number of uncomfortably hot or cold days, will fewer or more people drive/walk/bike/wait for a bus etc. I guess knowing things like knowing the culture/economics of the area already screens out the influence of climate.
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Old 02-10-2014, 07:45 PM
NCN
 
Location: NC/SC Border Patrol
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I think crime is a bigger factor. We took the light rail into Charlotte and it was very enjoyable with my 6'2" husband along but I did not like some of the other passengers and the way they were looking at us. I would not have felt safe by myself. Loved the ride though.
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