No easy choices and that's putting it mildly. Perhaps one of these musings might help...........KERR © 2016


Whether you are designing and building the fuselage of an aircraft or the coach of a transit vehicle, you are making a box. In its assembly there are two phases.

The first is to make a frame.

The second is to cover the frame with a skin.

Frame and skin. Two processes for assembly in making a box.

At some point, structural material engineers will learn how to integrate frame and skin into one material. Probably there might be a transitional phase where there is still some vestigial frame connecting modular sections. When frame and skin can be integrated into one, the costs for assembling a box will be reduced.

Some early tri-motor aircraft from the 1920’s and 1930’s had a rough corrugated exterior. Not terribly aerodynamic.

Contemporary packaging cardboard has a corrugated layer between two skins.

I suspect that panels or modules of carbon fiber would show an outer smooth surface and an inner ribbed or ridged form. However, how these might be connected with the highest degree of strength and reliability I cannot conjecture.


Along the way we'll establish the FIVE PROTOCOLS for community design and community technology for the future.

In 1984 the railroad in Maine was considering abandonment of a section of track. When I said to someone that if they were to abandon the line the way might be converted to recreational use, it was suggested that I attend the hearing at the state capital and testify. When there, someone spoke before me about the possibility of rail passenger service using AMTRAK.

A good planner is flexible. They don't have an agenda. They don't have a dog in the fight.

Made a comment to them that if they were abandoning the line they might consider parts for conversion to recreational use. Then suggested that if they were considering rail passenger service they might think as well as AMTRAK about using disused lines for LOCAL TRANSIT. Also offered to do a quick study.

My little study could have been better. Left some things out that should have been considered. That said, what I did find was compelling. I had written to two major employers along the line. The HR for one sent me numbers of employees by town of residence.

My conclusions were that the state should go with local transit where there was a heavy demonstrated flow of traffic between population clusters. To use light rail where it made sense and not necessarily connect these lines into a system. As well, to schedule around major employers shift changes.

At the same time I asked myself what an ideal light rail set would look like. A rural state. Possibility of short lines without switchyards or turntables. How to design something that could be used on existing track without changes or alterations.

At the time there was a British railcar that was one unit but you might as well drive a bus down the highway. At peak one car would be inadequate. Off peak a train of several cars would have run empty. Decided to split the difference.

Two identical units with sloped noses having control cabs in each. One unit turned facing the other way. When the driver gets to the end of a line they simply get out, walk to the other car and drive back the opposite direction. What if you're not using it as a shuttle?

First, your first set of controls is going to eventually wear out anyway. Right? So you would have a spare set to swap out.

Secondly, tapering both ends is going to be a more efficient design aerodynamically.

Thirdly, producing the same type of car in volume will bring the cost per unit down.

There is one part which should be done differently.

Back in the early 70's I had done a survey of alternative energy systems. It was to have been a sort of Whole Earth Catalog for community scale. Using the Index of the New York Times spanning several years back from 1973, I wrote to corporations as well as municipalities concerning transportation systems, prototype pilot projects in energy and waste management. Had spec drawings of a Finnish forestry vehicle using wood waste, reports from the Oregon State University at Corvallis and their use of wood waste residues from mills in district heating the campus. Charcoal gasogene converters from WWII in Europe to methane or biogas projects in India. Probably over a two year period collected several boxes of material towards getting a sense of the state of the art of energy and transport.

So in 1984 when I was considering the configuration for a light rail set I thought, why not make it global. Suitable for the regional resource mix or scenarios in different regions of the world. Probably what is now called sustainability.

So to make it easier to customize the engine for regional resource differences decided not to have it built-in to the coach/cab design. Instead put the motor or drive unit on its own set of rail bogies or wheels and placed this unit between the two coaches.



Or if you prefer, the requirements determine the design parameters.

Needed a configuration which could be used on existing lines or line sections without significant changes.

Needed sufficient carrying capacity but not too large.

Needed an arrangement to easily customize for local sustainable resources. Whether forest product residues in Finland or the Northwest or bio-gas digesters in India.

Such a transit configuration would not be applicable solely in a rural area, nor as a shuttle between two or more regional population clusters.

In an urban or metropolitan region these units would offer great flexibility in operations in multiple units.

Design for global sustainable light rail set

Top sketch shows a basic unit. A passenger coach with a control cab in a tapered nose.

At peak one unit does not give enough capacity. Off peak three or more units would be too much.

Middle sketch shows a compromise. Two units with one facing the opposite direction. This configuration is ideal if used as a shuttle.

If not used as a shuttle, this configuration still has advantages.

First, the form is aerodynamic.

Secondly you would have a spare set of controls for less down time.

Lastly, volume production of the same unit would bring the unit price down.

Bottom sketch shows the motor or drive unit as being separate.

Being a separate unit makes it easier to customize for different client regions having different resource scenarios. This makes the market global.

This configuration used in multiple units can serve Metro regions as well as urban centers.

So what happened?

My position as to local transit rather than AMTRAK as well as other interested parties proposals for rail passenger service including proponents of AMTRAK were printed in an article in Maine Times of 1986. Response by the State Department of Transportation was that their focus was on freight and not passenger service.

I left the state for nine years. On my return found that a lobbyist had got support and backing for AMTRAK service between Boston and Portland, Maine called the Downeaster. It was in the news that they were planning an extension from Portland to Brunswick, Maine along the coast. I wrote a letter to the then Senator Olympia Snowe explaining the reasons for my opposition to heavy interurban (AMTRAK) in 2008. Received a reply thanking me for my support for AMTRAK?? Complete with electronic signature.

Sure I totally get it that a senator is way too busy to read a letter but the staff doesn't read it either and sends a thank you note. Sent a second letter mostly in large case letters, there was no acknowledgement of receipt!

Also in 2008 I managed to get a letter into the Letters to the Editor column in the Sun Journal of Lewiston-Auburn, Maine. Questioned why they had not connected the two largest metropolitan areas of Maine, Lewiston- Auburn and Greater Portland first, instead of going to Boston. As well, tried to convey that it isn't necessary to connect all the dots necessarily.

Guess who the only person was who called me up after some phone tag?

The lobbyist!!

As well as I can recall this is how it went. He laughed and said, "John are you trying to make me look bad?" I replied, No! Then there was a rambling discourse in which he assured me that by such and such a year they would get funding to extend to a certain community and that by another year they hoped to reach another city, "and it will go to those towns once a day."

I was trying to wrap my head around "once a day" trying to sort out how useful that would be and for whom and whether the scheduling was for commuters or visitors but then he blurted out the following comment.

"You know, I was in a plane crash once and I'm afraid to fly."

SERIOUSLY! That is exactly what he said!

I mentioned the design for a light rail set for regional transport and he laughed, "Oh, trolleys".

So much for urban transit and local transit all over the world. What do they all know?

At some point he felt compelled to volunteer a comment to me that there wasn't anything in it for him and he wasn't making any money off of it??? I had never implied nor suggested anything of the kind.

When Downeaster was extended to Brunswick, Maine there was a private development at the Station. I have no knowledge of who the principals were, however the nature of the use of space raises an interesting issue which we will return to.

Let's crunch numbers!!!

Downeaster's website stated that in 2012 their ridership was 528,000 over a 145 mile route. Wikipedia stated that 42% of their ridership were NH & Massachusetts folks.

Ex that out. Leaves 306,240 riders on a 145 mile infrastructure subsidized by the people of Maine.

In my rough study of 1984 I had 109,200 commuter round trips going 18 miles to one employer from only two towns.

From one employer, from only two towns.

The SECOND PROTOCOL of community design & planning is COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS.

How much are you spending & what in tarnation are you getting for it? Local or light rail transit is not heavy interurban. Apples are not oranges! Oranges are not apples!

What do you get for what you spend?

Moving right along!

When Downeaster came to Brunswick from Portland, Maine a private development group slapped up a retail rental structure as fast as they could. Looked like a barn raising on steroids! The spaces were rented to principally private businesses.

Now, the station and the transportation line is being subsidized with public funds correct? Is that true?

So, the foot traffic is being generated by public expense, would that be a reasonable statement?

Then, should not the activities at a station favor community activities and functions? Perhaps a small meeting room or a small stage? An area with flowers under glass, a garden for seniors to sit and enjoy?



If public money is expended in a development the planners should consider and indeed have the right to consider public functions over private development.


Let's say that you have two towns or population clusters and you run some transit between the two, and that the stations are designed to incorporate some community functions as well as shops. Then let's say that you used bio-fuel or some sustainable resource to fuel the transit as well as some sustainable resource to power the activities at the centers. You might have planned a project which combines elements of transportation, economic development and energy.

Combining different elements that are mutually supportive is systems planning or INTEGRATED PLANNING the FIRST PROTOCOL.

In my recommendations to the State regarding rail passenger transport policy I suggested something that was wrong. I had suggested anchoring a possible rail line between Portland, Maine and Brunswick, Maine with a mixed use retail and cultural amenity center. While it is tempting to place a jewel in a fine setting it is not right!

You do NOT CONSERVE ENERGY by generating more traffic. That would be irresponsible. A later revision of a Rail Passenger Policy threw that out.

Later I was to see ads run on TV by Downeaster suggesting that they were helping conservation. Other ads suggested that people residing in Maine could take day trips to Boston for shopping and entertainment. Nothing against having fun. Nothing against shopping in Boston. Nothing against shopping in Portland. Nothing against shopping.

I was not around during the campaign for approval of funding for Downeaster. Was part of the argument that, 'If we build it they'll come'? We want you to pay for a system and part of the deal is that THEY will come HERE and give you THEIR money? Oops! The ridership is down so now could you please go down THERE and give THEM your money?

Not being xenophobic. As well understand about adjusting to circumstances. However, who was being asked to pay for a system and who is the system for? Think globally, act locally is a two part phrase.

Get back on track!! Pun intended. Let's focus.

The FOURTH PROTOCOL of Community Design is MANDATE.

If you are using public funds to work on a community or regional project you should have a mandate to set the bar or establish a benchmark for efficiency or energy conservation. It gives the community an outline, a standard to strive for.




My brother lived outside Phoenix. He took me out of town to a small dinky airfield and I took a glider ride. The sky was so clear- so blue! Then the pilot banked and the whole horizon was a dirty yellow haze.

The City!

Have you seen astronaut Scott Kelly's photos taken from space? The one looking down at night over the Great Lakes? The outline of the lake and the curve of the Earth lit by energy, by lights?

We do not live in caves or in the forest except on 'reality' shows.

We live in a built environment. Our habitat is a loosely connected MACHINE.

The problem is not that it is inefficient. It's that it is grossly inefficient.

We design parts of the MACHINE very well. Vehicles with greater MPG. Appliances with better efficiency ratings. But the big picture? Our cities' street layouts? Almost a formless mass. Our communities are not designed as systems.

Why are our cities inefficient?


Our machine is inefficient because of low density. The subdivisions take up too much space.

Too low density for transit.

Too low density to conserve energy.


The greater the expenditure of energy, the greater the emissions, the greater the toxins.

Loss of energy in transportation.

Loss of energy in transmission over distance.

In the 1960’s I was out of step with the crowd. Many in my generation were going ‘back to the land’. I was convinced even then that the only way for this species to survive on this world in the numbers that were to come would be if they lived in cities. If they were urban.

But that for cities to work they would have to be pleasant beautiful places to live in. Places where people wanted to be.

I became obsessed with design and with theories. I became familiar with the proposals of futurists. I understood that the linear city would be more efficient and use less energy than a conventional radial city.

Most cities grew outwards from a center. Expansion going outwards in rays. The exceptions being obstructions of coastline, river or some physical barrier.

We call this growth RADIAL SPRAWL.

Most theoreticians proposed very large structures that presented the same building for miles.


I came to call these monolithic. As designs produced from some Central Plan Bureau. Others were towering high rises, perhaps from the French architect Corbusier who thought that if people lived in towers the ground below would be freed for green spaces.

I rejected the high rises. Why?

There was a housing project in Chicago which had to be destroyed before it had been completed. Why?

Because it was too dangerous to live in. Articles were written, even a book about this. Several issues were cited.

Too many people sharing a single point of entry. Double loaded corridors. Little to no visual survey of access.

I decided partly for pleasant design and partly for safety that in “my” city each home had to have its own access directly to the street. This put the height to three stories at most.

At some point, I believe in the early 1970’s, it occurred to me that a RING would be more efficient than a LINEAR FORM.

I’m going to show you how you can prove this!

First that a LINEAR FORM uses less energy than a RADIAL CITY.

Second, you’ll prove that a RING FORM is more efficient than a LINEAR.

Step by step.

Keep this in mind. We aren’t making this a more compact building type yet. We are going to compare the forms using the same building types we have now. Low density suburban sprawl.

On a sheet of paper draw a square in the center, that’s your city center. Around it draw more squares maybe two rows going outwards these are population clusters or districts. With a ruler measure the distances from the center of each suburb to the city center and total them.

On another piece of paper draw your city center then the same number of suburbs but going in a line out from either side of the city center.

When I did this I got 7.5 inches for the radial commutes and 4 inches for the linear. If it helps you, think of these inches as being miles or tens of miles.

So. Even if the building type is sloppy if it is arranged in a LINEAR pattern it’s much more efficient uses less energy no matter where that energy comes from!

Now YOU are going to prove that a RING form for street patterns is way, way, way more efficient than even the LINEAR which was more efficient than the RADIAL.

You need the belt off your jeans and a piece of drafting or masking tape. Stick that onto your jeans for now. Take the belt and place it on the floor stretched out in a line. This is your LINEAR city. The width of that belt is several city blocks or even larger, the length is in miles. Now imagine you and your spouse have always wanted to move to the linear city because it’s the latest thing and too cool for words.

Dang!! The only house we liked is at the edge of town.

Go stand with your feet facing the buckle end of the belt. Now you tell your spouse that you are going out to look for a job today. So you come back to the house and you’ve found this great job, but gosh darn it’s clear across to the other end of town.

Now walk along the belt to the other end of it and go past the end roughly the same distance as the belt length. This is your energy budget your energy cost for a commute to work and back home in a LINEAR city in a worst case scenario.

Now walk over to your belt pick it up and make a hoop or a ring of it holding the buckle and tip touching each other. Now place this down on the floor. Go stand with your feet pointing to the point where the buckle and tip of the belt meet. Right across the circle from you 180 degrees out, essentially across a diameter line you want to stick that piece of tape you stuck on your jeans.

Just a note, if you start at any point along the line of a circle’s perimeter and go across at a 180 degree angle the point on the other side of the circle is always going to be the furthest point away from you along the perimeter line.

Getting back to business. Pick up the belt again and straighten it out in a line and put it on the floor again. Remember that when you paced out the roundtrip commute for the LINEAR city you paced out twice the length of the belt?

The tape is on the middle of the belt. The energy budget or cost for a roundtrip along a RING city is half or 50% of that in a LINEAR city in a worst case scenario.

Half the gas in your car if you drive. Half the power for the transit vehicle if you take the transit, good for you if you do!!!

Now someone’s going to tell you that you’re wrong. They might say that it’s only that more efficient at that point.

I don’t know if it is a constant. If it is a variable I’m good with that. If you think that it is a variable then you probably want a median or average. That should be easy.

Draw half a circle on a sheet of paper with the diameter (straight line) going up from the bottom of the page towards the top. Now you are going to divide the arc of the circle into five equal segments by making four tick marks along the perimeter arc’s curve.

At the bottom of the diameter line put a zero, that’s your start point. At the other end towards the top of the page write 50%. Now going down the arc write 40% at the first tick mark you come to, then at the next 30%, then 20% then 10%. Add all these together to get 150 then divide by the number of segments 5. This gives you 30.

Whether it is 50% or 30%, the RING is more efficient a form than a LINEAR.

Remember that I had said that we were figuring even with the same building types we have in SPRAWL? Now we are going to make it better. Not drastic, better.

I live in a neighborhood that is entirely single family detached homes. As we speak I’m looking at the Boundary Survey approved by the city building department. My street frontage is 83 feet. I have two side yards running to the back. The one on the west side of the house is 18 feet to the property line. The one on the east side of the house is 17 feet to the property line. This gives me a total of 35 feet out of 83 total frontage just occupied by empty space.

That comes to 42% of my total street frontage. If we were not contemplating gigantic huge megastructures, just something small like one story row houses we are talking either a lot smaller city or more room for growth. We would be taking up 30-40% less space for the same population.


Optimal Urban Form

The top sketch shows radial population clusters or districts around a city center. The sum of distances from the center of each district to the city center is 7.5 inches.

There are 14 districts around a city center in the radial form.

On the bottom is a linear form with 15 squares, the one in the middle being the city center. The total length of the linear example is 4 inches. That is from end to end. From each end to the center is only two inches.

You want to convert the inches to miles, decide upon a scale that would be appropriate. But stick with that scale.

The difference with these two urban forms is 3.5 inches.

I have that at being 46% less distance with the linear form over the radial. I give that an efficiency rating then of 46%. I do not care one iota if this is gas in your car or energy for the transit.

Remember Distance is Energy.

If you think the sketch wasn’t fair and the districts were too far apart flip the page.

Grid Comparison

If you thought that the radial could be tighter I checked this out by using a tight grid of squares, 5 rows of 5 with the middle square of the third row down being the city center. A total of 25 squares or districts.

First we measure across and down the center rows actually forming a cross which connects 8 districts to the city center. This gives you 2.25 inches.

Next you measure diagonally connecting the four corners to the center to get 8 more districts to the city center. This total is 3 inches.

This leaves you with 8 districts whose distance to the city center has to be measured separately. This gives you 4.75 inches.

The total is 10 inches.

Now you can draw 25 boxes or districts in a line, north to south. These will measure 5.75 inches long. This linear city is 4.25 inches less than the grid. This gives 43% rating.

Bear in mind, the ring is far more efficient than the linear. As well, we haven’t made the building type compact yet. Even one story row houses take up 30 % less space than single family detached.

My ring city varies in height for interest from three to two to one level.

On Architectural Style

I have seen lately artist impressions of some contemporary planned unit developments (PUD’s). The multiple units look like barns. They are all identical. They are stamped on the tract like a chessboard and they are way too far apart.

When I was writing this chapter and trying to think about how to express the kind of human scale community architecture I would want to see I thought back trying to remember a photograph in an architectural magazine back in the 1960’s. It was of a housing development that was being built in a town in Switzerland. They were terraced hillside units. And they looked good! So when thinking about the level of design excellence I would want for a ring city I tried looking up sites on the internet.

Took a while.

Finally this photograph popped up. When it was first built it had texture and sculptural qualities. Now the plantings and trees had grown up around it. It is beautiful!!!

The architects were Hans Scherer, Strickler & Weber and the site is the Muhlehade Terrace Housing at Umiken, Switzerland built between 1963 to 1971. Other examples of better community housing design could be the row houses by Alvaro Siza at Evora, Portugal or the terrace housing at Mishima, Japan by Kiyonori Kikutake.

There is a website called Housing Prototypes.Org by Roger Sherwood. He has compiled an amazing resource of residential designs. Personally for my city I would not consider the high rise designs. But there are a wealth of varied human scale works, some apparently a reaction against high rise projects in Europe which preceded them during the 1950’s.


What we have so far.






Proposal for a Ring City

You make a circle several miles out in radius. This will be the INNER PERIMETER. You make another line further out at a greater radius. How large a population are you anticipating? Development will occur within these two lines. Several city blocks wide or a mile?

From the INNER PERIMETER inward is a GREEN CORE. This area is not to be developed or built upon. Not for any excuse. Not ever.

There is a bundle of utilities and transit which probably runs down the center of the development band. A UTILITY CORE. For ease of access it should not be built over but might be arranged to look as if it were a wide pedestrian area between two sides of a wide boulevard. This should be thought out carefully allowing for access points as well as pullovers for maintenance.

The architecture is HUMAN SCALE and conventional. LOW RISE yet COMPACT. The ideal is that each home each terrace unit each row house enjoys its own direct access to the street. The city scape and architecture has CHANGING yet compatible TEXTURE and materials. Along some sections the building facades might face the street in a parallel manner. At others sections of the buildings are angled to the street. Heights of skylines change, at times one level then stepping upwards two or three levels alongside the street or stepping up back from the street.

Within an area for example, four or five different layouts shuffled into other combinations might present the appearance of ten different facades or building lines.

Sections along the built area or segments of arcs at intervals are broken yet anchored by spacious pedestrian PIAZZAS or PLAZAS. Traffic being diverted around these structures which cluster restaurants and shops and meeting places. These structures should have continuous ARCADES along their inside facades at ground level for weather, only broken perhaps by water features and plantings.

Smaller more intimate COURTYARDS could be dispersed throughout neighborhoods for family meeting spots for coffee, for ice cream. The streets sweeping around the larger PLAZAS would break up the monotony of continuous street lines.

An exciting environment might be created by a cluster of three PIAZZAS offset from the street line. That is to say not rigidly placed in juxtaposition with each other.


Transitioning a Ring City Into a Preexisting City

This is possible in PHASES. Put a Mylar sheet over a topographic map of the existing city and its edges. Draw a large circle onto the Mylar then slide the Mylar around to see if you can get a significant arc of your circle over undeveloped land at one or more edges of your built area. This would give you a start.

You would need to ensure that the undeveloped land is not developed where you want your green core. The arc that is buildable along this section of perimeter is the first phase of your new city.

You also have to have the right of way for the transit and utility core for the entire ring. You are not going to build that now. You are not going to take anyone's home . But you need to cease further development within the circle and you need to have the right of way for the eventual transit and utility lines.

The process of building the new city and acquiring the GREEN CORE is the reverse of what urban designers call INFILL. As we build the perimeter we also are buying up parcels or lots in the old city and turning those spaces back to green.

This will take money!! Where could we get that?

We would need a LAND BANK for acquisitions of lots or spaces or even properties, where we want the GREEN CORE. Well!!! I kinda hate this but I'll have to compromise. Wanted the CITY to be human scale entirely. But.

There are people who like a view and want to live in a tower. There are developers and contractors who would want to work that. So. Let's say we permit deviations from the height restrictions for specific developments. We do this carefully.

To be fair we don't block one tower's view with another. We also might cluster these away from much of the human scale. The permit fees are assessed per unit above three stories. This assessment per development unit should be reasonable. This provides the basis for a LAND BANK.


As I wrote these notes on ideas and concepts which have occurred to me over the years since the early 1970’s, I decided to check as I went with the text.

Concerning the LINEAR CITY.

Gilles Gauthier a Montreal architect has proposed a design for a Linear city since 1994 or 95, and written extensively and in great detail about the issues arising from the inefficiency of low density built habitat otherwise known as suburban sprawl.

More recently architect Paolo Soleri of the Arcosanti group proposed an interesting linear design called Solare, I believe in 2005.

A linear proposal, the Jersey Corridor Project by Michael Graves & Peter in 1964-66.

The Highway City proposed by Le Corbusier between 1931-42.

There were others preceding these, however, to the best of my knowledge the originator of the Linear Form was Arturo Soria y Mata of Spain who designed the Ciudad Lineal in Madrid in 1892. What I like about his layout is that it is not quite so mechanical- the form curves slightly.

Concerning the RING CITY.

In the 1960’s I had followed the LINEAR however sometime between the late 1960’s and the early 1970’s it occurred to me that a RING would be more efficient. At the time I assumed that someone else must have originated the RING as a form because it was so logical geometrically. I did not know who however. Thinking that it would be extremely difficult to suggest to people that they might have to rebuild their habitat rather quickly, I diverted my attention into a proposal I called MULTIPLE CORES. These were to be mixed use structures. Over simplifying it would be a “tricked out” shopping plaza with residential terraced garden units tacked on tastefully and some specialized functions probably office spaces. The usual linear would have played with the back. A better arrangement to work with would have been a circular plaza or courtyard with residential and planting and water features draped over the interior away from the parking.

To study this I decided to measure the footprint taken up by existing shopping plazas in Greater Portland, Maine. Did this with a tape measure, notebook, box of chalk and a number two pencil. The purpose was to see how many functions and square footage was taken up by non-downtown developments and compare their footprint with that of the old core area. Then you could see if it were possible to disperse two or three city centers or cores throughout the metro area to put people closer to activities, hopefully to reduce their need to commute to one point.

Despite the fact that this development type could have been applied within an existing urban fabric, I realized that the impact on energy use would be marginal at best and that the condition of the biosphere’s health and its ability to support our populations was rapidly deteriorating. That we did not have the time for transitional phases.

I had sent some sketches to a professor of architecture at some university who suggested that I take environmental design. Went to U Mass at Amherst finishing a BS in ENVDES with the concentration being Regional Planning in 1980. Perfect timing, HUD had cutbacks and no one was going to do New Town Programs.

Going back to Maine I became engaged in a conservation of open space methodology in 1983 and a transit design and policy study in 1984.

Now feeling compelled to write down some notes in the unlikely event that someone might read them I first determined that it would be wise to conduct a search on the internet.

Concerning the RING CITY.

When I did a search a site popped up by a gentleman in Canada, an engineer named John Varney whose proposal is titled Babylon The Ring City. When I saw his sketch I must admit having mixed feelings. There was relief that I was not alone in my conclusions however at the same time there was disappointment with myself for not having said anything sooner all these years.

At the back of his posting from 2013 there were comments by some readers, a few not entirely correct. One suggested that Mr. Varney’s proposal looked like a copycat of the Venus Project. I had never heard of this project having been out of touch for some time. When I checked it I realized that the reader was wrong.

Wrong with a capital W.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

The Venus Project by Jacque Fresco apparently dating back to 1995 is not a ring. I do not know if he ever suggested that it was. Probably not. However someone at least believes it is so I am going to relieve them of that conclusion. If you happen to be married or just like jewelry you might have a ring on a finger. Don’t take it off and lose it and blame me. Just think if you took it off and looked at it. What pray tell is inside of it?

Answer. NOTHING.

A RING has nothing in the middle.

The RING is the most efficient distribution of transport. Why ruin it by sticking some city center back into it which you do not have to do anyway? And thus making it a damn radial again?

As to the rest of it? A series of CONCENTRIC rings of structures which appear to be between 8 to 12 stories high. Credit where it is due. Great job of presentation, slick graphics! That said you know that I abhor the high rise.

And using the same blueprint for miles.

If any of you have seen the Italian city of Palmanova that is the original prototype for the CONCENTRIC CITY. Quite beautiful I might add. It was commissioned by the Venetian Republic and was started in 1593. Its second phase of construction completed in 1690. There are aerial views of it on the internet.

Mr. Varney and I are in the same boat to some degree. I have sketched over and over and over again for years on odd scraps of paper two things. One is a ring or circle with the landscape architect’s symbol for vegetation or trees in the middle of it. The other, two small rectangles with a smaller rectangle between them. The global transit configuration.

Would not be surprised if the LINEAR folks stated that a RING is just a closed loop LINEAR. Not! Where we depart is over the structural designs. He is going with high rises to accommodate huge populations. I am going with conventional scales to be acceptable to the market to some degree.

Even given the populations we have we must be urban and our cities’ habitats must be designed efficiently.

I am assuming that at some point homo sapiens as a species will evolve socially to the point where more likely than not population growth will level off to some degree. And that monolithic structures to cram ourselves into need not be the last option.

At least one hopes.


It was early in the 1980's and I was thinking about this countryside in the hills just inland from the coastline. It was mixed use. Open field and pasture bordered by tree lines and patches of forest. Above a ridgeline of cloud and barren brows of blueberry fields crisscrossed by lines of stone walls. Some would refer to this as a CULTURAL LANDSCAPE. Close to the coast with its cottages and home building I worried how it could retain its sense of place.

Came up with a multiple approach. A methodology for the conservation of land use that might have worked. Let's say you're walking or driving along a back country road. When your way drops down into a forested stretch there is a limit to how far you can see through the vegetative cover. Here, to keep the sense of place would only require a narrow screen of brush.

When, however, your way rises to an open hillside or ridge the view is sweeping. How far you can see is wider.

I called this a VISUAL ACCESS CORRIDOR. A pathway or byway with a band along it's edge that varies in width, at times wide at others narrow.

With regard to conserving the scenic character of a landscape one is only concerned with this varying width corridor, not the total land use or development rights for tracts or property lines.

If a zone were defined as being of SPECIAL INTRINSIC SCENIC VALUE and should the landowner agree voluntarily to keep that part of the tract under a certain use such as pasture or agricultural, that part of their parcel would fall under a lower rate in the proposed program.

Should they later decide because perhaps economic circumstances compel them to do so, to sell off or develop this portion, perhaps the cumulative difference might be returned to the town.

At the time I had only the VARIABLE WIDTH CORRIDOR and some INDUCEMENTS. Suggested a RURAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM to assist residents and farmers should they wish to supplement income by perhaps running a B&B. Low impact recreation and farm tourism might tie into intrinsic value of maintaining the cultural landscape.

The Director of a local RCD in the area was helpful and set up a number of meetings with local Conservation Commissions.

As a courtesy I introduced myself to the Director of a conservation land trust in the town where I lived. Checked in with him from time to time to keep him apprised of my activities. One time he said that I was doing a lot, blurted out, "you know, there's only so much funding out there".

At no time have I ever applied for funding or any form of grant, ever.

I had a series of small town meetings. The people were friendly though a little suspicious. Some wanted to know what was in it for me. Generally, they loved their countryside and wanted it to remain the way it was, at times there was pressure upon them or circumstances which might cause them to sell off a piece of land to get cash at need.

At one meet saw the land trust director sitting at the back. Talked to the people about the general concept but made it specific to their town. There was some scenic roadside land beside a lake which was a water supply source for a nearby town. Behind it and overlooking was a mountain. On the other side of the road from the lake were adjoining fields and open space.

Suggested there could be some recreational connection through adjoining tracts tied in with the water supply land. I happened to turn and saw the Land Trust Director head down scribbling furiously into a notebook. I was stunned and stopped talking at which he looked up. Looking embarrassed or guilty he stuffed his notebook away hiding it. I began talking again to the people there.

Had another meeting at a nearby town. Awkward. Stony silence.

Finally some guy came up to me and demanded to know if I was with such and such Land Trust. I said no, that I was not. He then said something like this, "Well, we're pretty angry with them." "They were up on this land we were trying to protect with a city councilor who wants to put a subdivision up there!"

After that they calmed down and we talked about the conservation concept.

Had arranged a meeting in Boston at a national organization. The Land Trust Director knew about the meeting. Got down to Boston and went into their office. Guy at reception looked at me sharply and told me to wait. He went over to another gentleman, the director? I heard the receptionist say to him, "That's the person we were warned about."

Then the director, I presume, walked over to me telling me that they were busy today and they would reschedule. I went back to Maine.

Had told the Land Trust Director about a possible connection with youth programs to the scenic corridor concept. Maybe incorporating youth hostels apart from the farm B&B's. Received an unsigned envelope in the mail with a news clipping inside about hospices with the words, "HA HA" written in marker.

Walking and hitching along the highway going back from Portland the Director blew past me on the side of the road in his car laughing.

Years later I came back to the area. There was a hiking trail running from the fields across from the water supply lake which crossed the road and went up the backside of the mountain. Along part of the scenic area a rusty sign stated that it was a scenic byway.

This is about exclusion, social organizations and the tendency for them to institutionalize themselves.

There are a couple in the Northwest who are generous philanthropists and give their money to youth programs. They say that the youth are the answer. All around you there are people who already have answers. They might know some of the answers to many of our problems already.

But no one would listen to them. Or if they do they dismiss them without discussion. Or claim the concept is their idea and submit a paper to a journal to promote self.

What is the problem with this? CREDIBILITY.

People who get light bulbs are not one trick ponies. They don't get one light bulb. They usually have a case full of them.

They might have a box gathering dust on a closet shelf full of sketches of technologies which do not exist, and might never. These people have no CREDS, no CREDENTIALS. Not acknowledging them even if they are non-peers makes it improbable for them to continue.

Scientists and technicians should not evolve a meritocracy. They need our skill sets, as much as we need theirs.


Had advocated the massive development of greenhouse agriculture in a Northeastern state on the scale of the Netherlands but tied into bio-mass energy. Floriculture as well as produce. The year was 1986. I left that state two years ago it is now 2016. In the interim between 1986 up to 2014 there had been one industrial production facility for growing tomatoes.

Years back during some governor's administration at some conference a person suggested that perhaps they should encourage producing goods needed for local use. Then an economic advisor disparaged this with a buzz phrase "that's like taking in your own washing". Wow! What a witty comment.

Let's say that we grew produce under glass and flowers and that we sold that produce and flowers locally. That out of the money that was paid for the produce we paid the workers in the stores and we paid the workers at the greenhouses. And the money stayed locally.

"That's like taking in your own washing." I remember hearing that buzz phrase over and over again. It was the slick put down of the time. Personally though, I'd rather get paid two or three times over than get paid once. But that's me.

6 Utopia, Totalitarianism and Architecture

Ever been on a road trip and the "good" place was full so you had to stay at the rustic motel? You walk past the doorway to put the luggage down and behind you on the door frame there is this list taped or framed at the side. Rules!!

Sometimes the list is very, very long and extremely detailed.

You have a design for a building? Show me! A street pattern layout? Fine! I'm interested!

But, please, please, please don't attach 30 pages of social engineering!!! As I write this in the Middle East Sunni are killing Shiite and Shiite are killing Sunni and both are Islamic followers.

In the not so distant past there was a Marxist franchise in the Soviets. The CEO was Stalin and the venues the labor camps and executions after obligatory sham trials. A more recent franchise was Cambodia's Khmer Rouge with CEO Pol Pot.

Do we really need any more social ideas???

Totalitarianism is defined as the regulation of every aspect of public life. To be Utopian is to propose or advance impractical ideal social schemes. We NEED architecture and urban design.

We do NOT NEED to engineer any more religions or economic beliefs.

The followers of Free Market have had to temper their philosophies with community obligations. The Marxists have needed to engage their citizens with incentives and ownership.

Given enough "TIMEOUTS" perhaps the distinctions between beliefs might become so hazy as not to matter.

Regrettably we see the British exiting the EU. Not a sign of integration which was the only hope for peace in this world. Certainly not forward or evolution. Time will tell if the racial and nationalistic splintering and fracturing into wars is a reactionary glitch or DEVOLUTION. By the way, that is a real word. It is defined as becoming less over time.

7 To Deposit or Not to Deposit! That is the Question!

In states where there are bottle bills or deposit-redemption programs, apart from the consumers who bring materials in there are those who are only too happy to bring in what others have left. If there is a perceived value to the bottles and cans it only stands to reason that more would be inclined to return or bring them in.

Since you have consumers bringing their bottles and cans or someone else’s into a center- with a little extra room you could allow for clean paper intake. Paper that goes into Single Stream Recycling tends to become contaminated from being mixed in with other materials.

Another issue is that of colored plastic bottles costing more to process for reuse than clear plastic bottles. Consumers might be encouraged to choose products that are more practical if the redemption or bonus value were seen to be greater for the clear plastic than for the colored plastic.

An alternative to deposit-redemption is to weigh bottles by material type at intake and enter a percentage of the market value into a computer under an account in the consumer’s name. As with the paper intake of newspapers and magazines, though seemingly small these accounts would accrue over time.

Semi-annually or annually these accounts might amount to what I should hope would be a significant motivation. Of course, most of the value of the materials brought in would go to the centers for handling and brokering to the industries. But a small percentage going into consumer contributor accounts would be a bonus.

Recently there has been the closure of hundreds of recycling centers in California. Their program employed the use of subsidies to offset losses when the market value for recycle materials was too low. My understanding is that these subsidies were too slow to respond to market changes and were based on outdated figures.

In conjunction with a deposit- redemption program I would include a variable subsidy which only kicks in when the market value for recycle materials is too low and such a subsidy is necessary. However, it should be in real time. I would retain the accrued percent of material value to the consumers as a bonus to pay for their contribution and engage them.

This is no longer optional as, if we do not get control over our waste we run the risk of contaminating our water supplies from landfills and losing our ocean fisheries. Plastic waste has already been found in fish going to markets on the West Coast.


Or stick?

Or a little of both at the same time?

Is Your Planet Dying?

So, Is Your Planet Dying?

Well, actually in a way it isn’t. The Planet you see, doesn’t really need us at all. The ball of rock and dust would spin quite happily through space and void without us. No, this world will not even notice when we are gone. Some have been accused of trying to save the world when all along it was not the world they were trying to save at all. Others blind in greed can only see that if some regulations were gone they could make two cents more per share on a stock dividend next quarter.

No! It isn’t the Planet that is dying.


Don’t be.


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John Kerr, PO Box 410171, Melbourne, FL 32941. United States