|It's a misnomer to assume that Los Angeles does not have a city center. It does. It has a downtown that is the equivalent of any other city's downtown (get called for jury duty in L.A. and THEN tell me it doesn't have a center!)
I lived in LA for 9 years and served jury duty many times
LA doesn't have a true city center like traditional cities (NYC, Chicago, San Francisco, etc). There are bunch of office buildings, with a Music Center thrown in. After 6pm, "downtown" LA is a ghost town. In every other major city, the central city area is also the cultural focus and the "heart" of the city. In LA it's spread out all over the place, and (to generalize) no one goes downtown unless they work there. It's possible to live your whole life in LA and never go near downtown. From a geographic and demographic point of view, it's completely different from every major city in the U.S.
|Most major cities in other areas simply don't have as many small cities in their general vicinity to connect via freeways
Actually, many other major cities have countless suburbs like LA. Chicago has hundreds. NYC is the main exception, mainly because the central city was located on an island
It's just that once people started to come to LA, it was designed (or redesigned, depending on your point of view), for both practical and economic reasons, to be a sprawling, auto-centric metropolis. In other cities "sprawl" has been a consequence of growth and lack of space, while in LA it was planned.
|L.A. is most certainly the model that most cities are following, if not by overt city planning choice, then by individual choice of citizens.
Moving out of the central city because of crime, congestion, education, etc. is not an LA phenomenon. People were doing that in Rome thousands of years ago
In fact, most urban planners will tell you that LA "sprawl" developed differently than sprawl in other cities, because in LA it was planned from the start, whereas in other cities it was a consequence. Freeways in LA were built to connect various parts of the city before some of those parts were even settled or developed. It's only recently that LA has actually started to look like *other* cities, in that people are moving even further out for the reasons you mentioned.
LA is really the place where a device like the Segway will be least life-changing, IMO, because of all this. It's just too spread out. A city like New York or Chicago, on the other hand, is a place where the Segway could really catch on. In these more traditional cities, there is a well-defined "central city" where everything is located -- business, entertainment, shopping, recreation. People travel to this area, and then use something like the Segway to get around. Instead of this area being clogged by traffic, polution, etc., it could be a much more open area that is safer and easier to navigate. If fewer parking lots are needed, that land can be used for other things. Sure, this is a long way off, but you gotta start somewhere
Plus, another good point that was made is that half of all car trips in the US involved distances of less than a few miles, and only involve one person. If people used something like the Segway for these trips, it would drastically cut pollution, reduce road costs, reduce serious accidents, and cut down on traffic congestion. Heck, living in a "true" city like San Francisco, I would love to have something like the Segway -- I'd use it for at least half of the things I usually use my car for.
|Thus, I don’t think that a battery powered scooter, no matter how high-tech, is going to be capable of transforming the way American cities look, at least not for several decades.
Right -- if it does catch on, the process will take a long, long time. But I think it has real potential to change how we look at transportation.