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The Atlantic Cities: Zen and the Art of Snow Plow Maintenance

One of the realities of municipal snow removal is that what residents want during a freak event (a plow for every person!) is not what they’d be willing to pay for – or should pay for – when everything thaws.


Urbanophile: Providence and the Virtues of Scale

But they are small enough to have some structural advantages from that as well. First, as a small state and city, it’s easier to turn the ship. As I’ve observed about Detroit and Michigan, part of the challenge for them is that they are big. It’s always harder to turn a large ship than a small one. That’s Rhode Island’s advantage. You could almost literally turn the entire state into a civic laboratory in a way that can’t be done elsewhere.

In a related vein, things that wouldn’t make much of a difference in New York can make a huge difference in Providence. The presence of Brown University and RISD make a palpable difference in a smaller city that they wouldn’t in a much bigger one. Successful civic initiatives can have a bigger impact here.

I was at the cocktail gathering Aaron discusses later in his post. It was very nice to meet him and gather his impressions on Providence.


The Atlantic Cities: Why Portland’s Public Toilets Succeeded Where Others Failed

…the city is home to the Portland Loo, a unique, patented outdoor bathroom that inspires such worship in its fanbase you’d think that Steve Jobs himself had designed it. This adoration comes despite the fact that the 24-hour loo was built to be as inhospitable as possible. This toilet does not want to be loved, but in Portland, it is No. 1 (and, presumably, sometimes No. 2 as well).

The soulless receptacle for bodily waste has its own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. When a loo hater set one ablaze last June, Facebook denizens flocked to its defense. “The Portland Loos rock! What other city can boast public restrooms that are fire proof. ;)” wrote Laura Mears, while Charlie Clint chimed in with, “I’m always sending someone to use one of these – and it’s great to hear how sturdy they are! (woo hoo).”


Reinventing Parking: Tangled up in equity arguments

How does having the ‘legal right’ to park have anything to do with how parking should be priced? I have a ‘legal right’ to rent an apartment in the most prestigious street in my city. The fact that I, like most people, can’t afford to do so has nothing to do with whether apartments should be market-priced. Of course, if significant numbers of people can’t afford any decent shelter we must look for solutions. In market economies, those solutions are (usually) targeted and don’t abolish market pricing for real estate generally. In any case, surely parking in busy urban streets is much less of a basic need than housing.

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