→ USA Today: More small towns thinking big
These small but growing towns are applying some of the most forward-thinking planning tenets to create true downtowns, arts districts and new traffic patterns that alleviate congestion and encourage walking. They’re changing zoning to build city-style condos and apartments above stores. And they’re getting away from big parking lots and strip malls by putting parking underground and behind stores. Often, the downtowns are created around a new city hall, transit stations, arts center — or all three.
“We’ve got to start designing our cities for people first and automobiles second,” says Carmel Mayor James Brainard, a lawyer who picked up some European design sensibilities while studying in England.
→ American Planning Association: Milwaukee’s transit debate: Streetcar desire vs. disaster
Mayor Tom Barrett is the prime mover behind Milwaukee’s plan to build a brand-new streetcar system. Bright, modern vehicles would traverse a two-mile route through the city’s East Side, downtown and historic Third Ward, a former warehouse area now popular for its shops and restaurants.
Barrett believes flashy streetcars can revitalize Milwaukee’s city front and points to the popularity of the 10-year-old system in Portland, Ore. Today’s streetcars, Barrett says, are more about attracting attention than providing transportation.
“I look at this as an economic development tool,” Barrett told the Tribune. “Look at Portland. That system has aided in spurring development and growth, which is what all communities are looking for now.”
→ Planetizen: Enough with Bikes vs Cars – It’s about Better Cities!
We need a more sophisticated discussion about how we get around in cities, and it starts with this — it’s not about loving your bike. It’s about loving what biking does for cities. If more cars make cities worse, the opposite is true for bikes. Expanding urban biking through separated bike-lanes is about making better, fiscally smarter, healthier, more flexible and resilient cities. Bikes are hardly a silver bullet, but they can be a big part of better city-making.
City-builders across the globe understand the relative cheapness of the bike mobility option, in both cost and space. Dollar for dollar, separated bike-lanes move people more cost-effectively from a return-on-investment perspective than any other way of getting around, especially once a tipping point of cyclists is reached – and that doesn’t even factor in the well-documented public health cost savings that come from wide-spread biking. Global studies have shown investing in cycling infrastructure actually saves society public money per kilometer cycled! The math is enough to make any real fiscal conservative hop on a two-wheeler.
→ USA Today: Recession-battered cities combine services
In a post-recession budgetary crimp, Chelsea, Mass., City Manager Jay Ash has seen the light. Chelsea is joining with big neighbor Boston to buy greener LED lights for the city’s 1,400 streetlights. Doing so may save $250,000 to buy them and $80,000 a year in electricity to power them.
Across the country, cities, counties and other local governments are combining services, from 911 call centers to basic purchasing, to capitalize on the economics of scale and offset declining revenue since the Great Recession. The recession technically ended in 2009, but pressure on cities has continued. A September National League of Cities (NLC) report predicted that this will be the sixth consecutive year of declining revenue for local governments.
→ Transportation Nation: NYC DOT Study: Street Redesign Good for the Economy
New York City’s Department of Transportation says redesigned streets have been very, very good to small businesses.
A new report says that retail sales are up along city streets that have bike paths, pedestrian plazas, slow zones, or select bus service.
In some cases, the increase is dramatic: on Brooklyn’s Pearl Street, where the DOT maintains retail sales have increased by 172 percent since a parking triangle was turned into a pedestrian plaza.
→ DC Streetsblog: Study: Protected Bike Lanes Reduce Injury Risk Up to 90 Percent
They found that wide streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure were by far the most dangerous for cyclists. Compared to that type of road, streets with bike lanes had injury rates 50 percent lower, while the risk of injury on protected bike lanes was a whopping 90 percent lower. Interestingly, multi-use paths — or off-street trails where cyclists, pedestrians, skaters, and other non-motorized modes mix — were found to reduce injury by a comparatively modest 60 percent.