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News & Notes

Walking in the ditch

Photo (cc) Transportation for America

→ Greater Greater Washington: When we lost the War on Pedestrians

Every new bike lane, speed camera, or change in parking requirements becomes an attack in what organizations like AAA decry as a “War on Cars.” But in the 1920s, there was a different war over our streets. And pedestrians lost.


→ Cincinnati Business Courier: City tosses out residential parking requirements

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory (D) has approved an amendment to the city’s zoning code that eliminates parking requirements for many residential developments and substantially reduces them for others.

Under the new regulations, any residential development with 20 or fewer housing units would not have to provide any parking, while those with more than 20 units would have to provide 0.75 spaces per housing unit above 20. That means a development with 32 housing units would need to provide nine parking spaces.

“The goal of the ordinance is to encourage development in the urban core by permitting developers to determine their own parking needs for downtown developments,” explained Simpson, who is vice chair of council’s Livable Communities Committee. “I firmly believe that the market will work to meet parking demands better than government minimum parking requirements.”

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Detroit - Renaissance Center

Detroit from Canada. Photo (cc) Patricia Drury

→ Spacing: Converting Alleyways to Livable Laneways and Country Lanes

Asphalt paving was removed and replaced with “structural grass,” rigid plastic honeycomb cells sprinkled with ordinary lawn seed and nurtured into green swaths. Concrete strips were embedded on two sides, creating a durable driving surface. Permeable brick pavers were installed in driveways and at the lane way entrances; these allow rain water to infiltrate between their joints and into the ground, reducing run-off, the bane of municipal storm sewer systems.


→ Newshour: Will Other U.S. Cities Follow in Detroit’s Footsteps?

Well, I think cities have realized they’re not going to grow their economies by bribing companies to come in[1].

Just as Bruce said, they’re going to build on their own strategic assets, and as specialized as they are — and Bruce knows this — they also to be diverse. Diverse economies grow. But in the United States, the cities and regions that are having trouble are the manufacturing regions that have not revitalized and developed their knowledge assets and diversified.

And Sun Belt regions that are dependent on real estate and construction, our economy is being reshaped around knowledge centers, big and small. Ann Arbor right outside of Detroit is doing fabulously well, and energy centers — and those are becoming the powerhouses of the U.S. regional economy. But there are very real winners and losers in this economy. And for those falling behind, they have to take steps to specialize, to focus on their niche, but also to diversify their economy.

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News & Notes

Flying Into Boston 005 - Tilt Shift v2

Boston. Photo (cc) Kevin Tostado.

→ The Boston Globe: Don’t require more spaces; price curbside ones properly

If you give a valuable resource away for free, the inevitable result is overuse and crowding. In the old Soviet Union, groceries sold eggs and butter at near-free prices, and therefore shoppers faced long lines and empty shelves. In modern Massachusetts, on-street parking is available at low or no cost, and therefore drivers can’t find a parking spot. Low parking costs also ensure there are more drivers congesting the roads.

Small comfort I suppose that even in Boston, residents are aghast at the idea of reduced parking minimums.


→ The Boston Globe: Boston’s population boom speeds up

It’s not just the city proper. If you look at the other New England cities of 50,000 people or more you see that in general, the closer these sizable cities were to Boston, the faster they grew. (An exception: the similarly fast-growing cities along southern Connecticut’s I-95 and commuter rail corridor, which fall into the orbit of New York City.) This is an acceleration of a trend that began in 2000-2010, when Boston grew faster than the rest of New England for the first time in more than a century.

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→ The Washington Post: Delaware is bailing out its casinos. Wait, what?

Earlier this week, Delaware’s casinos got a surprise windfall. Just days after saying no to tax breaks, Gov. Jack Markell (D) proposed that $8 million of the state’s budget surplus be distributed amongst its three struggling establishments, to forestall the layoffs that at least one of them had threatened.

That would seem to defeat the purpose of casinos: Generating revenue for states. The problem is, for the past decade, almost every state in the nation has tried to cash in–and gamblers aren’t keeping up. Twenty-three states have now legalized commercial casinos, and revenues are back to 2007 levels after taking a dip during the recession.

A small state surrounded by other states with lots of people and better casinos…



→ Next City: Loving My City Enough to Fight For It

These days, the zeitgeist has changed. If before, you were a happy but passive contrarian, enjoying the “lifestyle” that cost-of-living, accessibility, great culture, and tight-knit neighborhoods afforded — now there is a bit more at stake. The mood in Cleveland (speaking from my white, liberal, professional vantage) is more proactive. No longer can you just sip your wine and chat about how nice it is here. The ethos has shifted to an activist one: you have to help out, pitch in, you have to do something. There is an emergent sense of civic obligation.

Why this shift? Why this pressure to help the city’s economic, educational, political and cultural life? Not because things are worse but because they are better.

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News & Notes

Citi Bike Share

Citi Bike, NYC bike share. Photo (cc) ccho.

→ Gawker: Tycoon’s Pet Newspaper Thinks For-Profit Citi Bikes Are Socialism

The Observer objects to Citi Bike not because the bikes are hideous or dangerous—the editors mention, but shrug off, the possibility of “accidents involving goofy tourists,” which for many New Yorkers is a plus—but because of… socialism. Yes! Citi Bike “represents another governmental incursion into the private marketplace.”

Okay, but. This is 180 degrees wrong. It is exactly backwards. Citi Bike, run by Alta Bicycle Share, is a for-profit business, and functions as a massive marketing campaign for Citi Bank .


→ Crane’s New York Business: A storm-proof way to elevate city buildings

Up and down the coast of New York and New Jersey, property owners are being forced to raise their homes and businesses above a new 100-year floodplain drawn up and mandated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In the five boroughs, elevating multistory buildings present a particular problem.

If buildings must be raised five, eight, even 12 feet up on stilts, planners fear it could deaden New York’s vibrant street life along coastal areas. In other words, will Jane Jacobs float?


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News & Notes

seattle-times-bridge→ The Seattle Times: ‘Miracles’: 3 survive I-5 collapse

A chunk of Interstate 5 collapsed into the Skagit River near Mount Vernon on Thursday evening, dumping two vehicles into the icy waters and creating a gaping hole in Washington state’s major north-south artery.

Rescuers pulled three people with minor injuries from the water after the collapse, which authorities say began when a semitruck with an oversized load struck a steel beam at around 7 p.m.

That caused a massive piece of the northern side of the bridge to wobble, and then fall into the water, taking with it a gold pickup, its travel trailer and an orange SUV.


But actually, our infrastructure crisis is a myth…

→ Bloomberg: The Myth of the Falling Bridge

Maybe it’s going too far to say, “The U.S. is doing just fine, thank you very much.” The nation would benefit from reordering its infrastructure priorities — away from new highways, for example, where we are already overbuilt and usage is falling for the first extended period on record. And we’d do well to take advantage of low interest rates and idle construction resources to knock out all of our future infrastructure needs.

But the idea that the U.S. has an infrastructure crisis? No. A broad, permanent increase in spending is unwarranted.

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News & Notes

→ Streetsblog: The Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, and Why It Barely Registers

In 2010, 4,280 pedestrians were killed in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and another 70,000 were injured. That’s one death every two hours.

It’s impossible to quantify the human toll of traffic fatalities, but as David Nelson at Project for Public Spaces points out, AAA estimates that traffic crashes cost America $300 billion annually in the form of medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other factors. That works out to three times the annual cost of congestion reported by the Texas Transportation Institute. But while we’re spending billions “fighting congestion” with expensive new roads, getting a handle on pedestrian deaths and injuries is almost a non-issue at your average state DOT.


→ The New York Times: Where ‘Share the Road’ Is Taken Literally

“Woonerf” is what the Dutch call a special kind of street or group of streets that functions as shared public space — for pedestrians, cyclists, children and, in some cases, for slow-moving, cautiously driven cars as well.

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News & Notes

OneFund-2 Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, to raise money to help those families most affected by the tragic events that unfolded during Monday’s Boston Marathon. To contribute to The One Fund Boston, go to theonefundboston.org.

→ The Atlantic Cities: How President Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Affect Cities

President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2014, released [last week], focuses on economic growth and a strong middle class. Better urban development isn’t the first item on that agenda, but it’s an important part of the administration’s priorities for the coming year.

Three agencies in particular are at the core of that work, with offices dedicated to making sure community development contributes to regional and national economic growth. The president’s 2014 budget would change how each of these agencies invest in community development.


→ The Atlantic Cities: New Chicago Plan: Pedestrians Come First

[I]n the Second City – as in just about every American metro – autos have long dominated city streets and how we think about who uses them, why they exist and what defines them as successful. This summer, though, Chicago is planning to roll out a small-sounding but seismic policy shift: From now on, in the design guidelines for every effort from major streetscape projects to minor roadside electrical work, transportation work must defer to a new “default modal hierarchy.” The pedestrian comes first.

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News & Notes

buffalo-metrorail

Buffalo Metro Rail – Photo (cc) Sean_Marshall

→ The Buffalo News: Development soars along Metro Rail

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is spawning a housing boom along the Metro Rail line, as developers look to provide lofts and apartments for some of the 17,500 workers expected to be employed there.

Note their take on parking:

The new downtown cluster will provide enough parking for patients and visitors, according to Medical Campus President Matthew K. Enstice. But because the campus would rather spend its resources on medical facilities than parking garages, planners are encouraging the big new influx of employees to use public transportation.

“This is how you force culture change,” Enstice said. “We’re actually doing it.”

Plans call for bicycle racks placed at strategic locations, rental-car checkouts for employees, and an interconnected and walkable campus that will encourage thousands of people to live in the city near Metro Rail.

The plan “has to work” because there is no alternative, Enstice said. There is no room to park 17,500 cars on the 170-acre Medical Campus.

Also, read Stephen Miller’s take on how Providence needs to be taking heed of what Buffalo is doing:

You can have a vibrant small city, or you can have cheap, ample parking in and around downtown. You cannot have both, for the simple reason that parking takes up a lot of space that would otherwise be used by people doing economically productive things. Buffalo seems to have learned this lesson. Providence, meanwhile, is drowning in downtown parking as the metro area’s economy stagnates.


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News & Notes

IMG_1606

Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Matunuk. Photo © RIDOT

→ The Atlantic Cities: Even More Evidence Climate Change Will Hit East Coast Cities Particularly Hard

Batten down the hatches, East Coasters: A new study argues that for every one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees F) of global warming, the American Atlantic seaboard could see up to seven times as many Katrina-sized hurricanes.

Oh, yay!


→ Mobilizing the Region: Poll Finds Support for Tolls In Connecticut

The majority of Connecticut voters support the return of tolls on state highways — under certain conditions — according to the latest poll from Quinnipiac University. While 58 percent generally oppose tolls on Connecticut highways, 57 percent would support them if the toll revenue were to be used to repair the state’s roads and bridges.


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