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News & Notes

One proposal to combat sea-level rise in Boston, convert Clarendon Street into a canal.

→ BostInno: 6 Visuals for How Boston Can Adapt to Rising Sea Levels

Though Boston has historically grown outwards into the ocean, with landfill expanding its boundaries over the decades, the threat of it being submerged back into the Atlantic is very real. Though the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has introduced numerous legislation in an attempt to curtail rising sea levels, as has the City of Boston, there needs to be a shift in thinking from how we can combat the effects of climate change to how we can adapt to them.

A new report published by the Urban Land Institute’s Boston/NewEngland branch makes a number of municipal design suggestions and reaffirms on several occasions that the time to act is now.

The study, called The Implications of Living With Water, examines four specified areas dangerously at-risk should Mother Nature decide to unleash her wrath in the form of a hurricane not unlike Sandy, which devastated the Eastern seaboard from New York City down to Florida.


→ BostInno: It’s Official: Allston Is Going to Get a New MBTA Station

Tuesday afternoon Governor Deval Patrick announced that previously derailed plans for West Station are back on. When West Station is complete, commuters will be able to make direct trips back and forth between Allston and Back Bay or South Station – without having to suffer the misery of the Green Line.

Harvard University will help pay for the new railroad station in Boston’s Allston neighborhood.

The MBTA has long range plans to do short run subway-like service on some of it’s commuter rail lines within areas in and close to Boston using smaller DMU trains.

If/when the MBTA moves ahead with plans for purchasing DMU’s, Rhode Island should be ready to get on board with them (sorry). DMU’s would be perfect for running higher frequency intra-state service in Rhode Island.


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Repost: Seeking a solution (to flooding and beach closures)

After the 2010 floods, I wrote about the public desire for some sort of solution to prevent future flooding. Spoiler, we can’t prevent future floods, but we can change what we’re doing to mitigate the impact of flooding.

We haven’t had a giant flood since, but related to the flooding problem is stormwater runoff polluting the bay. Bob Plain writes today on RIFuture about how Warwick has been heavily impacted by beach closures related to pollution caused by runoff.

Also today, Save The Bay is holding a press conference about the high number of beach closings this year. The AP’s Erika Niedowski tweets from the press conference:


That is to say, I believe, that the Providence Combined Sewer Overflow Project is working, but our paved and other impervious surfaces are still causing us harm.

In 2010 it was massive flooding which was supposed to be our wake-up call about the damage our built environment was doing to us. We did not learn many lessons it would seem from those floods, as a year later a smiling Cranston Mayor Fung celebrated the opening of a new Stop & Shop on the banks of the Pawtuxet.

Will we learn any lessons from our 2013 beach closures wake-up call?

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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

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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News & Notes

new-york-wetlands

Wetlands to provide a storm surge buffer for New York City. Image from Architecture Research Office

→ Fast Company: A Plan To Hurricane-Proof New York, With A Ring Of Wetlands

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there have been a flurry of ideas on how to deal with the prospect that storms of such magnitude may no longer be once-in-a-lifetime events but the most visible manifestation–if you’re not a polar bear–of the havoc wreaked by climate change.

Seawalls. Levees. The kinds of things the Army Corps of Engineers typically builds to protect low-lying places like New Orleans just aren’t feasible for a place like Manhattan, says Stephen Cassell, the cofounder of New York’s Architectural Research Office. “It’s hard to predict how bad climate change will be,” Cassell says, noting that Sandy’s devastating surge was nearly 14 feet, which wasn’t even the worst-case scenario. “What if we build a barrier and the surge goes beyond that?”

Yes Providence, what if the storm surge is higher than our storm surge barrier?


→ New York Post: Growing NY through smarter taxes

How might two-tiered taxation work? In New York, land and improvements in residential areas are subject to an 18.6 percent property tax.Thus, land with a taxable value of $10,000 would be taxed $1,860, and improvements with a similar taxable value of $10,000 would owe another $1,860, a total of $3,720. Under a two-tier system, the tax rate for land could jump by, say, 50 percent, while the rate for improvement could be halved.In that case, the owner would pay $2,790 in land taxes and $930 for improvements — keeping the total to $3,720.

But here’s the payoff: The owner’s tax bill under that scheme would climb another $2,790 if he purchased a second lot with a taxable value of $10,000 — but by only $930 if he used that money toward building.Thus, hoarding would be discouraged; development encouraged.

The two-tier property tax has a proven record of success. In 1979, Pittsburgh began taxing land at a rate six times higher than improvements. In the ensuing decade, building permits increased by 70.4 percent.

Via: Nesi’s Notes


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News & Notes

→ The Atlantic Cities: Why Mayors Should Run the Department of Transportation

The transportation issues of the 21st century will be less about building new highways and more about building new transit, about offering more multi-modal options to bike and walk. Transportation policy going forward won’t just be about moving people as far and as fast as possible, but about leveraging transportation in service of economic opportunity and livable communities.

So here is one modest thought about who understands all of this as Obama searches for LaHood’s successor: mayors. There have been three former mayors at the helm of the DOT in the department’s 46-year history, most recently former San Jose Mayor Norman Mineta. As the agency further modernizes its mission, who better to take us there than someone who comes from a city?

I’m not sure I could even understand a world where L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was not our next Transportation Secretary.


→ The New York Times: America’s Mid-20th-Century Infrastructure

Europeans visiting the Northeastern United States – and many parts of the East Coast — can show their children what Europe’s infrastructure looked like during the 1960s.


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News & Notes

Traffic

Photo (cc) Joe Shlabotnik

→ The Transport Politic: As the U.S. Presidential Election Begins in Earnest, a Study in Contrasts

What is obvious is that Mr. Ryan has a dramatically different view of the role of government than President Obama; indeed, his perspective on that which Washington should be concerned is a deep expression of the conservative movement’s success in pushing the GOP to the right.

In matters of transportation, this attitude would steadily decrease the role of the federal government in sponsoring infrastructure projects, especially those that cannot be sponsored entirely through user fees. It would discourage the consideration of negative externalities, such as pollution and congestion, in deciding what subsidies should be provided for alternative transportation — because its political ideology opposes government subsidies altogether. It would dismantle enforcement of federal environmental regulations, especially those that recognise climate change, and encourage the privatization of public services such as transit systems or parking meters. These are the very tangible implications of a Romney-Ryan presidency.


→ The Wall Street Journal: Streetcar Plans Plow Ahead

Proponents say the streetcars would boost economic growth and catch the fancy of younger generations.

“Kansas City’s downtown has bled jobs, people and buildings for decades,” said David Johnson, a 38-year-old engineer and co-founder of Streetcar Neighbors, a residents group that advocates for streetcars in that city. “We’re trying to reinvigorate the downtown.”

But others see a waste of tax dollars on projects that, they say, offer little more than a way to move downtown workers from their offices to lunch.


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News & Notes

→ Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy [The New York Times]

While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear – to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.


→ Some local greens on the Greenway [Boston.com]

A public food market in downtown Boston will feature up to 100 vendors of fish, produce, wine, cheese, and other local products in a facility that will feel more like a bustling European bazaar than a grocery store, according to an operating plan released by the state yesterday.

After years of false starts and dead ends, state agricultural officials unveiled a detailed layout and financial plan for the market that will operate out of a state-owned building on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway near Faneuil Hall and the Haymarket pushcart vendors.

Two words: Kennedy Plaza.
Two more words: The Arcade


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The Better World Challenge: Building A Better Coastline by Design

Better World Challenge LogoIn a world of intangibles- it’s easy to get carried away with design for the sake of design. The Better World Challenge breaks free from this bubble with a design competition addressing high-impact social issues. Open to all students, the challenge takes the Better World by Design conference beyond the weekend, engaging real issues, generating creative solutions and showcasing students’ innovative ideas.

THE CHALLENGE: As sea levels rise and climates change, coastal regions must now confront the challenge of preserving their culture and community in the face of increasing threats from coastal erosion, flooding and other natural disasters. The challenge: how do you build a better coastline?

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News & Notes

→ President proposes new jobs, renewed infrastructure

It doesn’t do anybody any good when so many hardworking Americans have been idled, yet so much of America needs rebuilding. That’s why I am announcing a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term.

Over the next six years we are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads–enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways–enough to stretch coast to coast. We’re going to restore 150 miles of runways and advance a next-generation air-traffic control system to reduce flight-times and delays for American travelers.

We used to have the best infrastructure in the world. We can have it again. We’re going to make it happen. This will create jobs and make our economy run better over the long haul.

[USDOT Fastlane Blog]

→ HafenCity: A Case Study on Future-Adaptive Urban Development

Hamburg…will allow flooding, but designed a major new part of the city to be resilient to high water, with water-proof parking garages, a network of emergency pedestrian walkways 20 feet above the street, and no residential units at ground level. Even the parks in this new Harbor City district are designed to withstand battering by waves and storm surge, either by floating as the waters rise, or by incorporating lots of hard surfaces that only need to be washed off when the waters recede.

[WorldChanging]

→ Car Capacity Is Not Sacred

It may well be that in today’s political climate, the only way cycling and pedestrian advocates will get the infrastructure they want is if they assure the masses that car travel will not be impacted in any way. But the trouble is, that position suppresses the reality that cars are in fundamental conflict with walking, biking, and transit.

[Publicola]

→ World Trade Center Complex Is Rising Rapidly

Two years ago, it was difficult to imagine how the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site of the trade center and is building most of it, could ever finish the eight-acre memorial in time for the 10th anniversary of the attack, on Sept. 11, 2011. Today, it is difficult to imagine what would stop them (though, given the site’s tortured history, the possibility shouldn’t be completely dismissed).

[The New York Times]

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News & Notes

→ California Drive-Thru Ban and the “Health in All Policies” Approach Baldwin Park, California, home of the country’s first drive-thru, has banned drive-thru construction for nine months in an effort to combat obesity. [The City Fix]

→ RI senators land Pawtucket River bridge money Rhode Island’s senators on Thursday announced a $2.3-million appropriation to help replace the Pawtucket River Bridge, the deteriorated structure carrying Route 95. [Projo 7 to 7 News Blog]

→ Q&A: How the Deepwater Wind deal works What it means for RI electricity customers [WPRI.com]

→ Berlin Eyes Exotic Trees in Response to Warming Weather Palm trees in Berlin? Not quite. But the German capital is testing trees from the south as native species show signs of struggling with increasingly warm temperatures. Instead of limes and oaks, the city could soon be filled with Judas trees and Daimyo oaks. [Der Spiegel]

→ Jarrett Walker talks to our staff about public transport branding (and more!) [TransLink (Vancouver, Canada) Buzzer Blog]

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News & Notes

→ State of Maine on board with high-speed rail; upgrade work on the popular Downeaster begins [FastLane USDOT]

→ Too hot to cook? A few heat-wave recipes [Projo Subterranean Homepage News]

→ Hours extended for Providence water parks all week [ProJo]

→ Forecast for the Future’s Cities: Hot! [The City Fix]

→ Gas taxes give us a break at the pump [USA Today]
“Holiday drivers will pay less than ever at the pump for upkeep of the nation’s roads — just $19 in gas taxes for every 1,000 miles driven, a USA TODAY analysis finds. That’s a new low in inflation-adjusted dollars, half what drivers paid in 1975.”

→ St. Louis’ Mayor Slay signs ‘Complete Streets’ bill, with promise of bikeable, walkable city [St. Louis Today]

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News & Notes

Proposed Fox Point mural sparks controversy

“It was ghetto stuff,” says George Goulart, owner of Aqua-Life Aquarium, a Wickenden Street store adorned by a coral reef-themed mural. “That was not the project that I had donated $500 to. I never imagined they’d propose such a surrealistic, cartoonish thing.”

“A mural there says this is a neighborhood in distress,” she says. “We have lived through cocaine dealing, bar brawls, vandalism and bullet holes through our windows. I certainly do not wish to be across from a school that, by design, will come to look like an abandoned subway car or a highway overpass in the Bronx.”

Oh my!

Stop calling it the Knowledge District

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m not really down with this movement to rebrand the Jewelry District as the Knowledge District. Have to agree with Mr. Kane on this one.

“Think of the success of the Meatpacking District and Soho [neighborhoods in New York City]. People love the idea of being tied to something historic,” said Colin Kane, principal at The Peregrine Group, an East Providence real estate firm that has done work in the district.

Especially so as Boston is looking to brand the Seaport area (which itself is a manufactured place name) as the “Inovation District.” Boston’s Seaport is one of those places where there is no there there and Innovation District seems a suitable name for a placeless place. The Jewelry District sets itself apart as a place that already exists and has a history.

Boston Looks At Plans To Deal With Rising Ocean

Ideas to solve the problem include raising the entrances to the city’s subway and highway tunnels, moving electrical equipment out of downtown basements and onto roofs and zoning changes that discourage construction in high-risk areas.

Something we should probably be thinking about too.

Not from the Onion! Black Rock, CO bans bikes on some city streets

“If you go down Main Street there is not much room for a bicyclist, a bus or a car, a truck,” said Mike Copp, Black Hawk city manager. “We are trying to promote safety.”

The city manager said the casino owners knew about the law and support it.

Well, as long as the casino owners are aware and on board.

Reinventing the Parking Lot

Designing livable cities

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