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News & Notes

→ Governing: Tree Population Falling in Cities

Trees have a tough life in cities. They face heavy stress from storms, insects, air pollution, road salt, low-quality soil and even reckless drivers. Yet the benefits of a healthy tree population are vast, from the numerous environmental qualities to the aesthetic value that comes with a green canopy in a city park or along a busy street.

There’s also the economic value of trees. Real estate experts say trees on residential and commercial properties can increase the value by as much as 23 percent. They can also cut the cost of cooling a home or building, and their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide makes them a great investment. According to the U.S. Forest Service, that value can average $2,500 per tree in urban areas.


→ Hartford Courant: After 2nd Wave Of Layoffs in 2 Years, Mohegans Look Beyond Gaming For Future Growth In State “We’re Going To Have To Seek The Appropriate Size For The Gaming Floor”

In the gaming industry, it’s always about the next big thing.

But this week’s layoffs at the Mohegan Sun casino — the second wave in two years — are about something else: the permanent downsizing of gambling operations in Connecticut, as major casinos face intensifying competition in neighboring states.

Mitchell G. Etess, chief executive of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, said Friday that the tribe’s future growth in Connecticut is likely to come from other attractions such as dining, shopping, lodging and entertainment.


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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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News & Notes

→ EU could ground short-haul flights in favour of high-speed rail [Guardian]

Short-haul flights across Europe could be replaced by high-speed rail under ambitious European Union proposals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 60% over the next 40 years.


→ True urbanism must come with a big tent [Greater Greater Washington]

Many urbanists seek greater density by revitalizing the built environment. These urbanists advocate for multi-use, human scale developments and multimodal transportation options, taking for granted that the in-migration and density that follow are good.

While density by itself naturally appeals to younger, more footloose residents, such architectural determinism casts a blind eye to those excluded from the benefits of city life when nothing changes but the built environment.

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News & Notes

→ Regional bike path would include Fall River, Cape Cod [South Coast Today]

Thus was born the SouthCoast Regional Bikeway Summit, a Feb. 15 event that will gather representatives from this region and others to discuss creating a regional bikeway. Sponsored by Mass in Motion, Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, UMass Dartmouth and the Council on Sustainability, the summit will begin at 12:30 p.m. at the Advanced Technology & Manufacturing Center in Fall River.

On the table that day will be a vision to create a bike trail network that extends from Swansea to Wareham and north to Taunton and Mansfield, ultimately connecting with paths in Rhode Island and on Cape Cod.

“From Providence to Provincetown, that’s the way we sort of coin it,” said [Mass in Motion coordinator Pauline C.] Hamel. “And we’re not just talking about biking. These are intermodal pathways for walking, pushing strollers, wheelchairs — there’s a lot more to it.”

→ European Urbanism: Lessons from a City without Suburbs [Planetizen]

While searching for policies and levers to stem new or to retrofit existing suburbs, it might also be instructive to look for precedents, real examples of a city as it would be on arrival at the “end of the suburban project”. Precedents not only would lure planners and people by the power of their images but could also become practical guides. A contemporary precedent, were it to be found, would have great convincing power since it would have dealt with the modern issues of mobility, accessibility and commerce.

Reassuringly, at least one such city does exist: one that has reformed its suburbs to the point where they are indistinguishable from the mother “city” – Athens, Greece. This article looks at this example, attempts to draw lessons and raises disquieting questions.

→ New evidence cities rule and suburbs drool [Grist]

Suck it, Thoreau: Looks like big cities are the way to go if you’re looking to lower your environmental impact. According to a new study published in the journal Environment and Urbanization, carbon emissions in cities are lower than in the car-dependent burbs.

→ R.I. DOT leaves highway logo fee discussion to legislature [Providence Business News]

After facing fierce opposition from business owners, the R.I. Department of Transportation has backed down from a plan to charge businesses whose logos appear on informational signs along the state’s highways.

→ Community celebrates arts center [Brown Daily Herald]

About 350 attendees explored the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts at its dedication ceremony last night, taking in the wide variety of student artwork — incorporating visual art, sound, video, dance and sculpture — that adorns the latest addition to the campus.
The building — which has been open for classes since Jan. 26 — will not be host to any one department, but will “manifest new modes of dialogue between different disciplines,” said Richard Fishman P’89, director of the Creative Arts Council and a professor of visual art, who has championed the building since long before it existed.

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European Suburbs Grow Smart, US Snoozes…

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Well, that’s essentially the theme of this NY Times article titled “Europe Imagines Suburbs Without a Car.” While trying to make the content “fair and balanced” in a Fox News-ish sort of way, it’s impossible to escape the tone and tenor of the article suggesting that the Europeans are waaay ahead of us on this. They have a deeper commitment and projects on the ground.

While not a deep examination of the problems here in the US with suburban smart growth, the article does do a good job introducing some of the challenges facing American advocates (restrictive zoning, lenders worried about the true market rates of such homes, public inertia, etc). With Duval Patrick in MA having already suggested that future development should be clustered in high pedestrian and mass transit areas, it’s time for RI and all other neighboring states to push on this as well…

I personally believe that for such an effort to work here, advocates need to drop the idea of advocating that Americans give up their cars for mass transit, which to me screams “Oooh! Lets start a culture war!” and seems doomed to fail. I think the goal needs to be minimalizing auto use and making mass transit rational and convenient for more people (which is where Duval Patrick is right that future schools, retail, workplaces, etc should be clustered around transit nodes, not in the middle of nowhere). For those looking for who in RI to support on such suburban sustainability issues, the Scott Wolf led GrowSmartRI is a great place to start.

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