Categories

Tag Archives | News & Notes

News & Notes

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.

Continue Reading →

0

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.

Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

→ 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.

Continue Reading →

2

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?


Continue Reading →

1

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.

Continue Reading →

0

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.

Continue Reading →

0

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.

Continue Reading →

0

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.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

City at Dusk, Boston (seen from Cambridge), Credit: David Fox

Boston at Dusk. Photo (cc) David Fox for Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

→ Bloomberg: Boston Booms as Workers Say No to Suburbs: Real Estate

“In the last 24 months, suburban tech firms have been looking to relocate into town,” said Andrew Hoar, president and co-managing partner at CBRE/New England, a joint venture partner with CBRE. “For many other markets it’s the other way around. The young graduates in this town don’t want to commute.”


→ The Atlantic Cities: The End of Federal Transportation Funding as We Know It

This month marks 120 years since the federal government got involved in funding road transportation. (Strange as it sounds, bicycle advocates did the bulk of the lobbying.) The original Office of Road Inquiry — today, the Federal Highway Administration — was a line item with a budget of $10,000. That was only enough money to build about three miles of road, and the office wasn’t empowered to build roads anyway, but states fought tooth and nail against giving the feds even this incredibly modest level of transport oversight.

Today the federal transportation program faces perhaps its greatest challenge since that shaky start. The most urgent problem is funding. The Highway Trust Fund that pays for America’s road and rail program is heading straight toward bankruptcy. For two decades politicians have refused to raise the 18.4-cents-per-gallon gas tax that populates the trust, even as it steadily loses purchasing power to inflation and fuel-efficient cars. The public has yet to embrace alternative funding sources — road fares or mileage fees on the user-pay side favored by economists; income taxes on the social welfare end — in part because people (mistakenly) believe they already pay a lot for transportation.

Continue Reading →

1

News & Notes


→ The Atlantic Cities: The Great Senior Sell-Off Could Cause the Next Housing Crisis

In the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, these consumers [baby boomers] were at their peak family size and peak income. And suddenly, there was massive demand in America from the same kinds of people for the same kinds of housing: big, large-lot single-family homes (often in suburbia). In those two decades, calculates researcher Arthur C. Nelson, 77 percent of demand for new housing construction in America was driven by this trend.

“Ok, if there’s 1.5 to 2 million homes coming on the market every year at the end of this decade from senior households selling off,” Nelson asks, “who’s behind them to buy? My guess is not enough.”


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

→ The Boston Globe: As cycling gains popularity, an anti-cyclist bias remains

No matter one’s opinion of cyclists or their riding habits, they are practically defenseless against the smallest sedan, never mind an SUV or a truck. Drivers simply have to take the high road — not only around cyclists who abide by the rules of the road, but even around selfish cyclists who don’t. Shaving a few minutes along the way can’t possibly outweigh the risk of maiming or killing a fellow human being.

→ Streetsblog: Wooing Suburban Drivers With Cheap Parking: A Losing Strategy for Cities

During the era of interstate highway construction, and the resulting demographic shift from city to suburb, municipalities worked to provide auto access to their downtowns, hoping this access would support economic growth. However, mounting evidence shows that greater automobile access came at the expense of the very economic vibrancy cities sought and does not help reduce roadway congestion. Costs associated with accommodating cars, particularly for parking, are outweighed by the long-term economic costs.

Continue Reading →

10

News & Notes

→ Human Transit: Countering The “Empty Buses” Myth — With Video!

The Pinellas County, Florida transit agency has done this video to help counter the impressions people get from seeing empty buses around the area. Seeing empty buses often causes people to complain that the buses are too big, are obviously not needed, should be replaced with smaller ones, etc.


→ Next City: That Tree on the Corner May Be Worth More Than Your Houses

Given the city’s annual expenditures of $850,000 on street tree planting and maintenance, Tree Pittsburgh concluded that the city received $3 in benefits for every dollar it invested in street trees. That math helped convince the city that upfront investment in trees was worthwhile, and so last summer Pittsburgh released a detailed master plan for maintaining and expanding its urban forest over the next two decades.

Continue Reading →

2

News & Notes

→ USA Today: New tax hikes eyed for roads, transit

States are scrambling to find taxes to pay for highway repairs and their public transit systems, including payroll and sales taxes, and raising taxes paid by gasoline stations.

The proposals, being kicked around in at least 13 states as governors lay out their legislative agendas for the year, come as states find revenue from stagnant federal and state gasoline taxes isn’t keeping up with highways, bridges and urban transit systems that increasingly are falling into disrepair.


→ Next City: For Obama, A Renewed Focus on Urbancentric Topics

One should never expect to glean much policy insight from inauguration speeches, but President Obama indicated today that his administration will seek to take action on climate change and immigration as it moves into its second term. And as always, cities will be the proving grounds for how future policies affecting these issues play out.

During this morning’s inauguration ceremony, Obama touched upon several domestic topics — including investments into sustainable industries — that should have urbanists and urban dwellers perking up their ears.

Though light on specifics, the issues spotlighted today will likely set at least part of the executive agenda for the next four years.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

→ GoLocalProv: Guest MINDSETTER™ Aaron M. Renn: My First Impressions of Rhode Island

Thinking about it this way, the basic problem of Providence (and by extension the rest of Rhode Island) becomes obvious: it is a small city, without an above average talent pool or assets, but with high costs and business-unfriendly regulation. Thus Providence will neither be competitive with elite talent centers like Boston, nor with smaller city peers like Nashville that are low cost and nearly “anything goes” from a regulatory perspective. There’s little prospect of materially changing either the talent/asset mix or the cost structure in the near term even if there was consensus to do so, which there isn’t. So expect struggles to continue, even if there’s a bit of lift from a change in national macroeconomic conditions.


→ DC Streetsblog: Will Massachusetts Tax Parking Lots to Fund Transit?

Here’s a transportation funding idea that aligns incentives nicely: taxing parking lots to pay for transit.

That’s what one former high-ranking state official is proposing for Massachusetts, ahead of a big announcement by the state Department of Transportation. Earlier this week Governing Magazine looked at the parking lot tax plan, part of a series of policy recommendations laid out by former Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary James Aloisi.


Continue Reading →

5

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


Continue Reading →

2

News & Notes

→ ecoRI News: Parking Lots Proliferate at Twin River

Getting a parking lot built in Rhode Island typically requires permits and review by state agencies and local officials. But in one case a large lot at Twin River Casino inexplicably appeared next to a wetland.


→ Urbanophile: Milwaukee’s Relationship with the Chicago Mega-City Revisited by David Holmes

I was intrigued by Aaron’s recent post “Don’t Fly Too Close to the Sun Piece” which focused on the relationship between Milwaukee and Chicago and the notion of whether “proximity to Chicago or another mega-city represents an unambiguous good,” or – as posited by Aaron – may actually be more of a curse than a blessing, and something that drains vitality instead of increasing it. This is a topic that interests me both from the perspective of a long-time resident of Milwaukee and as a long-time fan of the City of Chicago. There are likely unique combinations of factors to consider in this type of evaluation for every city pair – including the distance between the cities, the presence or absence of high speed and/or low cost transit options between the cities, and the relative size. Although I did not comment on Aaron’s post at the time of publication, I thought it would be useful to consider some specific examples of ways in which Chicago enhances or decreases Milwaukee’s economic vitality as both the article and many of the comments on Milwaukee-Chicago and other city pairs, seemed to lack specific examples of both positive and negative impacts.

Some Providence-Boston talk made its way into the comments.


Continue Reading →

0

News & Notes

→ DC Streetsblog: Obama Takes Another Swing at $50 Billion in Infrastructure Spending

President Obama is pressing for infrastructure investment again as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The president kicked off talks calling for an end to the debt ceiling, the extension of middle-class tax cuts, and $50 billion in infrastructure spending — a proposal that first arose last year as part of his ultimately unsuccessful American Jobs Act.

The Wall Street Journal called the President’s proposals “a particularly expansive version of the White House’s wish list” and “a potential starting point for negotiations.”

See also: Our favorite Obama quote from 2009


→ The Atlantic Cities: 10 Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

In Jeff Speck’s excellent new book, Walkable City, he suggests that there are ten keys to creating walkability. Most of them also have something to do with redressing the deleterious effects caused by our allowing cars to dominate urban spaces for decades. I don’t necessarily agree with every detail, and my own list might differ in some ways that reflect my own experience and values. But it’s a heck of a good menu to get city leaders and thinkers started in making their communities more hospitable to walkers.


Continue Reading →

0

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.


Continue Reading →

1