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News & Notes

→ A Downtown Hub Is Missed, and a Replacement Is Stalled

Two years have passed since the demolition of Filene’s Basement, where generations of Bostonians tussled over cut-rate designer clothes in a dingy but fiercely loved downtown store.

In its place, a $700 million tower was to rise with offices, condominiums, a hotel and a new Filene’s for the bargain hungry. But the recession halted the project, possibly for good, leaving Boston with a deserted construction pit in one of its busiest neighborhoods.

In Providence, R.I., a crumbling brick facade is all that remains of the landmark Providence National Bank building, which was razed in 2005 to make way for a now-canceled residential tower.

[The New York Times]

→ Providence National Bank, a sign of The Times

Ted Nesi at WPRI takes a look back at the history of the Providence National Bank in response to the above New York Times story.

[WPRI]

→ on pedestrian malls: look to australia

First of all, don’t compare North America to Europe. The history and ambient density and urban momentum are all too different. Compare North America to Australia, where the history and economics are similar but a cultural difference led to a different outcome.

[Human Transit]

→ The Rise of ‘DIMBYism': Open Data Is the Key to Smarter Communities
[The Huffington Post]

→ Obama’s Infrastructure Proposal: A Good Start That Needs Work
[The City Fix]

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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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Obama Administration to shift transportation policy to highlight livability


Mattapan trolley photo (cc) SignalPAD

USDOT Press Release:

Obama Administration Proposes Major Public Transportation Policy Shift to Highlight Livability
Changes Include Economic Development and Environmental Benefits

In a dramatic change from existing policy, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today proposed that new funding guidelines for major transit projects be based on livability issues such as economic development opportunities and environmental benefits, in addition to cost and time saved, which are currently the primary criteria.

In remarks at the Transportation Research Board annual meeting, the Secretary announced the Obama Administration’s plans to change how projects are selected to receive federal financial assistance in the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) New Starts and Small Starts programs. As part of this initiative, the FTA will immediately rescind budget restrictions issued by the Bush Administration in March of 2005 that focused primarily on how much a project shortened commute times in comparison to its cost.

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”

The change will apply to how the Federal Transit Administration evaluates major transit projects going forward. In making funding decisions, the FTA will now evaluate the environmental, community and economic development benefits provided by transit projects, as well as the congestion relief benefits from such projects.

“This new approach will help us do a much better job of aligning our priorities and values with our transit investments” said FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff. “No longer will we ignore the many benefits that accrue to our environment and our communities when we build or expand rail and bus rapid transit systems.”

FTA will soon initiate a separate rulemaking process, inviting public comment on ways to appropriately measure all the benefits that result from such investments.

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The remarks can be found at here.

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New favorite Obama quote

obamasprawl

In a question and answer session today in Ft. Myers, Florida, President Obama stated the following in response to a question about transportation and infrastructure in the stimulus package:

It’s imagining new transportation systems. I’d like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to invest in mass transit because potentially that’s energy efficient. And I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally”

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody” recognizes that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation.

It is very exciting to hear a President say that. I’m going to keep this quote in my back pocket just in case we don’t see a change in the way we design our communities.


Previous favorite Obama quote: “What do you think ‘stimulus’ is? It’s spending – that’s the whole point! Seriously.”

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Get your stimulus on (or not)

Stimulus, Stimulus, Stimulus!!!

My email’s been jammed with all manner of Senate Stimulus information. I’ve had no time to digest it all so excuse me while I throw a few things against the wall here and allow you all to digest it yourselves:

In the Boston Globe Edward L. Glaeser suggests that infrastructure should be removed from the Stimulus package and get a bill of it’s own:

PRESIDENT OBAMA is the first urbanite in the White House since Teddy Roosevelt. He certainly knows the vital role that cities play in America. Yet despite the Chicagoan on Pennsylvania Avenue, infrastructure spending in the House stimulus bill follows a business-as-usual pattern that discriminates against density. The only way to break that pattern is to take non-repair-related infrastructure spending out of the stimulus, and craft a separate bill that looks beyond the current recession. Major infrastructure projects, especially in cities, cannot be done quickly.

Transportation For America has posted the following letter to the Senate:

Re: Preserve transit investment in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Dear Senator,

The undersigned organizations and public officials write to urge the Senate to oppose any efforts to decrease funding for our nation’s public transportation network in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

A proposed reduction of $3.4 billion in transit funding would cut more than 100,000 jobs from the proposal. The bill currently includes $8.4 billion for pressing transit improvements which would save more than 10 million barrels of oil per year and create or preserve more than 250,000 quality jobs.

The transportation sector is responsible for a third of the nation’s global warming pollution, and two-thirds of domestic oil consumption. Public transportation saves more than 4 billion gallons of fuel each year, and produces less than a third of the pollution of comparable passenger car travel. Transit service is critical for the millions of people who depend on it to reach jobs. Transit provides a low-cost transportation option for households at all income levels, seniors and workers with limited mobility. Finally, in a national poll released earlier this month by the National Association of Realtors and Transportation For America, 80% of respondents said stimulus funds should not only create jobs, but also reduce oil dependence, increase transportation options and improve the environment.

We thank you for your leadership on this issue and urge your support for this important investment that will help build a cleaner, safer, healthier and stronger America.

Design New Haven has an excellent rundown on what’s been happening today.

Bike Portland has the scoop on Senator Jim DeMint’s (R-SC) amendment to prohibit funding for “bicycle routes” in the stimulus bill:

“When people see bike trails and hiking trails and golf courses, they know this is not designed to stimulate the economy and create jobs. It’s just basically special-interest pork barrel spending.”

Also in my mailbox (sorry I have no linkable source for this at this time):

US Senate Adopts Coburn Amendment

Earlier today, the U.S. Senate voted to accept, by a vote of 73-24, an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) which states, “None of the amounts appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any casino or other gambling establishment, aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project.”

This amendment prohibits any federal stimulus spending on museums, theatres, and art centers. The Senate is expected to pass the final Senate version of the stimulus package later tonight. A House-Senate conference committee will iron out the discrepancies between the two versions of the stimulus bill next.

Looks like no polar bear exhibit for Providence.

Ok, I’m confused, exhausted, and my head hurts. I’m going to go find some beer. Drinking beer stimulates the economy doesn’t it?

Edited to add:

The President speaking about the economy and the stimulus package yesterday:

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