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News & Notes

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lanes 462

Protected bike lane in Vancouver, Canada. Photo (cc) Paul Krueger

→ USA Today: More small towns thinking big

These small but growing towns are applying some of the most forward-thinking planning tenets to create true downtowns, arts districts and new traffic patterns that alleviate congestion and encourage walking. They’re changing zoning to build city-style condos and apartments above stores. And they’re getting away from big parking lots and strip malls by putting parking underground and behind stores. Often, the downtowns are created around a new city hall, transit stations, arts center — or all three.

“We’ve got to start designing our cities for people first and automobiles second,” says Carmel Mayor James Brainard, a lawyer who picked up some European design sensibilities while studying in England.


→ American Planning Association: Milwaukee’s transit debate: Streetcar desire vs. disaster

Mayor Tom Barrett is the prime mover behind Milwaukee’s plan to build a brand-new streetcar system. Bright, modern vehicles would traverse a two-mile route through the city’s East Side, downtown and historic Third Ward, a former warehouse area now popular for its shops and restaurants.

Barrett believes flashy streetcars can revitalize Milwaukee’s city front and points to the popularity of the 10-year-old system in Portland, Ore. Today’s streetcars, Barrett says, are more about attracting attention than providing transportation.

“I look at this as an economic development tool,” Barrett told the Tribune. “Look at Portland. That system has aided in spurring development and growth, which is what all communities are looking for now.”


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News & Notes

→ StreetFilms: San Francisco: Reclaiming Streets With Innovative Solutions

Tom Radulovich, the executive director of the local non-profit Livable City, describes the recent livable streets achievements in San Francisco as “tactical urbanism” — using low-cost materials like paint and bollards to reclaim street space.

That willingness to experiment was a big reason that the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) gave its 2012 Sustainable Transport Award to San Francisco (an honor shared with Medellín, Colombia). In this Streetfilm we profile the innovations that earned SF recognition from ITDP.


→ ArtInfo: Pop-Up Populism: How the Temporary Architecture Craze is Changing Our Relationship to the Built Environment

America is fast becoming a pop-up nation. From sea to shining sea, her cities have been swept up in the frenzy for temporary architecture: Brooklyn vendors sell their wares in artfully arranged shipping containers; Dallas’s Build a Better Block group champions DIY painted bicycle routes and pop-up small businesses; architects in San Francisco are repurposing metered parking spaces into miniature parks; residents in Oakland, California rallied to create an entire pop-up neighborhood. The phenomenon has even climbed its way from grassroots origins to the agendas of local authorities: D.C.’s office of planning sprouted a Temporary Urbanism Initiative, while New York’s transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is implementing what she calls “Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses” with her fast-acting interventions favoring pedestrians and cyclists. The temporary, so it seems, is overtaking the permanent. But how permanent is our current fascination for the temporary?


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News & Notes

→ The Atlantic Cities: The Simple Math That Can Save Cities From Bankruptcy

We tend to think that broke cities have two options: raise taxes, or cut services. Minicozzi, though, is trying to point to the basic but long-buried math of our tax system that cities should be exploiting instead: Per-acre, our downtowns have the potential to generate so much more public wealth than low-density subdivisions or massive malls by the highway. And for all that revenue they bring in, downtowns cost considerably less to maintain in public services and infrastructure.


→ The Hill: Transportation advocates see little hope for pre-election long-term highway bill

Transportation advocates are losing hope for passage of a highway bill before the election following Congress’s decision this week to pass another short-term funding extension.

Instead of approving the multi-year transportation bill that passed the Senate, lawmakers adopted a temporary extension of legislation that already funds road and transit projects. The short-term measure, signed Friday by President Obama, extends federal transportation funding until June 30.


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News & Notes

Trujillo Streetlife

Trujillo, Honduras’ future Hong Kong? Photo (cc) Wanaku.

→ The Economist: Hong Kong in Honduras

Trujillo is a sleepy backwater, but one with a lot of history. The beautiful bay surrounded by lagoons and mountains on the northern coast of Honduras was where Christopher Columbus set foot on the American continent during his fourth voyage in 1502. But in a few decades, it might be known for something entirely different: being the Hong Kong of the West. Scores of skyscrapers and millions of people could one day surround the natural harbour. The new city could dominate Honduras, today one of the poorest and most crime-ridden countries in Central America, becoming a magnet for most of the region’s migrants.

The prospect may sound fantastic, but this is the goal of an ambitious development project that Honduras is about to embark upon. In a nutshell, the Honduran government wants to create what amounts to internal start-ups-quasi-independent city-states that begin with a clean slate and are then overseen by outside experts. They will have their own government, write their own laws, manage their own currency and, eventually, hold their own elections.


→ The New York Times: In Madrid’s Heart, Park Blooms Where a Freeway Once Blighted

The park here, called Madrid Río, has largely been finished. More than six miles long, it transforms a formerly neglected area in the middle of Spain’s capital. Its creation, in four years, atop a complex network of tunnels dug to bury an intrusive highway, also rejuvenates a long-lost stretch of the Manzanares River, and in so doing knits together neighborhoods that the highway had cut off from the city center.


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News & Notes

Fare Box

Photo (cc) Nick Bastian

News & Notes→ Make bus service free [New Urbanism Blog]

It’s true. Nothing is ever free. But my proposition is that the basic city bus service that so many places fund would be better off as a basic municipal service, like fire or police. Fund it through a dedicated tax of some kind – sales, property, etc, and don’t bother to charge for the ride itself. Allow me to elaborate.


→ The bike whisperer [RedEye Chicago]

The wheels of change are in motion for city cyclists thanks to new initiatives from [Chicago] Mayor Emanuel. In the works are 100 miles of protected bike lanes, increased bike parking and a widespread bike-share program that could put Chicago on the map as one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities.

Enter Gabe Klein, the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner, who took office this year.


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News & Notes

Chicago Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Mannequin on Chicago’s Wacker Drive part of that city’s pedestrian safety campaign. Photo from CDOT’s Facebook page.

News & Notes→ Mannequins stand up for safety along Wacker Drive [The Chicago Tribune]

Mannequins representing dead pedestrians were placed along Wacker Drive downtown on Tuesday to focus public attention on fatal crashes in Chicago involving vehicles and people on foot, officials said.

“You’ll notice that some of it is sort of hard-hitting, some of it may even be a little bit shocking,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “But we want to remind people that when you are frustrated behind the wheel, these are real people and real lives we are talking about here. Please take that into consideration when you are driving, when you are riding your bike and when you are walking to look out for those around you.”


→ What works in cities: Why placemaking requires passion even more than big budgets [YongeStreet]

Before Detroit’s Campus Martius Park opened in 2004, many of the historic buildings around it had emptied. Major department stores were vacant or torn down.

To turn it around, the mayor’s office established a task force that studied the best public spaces in the world and quizzed the locals on how they would use a new park. After a $20-million investment, the park started buzzing year-round with music, a bistro, and ice skating under colourful lights and a giant Christmas tree. The park has since attracted several new corporate headquarters, new condos and a whopping one million park visitors each year.


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News & Notes

→ Could cities’ problems be solved by urban acupuncture? [The Guardian]

“Urban acupuncture is a surgical and selective intervention into the urban environment,” said Los Angeles architect and professor John Southern in an interview, “instead of large scale projects that involve not only thousands of acres, but investment and infrastructure that municipalities can no longer provide.”


→ Urban Green Space Key in Improving Air Quality [The City Fix]

Trees on a street in Seoul

Photo (cc) erasmusa

A new study out of the University of Kent in the UK found that a 10 percent increase in urban tree coverage in mid-size cities, like Leicester, can absorb about 12 percent of carbon emissions, contributing to cleaner air. The study is yet another addition to the argument that any sound urban planning or transit policy to improve air quality must be supplemented with green spaces.


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Photos and thoughts on today’s RIPTA Riders Rally

RIPTA Riders Rally
RIPTA Riders Rally today at Kennedy Plaza

This afternoon in Kennedy Plaza there was a rally of RIPTA Riders speaking out against proposed service cuts. The rally was well attended, probably 50+ people.

RIPTA Riders Rally
Channels 10 and 6 talking to RIPTA CEO Charles Odimgbe

I’m glad the Sierra Club of Rhode Island and others organized this rally and have been pushing hard on this issue, however…

I’ve had this thought in the back of my head throughout this whole service reduction process, and it is not a pretty thought, it is a thought about which I simply have to be blunt…

No one cares about poor people.

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What should go there? Providence Place Borders Edition

Borders Books at Providence Place

Image from Google Street View

Now that it is official, Borders will be liquidating all of their stores, it is time to play our favorite game; What Should Go There?

The Providence Place Borders will be closing down, creating a large hole in the retail environment at the mall. So, what should go there, Barnes & Noble would be an obvious pick, how about an arcade? Indoor roller derby? Reptile house? Russian sub?

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