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News & Notes

Snowy evening in Helsinki

Snowy evening in Helsinki, image (cc) Niklas Sjöblom

→ The Guardian: Helsinki’s ambitious plan to make car ownership pointless in 10 years

The Finnish capital has announced plans to transform its existing public transport network into a comprehensive, point-to-point “mobility on demand” system by 2025 – one that, in theory, would be so good nobody would have any reason to own a car.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.


→ Old Urbanist: Going Driverless, or Not

A heated debate over the significance of Google’s so-called driverless car has been raging over the past several weeks. On one side of the aisle are those hailing it as a “revolutionary” technology that will dramatically alter personal mobility to the point of eliminating private car ownership. On the other side are those who reject the premise that the technology represents a groundbreaking shift, instead characterizing it as merely a “slightly different variation” on current transportation modes that is “so incremental that it epitomizes our national short-sightedness, and failure of imagination, when it comes to improving mobility in America.”

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Grow Smart RI Power of Place Summit – May 23, 2014

convention-center

Grow Smart RI’s biennial Power of Place Summit takes place this Friday, May 23rd at the Rhode Island Convention Center. Online registration closes at noon tomorrow then the price goes up for telephone or walk-up registrations, so register today!

Details from Grow Smart RI:


Join 500 state, local and federal officials, business and civic leaders, real estate professionals, investors, architects, developers, builders, farmers, and community stakeholders from across Rhode Island and New England for Grow Smart’s 5th biennial Power of Place Summit.

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News & Notes

armadillos2

Image from Cyclehoop

→ Fast Company: These Recycled Plastic Dividers Can Create A Bike Lane In A Second

Painted bike lanes are safer for cyclists than riding in the middle of the road, but bike lanes that are separated with a curb are even better. For example, one study found that cyclists in separated lanes had 80% fewer accidents than those in regular bike lanes. But it’s often tricky to convince city governments to take the extra, more concrete step of separation. One product from a U.K. design firm aims to help.

The “Armadillo” is a low-slung recycled plastic bump that can be installed along the edge of a bike lane. Set at an angle, the bumps allow enough space for bikes to ride back out into the street if they need to, something that isn’t as easy with a full concrete curb. But it still keeps cars out.


→ Mashable: London to Test ‘Smart’ Crosswalks

The system, called Pedestrian Split Cycle Offset Optimisation Technique (SCOOT) uses cameras to figure out how many people are waiting to cross the street and adjusts traffic signals accordingly. So if there is a large crowd waiting, for example, the signal to walk will last longer, giving the crowd more time to cross the street.

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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

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

→ Chicago Sun-Times: City wants to turn streets, alleys, plazas into outdoor fun spots

Designated Chicago streets, alleys, plazas and parking lanes may soon be painted blue with campy white footprints and filled with public seating, music, farmer’s markets and other seasonal activities.


→ GOOD: Young People Are Driving Less—And Not Just Because They’re Broke

I never got my driver’s license, which makes me an outlier in a nation of car lovers. But I have something in common with today’s teens. Recent studies show that American teenagers are far less likely to have their drivers’ licenses than their counterparts thirty years ago, and the trend continues to a lessening degree through the 20-something cohort. Today only 22 percent of drivers are under 30, down from a third in 1983.


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GrowSmartRI: Power of Place Summit – May 11, 2012

GrowSmartRI’s Power of Place Summit
Friday, May 11, 2012
Rhode Island Convention Center
Registration | Program/Agenda | Facebook

Beyond Austerity: Leveraging the Power of Place for a Stronger Rhode Island Economy

At Grow Smart, we believe there’s no reason why our dynamic state can’t have one of the nation’s most prosperous economies and continue to be one of the most charming and distinctive of the 50 states, given how much we have going for us.

Our 4th biennial Power of Place Summit on Friday, May 11th is a chance to celebrate and promote successful development and planning in Rhode Island. And it’s also an opportunity to examine the many ways to better leverage the Power of Place for a stronger state economy. The Summit brings together nearly 500 business and civic leaders, state and local officials, developers, architects, community activists, real estate professionals, planners and staff from many policy advocacy groups.

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News & Notes

Texting while walking, via Transportation Nation.


→ Planetizen: The Smart Math of Mixed-Use Development

Most of us – city planners, elected officials, business owners, voters, and the like – understand that the city brings in more tax revenue when people shop and eat out more. However, we often overlook the scale of the property tax payoff for encouraging dense mixed-use development.

Many policy decisions seem to create incentives for businesses and property developers to expand just about anywhere, without regard for the types of buildings they are erecting. In this article, I argue that the best return on investment for the public coffers comes when smart and sustainable development occurs downtown.


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News & Notes

Union Plaza tunnel from Waterplace

Waterplace Park, photo (cc) pvdEric from Flickr

→ Planetizen: The Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada

The results of our crowdsourcing project, in collaboration with the Project for Public Spaces, reveal not an objective Top 100 but instead a handful of communities passionate about their own local public spaces.

Number 66 on the list is Providence’s Waterplace Park, described by Project for Public Spaces.

Waterplace Park and the Riverwalk linked to it have a welcoming, well-thought-out design, which has become a focal point of the overall revitalization of Providence’s downtown area. But what really makes these great places is the wealth of activities they host. Between the annual Convergence art festival, the WaterFire installation which runs on selected nights most of the year, the Summer Concert Series, and long-term installations of public art, there’s always something going on – and all of these events are FREE.

Here’s what we said about Waterplace back in 2008 when the APA named it a Top 10 Public Place.


→ Streetsblog: The Power of Blogs and Social Media in Transportation Policy

Speaking to Streetsblog in July, attorney David Savoy gave bloggers credit for the granting of a retrial to his client, Raquel Nelson, who was charged with vehicular homicide after her four-year-old son was hit by a car as they attempted to cross a dangerous arterial road on foot. “I’ve never understood the power of the blogosphere,” Savoy said, “and now I’m humbled.”

Blogs? Hey, that’s us!

See also: Greater Greater Washington.


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News & Notes

→ SB 375 Draws Ire of Tea Party [California Planning & Development Report]

While the Tea Party movement has been trying to “take back America” on the national stage since the election of Barack Obama, Tea Party activists have also turned their attention to taking back California – and, specifically, Senate Bill 375, the 2008 law that seeks to combat climate change by promoting density in the state’s metro regions.

Environmentalists and many fans of cities hail SB 375 as an important step towards both curbing global warming and creating more pleasant cities. But Tea Party activists nationwide have fought against local and regional planning efforts, often invoking the United Nations’ “Agenda 21″ sustainable development effort as the enemy. In California, Tea Party representatives have increasingly turned up at regional and statewide planning sessions – including a recent SB 375 “One Bay Area” workshop in Concord, where they disrupted the meeting by challenging its premise.


→ America’s Gambling Craze: Playing with Fire [CitiWire]

What if all America were like Las Vegas, with gambling as near as the closest convenience store? Or if states offered blackjack, poker and other casino-style games on-line, as accessible as your personal computer?

“There is a legalized gambling avalanche in progress in America,” [Sam] Skolnik concludes.

And at a high price, he adds: newly legalized gambling opportunities invariably create new gamblers. A small but significant percentage get hooked. Gambling addiction leads to unemployment, bankruptcies, divorces, illnesses – and in some of the severest cases, suicide. Addicted gamblers, estimates Baylor University scholar Earl Gronois, cost the United States as much as $50 billion a year.


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News & Notes

→ A Preservationist’s Dilemma [Old Urbanist]

The use of historic preservation to preserve not only architecture, but the urban form itself, is not a new development. The National Register of Historic Places and municipal organizations have been listing and protecting entire neighborhoods, many of them consisting of low-density single-family detached residential homes, for decades now, the only change being that the National Register’s 50-year rolling cutoff for historic eligibility has lately encompassed the equally low-density but less architecturally noteworthy suburbs of the 1950s and early 1960s.


→ Philadelphia Takes a Revolutionary Approach to Stormwater [This Big City]

The current water system combines stormwater storage and sewerage. During periods of heavy rainfall it overflows, causing sewerage to flow through streets and into the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers. The project will replace as much as one-third of the city’s existing impervious cover – about 4,000 acres – with natural or porous surfaces that can intercept stormwater, store it, and then release it at a controlled rate.


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News & Notes

→ A Stupid Attack On Smart Growth [Planetizen]

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a well-financed campaign to discourage communities from considering smart growth as a possible way to conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions. They contend that compact development has little effect on travel activity and so provides minimal benefits. The NAHB states that, “The existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and GHG emissions.” But their research actually found the opposite: it indicates that smart growth policies can have significant impacts on travel activity and emissions.


→ Most Aging Baby Boomers Will Face Poor Mobility Options [Transportation for America]

By 2015, more than 15.5 million Americans 65 and older will live in communities where public transportation service is poor or non-existent, a new study shows. That number is expected to continue to grow rapidly as the baby boom generation “ages in place” in suburbs and exurbs with few mobility options for those who do not drive.

The report, Aging in Place, Stuck without Options, ranks metro areas by the percentage of seniors with poor access to public transportation, now and in the coming years, and presents other data on aging and transportation.


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News & Notes

→ National Association of Realtors Study Finds Americans Prefer Smart Growth Communities [Realtor.org]

Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56 percent of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. That’s according to a recent study, the Community Preference Survey, by the National Association of Realtors.


→ R.I.’s Transportation Funding System Needs a Fix [EcoRI]

When the House Committee on Finance met last week to debate the governor’s proposed transportation budget, the Coalition for Transportation Choices (CTC) was there to testify about the need for investment in a wider range of transportation choices. Here’s the statement that was delivered by CTC’s policy and advocacy chairman, Jerry Elmer of the Conservation Law Foundation.

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Putting a cone on the Rhode Island Mall

midlandmall 1970

Midland Mall in c.1970. Photo from Labelscar.com

Now that the owners have made it official, the Midland Rhode Island Mall will now, officially, be a dead mall, now what?

Speculation has long been that the holders of the master lease, Royal Ahold, parent company of Stop & Shop, was sitting on the property to keep the Walmart at the mall from expanding into a Supercenter, which would compete with area Stop & Shops. I imagine if Walmart wanted a Supercenter in the area, they’d find a way to open one. It’s not like Walmart has never closed a store before to open a bigger one.

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News & Notes

→ The Future of the Strip: Downhill [CitiWire]

From 1960 to 2000 there was an almost 10-fold increase in U.S. retail space, from four to 38 square feet per person. For many years retail space was growing five to six times faster than retail sales. Most of this space came in the form of discount superstores on the suburban strip.

The recession proved that we have too much retail. Strip centers are now littered with vacant stores. By some estimates, there is currently over 1 billion square feet of vacant retail space, much of which has to be re-purposed or demolished.

→ V.P. Biden Announces $53 Billion Commitment to High-Speed Rail [America 2050]

Today, Vice President Joe Biden announced the Obama Administration’s plan to dedicate $53 billion over the next six years to help promote the construction of a national, high-speed, intercity passenger rail network. Biden, a long-time rail advocate and Amtrak rider, was joined by USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood on Tuesday morning at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station where he outlined the plan.

See also: → The White House Stakes Its Political Capital on a Massive Intercity Rail Plan [The TransportPolitic]

→ Town centers are the new death panels [Grist]

Oh, those Teabaggers — always smacking you in the face with something unpleasant. This time it’s self-righteous outrage at the socialist erosion of our Freedom Sprawl. Because in the real America, you get in the car just to go to your kitchen.

→ CA Rep. Hunter: Roads Constitutionally Mandated, Transit Must Pay For Itself [DC.Streetsblog]

Streetsblog: I was just in an EPW Committee hearing and there was some talk about the fact that some small amount of money in the reauthorization historically gets used for things like bike trails. Some people think that’s waste; some people think biking is a mode of transportation. What do you think?

Duncan Hunter: I don’t think biking should fall under the federal purview of what the Transportation Committee is there for. If a state wants to do it, or local municipality, they can do whatever they want to. But no, because then you have us mandating bike paths, which you don’t want either.

SB: But you’re OK with mandating highways?

DH: Absolutely, yeah. Because that’s in the constitution. I don’t see riding a bike the same as driving a car or flying an airplane.

The Congressman refers to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution where it says that Congress shall have the power to “establish Post Offices and post Roads.” Further, he interprets the Interstate highway system as a form of military spending, which is also in the Constitution.

The Congressman presumably thinks that the mail cannot and is not transported by any manner other than road, and that the military cannot and will not use any mode of transportation other than the interstate highway system.

→ How Cars Won the Early Battle for the Streets Streetsblog

Judging by the recent media backlash against a few bike lanes in New York City, you would think that roads have been the exclusive domain of cars since time immemorial.

Not so, as Peter D. Norton recounts in his book, “Fighting Traffic — The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City.” When cars first entered cities in a big way in the early 20th Century, a lot of people were not happy about it — like angry-mob not happy.

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News & Notes

→ Tea Partiers See a Global Conspiracy in Local Planning Efforts [Next American City]

Some might say that the Tea Party’s platform contains some contradictions. It seems that they’re—like most people, really—willing to ignore those spending programs from which they benefit directly. The subsidization of suburbia is one of these beneficial spending programs, too. But the nature of this subsidy is so diffuse that it’s hard to point at directly—cheap petroleum, tax incentives for homeowners, DOT money that goes straight to highway funds, etc—so that it is now taken for granted, a mere part of the “American way of life” that only really existed for maybe two and a half decades following World War II.

→ The Motorist’s Identity Crisis [Planetizen]

When a Los Angeles bus rider asked presidential candidate George W. Bush about transit improvements in 2000, Bush responded, “My hope is that you will be able to find good enough work so you’ll be able to afford a car.” Bush was undoubtedly sincere. Like many Americans—probably most—he saw a bus (like a bicycle) as a nothing more than a pathetic substitute for a car.

→ Bike Lanes: A One-Way Path To Controversy [WBUR-Boston]

Then there’s Charlestown, which received its first set of bike lanes on Main Street this fall, only to have those lanes scrubbed from the street this week when the neighborhood council complained.

Maybe that is the solution to Atwells. Complain that people are getting hit by cars and have the city close the street. Wha? It wouldn’t work that way?

→ NYC Will Try Out Taxis to Provide Access-A-Ride Service [Streetsblog]

In a bid to cut costs and improve transit service for New Yorkers with disabilities, the MTA and the Taxi and Limousine Commission will pilot a program to have yellow cabs provide Access-A-Ride service. The program could benefit everyone who rides subways and buses too — if it proves effective at curbing the cost of Access-A-Ride, the federally-mandated service which has been eating up an increasingly large portion of the MTA’s budget and putting strain on other aspects of the transit system.

New York’s Access-A-Ride is similar to RIPTA’s RIde Program.

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News & Notes

→ Café Life, PDX Style: Recreating the Euro Bar

Nothing symbolizes the singular nature of European public life more than the ubiquitous neighborhood bar – a place where people of all ages gather for a variety of food and libations, including coffee, alcohol, ice cream and maybe a local delicacy or two such as anchovies or squid.

Such establishments, also known as snack bars or café-bars depending on the country, are more than community hangouts. Featuring ample outdoor seating, the Euro style bar is also an anchor for the lively street culture that is the envy of many an American urban planner.

[Enzyme PDX]

→ ‘Piano Building’ tunes up

On the intersection’s northeast corner, Rhode Island-based CVS wanted to tear down existing businesses and homes to build a new store that neighbors criticized as not fitting with Dundee’s character.

That’s our CVS, destroying neighborhoods and soiling our state’s good name coast-to-coast. Good on ya. Oh, and in Norwich, CT they’re tearing down a building and 2 houses, and regrading a hill to build a 12,900 square foot store on a 1.78 acre site.

[Omaha World-Herald]

→ What Is It About 20-Somethings and Cars?

American young adults are driving less, says a recent piece in AdvertisingAge. Only 77 percent of 19-year-olds today have their license, compared to 92 percent in 1978. And the proportion of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 fell five percent in 2009, compared to 2001.

[The City Fix]

→ NYS Gov. David Paterson signs monumental smart growth bill into law
[Smart Growth America]

→The Childish Folly of Dubai
[UrbanPhoto]

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