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News & Notes

Rendering of the Boston Public Market

Project for Public Spaces: Boston’s Public Market To Be a Hub for Local Food

PPS’ public markets team has just returned from Boston and is excited to announce that it has begun creating an implementation plan for the first floor of Parcel 7, a MassDOT-owned building that is slated to house a public market. Both local residents and vendors are energized by the decision to re-purpose Parcel 7 into a marketplace that will promote regional food, support the New England economy and foster social integration.

More on Boston’s new public market, set to open in 2015 at their website.

The American Conservative: What to Do With Waterfronts?

Many city waterfronts used to be seedy industrial spaces: Dickensian areas once characterized by water trade and commerce, marked occasionally by squalor or disrepute. But as cities have changed, grown, and gentrified, our waterfronts are changing too.

Nonetheless: changes, even good changes, have consequences. Waterfront projects—be they in wealthy, well-kept communities or in run-down spaces—need a sense of scale and structure in order to foster beneficial growth.

When I wrote about Alexandria’s waterfront project, New Urbanists Peter Katz and Philip Bess both offered a wealth of ideas and tips for excellent, human-scale waterfront development. There were a lot of things we discussed that I simply didn’t have room for in my story—so here are a few “bonus” comments from the two men. They explained five specific ways to help make a waterfront a good New Urbanist space:

I think the best piece of advise in this list is the building it for locals, not tourists. Tourists like local things, but locals do not always like tourist things.


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News & Notes

bikes-flickr

Photo (cc) Cristina Valencia

The Washington Post: Actually, cyclists make city streets safer

In the hysteria that predated the launch of New York’s bike-sharing system last year, many critics cried that the bikes would make the city’s streets less safe. All those cyclists wouldn’t be wearing helmets! They’d have no insurance! Accidents would skyrocket, and with them lawsuits against the city. Fatalities would triple!

The system’s safety record quickly turned out to be less sensational. But this was as bike advocates expected. Biking — as with walking — offers a prime example of the power of crowds. As more people bike and walk, cycling and pedestrian fatalities actually decline. That’s because the more people bike and walk, the more drivers become attuned to their presence (either on sidewalks or road shoulders), and the more cities are likely to invest in the kind of infrastructure explicitly meant to protect them (all of which further encourages more cyclists and pedestrians).


The Boston Globe: Boston’s parking solution is not more parking

Northeastern University professor Stephanie Pollack has studied gentrification around transit stops across the country, and she’s found that one of the biggest mistakes municipalities make is requiring too much parking. Pollack’s data show that, given the choice, residents will self-select: Heavy drivers choose to live in homes that provide parking, and residents who don’t own cars will choose transit-oriented, low-parking homes. This is especially true for renters. So the answer to an urban parking crunch isn’t adding supply. It’s recognizing that parking demand isn’t monolithic. Urban parking is a choice, and if Boston really does have too many cars already, the answer isn’t to build room for more.

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News & Notes

SPRAWL

Photo (cc) Mark Strozier

Project for Public Spaces: Mistakes by the Lake, River, or Sea

In cities around the world, waterfronts are showing new signs of life. Parcels once dominated by industry or highways are now opening up to redevelopment, offering enormous opportunities to create new public spaces and rejuvenate old ones. Too often, however, decision makers hungry for solutions latch on to uninspired design and development plans that constrict public use.


The Boston Globe: Worcester’s revival proving elusive

Ten years ago, Worcester’s downtown was going to hum. A consortium of city officials and investors pledged to turn 21 acres of blight into offices, stores, entertainment sites, and luxury residences. The $565 million project — to be privately and publicly funded — was named CitySquare.

Today, CitySquare is still a far-off promise, an unrealized revitalization effort that is all too common in the region’s old mill and manufacturing cities.

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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.

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News & Notes

Transportation for America: Newly approved transportation bill is a clear step backwards

Unfortunately, this final bill moves closer to the House’s disastrous HR7, which was too contentious and unpopular to garner enough votes to pass. This final negotiated bill has been called a “compromise,” but it’s really a substantial capitulation in the face of threats by the House to include provisions with no relevance to the transportation bill — the Keystone XL pipeline, regulation of coal ash and others.

As a result of this “compromise,” the bill dedicates zero dollars to repairing our roads and bridges, cuts the amount of money that cities and local governments would have received, makes a drastic cut in the money available to prevent the deaths of people walking or biking, and ensures that you have less input and control over major projects that affect you and the quality of your community.

Despite record demand for public transportation service, this deal cut the emergency provisions to preserve existing transit service, does little to expand that service and actually removed the small provision equalizing the tax benefit for transit and parking.

See also: Bike Portland: Why advocates are distraught over new transportation bill


Next American City: France Commits to Tramways, A Possible Model for the Future of Urban Rail

The appeal of tramways is easy to understand. The electric vehicles are silent, modern-looking and entirely flat-floor. Their tracks can be nestled in a lawn, creating a grass median through which trains run; if done right, they can be used as a tool to restore the beauty of an urban boulevard, rather than deface it, as do some light rail lines traveling on grade-separated track. In some cities, like Nice, Bordeaux and Orléans, vehicles have been designed with batteries that allow them to travel some distance (such as across a historic square) without the need for overhead messenger wire. In virtually every case, tramways in France have been specifically located on major bus corridors in order to replace overcrowded routes with higher capacity services.


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News & Notes

Bike Lane

Bike lane in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Shareable Cities: The Boom in Biking Benefits Everyone, Not Just Bicyclists

The core of their message is plain common sense: All Americans are better off because biking and walking foster improved public health (and savings in health care expenditures for households, businesses and government), stronger communities and local economies, less congestion, safer streets, lower energy use and a cleaner, safer environment.

While Congressional critics belittle bicyclists as a marginal, almost silly special interest group, others herald them as self-reliant citizens who get around without the need of imported oil and mega-highway projects that cost taxpayers billions. Instead of a boondoggle, continued funding to improve biking and walking conditions in the U.S. represents a sound investment that saves taxpayers money now and in the future.


Grist: Gallery walls: Cities embrace street art as a ticket to success

Launched this month and running through the end of May, Open Walls Baltimore is the city’s first officially sanctioned street art exhibition. Twenty walls throughout the Station North Arts and Entertainment District will serve as backdrops for murals that will be created over the course of several weeks. The walls to be painted are a mix of both private homes and commercial buildings, and represent both occupied and vacant structures. “It’s a museum for street art,” says the artist Gaia, who is curating the event.


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News & Notes

Portland Aerial Tram car

Portland Aerial Tram in station. Photo (cc) kevincrumbs.

News & Notes Looking to the skies for answers: a second look at gondola transit [The Toronto Star]

[Toronto] Mayor Rob Ford seems to favour tunneling transit underground in Toronto. But a growing number of international cities, including some in Canada, are casting their eyes to the sky at an unconventional mode that’s cheaper, cleaner and quicker to build than subways and light rail.


In fringe suburbs, has economics trumped the appeal of new? [Greater Greater Washington]

The recession and the burst of the housing bubble have stopped development in many fringe suburbs. With many urban neighborhoods on the rise, some suggest that fringe suburbs are on the decline. Has simple economics surpassed the appeal of “new” in the hinterlands?


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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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1959 film warns about suburban sprawl

This 1959 film, “Community Growth, Crisis and Challenge,” warns citizens, developers, and city officials of the dangers of urban sprawl. This historical artifact, co-sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Urban Land Institute ULI) provides alternative approaches to land development. The film was produced by the NAHB.

Via Urban Land Institute

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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

Laneways a resource for livable cities [The Star Phoenix]

Laneways [American = alleys] typically make up about 20 to 30 per cent of urban space – more than parks – yet about all they are used for is garbage pickup, utility lines and deliveries. They are often dirty, ugly and forbidding. In progressive cities a “livable laneways” movement is catching on and the greening of alleys is adding to the vibrancy of neighbourhoods, especially downtowns.


The Curious Case Of The Vanishing Chinese City [NPR]

“Anhui province is today announcing the cancellation of Chaohu city,” the broadcast said. It went on to explain that the city once known as Chaohu had been divided into three. The nearby cities of Hefei, Wuhu and Ma’anshan each absorbed a piece of territory. The broadcast confusingly described the move as “an inherent need at a certain level of economic growth.”

“Chaohu’s development hasn’t been good, but Hefei is industrializing and urbanizing. It needs land, so absorbing Chaohu will benefit Hefei. The government hopes that redistributing the land will improve the entire province’s GDP,” he says.

Central Falls on a Chinese scale.


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News & Notes

Okay, Fine, It’s War [The Stranger]

For cars we have paved our forests, spanned our lakes, and burrowed under our cities. Yet drivers throw tantrums at the painting of a mere bicycle lane on the street. They balk at the mere suggestion of hiking a car-tab fee, raising the gas tax, or tolling to help pay for their insatiable demands, even as downtrodden transit riders have seen fares rise 80 percent over four years.

No more! We demand that car drivers pay their own way, bearing the full cost of the automobile-petroleum-industrial complex that has depleted our environment, strangled our cities, and drawn our nation into foreign wars. Reinstate the progressive motor vehicle excise tax, hike the gas tax, and toll every freeway, bridge, and neighborhood street until the true cost of driving lies as heavy and noxious as our smog-laden air. Our present system of hidden subsidies is the opiate of the car-driving masses; only when it is totally withdrawn will our road-building addiction finally be broken.


Urban Office Momentum [UrbanLand]

The U.S. office market has shifted its geographic momentum this year, with central business districts (CBDs) and popular urban corridors recovering better than suburban markets. One significant sign of the improving health of CBDs has been a notable increase in corporations migrating from outlying suburbs to downtown or urban locations.

So far this year, major suburban-to-urban office relocations have been announced or are being contemplated in such varied markets as Chicago, Detroit, and Las Vegas, among other places.


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News & Notes

In wake of Ohio River bridge closure, NBC Nightly News examines the sorry state of U.S. bridges [Transportation for America]

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Over the weekend, NBC Nightly News ran a sharp piece on our country’s structurally deficient bridges, focusing on the data in the T4 America bridge report.

At least one person somewhere in the U.S. is driving over a structurally deficient bridge, according to T4 America director James Corless in a report on the woeful condition of our nation’s bridges on NBC Nightly News Sunday evening.

Brought into the national spotlight because of the recent closure of a highly-trafficked interstate bridge over the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky and the President’s scheduled appearance at a Cincinnati-area bridge this Thursday, more national media outlets (and Americans and their leaders in Congress, one would hope) are paying attention to the real-life impacts of underinvestment in infrastructure.


Debunking the Cul-de-Sac [The Atlantic Cities]

This is where it’s most apparent – from an airplane window – that American ideas about how to live and build communities have changed dramatically over time. For decades, families fled the dense urban grid for newer types of neighborhoods that felt safer, more private, even pastoral. Through their research, Garrick and colleague Wesley Marshall are now making the argument that we got it all wrong: We’ve really been designing communities that make us drive more, make us less safe, keep us disconnected from one another, and that may even make us less healthy.


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News & Notes

The Art and Science of Designing Good Cities for Walking [Streetsblog]

The article is a great read, but this photo is the best part to me:

Copenhagen sidewalk
Photo from Streetsblog

This Copenhagen sidewalk completely flips the script on the relationship between cars and pedestrians at intersections. Rather than there being a curb, the sidewalk ending, and pedestrians moved into the street via a crosswalk; the sidewalk continues across the road and it is the car that enters the pedestrians domain in order to move through the intersection. Why are we not making all minor side streets have this relation to the main?


Which part of Detroit really needs to be ‘right-sized’? [Grist]

Shrinking city? Really? What this tells me is that an even bigger problem for Detroit than the decline of the Rust Belt economy has been that the fringe of the region has been allowed, more than in most places, to expand, not shrink, and to suck the life and hope out of the inner city. So why aren’t the self-styled progressive responses to “the Detroit problem” addressing this critical aspect of the situation?

Maybe they are, but the only ones I hear and read are about “right-sizing” the inner city — demolishing vacant (and even some occupied) housing, letting vast areas revert to nature or farming, and so forth. Let sprawl, the cause of the problem, be someone else’s issue to address. But, in fact, the areas that are sprawling are where the “right-sizing” most needs to occur.


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News & Notes

From Here to There: A Creative Guide to Making Public Transport the Way to Go [Embarq]

Major automobile companies spend billions of dollars annually to advertise their products to customers. In 2009, General Motors alone spent $3.2 billion on advertising campaigns and overall marketing efforts for their products. Major auto companies collectively spent $21 billion worldwide and it looks like their investments are working. The number of private vehicles in Brazil more than doubled in less than a decade — 1.2 million in 2001 to 2.6 million in 2010. India experienced a 20-fold increase in the number of private motor vehicles in the last decade.

Such overwhelming statistics in favor of private vehicles, backed by billion dollar investments in advertising campaigns, point to the urgency with which public transport must catch-up in this competitive marketplace. Often times, so much energy is focused on the technical and financial aspects of getting public transit projects off the ground that branding and marketing become an afterthought.

In an attempt to give public transport a competitive edge, EMBARQ released a report on marketing and branding public transport.


Great places: smart density as part of economic flourishing [Grist]

Done right, density can be an engine of prosperity. Business executives should love great places just as much as hippies like me do.

Here’s the basic idea: When smart, skilled people start to gather in a place, the process becomes self-perpetuating. More smart, skilled people show up to be near the others. And the more smart, skilled people you get close together, the more you reduce transaction costs and increase “knowledge spillover,” which leads to commerce and innovation.


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News & Notes

U.S. Should Consider $1 Gas Tax, CEO Hess Says [Bloomberg]

The U.S. should consider imposing a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax and boosting average auto fuel economy to 50 miles a gallon to help avert a global energy crisis, the head of oil company Hess Corp. said.

“As demand grows in the next decade, we will not have the oil-production capacity we will need to meet demand,” Chief Executive Officer John B. Hess said in a speech today at CERAWeek, a Houston conference held by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. “The $140-per-barrel oil price of three years ago was not an aberration — it was a warning.”

Wha?


Taking Back the Street [The TransportPolitic]

The fact that street space is about more than just automobile movement has yet to be recognized by a big swath of the population.


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News & Notes

Sidewalk Rage: Mental Illness or ‘Altruistic Punishment?’ [Time Magazine | Healthland]

While it sounds like an oxymoron, altruistic punishment is basically how social norms get enforced. So when you expel a huffy “Excuse me!” to the rude sidewalk clogger in front of you who has stopped midstride to check his BlackBerry, you’re trying to discourage behavior that endangers other members of the society. It’s called “altruistic” punishment, because your efforts to protect civility come at personal cost with little chance of personal benefit: you are far more likely to get an obscene gesture or even a punch in the mouth than a thank you.


Nonprofit group wins funds for Olney Village rehab project [The Providence Journal]

Olneyville Housing Corporation has received key financing assistance from Rhode Island Housing that will permit the nonprofit organization to move forward with its Olney Village project.

The $10-million development project will turn 11 foreclosed properties and a large vacant lot in the Providence neighborhood into 39 affordable apartments, plus spaces for two organizations: the food pantry formerly located at St. Teresa’s Church and the Manton Avenue Project, a youth arts and theater program.


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