Greater City Providence

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.

The New York Times: Lessons for U.S. From a Flood-Prone Land

But Dutch officials and hydrology experts who have examined the contrasting systems of the two countries say that replicating Dutch successes in the United States would require a radical reshaping of the American approach to vulnerable coastal areas and disaster prevention.

The Dutch “way of thinking is completely different from the U.S.,” where disaster relief generally takes precedence over disaster avoidance, said Wim Kuijken, the Dutch government’s senior official for overall water control policy. “The U.S. is excellent at disaster management,” but “working to avoid disaster is completely different from working after a disaster.”

The Washington Post: World Bank warns of ‘4-degree’ threshold of global temperature increase

The World Bank is urging stepped-up efforts to meet world carbon-reduction goals after looking at what it says would be the catastrophic consequences if average world temperatures rise more than 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

In what World Bank President Jim Yong Kim acknowledged was a “doomsday scenario,” a new study by the organization cited the 4-degree increase as a threshold that would be likely to trigger widespread crop failures and malnutrition and dislocate large numbers of people from land inundated by rising seas.

Gap Filler

Out of the tragedy of the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes come some great ideas for temporarily activating spaces made vacant by buildings which needed to be demolished due to the earthquakes’ damage.

Gap Filler is a creative urban regeneration initiative started in response to the September 4, 2010 Canterbury earthquake, and revised and expanded in light of the more destructive February 22, 2011 quake. It is now administered by the Gap Filler Charitable Trust.

Gap Filler aims to temporarily activate vacant sites within Christchurch with creative projects for community benefit, to make for a more interesting, dynamic and vibrant city.

Gap Filler will see vacant sites – awaiting redevelopment as a result of the many earthquakes or otherwise – utilised for temporary, creative, people-centred purposes. We work with local community groups, artists, architects, landowners, librarians, designers, students, engineers, dancers – anyone with an idea and initiative! We lower the barriers, by handling the legal contracts and liability insurance, to help ideas become a reality.

See also: Christchurch Quake Group on Flickr.

Systemic Failure: Sharrows Are Not A Bike Plan

Once upon a time, sharrows might have seemed like a good idea for special situations. But now they are a way for communities to do “pretend” bike plans. Just stripe a bunch of sharrows on streets and voila! we have a bike network — without having to make messy political compromises on parking and lane removal. A great way for city councils to pretend to care about bicycling, without actually accomplishing anything.

The question for a city like Providence, where many of our streets are actually too narrow for anything other than opposing lanes of automobile traffic, how do you create infrastructure better than simply painting sharrows?

Providence is having a public workshop regarding its Bike Plan on December 13th.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.

1 comment

  • Good point about Mayors for DOT Secretary! Mike Bloomberg comes to mind for this as he has stressed transportation in his years as NY Mayor. His adminsitration has supported bike lanes and pedestrian spaces, advocated for a fee on motorists entering the congested central city and other innovative ideas such as support for the High Line. Being term limited out and a supporter of the President, it is at least a possibility, though he hardly needs a job.
    A longer shot because he probably would want to continue as Governor, is Linc Chafee (who of course also backed Presdent Obama) who has also been a successful Mayor as well as US Senator, has long been interested in transportation, especially commuter rail and its associated land use implications as well as taking steps to more adequately fund RIDOT maintenance by reducing its debt service obligations.

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