In response to the article, “The year ahead: A top 10 list of transportation projects to watch“, I have to say Iâ€™m quite disappointed. Not by the content per se, but the title.
Of the 10 projects listed, only 4 are truly â€śtransitâ€ť projects; the other 6 are highway projects/roadway improvements (all 10 of which are â€śtransportationâ€ť projects). The problem that drives some of us in the design and planning business crazy is that it is precisely because these two concepts are conflated, that we miss the opportunity to truly assess progress for more sustainable, congestion-reducing transportation solutions. Words matter because there is so much baggage attached to them.
While, broadly speaking, â€śtransitâ€ť is the movement of something from one place to another, it should be understood more narrowly in these conversations. And transit is not just â€śmass-transitâ€ť, it should cover bikes, buses, light rail, heavy rail, bus-rapid-transit, or any tool to decrease travel by one driver in one car; so maybe we add HOV, or car/van-pooling. Transportation, then, should cover these, plus improvements for the average driver. And a separate argument should be pointed out that roadway improvements â€“ adding lanes, widening roads, installing interchanges â€“ rarely actually improve traffic flow; they typically just fill up with more cars: if you pave it, they will drive.
We fight for hard-earned victories when we can persuade policy makers to think more like transit planners rather than traffic engineers and require transportation departments to focus more on the transit side of the equation. Given the 4/6 ratio of the projects youâ€™ve mentioned, we still have a lot to do. Thus, I think the article â€“ in pointing out the pending projects that will impact our daily commute â€“ you could have been more aggressive in showing that the projects that really could positively influence the environmental impacts and congestion issues are not getting the attention they deserve. For example, in our jurisdiction, the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Purple Line, and the Bus Rapid Transit Amendment to the Master Plan of Highways. These plans, and similar ones in surrounding jurisdictions need more attention and a more critical eye from journalists; we canâ€™t pave our way out of our congestion problem and we need everyone to look at the issues more carefully and analytically.
Apparently, however, the print edition was corrected for the online version; but I think my argument is still valid.Â But to prove I wasn’t going nuts:
- A report from the Brookings Institution: restrictive (read, â€śexclusionaryâ€ť) zoning may lead to lower test scores for kids.
â€śAs the nation grapples with the growing gap between rich and poor and an economy increasingly reliant on formal education, public policies should address housing market regulations that prohibit all but the very affluent from enrolling their children in high-scoring public schools in order to promote individual social mobility and broader economic security.â€ť
- An analysis by US Today shows the recession accelerated trends towards urbanization.
â€śThe shift to more urban housing development has been growing slowly during the past couple of decades and thanks to the recession and housing crash, this trend has accelerated. It is probable that the trends that the USA Today analysis points to are the precursors to a long-term shift in suburban development resulting in more in-fill, close-in development and far less growth on the outer edges of metropolitan areas.â€ť
- Downtown Cleveland is growing while suburban/exurban growth slows or reverses course.
â€śTake the latest population figures in the 5 county metropolitan area [around Cleveland]. From 1990 to 2010, the City of Cleveland shrank, as did many of the suburban areas of Cuyahoga County. The growth mostly occurred in the increasingly exurban fringes of the metro, as well as on the edges of Cuyahoga County. Except there is one outlier: downtown Cleveland. Over the last two decades, the neighborhood’s population grew 96%, with residential totals increasing from 4,651 to 9,098. It was the single largest spike of any neighborhood, suburb, or county measured for the two decades under study.â€ť
Defining Neighborhoods through Data Tracking
â€śâ€¦a research project called Livehoods, from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, aims to shed some light on how people really inhabit their citiesâ€”and how this changes over timeâ€”by mapping data collected from 18 million Foursquare check-ins that have been sent out via Twitter.â€ť
ITDP Mexico Takes on Traffic
Rethinking the National Mall
â€śMany of the worldâ€™s top landscape architects and architects presented their designs for three grand projects on the National Mall: Constitution Gardens, Union Square, and the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theatre. The competition is fierce because all the design proposals offer elegant, exciting, innovative ideas for solving sticky ecological, security, and public space design challenges.â€ť
Creativity & Cities
Jonah Lehrer’s ambitious new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, takes a fascinating dive into the world of creativity and how it all works, not to mention devoting a chapter entirely to cities.
Lehrer recently took some time to chat with Atlantic Cities and expand on his ideas concerning the nexus of creativity and cities.
Urban agriculture has a number of advantages for communities, including:
- improving the quality of the urban environment through the introduction of green space and, thus, a reduction in pollution and global warming;
- supporting the reduction of energy use through local production of food, including savings in transportation costs and food storage. Purchasing produce from farmers within a 100-mile (160-km) radius reduces automobile emissions and eliminates packaging waste;
- helping close the urban loop system characterized by importation of food from rural zones and exportation of waste to regions outside the city or town;
- incorporating use of wastewater for irrigation and organic solid waste for fertilizer;
- promoting alternative development options, such as cultivation of vacant urban land for agricultural production;
- helping build equitable responses to food needs by providing local food sources for low-income communities to improve access to fresh foods;
- invigorating the community by incorporating local ideas and engagement; and
- incorporating a cross-sector approach to look at long-term, systemic solutions to problems in cities with the goal of improved health and wellness.
Guess whoâ€™s ahead of Portland? And whoâ€™s right behind?!
He makes a point that’s long frustrated me. Sooner or later, we all walk, even if it’s only from the parking lot to the mall. Something inside us loves to stroll. What is a mall if not a re-creation of an urban boulevard and witness the success of retail neo-main streets.
But we spend so little of our time, money, and thought on establishing and securing pedestrian environments. Even the fact that I describe it as a “pedestrian environment,” as a place apart and separate, rather than woven through our lives and communties–speaks to our separation from our feet.
Check out what Vanderbilt has to say…
…imagine if hundreds of thousands of people didn’t take Metro everyday. That trip to Tyson’s Corner malls would be a Christmas time nightmare everyday.
A recent WMATA study modeled the region without transit to measure economic benefits–property values increased, jobs in a regional economy, freeway lanes and parking garages not built.
It’s clear that quality of life comes from a complex set public and private investments and variety in housing, transportation, recreation can feed that complexity.