Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm Sick and Tired of this 100-mile Commute


Peak VMTs...and it plateaued two years ago before the most recent hikes in energy costs. We've simply spread ourselves too thin and can't spreads no more.

A Good Gradjamatation Speech Makes Me All Warm and Tingly Inside

Samantha Power "Be a Good Ancestor" to Pitzer-Clarmont College Class of '08

She gets all generational, like I've mentioned before, imploring the graduates to be the next great generation that they're (destined?) forced? to be.
"...they said that white Americans weren't ready for an African-American, but they
were; they said that young people would talk a good game, but they wouldn't get
their acts together to register and then to vote, but you did. The experts knew
things, but they didn't know today's Americans, and they certainly didn't know
your generation of young people."

I particularly like the bit about taking time to loiter and let your mind wander. Disconnect.

Conservatives for Obama

Andrew Sullivan and Reader

-----------------------

For me, it's about a man and this moment. It's no longer about ideology.

-----------------------


Francis Fukuyama being very persuasive

A candidate actually addresses transit

Barack Obama in a speech before some 75,000 people in Portland, OR on May 18:
“It’s time that the entire country learn from what’s happening right here in Portland with mass transit and bicycle lanes and funding alternative means of transportation. That’s the kind of solution that we need for America. That’s the kind of truth telling that we are going to do in this campaign and when I am President of the United States of America. We don’t need gimmicks.”

See the video at http://beyonddc.com/log/?p=211

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pent Up Demand for TODs

Yowza
The demand to live in TODs in the United States far outweighs the supply. My research has found that the demand for TOD is about 30 percent of the overall population but the current supply is less than 2 percent. With increasing gas prices, you can begin to understand why people would want to live closer to train stations, so they can walk, bike, and use transit as an alternative to driving.

Case for Obama Links, Tuesday addition

...While WhatsHerName ponders another subliminal way to suggest (pray for?) his demise
----------------

It sounds cynical to use the "uniter not divider" line, particularly after the bastardization of the terms by Mr. Wresident, but this OpEd in the NYT by Roger Cohen makes the case how its about the generational differences rather than Rovian lies promises.

-----------------

And Yes, We Span - Bridge for Obama project from around the world...pretty coooool.

Realtors are to Drug Dealers as Potatoes are to...

Realtors = Shady

The chart linked as well as the cited spin is both brilliant and meticulous. It reminds me of the irony that I was overwhelmed by when I found out that two drug dealers I once knew (one convicted), had both left the lucrative and shady world of "pharmaceutical sales" for the shadier and more lucrative enterprise of mortgage brokering. I guess some fields just attract a certain cast of characters.

Spain's AVE High Speed Rail

And its analogies to California

Quote:
Herb Kelleher, the iconic co-founder of Southwest Airlines who stepped down
as chairman Wednesday, said flying could become something that only business
travelers or the affluent can afford, much as it was in the 1950s and '60s."You
may see a lot less air service across the United States, and that's really a
shame," Kelleher said. "We are heading back in that direction."

Fuel prices aren't coming back down anytime soon, and without cheap oil,
air travel will not be a viable method for folks to get around our state.

Back to the Future

Fuel Power, More Like Mule Power

Welcome to a world sans cheap energy.

If OKC can do it...

First Portland, then San Fran, then Milwaukee, then OKC???

Oklahoma City to Tear Down its downtown highway

Money Quotes:
Doug Currey, regional director of the New York State Department of Transportation, says taking down urban highways is sometimes the right thing to do — and sometimes not.

"No two situations are exactly alike," says Currey, who oversees highways in the New York City area.

Cost is the big obstacle to removing highways. "Generally, maintaining what you have is cheaper than building something new," Currey says.

Once the highway was gone, the Chelsea, TriBeCa and West Village neighborhoods came back to life. Traffic adapted. "It worked in Manhattan," Currey says.

Weekend Count and News Links

Final Alternative Modes of Transportation Spotted in Downtown Dallas for the Weekend:

Vespas: Just 1 - usually the winner
Segways: 6, a tour.
Baby Strollers: 2
Smart Cars: 1

Links:

Five Factors Driving up Costs

Why Wall Street Socialism Will Fail

Oil Prices Up, Housing Down, YAY!
The boom/bust in oil and house prices is, quite simply, good news, whatever the
tangential pain. It shows that the good ship Gaia, planet Earth, is
traumatising its passengers into husbanding its scarce resources. Above all
they must ration living space, for which the West has been appallingly
greedy, and carbon fuel, of which the same is true.

More Links:

London has big plans

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Technorati - Guess I Gotta.

Technorati Profile

Volvo's Ipod


This is pretty cool looking, I'll admit, especially the little lime wedge wheels. It's fascinating to me that two years ago, we were skeptical about designs/projects/prototypes being branded "green," and now it really seems to be taking off. For one, b/c there is now both the technology and the understanding of the ROI of sustainability for "green" to be marketable. B, because external forces, i.e. the global economy has forced more rapid change than fat and happy American people typically like. And third (subtle joke reference there), design is catching up to make some of these things more palatable.

I'm fully in favor of cars being as green as possible. I'm not even sold that emissions standards are the best way about it. Cars are a luxury, but we've been hoodwinked into thinking they are a necessity. And because they became a necessity, everybody had one (or two or three) and we framed our transpo system and built world around all of us in our cute little menacing steel deathmobiles. (Obviously, it's more complex than that, but do I really have time to detail the 20th century in a paragraph?)
The point is, at the end of the day, it is about quality of life. Do I want to be stuck in traffic looking at this all day, even if my car spews water vapor from the fountain of youth and smells of roses?

This is the end result and we spend countless money on production, infrastructure, labor, etc. and this is our end result? No thanks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Traffic Engineer Whose Mother Actually Loves Him

It is true. I have no love for transportation engineers in this country. Call me bitter for having too many projects royally ruined because of some formula, some code, some outdated text written based on archaic inhumane assumptions. They are literally adolescents incapable of individual thought. Where's my Calculator?

So then I come across this interview of Austrian Traffic Engineer and Professor Hermann Knoflacher in the CarFree Times . The full transcription is here at the bottom of the page, but i'll pull the best quotes, which is hard because he borders on profundity with every two sentence answer:

Q: So, what impact does motorization have on our society?
HK: An incredible one. The car is like a virus that beds in your brain and totally subverts behaviour, values, and perception. A normal person would call our present living space completely insane.

...When driving we use only one sixth of our energy and feel incredibly fast and powerful. That is one part. The other one is urban planning that requires cars to be as close as possible to all of our social activities. That's how you destroy the natural habitat, public transit, local supply, and eventually the social network that humans have established in millennia.

...The permanent structural devastation caused by the car is much worse.

Q: Is driving addictive?
HK: Definitely! The car takes possession of people. The driver is more distinguished from a human than any insect.
Q: What do you mean by that?
HK: Mobility with the own body is something common between humans and insects. However, a driver does not need this. And no insects destroy the living space of their successors for their own convenience, or move so fast that it could kill themselves.

...Every society needs mobility to satisfy its needs. If we could meet our needs locally we would be plants, not humans. Human mobility always emerges from local shortcomings.

...The settled community have claimed their territory and refuse access to anybody else. Settled residences are seen as exclusive. Travellers challenge the ownership of the land of the settled people and are thus hated for doing so.

...I discovered that traditional traffic planning is merely based on assumptions. For a long time there was no consideration for the consequences for the society or the environment. Nobody cared about noise or pollution, about fatalities, about the economy being altered or unemployment being created.

...Now a days people are taunted by fiddling with symptoms. They tack on a little parking fee here and a little congestion charge there. That is completely unfair. At first they establish conditions requiring people to use a car, and then they make them pay for it. As a traffic planner you ought to create arrangements that unburden people from the necessity to drive!

You don't give drug addicts tax-free drugs, even though the desire certainly exists.

Everybody should be allowed to build where they like, but in-town businesses struggling with parking fees while everything is free in the suburbs is unacceptable.

The more scattered people live, the more energy is needed. And we won't be able to afford that any more within a short period of time. This means we will have to create sustainable urban structures in order to be able to pay for them in the future.

...the damaging impact of air travel is serious and criticism is justified. No-frills airlines are activating groups of passengers that would not fly otherwise. Flying basically is the most degrading mode of travelling. Flying always reminds me of mass animal farming: Like chickens, fed like in battery farming. But unlike the humans in an aircraft chickens are not belted.


So Mr. Traffic Engineer supports my theory that cars were like a drug hitting society. As Wade Davis (immensely fascinating dude btw), cultural anthropologist, suggests, that whenever a new drug hits a society there is a period of dislocation before eventually coming to terms with the new substance and everything balances out.

(Strip Center) We get hooked on auto-mobility, society convulses. Here is the pretty by product.


(Mall) Uh Oh. We're in full blown addiction stage here.


(Lifestyle Center) Omigod! It's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Or the hideous monstrosity of The Grove in L.A.


Urbanism. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh...and dreadlocks.

Obama and the Rise of the Indigo Children

There is going to be a healthy dose of artistic license and philosophical driftings to this post, but bear with me. Somehow, I'm going to try and tie a song to New Age mumbo jumbo, to generational theories, to our current socio-economic climate, and then finally to our current presidential election.

Yesterday, I came across Maynard James Keenan's new solo project Puscifer. Maynard, of TOOL and A Perfect Circle, apparently wanted to have a little fun while selling his music, art, clothes sans the restrictions of music labels. So while working with an assortment of friends and fellow musicians he just records whatever happens to move him or as he puts it, "the space where my Id, Ego, and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes."

It's a lot of him just screwing around, having fun with lyrics and new sounds. As a fan of most of his work, I actually find most of it pretty much unlistenable, (the irreverent style is very much like the filler tracks on TOOL albums, i.e. Gaping Lotus Experience) until I came across the song Indigo Children (JLE Dub Remix) on the album of remixes, V is for Viagra. The song sounds a bit like hiaku gregorian chants over an ethereal, melodic techno track. The atmospherics and the surround voices have a transporting effect that allows one's mind to drift into new places, very much like TOOL's work but more subtle.

I really like where this is taking techno, as I believe it has the most potential for layered composition similar to classical greats, if it can get past the goofiness and the ecstasy. But, that isn't what this post is about. Rather, I want to deconstruct the lyrics no matter how Keenan intended them, because we'll probably never know, nor will he ever tell. While most of his work is fairly abstract, we DO know that he'll take on issues of political foment more directly such as Pet and Noose from A Perfect Circle, as well as the entire eMOTIVe album.

E.M.P. from the Mother and Sun [as in Mother Earth - my addition]
toward the digital down
dawned at the age of the innocent ones

the indigo children
the indigo children come

From Wiki: The term Indigo children originates from the 1982 book "Understanding Your Life Through Color," by Nancy Ann Tappe. Tappe, a synesthete and psychic, claimed to possess the ability to perceive people's auras. She wrote that during the late 1970s she began noticing that many children were being born with "indigo" auras. Today, she estimates that 60 percent of children age 15 to 25 and 97 percent of children under ten are "Indigo."[1][2]

I am going to leave behind all the paranormal New Agey stuff because my agnostic nature senses the bullshit. However, for the purposes of lyrical interpretation I will cherry pick this part, "in New Age philosophy, "Indigo children are highly sensitive with a clear sense of self-definition and a strong feeling that they need to make a significant difference in the world.""

So based on the ages defined, we're dealing with the Millenial Generation. I've done a significant amount of research on Millenials mostly to find out how they might affect city planning and how their general characteristics will affect housing typologies. The most useful came from authors Strauss and Howe's two major recent works, The Fourth Turning and Millenials Rising.

Study of the Millenial generation shows that they are truly not X-squared or Y (cleverly disguised as Why?). Those are both suggest gen-x traits which is incorrect. What generational studies teach is that you can't extrapolate one generation linearly to the next. Rather they are cyclical, actually being reactions to the previous generations, which is what Fourth Turning specifically suggests.

Millenials, as a cohort, are optimistic, talented, well-educated, collaborative, open-minded, influential, and goal-oriented. But, what do statistics tell us about the Millenials? For one, there have been significant increases in SAT and IQ scores paired with drops in teen pregnancy, violence, and drug use.

These aren't the self-indulgent idealist Baby Boomers nor the cynical, nomadic Gen-Xers. In fact, they are quite different than Gen-X and the polar opposite of the Baby Boomers, if you by into the Fourth Turning theory. The theory, in quite explicit detail, chronicles the cycle of four generations back thru history and how roughly every eighty years there is a crisis, brought on by the bickering self-indulgence of one generation, followed by the directly related apathy of the next. The following generation rallies and unites to the cause, and thus rebuilds civilization. Eighty years ago was the depression and WWII; eighty years before that, the Civil War, before that, the French and American Revolutions. In Fourth Turning, the authors take these cycles back 6 cycles to the War of the Roses and the Late Medieval Ages.

So how does that apply to now? Well, the baby boomers are in the peak of their socio-political representation and thus the most influential over cultural opinion and dialog. The "Me" generation entered adulthood when times were good and everybody could "live it up." They focused on individualism, luxury, and privacy. One characteristic of this cycle is the petty bickering and partisanship, which in this case has led to the so-called red and the blue, two differing versions of reality and religious polarization without gray area.

Furthermore, their need for privacy and luxury have led towards the suburban isolation in which the Gen-X and Millenials were raised. Gen-X intuitively understood the hypocrisy and what was missing, but preferred to accurately and comically needle it from afar without creating much discernible change (See: Colbert Report, Daily Show, Nirvana, Maynard, South Park, Fight Club, etc.).

analog type piece. sky wide
sync to the ticker inside
move to the rhythm of the moon and tide

the indigo children

Well, the largest cohort since the boomers has had enough; enough of the partisanship and social dislocation. They've been raised with environmentalism as a central issue and is part of their being and are more in tuned with the issues. One might say it is "sync'd to the 'ticker' inside."

Strauss and Howe's prediction that this generation would essentially rise as one and begin to make a difference. We are literally seeing a tidal wave of the young generation getting involved in politics, with one candidate in particular captivating them with his representation of their ideals of bipartisanship, despite how much Fox News and their xerox copies tries to drive wedges into the movement.

Sirius, Venus, and the Lunar Child(Get your life up untied)
giggle and the flames grow higher
dance in a circle around a central fire(dance and laugh and love and learn. Grow higher)

The Indigo Children.

Hence, the indigo...as in purple. The mixing of the red and blue, fully embodying the ideals of American Democracy, the enlightened self-interest of Jefferson (rather than the mere self-interest of previous generations, blind of long-term implications, such as rejoicing over tax rebates that are really just loans at interest from the Chinese Government), and a shared common cause. They will rebuild.

Wine, song, food and fire,
clothe, shelter and seed;
No more need for the old empire (fare thee well to the empire).

The Indigo Children

I Hate When I'm Right

Kevin Phillips, former Nixon Strategist's new book exposing even more Bush Shenanigans:

-----------------------------

Money Quote:
"The real numbers ... would be a face full of cold water," says Phillips. "Based on the criteria in place a quarter century ago, today's U.S. unemployment rate is somewhere between 9% and 12%; the inflation rate is as high as 7% or even 10%; economics growth since the recession of 2001 has been mediocre, despite the surge in wealth and incomes of the superrich, and we are falling back into recession."

---------------------------

I have been saying for years that they've been cooking the books on unemployment and manufacturing jobs. Knocking people off of unemployment statistics if they've been so for "too long" or calling fast food jobs manufacturing. Why did I know this and nobody else?

---------------------------
More quotes:
The domination of financialization, Phillips observes, presaged the decline of global powers in Spain, the Dutch Republic and Great Britain. Unfortunately, the United States now "luxuriates in finance at the expense of harvesting, manufacturing or transporting things."

--------------------------

And that gets to the heart of the problem, forgetting all of the symptoms that are usually thrown around. We no longer make shit. We no longer create shit. Our best minds push paper around a cubicle and look for loopholes to exploit. All of those office workers better get used to manual labor as we end up having to completely restructure and rebuild our infrastructural systems. At least they might feel like they did something positive at the end of the day and lose that empty feeling.

I think we've found our crisis for the Millenial Generation to prove their "greatness" that is if peak oil, housing crash, and environmental collapse weren't enough.

More on generational studies to come today...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles ...and Elections

Derrick Jackson, Boston Globe on Amtrak

Money Quote:
"Recently in Indiana, Barack Obama had lunch with an Amtrak machinist who feared losing his job. Obama said, “The irony is, with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service.”"

So Detroit will go lobby against fuel efficiency standards and essentially lobby themselves into even more irrelevancy with the nation quickly making moves against fuel-INefficient vehicles?

The only thing that saves Detroit is to convert the factories and excess production capacity into high speed rail technology, much like we overhauled factory production during WW2. Keeps Mr. Amtrak employee in a job, returns the shine to a failed city, Detroit, and they no longer have to lobby against their best interest.

Both of the auto and airline industries need to start making trains and making them fast or somebody else will come along and fill that demand, then they all will be left w/o jobs.

Honestly, riding on some of the trains in Europe is some sophistocated travel, where the trains can be as long as they have to to support the demand and maintain comfortable accommodations. The ride is smooth enough to comfortably stretch one's legs and move around, even to the food cars to eat, drink, etc. Workers can use the internet, make calls, read, sleep, etc.
(Train Stations can be some of our slickest buildings -- ahem RTKL project)

But, I would so much rather crowd into a Southwest flight, or deal with crabby American Airlines Battleaxes Flight Attendants, or be stuck in traffic with people honking at you on the highways where 50,000 Americans a year die in accidents. Now compare that to the comfort and safety of rail travel.

Regional travel in Texas literally takes the same amount of time, if not more, when travelling from Austin or Houston to DFW when calculating all of the time it takes to drive to the airport (for me typically 20-30 minutes), park at the airport, get thru security, sit around for 30 minutes (if you time it perfectly) if not longer, then the 45-60 minute flight (which is terrifyingly bumpy going to Austin), and then once you arrive the airports are so far out and disconnected from any real mass transit that you're forced to rent a car or cab it.

Fixing the transportation industry and fixing our cities go hand in hand. Europe and China are building trains that can go from city center to city center over the same distance in less than two hours in a more safe, comfortable, cost- and energy-efficient manner. It's time we get all of the economic dinosaurs and their jurassic money out of the decision making process before we're all extinct.

-- addendum: Oh, and think about how many people could have been safely evacuated from Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina on a functioning rail system while the highways became parking lots.

Plus, I really love the rhythmic whirring and clack clack clacking of the arrival boards. Almost soothing, in a way:

More cool train and train station pics:

Madrid

Stockholm

Principe Pio, again




(Light rail, but nonetheless)


(Light rail as greenspace)

Actually Car Related...

Where we build paving, we might as well making it pervious, allowing rainfall to infiltrate, be retained, and seep naturally into the groundwater rather than suffer the affects of runoff, erosion, habitat loss, and flooding:



Olfactory Mapping

Welcome to the first ever olfactory map of DTD, aka Downtown Dallas, my neighborhood. Walking to/from work every day for the past two months, I've experienced the virtual spectrum of various smells the city has to offer to the point that I think I could walk around with my eyes closed and know where I am. This will be additive and continue as long as the blog does every time there is a distinct smell that is consistent over multiple days, i.e. enough to be mapped. Some may be pleasant, calling you into a nearby restaurant. Others? Not quite so...



(Click to Enlarge)

THE SMELLS OF DOWNTOWN DALLAS
1 - Hot Trash. The service entrance for Fuse Restaurant on Lane Street. Every. Single. Day. Without fail

2 - Dog Urine. The little doggie park outside of DP&L Flats, off the Browder pedestrian street. This area smells so bad, my dog refuses to go there. So many dogs, so little space. I know dogs are the way some suburban transplants socialize, but for the love of god, reuse urban market plastic bags to pick up after your dog, since the doggie "bags" are always empty. I know aiming for Rome or Paris is shooting for the stars, but we don't have to emulate the dog shit everywhere right? Right?

3 - Bacon and Syrup. If you like down home southern cookin', particularly for breakfast, Tootsie's just might be your place. It sure smells like it, but I wouldn't know, I've only eaten the burgers there at lunch.

4 - Garlic! Demi sure doesn't go easy on the seasoning at Porta di Roma on Main and Ervay and this italian lover, loves it.

Google Earth, How You Never Cease to Amaze Me

I use maps sites on a daily basis to get to know cities better, whether it is for my own knowledge and edification or whether it is to get to know a project site in better detail. Google Earth has always been helpful in particularly because of the business location mapping. It allows me to see the area dynamics of a city. What businesses are where, are they successful, etc...



There is also the feature where people can upload their own images and site them on the maps in a sort of open source wiki-mapping. The pictures themselves aren't often very helpful but the location, clustering, and organization of the dots is often indicative of sacred places, or those areas important to the community at-large.


(Shown - Philly. Interesting that Love Park has the second most clustering of photos behind Independence Square.)

Then, there was the ability to model real world building in sketchup and upload them into google earth's open sourceware. The possibilities were obviously endless, but it seemed dubious at best whether these promises would come to fruition.

I'll admit. For a time, I was won over by Microsoft's new maps site b/c of their bird's eye view photos and relatively up to date aerial photos. Until I just today updated my google earth to version whatever dot whatever and started looking around. My actual site in Nashville had very little improvement over the previous version, but holy moly look at Dallas.


They have virtually every building in DTD (this will be my shorthand for Downtown Dallas from now on), uptown, and Turtle Creek on there in sketchup models. I'm literally looking in my own window right now. What trouble is my puppy up to?


(oh hai. me resting on teh bed.)

But then... I saw San Francisco...WOW. They literally have every building in there and look at that fine grained urbanism. The herky jerky nature of Dallas's speculative office building booms really shows in these two photos where San Fran really has a smooth transect, reaching a crescendo in the heart of downtown. Draw a section through Dallas and the up and down nature of the wild west real estate market begins to show itself.


(Sorry Google, I will never doubt you nor cheat on you again with Microsoft Maps...until they up the ante...or you give me stock options...)

Brilliant

Urban Farm in Philly - NYT

I plan on discussing the concept of food miles and the need to grow produce locally in when I get to the post on Valencia, Spain, but here it is right here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Moped Driver Dies in Highway Accident

I've been planning on having a post about the number of Vespas and the like springing up around town, this might hurry that post along:

Link

Ironic that the writing seems intent on justifying the legal right for the moped to be on the road, but mentions little of the intoxicated SUV driver.

Livability Indicator #4 - Double Parking




Yes, double parking can be annoying, but so can babies. So what does the presence of double parked cars say about the place? Well, for one, it means that it is a place where people want to be. Demand is so great that people are willing to temporarily be a pain in the ass by pulling up along side other parked cars, i.e. demand for parking is greater than supply. Have you ever been in a great place and thought, "gee, i wish there was less parking here?"



(The next time someone tells you there needs to be more parking tell them to stfu)

Double Parking also shows that commerce, ground floor retail in particular, is working in the urban place because it is typically caused by unloading service vehicles. (Keep in mind that I'm not suggesting that double parking is a justifiable end per se, but rather merely a symptom, an indicator of place) This can be remedied by creating service areas internal to buildings/blocks, but is it always bad to temporarily slow up traffic? It also suggests that there is no back to the building or "dead cat space" meaning the building/blocks are correctly oriented to the street.



One thing hindering downtown Dallas is the presence of one-way streets. One-way streets are the city's way of basically saying to everyone at 5 pm, "Get out! Get out NOW!" They are designed entirely with the car in mind and encourage high speed movement that is hostile to pedestrians, the life blood of any city.


For example, the idea for Double Parking as Livability Indicator arose from the loading/dropoff area immediately outside our building. Double parking here is inevitable. The pulloff area is essentially just 15-minute parallel parking with enough dimension for no more than 4 or so cars/vans/trucks at a time. And guess what, the double parking slows traffic on one-way Ervay street (boo-hoo) making a treacherous intersection for pedestrians a little more manageable.


(Pardon the crude quick and dirty photoshop work, click to enlarge)

The reason the intersection is nearly impossible for pedestrians to cross is because of three factors: two one-way roads make the crosswalk lights go haywire. It is impossible to figure out who has the right-of-way half the time. Second, the dimension across Pacific Avenue is 62 feet from curb-to-curb on the cross walk (I measured it today). This is an insane number for a street that is essentially two-lane, two-way road.




And Lastly, the turning radius from Pacific to Ervay allows cars to make "rolling stops," if they even stop at all. I watched seven cars in a row not slow down one mph to make this right-hand turn, this morning. Only the bravest of pedestrians dare wander into that stampede.




So finally, here is another crude photoshopped diagram showing how the intersection could be improved. As an aside, I do like the effect of the canted grid that allows for our building to visually terminate Ervay. The first step is to create a bulb-out that reduces the dimension for pedestrians to cross. No two-lane road in the world should be 60 feet across. The curb-to-curb dimension at the crosswalk should be no more than 24 feet here. Second, make the bulb-out "T" into Ervay thus creating a chicane with a tight enough turning radius to force cars to stop before making the turn. And last but not least, create on street parking on both sides of Pacific since the dimension is already there. The south side of the street is already a taxi stand that is full most of the day.


See this Link for another solution for a different intersection. I find some of the measures interesting and relevant, but what this essentially does is limit car mobility and I'm not about that. I am more for balance, creating complete streets that work for all modes of transportation: foot, bike, and on wheels.

Natural Reaction to American Consumerism?

Couple gets rid of all of their stuff.

http://www.cagefreefamily.com/

In a story related to the idea that "the things you own, end up owning you," I was hanging out with a friend on his front porch in a near east Dallas neighborhood on a sunny afternoon this weekend, when a car that looked exactly like my previous steel cage drove by. It was an eerie feeling as if I witnessed an estranged member of my family. The one that family kind of forces you to love, because you have to...

Is that what our "american love affair with cars" is like?

Sounds more like Stockholm Syndrome to me.

Krugman NYTimes

Stranded in Suburbia

"There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline — they’re trying to shop locally, they’re canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they’re switching to public transit.

But none of it amounts to much."

Yes, none of it amounts to much as long as we're living in such isolated formats such as suburbia. Our entire transportation system needs reorganization into more clear hierarchies. Air travel will still be necessary for overseas flights and cross country (presumably), high speed rail connects cities within regionally, commuter rail connects metropolitan areas, light rail serves cities, buses and street cars serve locally and connect everything within 1 to 3 miles within each light rail station (Obviously, the smaller the MSA the fewer "shades of gray" there will(can) be).

"To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping. "

In short, we need to rebuild density. Unfortunately, we can't afford quality building materials to construct buildings to last. First step IMO, is for cities to set building standards to return to building with quality, local materials, which will allow us to return to cities having unique regional character rather than the boring (often terrifying) all glass and steel globalized architecture of today.

Second, funding mechanisms must be identified for residential to pay for long standing, sustainable buildings. LEED-ND is showing us that quality neighborhoods are more sustainable than any individual LEED-NC building. Currently, LEED residential buildings are essentially only being built for public housing and extreme high end product. So it only works at the two ends of the bell curve? What about the rest of us?

With some sustainable construction techniques beginning to pay returns on their investment in as little as 12 to 15 years, imagine a building that generates its own power with excess capacity to power its block or even neighborhood. This excess energy can be sold back to the grid. Germany has created significant incentive for buildings/home owners to sell power back to the grid. A city full of connected, localized power sources becomes infinitely safer and more secure than isolated power plants. And the returns, provide long term wealth generation for retirement plans in a country facing severe social security shortages.

...of course, this is coming from someone who was an infant within five miles of TMI, so I might be a bit biased.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Jim Borgman, Cartoonist





Every Building You Spare an Angel Gets Its Wings

In Thom Hartmann's book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, he suggests our current living arrangement (Predicament) and economy are essentially subsidized by sunlight (energy) that has fallen on the Earth for Billenia, in the form of cheap, bountiful, sweet, yummy oil. In a previous post, I mentioned the stored wealth in the reuse of buildings, so it seems like a good time to market the building where I live and the one where I work.



The Interurban Building was built in 1916 as a train terminal to accommodate 35 trains at a time. In the 1950s, after the successful collusion to replace public transit (and its infrastructure) with private transit (and its requisite infrastructure), it became a bus terminal which was then vacated in the 80s when Greyhound bought the trailways bus service that had been operating it.


In 2004?, it was renovated into residential lofts with ground floor flex/office space that currently houses the leasing/management office, a hair stylist, and a recently vacated marketing company. There is also a bar and cafe in the ground floor called the Urban Cafe and a 20,000 sq.ft. grocery store called the Urban Market (I can't even begin to explain the joy of this convenience).



The grocery store, which was often seen as a chicken/egg dilemma with downtown residential, was being subsidized by the city (one of those necessary kickstarts to make Downtown Dallas livable once again), until recently it broke even for the first time (from what I understand - no link to confirm) and they have plans to expand into the Lofts at Southside on Lamar in the Cedars area redevelopment.


(I'm sure their recent success has to do with my frequent visits and alcohol purchases.)


My four block walk...

which passes the original Neiman Marcus...


the Wilson Building, one of the few gems that was spared the wrecking ball in favor of certainly much more valuable surface parking lots. Each day, I walk past and can say hi to Demi the owner of Porta di Roma, a little italian restaurant, and his staff.

And two blocks away, I arrive at our office, which takes up the first three levels of the Republic Bank Building. RTKL moved into this space about 7 years ago, sparing it from becoming a parking garage if we didn't move in, in part to demonstrate their commitment to Downtown Dallas and downtown revitalization in general.
Within the past year, the second tower opened to new residents as our interior renovation work finished.

Office Park Infill

NYTIMES Link

I proposed this idea in a Texas town two years ago. All single use developments, whether they be malls or office parks will be/need to be infilled with a mix of uses. It is a matter of taking something with a limited lifespan and building it into something with lasting value, placemaking.

That is, if, they(the site they sit on) are worth saving at all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Garage Sales

Reselling our Junk to Pay for Gas

There was a time when only the middle and the bottom were feeling the crunch. Now I start to think about my sister and friends that work in planning/buying of high end department stores and the future of those industries in a country that literally can't afford any more stuff. While on the phone with my sister last night I saw and mentioned to her the CNN scroll item (while not being dazzled by that hyper-annoying touch screen election map) that Benetton reported something in the nature of $50 million in 1Q profits bolstered by the European market.

She exclaimed, "no way!"

To which I followed, "they've got money."

Now if I was a trained economist, I'd love to figure out how much embedded wealth they have in Europe by being able to use and reuse the same existing urban fabric they have had for centuries. How much extra money do they (I refuse to start calling people consumers - do you know what a duvet is?) have in their pocket by not being addicted to oil. I won't even bother today with the argument that investing in public education is an ROI.



(Black Commentator has the best artwork btw.)

Livability Indicator #3 - BABIES!!!!!


I went to Copenhagen, Denmark almost two years ago, with the intention of studying the transition that city has undergone over the last fifty years away from car-choked streets towards an increasingly large pedestrian-only network of medieval streets and bike lanes. I proposed the idea of studying Copenhagen for better understanding how American cities, particularly in the Sunbelt and its assortment of ephemeral structures, will reshape themselves in a post-peak oil world. I suggested the only things that we had built to last have been entirely based on the presumption of automobile-perpetuity: parking garages and highways, and questioned what could be (re)made of these things.


(Rush Hour crossing the Poblinge So in Copenhagen)
While over there, however I was quickly struck by the ubiquity of baby strollers. They were everywhere. I couldn't pick up a cobble and throw it without hitting a baby in their cute little round faces, with a rock. I figured either Danes were the most fertile people on the planet or we had discovered a place that was SO livable, which could/should be defined as safe, pleasant, enjoyable, ease of mobility, etc. to the point of being so safe and pleasant, that mothers would raise their babies there and feel comfortable taking them out for daily walks.

Now I'm no parent, nor do I pretend to know how to raise a child, but I'm pretty sure the tough love/learn the hard way on their own methods of teaching don't begin at least until they're...two and can walk without falling on their face every third step. So during the week, I began to chronicle with the trusty camera all of the strollers that I witnessed. Some of which are shown here:










































(The last one was actually in Malmo, Sweden and I was taking a picture of the canal and wouldn't you know it? A baby popped into the frame.)

The real point isn't so much about babies, but places that are so livable, so comfortable, that they are open and responsive to the needs of all age groups (cynically called market segments), including the most fragile, i.e. babies. This is why I'm making the presence of baby strollers Livability Indicator #3.

I began to notice a few strollers with Plano soccer moms pop up here and there while on site visits/client tours to our project The Shops at Legacy; also shown here (For some reason RTKL doesn't have a page for it, I'll have to change that). For the most part, these weren't residents of Legacy, they were from surrounding generic suburbs in Plano, merely looking for someplace walkable and pleasant to walk with other moms and babies.


(Legacy Town Center - check out the snow on the garages)

Lastly, since I have lived in downtown Dallas, I have begun to see more and more (going from 0 to a half-dozen makes for astonishing growth percentages). Some of these I made for tourists, but others actually are downtown residents. There are even a few young'ns (pardon my B'more phraseology) in my building, proving that the market for urban living is getting a bit larger than yuppies and empty nesters. We'll see how many more strollers we see when some of these downtown parks finally get built.