Friday, August 29, 2008

Two Items, Both Rail Related

First, the post from DailyKOS:
It's becoming well known that Joe Biden commutes 100 miles a day by Amtrak. He pays for the service like anyone else, and appreciates it so much that he not only throws an annual Christmas party for the crew on his train, he stopped in to say goodbye to his "Amtrak family" before heading for Denver.

If you want an expanded passenger rail network, having Joe Biden in a place to impact national policy is a good bet.

And now, John McCain. Not only has John McCain been part of the Republican attack crew trying to dismantle Amtrak, John McCain has been the leader of this effort. When it comes to passenger rail, Trainwreck McCain is public transportation enemy number one. He's worse than Bush. And though the "Straight Talk Express" has a Get on board the McCain Train banner, that's just another example of how McCain's talk is anything but straight.

How did Barbara Tuchman define the March of Folly? When a nation fully in possession of the facts nevertheless persists in acting against its own self interests.

We, as a Country, simply can't afford to not have a (and the best) national rail system going forward. We are simply too spread out for commerce (and personal travel) to work effectively (or at all) given where energy and transpo costs are at (and heading). [Hint: It will never get significantly cheaper and the Hydrogen magic bullet is a blank.]

Secondly, watching HBO series Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys (for the record I'm a lifelong Steelers fan - and while I don't hate the Cowboys, I do harbor some Schadenfreude towards Tony Romo, for various reasons primarily for his phoniness), shows them travel from their Carson City training camp facility to San Diego for their first preseason game.

Their mode of travel: Train.

The most enlightening part however, was how much more comfortable the trip was for all involved. Spatial efficiencies are at work with trains. They can be as long as need be where planes are defined by engineering characteristics, thus limiting their ability to compete while train technology begins to approach air travel speeds.

Also of note, the view along the Pacific as the train headed down the coast line.


Minnesota billboard in preparation for RNC.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

British Free Press

Apparently, between the Telegraph and the Guardian, these are the only two places to get legitimate news anymore:

Nobel Economists say it's not over yet.

Beijing influencing global currency markets on the down low.

Dollar surge not all good news.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When DART Attacks...

DART Rail, car collide injuring three.

Swear to god. I was waiting for the DART one stop (and about three blocks away) when this happened. Next thing we (at the station) knew, there hadn't been a scheduled stop in half an hour. Then chatter began on cell phones.

So I still have my DART ticket in my wallet and am fully prepared to use it this afternoon.

Daddy needs some new shoes. And a belt.

In seriousness though, I thought this quote was important to reiterate:
"We want to make sure that anytime you see those train tracks, you think of the possibility that a train could be coming," Mr. Lyons said. "They can't get out of the way; they can't stop on a dime, so you just have to be really careful around them."
Car drivers are going to need to come to grips with sharing the road. They do not own it. It is a privilege, not a right. They are transporting just themselves and need be wary of all of their surroundings, including those that can hurt them (DART Trains) and those that they can hurt or kill: pedestrians, bicyclists, other vehicles.

In Rome, I could wander aimlessly down the middle of Via Veneto during the busiest of moments and every car would screach to a halt; a place where people have adapted to the presence of others (god forbid) for thousands of years.

Imagine if I tried that on Pearl or Abrams or Loop 12. I'd be an annoying speck on the windshield of your Suburban and you'd be pissed that you had to use the wipers and later take your tank to the auto-wash.

Sexy in the City: Livability Indicator #6 - Chicks

I feel like I have to walk a fine line here, but this consultant and article address the issue with regards to the key to success of a proposed BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) line:
It may not be politically correct to say so out loud, said Alan Hoffman, a San Diego-based consultant, "but it's what I call the 'AYF Factor.' Attractive young females are the canary in the coal mine of public transit. They're sensitive to safety, and they want to be in a nice spot. If you draw them in, you are reaching a broad market. A whole lot of transit systems, when you look around, you notice certain populations are missing."
This is true as well of Cities (to be more specific the urbanized areas) as well, which is why I'm including it as another Livability Indicator of Cities. The article addresses the particular needs and demands of young women, which interestingly enough seem to parallel the issues I raised here with regards to BABIES!

Which generates an interesting and entirely unrelated question. Does this iterative construct that we call modern society treat attractive young women like babies (we (well not me) do refer to them as babes...)? I think I'll work my way to that answer throughout this article/stream of thought.

We are largely a generation that spent our formative years in front of the family campfire that is the television set, adapting our perspectives to shows such as Sex in the City, Seinfeld, Friends, etc. Shows that made it seem cool to live in the ultimate of urban places, NYC.

We are also a generation that largely grew up isolated from those experiences and now that we are of age, demand more from our living arrangements, our neighborhoods. Keep in mind that we are also the generation of texting, the internet, and youtube. We are in need of constant stimulation that generica simply can't offer.
A Tale of Two Places.

So how does this relate to Dallas in its (r)evolution as an urban place? As a case study, I'll examine what I would consider to be the neighborhood bar (the common Third Place) of each respective neighborhood, Downtown and State Thomas (uptown). For Downtown, it is the City Tavern:

For Uptown, it is State and Allen Lounge:

Having lived within a block or two of both places, I have a pretty good feel for both establishments and the neighborhoods they are embedded within.

Downtown, having grown exponentially in population over the last few years (going from 0 to 1 to 2 is a big number percentage-wise) is still new and rough around the edges. As I've probably detailed exhaustively on here there are very few green spaces, too much surface parking, an indigent to resident ratio of seemingly 1:1, among other issues.

Because of this, it is still largely populated by the pioneers: Mostly people seeking a more diverse crowd than what is found elsewhere in this city which is mostly an aggregate of single-demo monocultures everywhere you go. Furthermore, some are dedicated to Dallas and its downtown understanding that true pride in your hometown needs to be demonstrated, particularly when it's down while others just wanted to be closer to work and avoid the commute/gas prices.

The one outlier in the downtown population cross-section are those 'that screwed up.' These are mostly the young women referenced in the article above that thought it would be cool to live near all the new trendy clubs and ultra lounges that have opened in the past two years, or the Neiman Marcus flagship, but quickly came to realize that they were out of their comfort zone.

It should be mentioned that this doesn't include all women downtown. This particular group strikes me as often sheltered with rent support for the downtown lofts coming from Daddy (often typical in uptown). A more appropriate home for this group (and I largely advise girls looking to move) would be uptown where everybody is a bit more ken and barbie (with the nuance and personality to match).

The rest of this cohort are those women that like it in DTD. They are largely fiercely independent from my experience and typically (and frankly) more interesting than most. They intentionally seek the type of diversity and thrill of being one of the pioneers in downtown which still has a bit of and edge to it, albeit a yuppy-ish edge if that's possible.

But, in the end, it is still a very small segment of the young, attractive female population suggested in the article, particularly when compared to uptown Dallas.

The two bars mentioned have come to perfectly embody the two areas. Uptown, and more specifically State Thomas, now fully built out, with mature urban streetscapes, parks, and access to the Katy Trail (as well as shopping in West Village) has become the mecca for young women to flock to and young Dallas men to pray (or prey) towards.

City Tavern gets perhaps the most diverse crowd one could ever imagine at a bar. Sometimes it even looks like the Cantina scene from Star Wars, old, young, rich, poor, trendy, casual, hipster, hippy, white collar, blue collar, and any color in the rainbow. The owner Josh goes/went out of his way to meet and greet every customer building a loyal clientele which has become the "Cheers" for the 5,000 plus residents in downtown

I swear the last three times that I've been to State and Allen Lounge, interestingly all within the last two weeks, it has been absolutely inundated with young, attractive women (the AYFs), at the risk of turning the place into the type of sword fight that the Loon turns into late night.

This is a location where a few restaurants have failed in the ten or so years of this Post Properties building's existence. I was there when it reopened in its current iterations and one of its first and loyal customers as it struggled to establish an identity. It managed to become the neighborhood bar (by one having good food and some good specials - for uptown that is) by allowing dogs in the ample patio area shown above for the dog heavy population of State Thomas.

So where does Dallas rate on the AYF scale, with 1 being Mars and 10 being Venus? I'd give downtown a 4 currently and uptown/State Thomas is about a 9.

A couple of other shots of successful projects (by any measure but also by the AYF factor) gleaned from our DIB:

Brea, CA - Main Street.

Addison Circle.

Survey Says...


Interesting little rent vs. buy calculator somebody put together.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Conference Art, Cities: Back to the Future.

This is the art on an advertisement for a Future Cities Conference I received.

Please, just shoot me now. Make it quick. I'd hate to see us repeat the mistakes of 60s & 70s style futurism.

WSJ: Obama's Pro Urban Agenda

And badly needed to dig us out of the hole, that fifty years of government misallocated spending put us in.

WSJ Link.
The plan features an increase in the minimum hourly wage, a new White House office focused on metropolitan areas and $60 billion to establish a national bank to finance public-works projects.
Like it, like it, like it. However, with the caveat that their HAS to be some quality control from an urban design and planning perspective for what kind of projects the new National Bank would fund. Is it a Road Guy or a Rail Guy?

Personally, I would put a moratorium on all new road projects, putting all infrastructure budgeting towards the maintenance and retooling of existing infrastructure into more 'complete streets' that are livable, which in turn generates investment and the pay for themselves. voila!

When You Nail It.

You nail it. John Massengale's post on his blog Architect 2.0 on Tulane Arch School/NOLA and the meta-issue of the fundamental failings of Architecture school beneath the whole charade:
The professor running the Tulane program says, "I want innovation, I want affordability, and I want a really bold gesture" — and during the series we see that affordability goes out the window because of innovation and bold gestures...

Not surprisingly, the students respond with ideas that mean nothing to the people who live in the house, like "a folding plane," or say "My concept is shifting volumes both vertically and horizontally."

I guess to distill it down to a soundbite, architecture school focuses SOLELY on style. But, ultimately, style is ephemoral, and in turn, irrelevant if that is its only leg on which to stand.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free Beer Friday, GTC

Oh my goodness, what have I done? Is this a picture with no fully legible signs or license plates. Let the challenge begin.

But, before guessing, keep in mind that you might be able to guess the right city, but have the wrong state. So to win a drink on me, I'll have to have both correctly attributed in the answer.

That's all the hint you fools are getting for now.

Toby gets it... again.

Now another picture of Portland, ME featuring an extra serving of MILF:

DTD and Uncle Mo'

DMN: Downtown Dallas the place to be.

"I can't remember a time since the early 1980s that we had a bigger year for downtown Dallas," said John Crawford, president and chief executive of DowntownDallas, the central business district economic development organization. "And back then, it was purely a commercial district – very one-dimensional.

"Today, we have new commercial, residential, retail, entertainment and big cultural components."

Indeed, it is that diversity that is driving downtown's renewal.

"Downtown is the one part of town everyone can get to on public transit," said Jon Altschuler, Stream Realty Partners president and partner. "It's amazing to look at the momentum that's being created downtown and the relocations."

During the last year, relocating companies have added almost 6,000 workers downtown and gobbled up more than 1 million square feet of empty office space.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peace Out 30K Millionaires

...which fester in Dallas like a yeast infection.

The next credit crunch
Our easy access to plastic is about to dry up - and with it our ability to fake living the good life.

Depression? All Part of the Plan

This guy thinks we've got the big D word in our future. It's hard not to ignore the warning signs:

America the nation currently has an outstanding debt of about $10 trillion dollars, and has more than doubled in the last ten years. But this number is not the real total, because it does not count all the "promises" (read: entitlements) that people have been told they will have. Those "promises" are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, in the main. They total, approximately $90 trillion dollars in current liability.
...and yet we do nothing. Why?

It was part of the plan all along. Article on lobbyist and ideologue supreme Grover Norquist from 2001:

"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years," he says, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."
When you think about it, it all starts to make sense. Why would a supposedly fiscally conservative party/platform run up the biggest debt/be the biggest spender/and support policies that cripple the dollar? To leave no money behind for social programs.

He/They have done a bang up job. I call it treason and something else:

Antisocial Personality Disorder is characterized by a pervasive disregard for the law and rights of others. Deceit and manipulation are considered essential features of the disorder.
No one can argue that there hasn't been misplaced appropriations in the past, both sides of the aisle can be blamed for pork and misspending. I, of all people, could be considered fiscally conservative in the classical sense of economics, which is why I support Obama (along with about a million other reasons). We expect a return on our investments.

Investments don't always mean immediate returns or even financial returns. Proper government spending ensures high quality education. But, what is the return on that? Ideologues like Norquist are so simple-minded (which is why I intentionally avoided deeming him "mastermind") they only see the minus in the balance books. An educated populous means less crime - which means less spending on policing, prisons, reformation, etc.

It also means an educated workforce that drives the economy; jobs and ideas that lead the world. And most certainly it means an educated electorate that votes in its best interest. But, they wouldn't want that would they?

There are two end games for their dream world. First, we end up fully and completely in an ownership society. As the first article puts it:

Your employer cuts medical benefits or expects you to pay more. You grumble or, if you're unionized, you might actually strike. You end up capitulating anyway, then your job gets shipped to China.
In other words, the workforce has NO power and your wages become competitive with Chinese children (are these the most Effed up Olympics since Munich '36 or what?). How did we get to a place where you were either pro-union or pro-corporate? We have to get back to an understanding that they should have equal standing (and the right to form unions - although the rights of corporations are covered in detail in author/radio host/and former "penpal" Thom Hartmann's excellent book Unequal Protection).

The other scenario? Our economy does wobble if not crumble, but through American ingenuity, entrepreneurial spirit/and a healthy dose of acutely prescribed Keynesian economic policies that retrain an underqualified workforce and put us back to building/creating/and fixing this House of Cards, rebuilding bridges, homes, cities, railroads, and renewable energy systems.

That kind of policy will really drive Norquist insane. But, hey, he created it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Six Degrees of Separation

Just had a meeting with a gentleman whose wife is doing the official documentary on the Obama campaign. Nothing more to add than one of those cool six degrees (or in this case three) things. Now if I could only get the next President's ear on transportation policy.

I wish I could remember the insane talking head whose suggestion for New Orleans was to give everyone in the City a car. My advice would most assuredly follow this logic...or not.

RUN AWAY!!! and by that I mean sit still in a fumigated traffic snarl.

Somebody Pinch Me

A state DOT released an official report with these words:

Good design improves safety through:

• Increased awareness of other street users—such as high visibility crosswalks, curb extensions, and refuge islands.
• Reduced conflicts—such as bikeways,channelization, medians, and driveway restrictions.
• Lower speed—traffic calming such asnarrower lanes, trees, and tight corners.

At least some are getting it and wielding their dictatorial power with benevolence. I'd ruin the suspense if I said which one.

I Said It First.

“Children are like the canaries in thecoal mine: an indicator species of urban health. Children are small and vulnerable and need to be protected. If a city
lacks children...such a place presents an environment uncomfortable, noisy, and dangerous.“
–Seattle developer
David Sucher


Filmmakers Are Getting It

First, it was End of Suburbia

Now comes Sprawling from Grace:

Lower Manhattan vs. DTD (Downtown Dallas)

I was just reading this article in The New Republic where, in reference to the changing demographics of cities, it cites

Race is not always the critical issue, or even especially relevant, in this demographic shift. Before September 11, 2001, the number of people living in Manhattan south of the World Trade Center was estimated at about 25,000. Today, it is approaching 50,000. Close to one-quarter of these people are couples (nearly always wealthy couples) with children.
(Excuse the irrational formatting. Blogger is PMSing)
50,000! Doubled since 9/11! Wow. These numbers are incredible, even moreso than the sheer volume, is the timing in which it happened given the location. I though it would be interesting to create a side-by-side comparison of Lower Manhattan (I was liberal with the definition of "South of the WTC and included all of Chinatown, the Financial District, and Battery Park, as is delineated by the orange line.
I then overlayed the outline on Downtown Dallas at the same elevation in Google Earth to reveal that it is essentially the size of the non-bombed out built portion of DTD, which at last estimation was in the neighborhood of 5,500 permanent residents or a shade shy of one-tenth that of a similar sized area in Manhattan.
This, of course, isn't meant to draw shame or ire to Dallas, but rather a reminder to shoot for the stars.
**Note: I could have cut the portion about "mostly with children," but I always find empirical evidence important to the contrary of conventional wisdom that suggests inner-city migration is only for yuppies and empty nesters. Vancouver, with its lack of schools, given the demand of young families living downtown is exhibit A - of course, Vancouver is also probably twenty to thirty years ahead of most Sun Belt cities in their point of evolution.

Ultimately Laughable, but Merely More of the Same

Congressman Sali (Rep. Bill Sali, R-ID), informed us that a solution to the high price of gasoline was to make petroleum from “all those trees in our forests.” … He continued by saying there “could be up to 40 barrels of oil” in a single tree.

Sali made a similar comment in 2006:
“Forty percent of the mass of every tree in the forest is crude oil,” he said. Going after that, he said, “could put Idaho in the oil business for the first time.”
Perhaps in 50 million years. But wait, the Earth isn't that old. And the rapture will surely happen by then right? Has he been sitting on a State secret of time travel? Will Rep. Sali bring oil back from the future and save our doomed take to waste economy?

Sigh. I guess we will continue to have to endure idiots in office as long as we keep afloat the dream that some how, some way we can maintain the model of the Industrial economy of extract, consume, [externalize] waste, in the form of pollutants/runoff/etc.

I say externalize, because we've neatly established an economic system that ignores the dollar value inherent in pollution. There will be a COST.

The only way to achieve the Green Economy, which is 1) sustainable and 2) ultimately more profitable, is to monetize what is 'invaluable,' with all duplicity intended: Quality of Life (the social) and clean air/clean water (the environment), you know all those things essential to maintain life and RUN said economy.

I would go to business school, get a PhD in future economics, and win the nobel prize for this shit if it ultimately didn't bore the F outta me. I'd wear the Nobel medallion around my neck. Every day. And when I slept. And when buying a cup of coffee, I would mistakenly pull it out thinking it was change and say, 'oh, I'm sorry, I thought my NOBEL PRIZE was a quarter...Silly me.' Of course, that has as much chance of becoming reality as me actually buying a cup of coffee. ever.

Economics takes and replaces within the environment. Therefore it is a subset of it. And thinking any other way (or being willfully ignorant) is to allow it to consume itself. Much like a cancer cell.


I wonder what time this happened:


Police: Man kills self
at cancer survivor site

A 47-year-old man fatally shot himself Tuesday afternoon at Cancer Survivor Plaza, near Pearl and Bryan streets, police said.

The man was sitting in the park with business cards laid out in front of him when a city parks employee cleaning the area approached him, said Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse, a police spokesman. The man told the city worker not to touch the business cards, and the employee indicated he had to clean them up.

The man pulled up his shirt, exposing a handgun, and the city worker ran and warned another bystander, police said. The man then shot himself in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene.

His name was being withheld because his family had not been notified late Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

700 More People Downtown

From Real Estate Center Online News:

DALLAS (Dallas Morning News) – AT&T has sold its 37-story One AT&T Plaza tower to New York-based Icahn Enterprises but plans to stay in the building on a long-term lease.
The skyscraper at 208 S. Akard St. is currently being remodeled to house the company’s corporate executive offices.

The company is relocating about 700 people from San Antonio. Most of the workers will go into the 17 floors that are being refurbished.

The building contains more than one million sf of office space and is valued at almost $60 million.

Follow-Up to NYC Parking Idea

Commuting numbers for Manhattanites:

No Better Housing Summary Than This One...

...and why it is nowhere near bottom, but here is the key factor to keep in mind:
Supply and demand do not respect replacement values. Homes in highly desirable urban areas with walkable neighborhoods and nearby public transit and retail are still commanding bubble-era prices here in the San Francisco Bay Area, as these qualities are still attracting buyers who are qualified by virtue of huge cash down payments--vast cash positions which in many cases were created by selling their previous homes at the bubble top 2005-2006.

These few homes are still fetching prices far above replacement, while their exurban counterparts are slumping toward "market clearing" prices--the price at which cash buyers appear.

...and evidence points to similar scenarios all over the country. This isn't abnormal in the sense of what is happening. Prices are merely finding where they belong. The last ten years were what was extraordinary.


“If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk.” - Raymond Inmon


Translation from a mug found in Chinatown, NYC:
1. Less meat, more vegetable
2. Less salt, more vinegar
3. Less sugar, more fruit
4. Less food, more chewing
5. Less clothing, more bath
6. Less talking, more acting
7. Less desire, more giving
8. Less worries, more sleep
9. Less driving, more walking
10. Less anger, more laughs

Monday, August 18, 2008

DTD Parks

I worry about the idea of putting a parking garage below Main Street Gardens for two reasons. The first is the concern referenced a week or so ago about overall quantity of supply, when there is so much parking, that makes driving a breeze, which makes pedestrian life miserable, which in turn chokes a city. With that said, if it is replacing surface lots (which certainly doesn't appear to be the case or the large single-purpose parking decks, then yes, below grade is better than above grade for diminishing the physical affect that parking can have on urban environs.

The second concern relates to Pershing Square in LA, long-known as refuge for drunks and indigents (that is if you can find people at all). Pershing has gone thru several design and redesign processes to "give it life" for lack of a better term. But, like many design efforts here in Dallas, eschewing to acutely address the issue at a fundamental level, preferring instead for superficial treatments (shrub it up! Program it!).

Rule #1 - Truly successful urban parks require ZERO programming. They are successful merely as spaces, with the caveat that all of the other ingredients of urbanism adjoin that park.

So how did Pershing fail despite having pretty good urban context? Well, they never address the speed ramps on all four sides of the park. They might as well have put a moat with sharks or at least killer rabbits, with nasty sharp pointy teeth.

So, option 1: Give up on putting below grade parking under Main Street Gardens. It's running something like $40,000 per space these days for such construction. Do you think we're getting our bang for our tax buck? Me thinks not.

option 2: pay for it by carving out most of Pacific Plaza, the proposed park next to our office building here. This park is overscaled anyway and pinpoints my problem with the Parks masterplan. There was little to no strategic thinking about how to leverage development. If the City purchases the entire surface parking lot, seek a public-private partnership to develop say 60-80% of the site's acreage with urban mixed-use residential on a new, reduced and more effective park/public investment. I know, I know, that makes too much sense.

option 3: please for the love of gaud-i, think carefully about where the access to the subterranean garage is. me and my doggy don't want to traverse a sunken exit ramp to go to the "doggie run."

and you don't want to piss her off. SICK BLOGGER!

Time to Pay the Piper

You owe Autocracies money.

This is scary. Not because our current head of state prefers to pass of taxation to fund the highest spending government in history off to our generation and those subsequent via borrowed monies from such upstanding citizens of the world like Saudi Arabia and China; we all knew that.

Rather, it is frightening because of what it might mean to our way of life (or at least the principles this country was founded upon - and we as citizens all choose to believe in). Countries at the top of the heap are often emulated, which is why fiscal sanity is of utmost importance if we want to maintain our role is "leaders of the free world," if we can even say that with a straight face any longer.

"Hey, it's working for them, maybe dictatorship is right for you!"

No Parking EVER!!!

Interesting Idea in NYT OpEd.

We often espouse on-street parking as a physical buffer and transition between moving traffic and the pedestrian realm (as well as support for retailers and businesses), but NYC might be its own animal where on-street parking isn't needed for any of those things we generally consider benefits in far, FAR less dense cities.

Hollow, Like an Easter Egg

This is actually a pretty vapid article, particularly coming from The Economist. But, my real issue is with the title, "The End of the Dream?" Thus implying that the death of overbuilding of cheap tract houses somehow relates to the American Dream. I guess, in a way, it does, but that way is false.

The "American Dream" in quotes was a fabrication or a bastardization of the REAL American Dream, cooked up by the Levittowns of the world that outrightly suggested that to have a home and yard was to live like the British Royalty, even borrowing the aesthetic of the English Garden.

The actual American Dream however, is about the ability to make a better life for yourself and your family. People came in droves during times of impossibility of rising out of virtual caste systems.

You know how that was accomplished? Through hard work. Nothing was ever guaranteed but the opportunity, made way by our Constitution and the freedom set forth from that document. Most certainly not thru the lastest Housing pyramid scheme.

"Just sign on the dotted line and in two years your house will be worth double!"

Double the trouble.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Free Beer Friday - Guess the City

F.U. Toby for being so good at this. Make me work extra hard.

Nothing but castoffs and criminals down here. People aren't getting high on this street (or maybe they are. I don't know. I've never been there.) Name this beachfront railstop town:

Not so subtle hint.

Hint 2: It's a suburb of this city.

Think it over while I watch the remake of Wizard of Oz starring myself as the Tin Man, John Munn as the Scare Crow, and Erich Dohrer as the Lion.

Now let's go drink some beers and punch some GD kangaroos.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Had to Absolutely Post This

But, I will not link to it, because it is from an extreme right wing website (ya know, one of those hate filled ones so larded up with garish advertisements that it looks incredibly cheaply done), the words of a former congressman suggesting "why the automobile is the ultimate manifestation of freedom, mobility, and personal choice, and argues for a re-allocation of public spending away from mass transit and other alternatives."

Alternatives? You mean like choices? Yes, no other choices. So you can have the freedom to drive, and only drive "On the Great American Freedom Machine" (I kid you not):

It's time for drivers to stand up against efforts to demonize the automobile. Forcing people to use a particular mode of travel is not the American way. Life is better when you have the freedom to drive, not just find a ride or wait at bus stops.

Hell Yes! And you MUST live the way I say you must live. And, that includes spending all of your pay check to my good friends at Exxon Mobil. Damn Plebeians.
Freedom, the American way. My way AND the Highway.

Because, why spend tax dollars on mass transit? We don't spend tax dollars on Automobile infrastructure, ohhhhhhh wait.....

Let's compare shall we:

Cars first:

People first:

How do these A-holes always make themselves out to be the victim?!?! When in actuality ALL Americans are:
[Paraphrasing JH Kunstler] How is it that we leveled Berlin and Dresden, yet it looks like WWII was fought in Cleveland and Detroit?
No worries. The one thing in this world that is eternal is an idea. This old man will leave nothing behind.

The Wire, Season 5

I can't believe I've never mentioned The Wire on here, the single greatest achievement in small screen (or big screen for that matter) history. Well, the fifth and final season is now available on dvd.

I'm not sure if I ever need to write about it, perhaps I'll rewatch each season with a synopsis for each, but there are so many good blogs from intelligent writers out there that I can merely link to them and piggy back on their excellent efforts:

Heaven and Here

What's Alan Watching

The House Next Door

Tim Goodman TV

and lastly, Stephen King on Season 4 of the Wire, which was sheer brilliance, both the beautiful and the sublime, as Kant might put it:
In David Simon's version of Dante's Inferno, Hell is played by Baltimore and all seven of the deadly sins are doing just fine, thanks. Midlevel drug dealers welcome fall by giving their corner boys money for new clothes — a little perk to keep them happy and moving those spider-bags and red-tops. The bigger crooks give to the politicians to make sure the influence keeps flowing. The only difference is the amount changing hands. And Lester Freamon, a detective Sherlock Holmes might hail as a peer, has an aha moment while looking at an abandoned row house — one of thousands in the city's decaying core — on a chilly winter afternoon. ''This is a tomb,'' he says.

In a way, Lester might be referring to the entire City.

NYT: On Street Cars

Reminds me of a quote from an article I read long ago on street cars. "Street cars are sexy as opposed to buses. Developers don't write checks for buses."

Downtowns Across US See Street Cars in their Future.

More than a dozen have existing lines, including New Orleans, which is restoring a system devastated by Hurricane Katrina. And Denver, Houston, Salt Lake City and Charlotte, N.C., have introduced or are planning to introduce streetcars.
How does Dallas not get mentioned? We have both an existing line and lines being planned (hint hint) as well as the most extensive system in US history at one point, largely still under the roads.

And, of course, since this is what journalism has been reduced to, divide every issue into two halves with equal voice even though public opinion might be 99 to 1, Randall O'Toole (emphasis on the latter part) gets his say:
Critics, including Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian research organization in Washington, and an expert on urban growth and transportation issues, counter that growth along streetcar lines is dependent on public subsidy and of little use.

“It looks like it’s going to take you somewhere, but it’s only designed to support
downtown residents,” he said. “If officials fall for the hype and don’t ask the
hard questions, voters should vote them out.”

I still haven't quite figured out what makes this dude an "expert." He wrote a book. Big deal. He's a shill for the sprawl lobby that sh!ts publishing dollars to express their "view" (i.e. protect their assets - that being a failed way of living - and keep us all in cars, guzzling gas, sucking fumes, and killing each other in fiery metallic collisions).

I'll leave the last word to a guy who knows what he's talking about:

“One happy consequence will be that streetcar customers who live in the area will be less mobile by choice,” said John Schneider, a Cincinnati real estate developer and downtown resident who championed an unsuccessful 2002 county sales tax proposal that would have financed a regional light rail system.

Since then, gas prices have risen sharply and advocates have started emphasizing streetcars’ ability to revitalize urban neighborhoods.

“In years gone by, people would move to cities to get a job,” Cincinnati’s city manager, Milton Dohoney, said. “Today, young, educated workers move to cities with a sense of place. And if businesses see us laying rail down on a street, they’ll know that’s a permanent route that will have people passing by seven days a week.”
Two astute points. The more original one being that commercial businesses NEED predictability, in the way that one-way roads fail them. The other is that they generate returns on initial public investment in the form of private investment and increased tax base - which is what the quote at the top gets at.

Funny enough, the man that espouses Houston and Atlanta (which are both attempting to improve their image/downtowns) actually lives in Portland. In a word, O'Toole is a dinosaur. Perhaps the one Jeezus is petting:

What a cute ravenous little agent of death...

...and in the realm of "I'm not sayin' anything, I'm just sayin'"...
O'Toole travels extensively and has spoken about free-market environmental issues dozens of cities. An Oregon native, O'Toole was educated in forestry at Oregon State University and in economics at the University of Oregon.
So first thing's first, and I can't read this without cracking up, but because he "travels extensively" that makes him an expert on urban planning? I think I shall hire Robin Leach as a Market Research consultant and Paris Hilton as Civil Engineer on my next project!

And secondly, don't most folks GET DEGREES when they go to college or list them on their C.V.? Some schmuck that dropped out freshmen year after two months of frat hazing and temporary presence in an lecture hall qualifies as "was educated."

But of course, his credit hours in Econ 101 in Eugene tell him that the $2 billion R.O.I. on $25 million of 2 miles of street car track are a bad thing.

"But, but, but, but, Exxon Mobil and AAA told me to say those mean things! They pay my salary!!!" ~ Merely paraphrasing what he says in every Op-Ed, report, and speech for Cato Institute - the home for bastardization of Jeffersonian libertarianism.

Freeways, Ya Gotta Chop off their Head Like a Snake

From New Urban News: Freeways Give Way to Boulevards, Slowly.

On Seattle's Alaska Way Viaduct that completely disconnects the Emerald City from the Sound:

Seattle, which has been told by Governor Christine Gregoire that the state will demolish the Alaskan Way Viaduct in 2012 regardless of whether an alternative to it has been agreed upon. Voters have rejected two plans — one for a tunnel, the other for a new, larger viaduct that would put more of the waterfront in shadow.

In late June, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that officials were considering eight options: “two elevated highway replacements, two tunnels, three options dispersing viaduct traffic onto surface roadways and one option referred to as ‘the trench.’”

Ya know Seattle, there's a pretty good example of how to do it Just down I-5:

The Python Grip:

"Clown Buttons on a Clown Suit"

An overheard comical way to describe the "World Class" Arts District

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Towards a More Humane Architecture...or Not???

For the life of me I can't figure out if this is for realz or done ironically, in which case its brilliant. The former just somewhere between ridiculous and scary:

Man Town Human Manifesto

For: An architecture that imposes its will on the planet

Against: Architecture that 'treads lightly on the earth'

For: Creative tension: robust assertive architecture

Against: Ideology-lite architecture where social policy initiatives, participation, consultation and engagement are lauded for the sake of the process

For: Extending the frontiers of architecture: Dare to know...Dare to act...Dare to fail

Against: The precautionary principle in architecture - the imposed and self-imposed limits to design

For: A new internationalism - dynamic architecture for an integrated planet: an end to all restrictions on the global flow of people, goods and ideas

Against: The new parochialism - passive architecture, self-sufficient villages, slow

For: Architecture as discipline - for the autonomous exercise of professional judgement and the defence of integrity

Against: Architecture as discipline - the instrumentalisation of design for therapeutic or interventionist objectives

For: Building more - in the knowledge that we can, and should, always rebuild later

Against: A culture in decline that questions whether we should be building at all

For now, I'll just let each of these speak for themselves. But, it sounds like something I might have written in 3rd year design school then I realized the world is far more complex than a hunk of play-do. To me this is emblematic of the end-game that architecture as a cult backed itself into.

Manifestos in general just scare the bejeebus outta me. Who writes a manifesto other than the self-important indoctrinaries?

Definition: Fuel Poverty

When households pay more than 10% of their income on energy costs.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Wrote Alls I Can Wrote and I Can't Writes No More..

Boy, I'm lazy. In actuality, the posts have been limited this week because I've been writing so much for work this week. So instead, I'll let someone else do the writing. In this case, John Massengale, aka Architect 2.0, from NYC do some of the yappin':

The first of two excellent synopses depicts the parallels and differences between the rise of Beijing and the rise of NYC one hundred years ago:

It's Only One Short Step from Wow to Bow-Wow.
The architects of 100 years ago had very different goals than the Starchitects of today, and so they made a very different place than Koolhaas & Co. want to make....they believed the first job of an architect was to make his building reinforce and improve the public realm (here is where every architect gets their hackles up without realizing that it isn't about style).
And the second on Ayn Rand's Howard Roark:
The Way We Build Now

Which reminds me of MIT grad and Semiotics expert Ted Goranson's review of the movie Fountainhead on his blog (my personal fave movie review site):
I am hoping the viewing of this movie will end a week of viewing films with bad, even execrable philosophy. But I just couldn't avoid this. It was a big film and based on a best seller, an enormously good seller and an influential book.

For decades, it was the standard path for a college freshman to read this and imagine himself "different." Probably still the case in Texas. The ideas here are hardly original, but they are presented so boldly and with such panache that the author has spawned countless political religious movements in the US.
What young architects, who never failingly cite The Fountainhead as their favorite book, don't realize is that Ayn Rand just needed a medium to carry her super-individualistic ideology, which was merely a hyper-reaction to her youth in 19-teens revolutionary Russia as an emerging communist... nay totalitarian state. It has nothing to do with architecture, architects, or a particular style and she has readily admitted this.

I suppose a case can be made for respecting greatness, and another for striving for genius. But this particular presentation is so bogus it undercuts these ideas at every turn. (Disclaimer: I am an architect.)

This movie chooses architecture, possibly the worst example. A writer or any artist would be better. A filmmaker even better because it is an expensive, collaborative endeavor.

But architecture is unique among all the clever things in the world. (These days architecture includes inventing conceptual spaces as well.)

This movie makes the mistake that architecture is somehow equivalent to sculpture, that what results are objects and not environments, that buildings are monuments and not experiences, that creativity somehow sticks to something once it is set free in the world.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm Baaaaaack

After a brief Stay-cation, I'm back and in need of a real vacation. Funny how that always works...

Monday, August 4, 2008

Parking Supply/Demand: The Vicious Cycle

Abstracted from here:

One major problem with the current focus is that parking demand is tricky to pin down, since demand itself is a function of supply, especially in urban places. Those cities that have been busy ripping themselves apart to provide enough parking are the same ones that use the most parking. So we end up with this curious situation: in our state capital, Hartford, people complain that there is not enough parking - when in fact over 30 % of the surface area in the downtown area is covered with some type of parking facility.

The truth is that many cities like Hartford have simultaneously too much and too little parking. They have too much parking from the perspective that they have degraded vitality, interest and walkability, with bleak zones of parking that fragment the city. The have too little parking for the exact same reason - they have degraded walkability and thus increased the demand for parking.

See this quick map I put together showing surface parking lots within DTD in pink, parking structures (excluding subterranean and internalized structures - those garages integrated within a buildings envelope and secondary to its primary use are left off) in red:

Have you ever noticed that any place worth being in, parking is at a premium and not ubiquitous to the point that it's actually a hassle (or luxury) to have a car?
A 2003 study... [showed] ...the smaller parking supply is a key element, as it allows for the existence of a much more coherent urban place than would have otherwise been possible.

Watching the Growth of WalMart

Animation showing the openings of walmarts across the country by year:

mapped the spread of Walmart using Modest Maps. It starts slow and then spreads like wildfire in the southeast and makes its way towards the west coast.

...or like malignant melanoma.

However, I should state that I've gotten over my hatred of Walmart (but I still haven't been in one in years), once I came to the realization that they are merely the end result of the current rules of the game of commerce that we have established. Like Marlo Stanfield, Walmart is merely the evolutionary sociopath as produced by a form of Darwinism in, in this case, trade/commerce/business that rewards the fiercest, most inhuman creature within the system.

...and if that's the case, it is time to change the rules.

NYT: The End of Globalization...

...or at least the more sinister elements of it.
Cheap oil, the lubricant of quick, inexpensive transportation links across the world, may not return anytime soon, upsetting the logic of diffuse global supply chains that treat geography as a footnote in the pursuit of lower wages.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Happy Hour - Free Beer Guess the City

In honor of College Football season opening preseason camp, we're going to a college campus for today's quiz (and because I'm spending other suckers' money newly won in poker).

This town and gown street has recently been revitalized becoming one of the hottest spots (figuratively, well and when you figure out the city, literally too - ahem hint hint) within its larger metro region. You won't be looking at books at this Library. Give me the University and the City these pictures were taken to receive una cerveza on me:

Highways: BABY KILLERS!! Link.
Pregnant women living near highways on the island of Montreal - particularly women from affluent neighbourhoods - are more likely to deliver preterm, low-weight or small babies, researchers say.

The odds of delivering a low-weight infant are 81 per cent higher than average for expectant mothers living in high-income neighbourhoods within 200 metres of highways, according to a report published in the August edition of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Heath. Affluent women also are 58 per cent more likely to deliver early compared with women who don't live near an expressway.

MIT makes solar energy breakthrough

Jul 31 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News -

Christine McConville BostonHerald

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they'vediscovered a new way to store solar energy so that the non-polluting powercan heat homes even when the sun isn't shining. "This is the nirvana of what we've been talking about for years," saidDaniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT.Nocera and Matthew Kanan, an MIT postdoctoral fellow, made the discovery,which has set the science and clean energy industries abuzz.Amid the world's broadening energy crisis, scientists have been looking tothe sun as a possible solution.According to Nocera, in just one hour enough sunlight strikes the earth toprovide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.But until now, the sun has been a daytime-only energy source. Storing extrasolar energy for later use has been prohibitively expensive.Nocera and Kanan say they have found a way to use the sun's energy to splitwater into hydrogen and oxygen gases.With this technique, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuelcell to create carbon-free electricity, which may be used to heat a home orlight up a building.