Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Times Square Update

At Streetsblog:

Interesting that all it took to transform a tourist trap that locals avoided into a prominent gathering space (and center of gravity that the crossroads of the world was meant to be), was removing the traffic.

It should be difficult to drive (and park!) in cities, particularly the downtown cores.

NYC is generally always ahead of the curve in the States. It will be interesting to see the lag time on this "fashion" trend of people first design and planning.

Quote for the Day

I think I'll try to theme these quotes from now on as "Quotations non-related to urban design, but actually are":
Philosopher William James in 1892: "A time filled with varied and interesting experiences seems short in passing, but long as we look back. On the other hand a tract of time empty of experiences seems long in passing, but in retrospect short."

Flying Fish

Canadian Economist on Food Miles, the oil that subsidizes it, and the outstripping of supply by demand for oil:

NPR: The End of Globalization.
Still, if I'm sitting in a nice restaurant and I'm enjoying a good conversation over a glass of wine, that is not what I am thinking about. And anyway, the shipping news doesn't normally appear next to a menu item. But if that conversation turns to energy and oil prices (and I confess it does fairly regularly), then when I glance at that fish I know I am looking at the past. In the near future there is going to be less salmon on our tables — and probably fewer restaurants to eat in, too. Because the cheap-oil subsidy that makes Norwegian salmon affordable is about to disappear.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mathematics of Cities

I need to start doing more research. The Mathematics of Cities...where else, NYT blogs where so much else has come from...

For instance, if one city is 10 times as populous as another one, does it need 10 times as many gas stations? No. Bigger cities have more gas stations than smaller ones (of course), but not nearly in direct proportion to their size. The number of gas stations grows only in proportion to the 0.77 power of population. The crucial thing is that 0.77 is less than 1. This implies that the bigger a city is, the fewer gas stations it has per person. Put simply, bigger cities enjoy economies of scale. In this sense, bigger is greener.

DFW Mapped by Income

And other cities, at Radical Cartography. Pretty cool site. The Dallas map clearly illustrates Leinberger's notion of the "Favored Quarter."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quote for the Day

“One of the good legacies of Robert Moses is that, because he paved so much, we’re able to reclaim it and reuse it,” she says. “It’s sort of like Jane Jacobs’s revenge on Robert Moses.”

Housing Bubbles Around the World

Link here. Germany chugging along a-ok.

Speaking of Germany, the best news show on television devoted an entire episode last week to efforts the country has been making including their feed-in or buy back program where the government buys clean energy from the people at a premium rate. The two most significant points here are that clean energy is overtaking auto-manufacturing as the job leader in the country AND this program costs the citizens of Germany the equivalent of two dollars per month. Sign me up.

Other issues addressed in the episode include the Passivhaus in Freiburg and the CarFree district of Vauban in Freiburg. I was so moved by this, I decided to take phone shots of my television screen:

No, I Don't Speak Car

Getting back into the swing of things...

Yesterday on my walk into a work (new work - for those that are unaware, I resigned from RTKL to venture out into the unknown quasi-independent) a parked car, still running with driver aboard appearing to be on the phone, beeped at me. Thinking he couldn't possibly be beeping at me, I glanced around the quaint and quiet uptown Dallas streets, seeing noone of consequence around other than myself that he could possibly be directing his honking towards.

He beeps twice more. I have an expressive face. Car horns have an aggressive and hostile tone to them. Rarely do they sound like Herby the Love Bug's gentle toots. I spin give a glare to suggest, "I don't speak car!" and turn and walk into the office building I am now working in.

With that little anecdote out of the way, have you ever sensed that our bodies are now our brains and our metal contraptions are our appendage-less vessels, and our language has been dumbed down to honks and middle fingers as our cars bump and grind down grey, oily, smokey asphalt?


Now for today's comparison:

Here is a graph charting freeway lane miles per capita. I don't particularly find the y-axis terribly interesting because that goes without saying. What I see is that Dallas is close to or tied for second with St. Louis in freeway lane miles per capita, both dwarfed by KC.

Next, let's look at what Richard Florida is up to now that he's at The Atlantic Monthly. Well, he's posting fascinating stuff like a mad man, including this related post:

Where College Grads are Heading.

Here is a hint: Not the cities with high freeway lane miles per capita. 1. NYC 2. DC, two cities scoring extremely high in walkability (and stimulus/TARP/lobbyist money). So the question remains, does walkability have any correlation to robust economies and cities with broad ranges of industry? The major economic cities suggests there might be some. Here is my thought: where is the most valuable real estate in the world? Paris, London, NYC, DC, Stroget, Hong Kong, etc. All dense, integrated, and walkable.

As for the rest of the top ten where college grads are heading: Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, and San Diego round out the top 10.

Other links o' the day:

MSNBC notes that demographic changes are shifting "growth" from the exurban fringe to back to the core. Or as Herman Daly calls it development RATHER than growth.
What's behind this shift? Empty-nesters don't need the big house and don't want to mow the big lawn. High gas prices are making long commutes less practical. The urban renaissance in big cities ranging from New York to Portland, Ore. — and the revival of charming, vibrant downtowns in small cities like Missoula, Mont. — is making the bedroom suburb and the strip mall seem positively dull.
I disagree. I think the move to the edge was merely a mistake. One accelerated and subsidized by misallocated government spending in the name of "growth". And now we are realizing the error of our ways and the worthlessness of fringe development and the invaluable nature of actual, real authentic places (rather than generica), places with economies stoked by spatial synergies and ease of movement (ie walkability, density, and transit).