Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Morning Linkages

My firefox tabs overfloweth with the various links and articles I send to myself throughout the weekend. Hey, somebody has to email me right? You can be interconnected to friends and colleagues and what not, but I'm interconnected with myself. To them:

I read this first piece on the Fed and its desire for secrecy without realizing it was written by Spitzer.
Indeed, recently revealed evidence helps prove that maxim. In 2004, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan sought to keep from the public internal warnings of a housing bubble—or indeed any of the board's discussions. "We run the risk, by laying out the pros and cons of a particular argument, of inducing people to join in on the debate," he said. "And in this regard it is possible to lose control of a process that only we fully understand." Here is proof, if we needed any, that the suppression of information about the logic behind Fed actions can have disastrous consequences. Had that dissenting point of view been made public, then the groupthink mentality that overtook most of the regulatory and banking communities might have been shaken slightly.
On a related note, is your state Senator a member of the "People's Party" or the "Bankster Party?" A brief look at the constituents of one-half of our bicameral parliament:

Anyone who voted for the Kaufman-Brown SAFE amendment deserves to be considered a member of the "People's Party", at least for today. And while I may not agree, I am also OK with someone voting no on Kaufman-Brown if they voted no on the bailout in the first place. That at least shows a consistent ideology and we wouldn't need to break up the banks into smaller parts if our leaders had the will to let them fail.

But there is a special place for those who have the audacity to do something as incredibly un-American as voting to provide unencumbered welfare for rich bankers and then subsequently do absolutely nothing to fix the problem. And that special place (for now) is in what we should call from this point forward the "Bankster Party".

Click HERE to see the list. You probably won't be surprised to see who both Texas Senators represent.


Walkability for the masses. Roger Lewis at the Washington Post says that walkability should be the metric of choice for cities rather than transit and the auxiliary transit-oriented development. Of course, it is filled with all of the most basic of symptoms of walkable places such as buildings that address the street, activated storefronts, density, plantings, etc. Ya know, all of the things that in the wrong hands make for a jumble of those things but not integrated urban places. DC gets them right. Dallas gets them wrong.
Changing attitudes about walking will be difficult in the face of America's long love affair with the automobile. Our addiction to driving and relatively cheap gasoline is powerful. And we have planned, zoned and built our metropolitan areas to facilitate vehicular travel while discouraging and often impeding pedestrian travel. Worse for pedestrians, many urban and suburban streets are unsafe and unsightly. Even if you are willing to walk a few blocks, the visual environment might be an aesthetic disincentive.
First of all, attitudes are already changing and making the Washington Post is a sign of this. However, the article says nothing about creating change beyond listing the by-products of change. The missing piece is that transportation policy guides development form, both of which can be steered towards walkability. Because we have been unable to get this right, we end up with urban "malls," mega-projects we drive to and then walk around within. I predict these missteps will find the same fate as malls eventually.

He goes on to discuss how the perception of what is and is not walkable needs to change. However, this is also over-simplified or at least somewhat misdirected. His point is that instead of the typical 1/4-mile radius equates to "walkable," considering that that distance might only be four or five blocks, we should think bigger! Half-mile! Full-mile!

First, distance is often perception. Is it pleasurable? We will walk further, but what of the street and block pattern. If it a typical grid, the "as-the-crow-flies" measurement is also a faulty one and the resultant path becomes a sawtooth one. Albeit one that allows for choice, which is a good thing.

What it also argues for is more direct routes to/from centers of gravity such as points of convergence that can/should occur at multi-modal transit stations. The direct route represents the desire line between point and destination, making transit service more efficient in the modal shift from foot or bike to train or streetcar.

This suggests a gridded radial pattern with "spokes" eminating from the various center of gravity. The size of the radius is then determined by the level of attraction that is at the center of gravity, leading to a hierarchy of places or neighborhoods within the overall city.