Friday, April 30, 2010

Announcement: May 21st

Actually, I think of it more as a solution. Thank you very much.

If you haven't been to our friends at FortWorthology, head over there some time. If you haven't been to Fort Worth, have we got something in store for you.

As many of you may know, on most Fridays, we organize a local happy hour preferrably in local, walkable neighborhoods throughout Dallas. It is also often orchestrated with a free beer from me to the first person who guesses the City shown in various imagery and hints of the City's history, origins, demographics, morphology, yadda yadda.

Well, on May 21st, we will be having a dual happy hour with the good people of FortWorthology, set in where else but in the siamese sister city of Fort Worth! Omigod that's so far away. How is that walkable? Glad you asked. We will be taking the TRE out there.

Next question: Why so far away? Well, that answer is two-fold. First, Kevin of FortWorthology has the crazy idea that he wants to train around the country for three weeks to see the land and visit the great cities sprung from its soil. Second, we want some time for people to plan, since it isn't exactly about walking from the office to the corner pub.

Kevin also has some ideas for location and we will be working out further details including potential cross-site competition for the Free Beer Guess the City. Perhaps two cities, two potential beers??? Yum. I just might have to guess in his site's competition.

Know Your City Better, Look at it thru a Scientist's Eyes

It has always seemed to me that many defenders of sprawl, aren't really defending the actual everyday world that is defined by sprawl. Sometimes it stems from property rights (although any property owner NOT thinking about their neighbor is shooting themselves in the foot).

For others it is a misplaced anxiety about losing their home, their abode, the stuff they love inside the house. Rarely, do they really love what is outside the walls of their house. This is why home selling so often veered into pedaling improved niceties for the petty bourgeois: granite counter tops, a jacuzzi tub, a game room, etc. etc. All nice things sure. But, more often, in order to afford that place, the house ends up being constructed about as well as a bird's nest with paper, sticks, and spit. (Maybe THAT's what Herzog and DeMeuron were saying?)

But is life really better when you don't want to leave the house? When their is no amenity a few steps from the front door?

My guess is that the majority of sprawl defenders and attackers of "urbanism" are really those just afraid of change. Evolutionally (sic) speaking, these people have a purpose. They are wired to ensure that change has to prove itself. That we don't keep wandering down wrong roads and dead ends of false progress (see anything designed recently by Steven Holl).

With that, I bring up one of the first two rules of science:
Look at things right under your nose as if you've never seen them before, then proceed from there.
Which looks like a better place to Work? To Shop? To Play? To Converse? To Laugh? To Live? To Love?

The following photo-sets represent two distinctly different "genotypes" of place: the tax, zoning, and transportation policies shaping the physical form, the phenotype, of cities.

Set 2:
Image from MyUrbanist.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Urbanism is Terrorism!!!!111111ONE!!!!1


"Sometimes life just gives you a moment." ~ Lester Freeman. What? I've use that quote before? Shut it.

I just came across this literally, extraordinarily, not-from-this-planet-are-you-Vincent articles. You know you have found the death rattle of suburban sprawl when its voice boxes have resorted to shrill hysterics such as "Obama is going to take your house and your car, run you, your kids, and your dog over with said car and then light the house on fire." Just think, if we had a pure libertarian system, we could even then watch a fire engine drive right on by, because you subscribed to the wrong private emergency/fire department. What a world.

Okay. First of all, is the Tulsa Beacon a legitimate newspaper? Probably not, since the real news source in Tulsa is the Tulsa World. Their website looks to be straight out of the quality reminiscent of white supremacist, militia groups...aka militants, aka terrorists.

So it isn't a surprise that one of the "leading" morons in stupidity, I mean, defense of highway construction, "growth" for the sake of growth like cancer type of development, Randall O'Toole is striking out to thorny rose bush branch to a similar demographic that might take up arms against such horrifying things, like children being able to walk to school, city schools having enough tax base and density to support themselves, LOWER TAXES because of reduced infrastructure per capita, etc etc.

First, a warning. I despise these people. Not because I disagree with them. I'm happy to engage in debate with intellectually honest people with whom I may disagree. People like O'Toole are absolute scum and prepare yourself for an article filled with scorn and complete lack of respect. Furthermore, since we know that the Tulsa Beacon is a rag unworthy of serious response, this will not be terribly serious.

Let's go through the article shall we, because OH MAN is it a doozy:

PlaniTulsa threatens American freedoms

EEEEEK! Take up arms!!! My career is threatened!!!
Randal O’Toole, a scholar from the CATO Institute, said PlaniTulsa looks a lot like what Portland, Oregon did beginning 20 years ago when it embraced New Urbanism.

And that should worry people in Tulsa.

Get out the pitchforks!!!

O’Toole spoke Saturday in Tulsa as part of a forum sponsored by OK-SAFE. A former professor at Yale University, O’Toole has written several books, including Gridlock: Why We’re Stuck in Traffic and What to Do About It.

Why what else? More Highways!!!! That is the proven solution, amiright? /High fives self. Winks at well-heeled representatives of the highway construction industry.

“I want to talk about the American dream,” O’Toole said. “To own a home, start a business, to have mobility and own property. ‘Smart growth’ is a threat to the American Dream. That’s what PlaniTulsa is all about.”

Yes. That is the American Dream you rubes. George Washington didn't lead his band of Oompa Loompas across the chocolate river Styx so people could have the right to live without a car or without a home mortgage. How dare we want actual choice in our lives. OBEY. REMAIN MISERABLY STUCK IN TRAFFIC BECAUSE MY WALLET DEPENDS ON IT WHILE I MISREPRESENT CONCEPTS LIKE MOBILITY.

The average person in American (sic) travels 19,000 miles a year and 85 percent of that is by automobile, O’Toole said. “They (the Obama Administration) are trying to coerce people out of their cars.”

Well. Point proven Randy. Everybody is in cars. That's clear choice in the market place right? That doesn't have anything to do with a bloated Federal Transportation Budget that allocates $40 billion to highway funding, would it? You see any of that loot per chance, Randy? Keep fooling everyone that this is "market forces" at work.

Let's look at it another way. If every American drives 19,000 miles per year, that equates to cool (approximated) $855 billion dollars spent by Americans every year for gasoline, let alone oil, general maintenance, car payments, insurance, various other losses due to collisions, taxes dedicated to road construction and maintenance, as well as various externalized long-term costs such as pollution. That's $855 billion we could have in our savings accounts to put towards college educations or all those new houses you want us to buy. See any of that money, Randy?

O’Toole said Obama wants to raise gasoline taxes to fund light rail systems all over the country. Through extensive study, O’Toole showed that city after city that has invested in light rail has lost millions if not billions in inefficiency.

That's clearly inefficiency. Fixed alignment public transit that has been proven throughout the country to leverage around a billion $ in private investment in and around transit lines for every $100 million spent. By the way, that is private investment seeking profit. Public builds infrastructure. Public spending on infrastructure guides the private market. Invisible hand, invisible arm, Randy. Learn how cities work. Or maybe you don't want to and simply want to rabble rouse.

At this point, o'TOOLe might as well just say, "did I mention to you that the President is black?"

In January, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood ended cost-effectiveness rules for federal transit grants - in essence saying he was willing to fund rail projects no matter how much money they waste.

No mention that those "cost effectiveness" rules were specifically designed to undercut the legs from transit as they intentionally ignored all the spinoff benefits of transit. Those rules basically asked, "does it immediately reduce traffic?" To which the answer is always and only that highway capacity and only road supply was the way to alleviate congestion. Of course, as we know that only is true in the short-term and that transit is far more (and only) effective in the long-term when the city can adapt to its new "bones."

Who sounds more logical AND truly conservative, o'TOOLe or Lewis Mumford:

"The purpose of transportation is to bring people and goods to places where they are needed, and to concentrate the greatest variety of goods and people within that limited area, in order to widen the possibility of choice without making it necessary to travel. A good transportation system minimizes unnecessary transportation; and in any event, it offers change of speed and mode to fit a diversity of human purposes."

Dallas invested $550 million in light rail and the cost per year per passenger is $12,250 - enough to buy every passenger a car of their own and eliminate light rail, O’Toole said. In Austin, Texas, the bus system was operating in the black and had $200 million in the bank when it started a commuter train system.

“Then they went broke, using up the entire reserve,” O’Toole said. “The director resigned in disgrace.”

Yes, DOTs aren't broke are they? Nor are cities and suburbs because they have spread the tax base too thin across an overextended infrastructure.

Proponents, like Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott, argue that they just want to offer people a choice.

O’Toole said flying costs 14 cents a passenger mile. A bus costs 15 cents a passenger mile and a car costs 15 cents a mile. Amtrak, the heavily subsidized passenger rail service, costs 60 cents a mile and high-speed rail costs more than 75 cents a mile.

More intentionally ignoring the spinoff or externalized costs. So you are saying, people shouldn't have a choice? American Dream at work. Airlines are all profitable as well right, Randy?

A ticket from Orlando to Tampa in Florida (86 miles) costs $50 on high-speed rail but $20 on a Greyhound bus.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. Lemme hop on a greyhound bus. Those are pleasant trips. You know what, let's get rid of first class on planes as well because no one should pay for comfort or quality of experience. American Dream. Or Dreaming Americana.

If high-speed rail is offered between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the ticket would cost four times the price of a bus ticket and save only about 20 minutes.

The chance of high speed rail linking Tulsa and OKC any time soon is remote. Why even bring it up. Well, he's rabble rousing. THEY TOOK ARE JOBS!!!! (sic) High speed rail is intended to link regional economies in a way that regional airlines have proven incapable, ie Dallas/Houston/Austin. San Fran to LA.

O’Toole said American freedoms are already dwindling in terms of property rights.

Comin' to get ya'. Boogie man. Boogity boogity boo.

And he wants to take away choice, freedom of mobility, housing options, living arrangements, etc. Buckle in kids, you ain't leavin' that car.

Urban planners in Oregon place restrictions on building new homes in rural areas, including: the site had to have at least 80 acres and it had to be a farm that earns at least $40,000-80,000 a year. Only 100 homes were built in the first year of those restrictions.
That was a conservative Republican Governor who implemented that AND the people of Oregon support it. That's called representative democracy. Do these people sit around and worry about a domino effect? Are they going to call Mayor Bloomberg, Ho Chi Minh now?

O’Toole said the new urbanists want people to build up, not out.

No. We want to diversify markets. We want people real choice. We want those who like walkable urbanism to have the opportunity to live in places like that. We want efficient, lovable, and sustainable cities. We want markets that don't impinge on the rights of others. We want lower taxes and less infrastructure and implicit waste.

“If my house burned down, I wouldn’t be allowed to rebuild it,” O’Toole said. “I would have to build an apartment.

First of all that is a lie dependent only upon local building/zoning codes. Now you know how all urban projects feel with antiquated zoning that, oh by the way creates nothing but the homogeneity of sprawl. Zoning. That's all choice right? I thought everybody chose to live in sprawl, right Randy?

“Most Americans want to live in a single family home. Smart Growth will make housing unaffordable.”

Wrong. Unless most Americans is about 30-40%. 3% currently live in walkable urbanism and 30% desire it. That looks like pent up demand the market would like to meet if only it weren't for the barriers of zoning, highways, tax incentives in favor of sprawl.

He said the new urban planners think big residential yards are “a waste of land.” They want people to live in apartments on small lots.

Jumpin Jeezus on a Dinosaur, his schtick is monotonous. I don't want anything. But I KNOW that land always finds its true value. Hence, the precipitous drop in housing values in suburban and exurban areas resulting in everyone owing more than what their house is worth. American Nightmare.

O’Toole said people who already own a home should be okay but their children will be forced by economics to live in high-density housing in overcrowded downtowns.

And they will be forced to wear outward insignias signifying their race and religion. Or is that only Arizona. As a liberaltarian, there was once a time when I foolishly thought Cato was a worthwhile conservative thinktank to balance out my own opinions and thought processes. Until I started reading them. I love how they use Thomas Jefferson as their poster boy. You'd think they might actually read him, however.

In Portland, the population is loaded with couples without children. Families with children live all around Portland where the land use restrictions don’t exist. The City of Portland told one church that wanted to expand that it must be closed on Saturdays, it could have only five weddings or funerals a year and its parking would be limited, O’Toole said.

They're probably all gay too!!!!1111!!!!ONE!!!!!

The Portland light rail system cost $3 billion - more than 30 times the original forecast.

Interesting to take initial projections from the 70's and apply costs for expansion in the 90's and 2000's. Inflation is a funny thing. Too complex for anybody in this audience to question I feel certain.

O’Toole said cities are using TIF districts to subsidize light rail systems. Under a TIF, a private company is forgiven taxes to encourage development.

They're they go. Just givin' away yer money. Even though, that has nothing to do with TIFs whatsoever.

“TIF district fees are just subsidies for contractors,” O’Toole said. “The main winners are downtown property owners.”

He said light rail is “good for some ‘businesses.’”

“Light rail sends crime everywhere it goes,” O’Toole said.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yep. The old Highland Park, "I don't want no stinkin' light rail, them people will steal my TV on ride home on the DART with it." Where do we mention that the FBI file on per $/Crime maps point directly to Highland Park??? Of course, leaching off the primary "host" city is also not yet a crime.

Another argument against densification is that America is filled with open spaces, O’Toole said. Ninety-six percent of Oklahoma is open space.

Wow. This is the kind of twisted logic and meaningless nonsense I don't think I good dream up in the most chemically altered of states.

“We have a tremendous amount of open rural space,” O’Toole said.

And every inch of it should be paved and dotted with with two-car garages.

Rail service is “1930s’ technology” in the 21st Century, O’Toole said.

The cities in 1930s were full of high speed bullet trains that traveled at 350 mph and modern streetcar that could load the physically disabled and ride whisper quiet and without a hint of pollution.

“The rail networks are all big losers,” he said.

You know what else is, the auto industry.

Randy Bright, a Tulsa architect
and another opportunist...

who specializes in churches, said, “New Urbanism is a movement that is sweeping the nation.”

Like communism. Red Scare, everybody under your desks!!!!!

Bright, who writes a weekly column for the Tulsa Beacon, warned that New Urbanism brings “dire consequences for churches.”

The gay, black, nazis are coming to get you.

New Urbanism, which was born out of environmentalism,
Oh noes. Hippies too! Those people we hated back in the 70s. And perhaps they're witches too. Do they float?

has form-based codes whose goal is to “densify populations and confine growth.”
And turn you all into food. Soilent Green is people.

This strategy inevitably leads to land shortages, higher land costs and limiting of the growth of churches, Bright said. In fact, where New Urbanism has been tried, parking for churches has been curtailed and the search for land to expand has resulted in a bidding war.

Lulz. Higher land costs has nothing to do with desirability does it. Those certainly aren't market forces at work. Everybody in New York City, San Francisco, Paris, London, Copenhagen, etc. is FORCED to live there. Who in their right mind would actually get up and move to one of those cities where you could make fame and fortune?

Bright said he has a series of discussions with a national proponent of New Urbanism who finally admitted she was “opposed to mega churches” and called big churches “profoundly anti-civic.”

How dare they.

“Our churches don’t understand the problems,” Bright said.

Cuz the gay, black, nazi, hippies are gonna burn down yer churches!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not I-30 or the Inner Loop

In a tweet responding to Wick Allison's article at D suggesting I-30 be removed, Mike Davis at Dallas Progress tweeted that 175 makes more sense. After taking a look at it, wowee zowee that is a useless highway rampaging all the way into downtown. If we are not ready for the commitment of pulling one of the major roads out from within 635/outer loop, I would agree that this is a potential opportunity for removing a freeway and leveraging the reclaimed land for new investment. On the other hand, if we really are ready to go for the gold, 175 is a little too close to 45 to leverage significant redevelopment.


For a while now, I've been eyeing the MLK connection between Fair Park and Trinity River. Brent Brown at City Design Studio said they are eyeing the same stretch of road. It has a pretty good building stock throughout the length of it, a decent scale, and as we mentioned connects two of the biggest attractions in the City.

The issue is that there is no positive inertia yet in that area to trigger enough private investment to create substantive, qualitative improvement. Simply converting the existing MLK to a complete street, wouldn't be enough in my opinion. However, removing 175 and packaging the land where 175 crosses MLK into a developer RFQ for mixed-use development, booya.

Perhaps, I should draw up a plan with that scenario in mind...

Abolish the States? Maybe.

Earlier today, I vaguely mentioned something about City-states. For some time now, I have been wondering about the purpose and perhaps overwhelming authority that States have over Cities. It turns out that many-a-Mayor used to fighting with states over Federal funding, feel the same way:
What, I asked, might be some mechanisms that could improve those relationships?

"Abolish the states!" Nickels barked.

He and Diaz pretty much went off on a tear about their anger and frustration with state legislatures. Legislators, Diaz said, don't know or care about cities. "If he's a state elected official he should stay the hell away from what's going to affect mayors," he said. The federal government hardly gives cities any money - they funnel it to states. And states don't give it equitably to cities. "We get peanuts," Diaz said.
While either in jest or exasperated frustration, there is a point there. The underlying issue is that State boundaries are entirely arbitrary. Sometimes they are defined by physical barriers such as bodies of water or perhaps at one time impassable mountain ranges, but they have no real relationship to human settlement patterns or economies other those that they impose. It could be argued that they only create imbalances and inefficiencies both within markets and on cities.

Cities, not states, are the physical embodiment of human dynamics. They are the fractal patterns of economies built on needs, wants, and demands of emotion, which are the driver of the world we know (or don't fully know). As biological and mathematical studies come to similar conclusions about cities, it is time to start rethinking the hierarchy of Federal, State, and Local governments and potentially VASTLY reducing the role of state governments.

Historically, cities were organized as City States. Often a way to protect local kingdoms (economies that fed a few families) and typically within city walls. As city walls became increasingly irrelevant as military power advanced, cities began forming alliances into what became countries.

While we aren't ready as a people to live fully without the boundaries imposed by shared value systems at varying points in human compassion, understanding, and evolution within national borders, perhaps we are ready to start thinking about abandoning state borders.

This is just a very initial thought. I expect to have more as I spend more time thinking and researching this topic. Intuitively, my guess is that it is both a necessary conversation and potentially profound one for the implications.

The Role Governments Play

So we have two recent reports out, one from the Harvard Business Journal showing just how timely they are in the article: Smart Money is Moving Back to the City. They seem so proud. So prescient.

In the second article, Kaid Benfield from NRDC writes in the Washingtonian that it is already happening.

Need a more striking graphic:

Orange arrows mean a local drop in housing prices of 25% or greater. Green monopoly house graphic means the opposite. Hmmmm, Harvard. I think the smart money was in long ago. Glad to have you at the table.

This however does raise a few issues. Obviously, in our country, in our time, the private market makes the cities. However, to ignore government agencies roles in doing so is to not understand our system in the first place. The invisible hand is attached the invisible arm. And if the invisible hand is wandering aimlessly around the countryside, it ends up leaving behind the wastes of its explorations.

Well, on the bright side, it tested the value of exurban land, and found that it is far less than the value of the similarly isolated single family house now sitting on it.

So what does that mean for us here in DFW, real estate, new urbanism, and just plain old urbanism. I often point out that probably the most serious of all issues creating sprawl and underperforming urban environments is the disconnection between transportation planning and design and its counterpart of placemaking or city building.

What I find most interesting about the "new urbanism" of the past two decades, is that even the best projects occurred in all the wrong places. At best they were road side attractions. At worst they were positioned at the end of a virtual cul-de-sac. Take Addison Circle for example. It was only built where it was because of the availability of land. Urban forces however, if they weren't at odds, would want that kind of development along Belt Line Road. Addison Circle is the center of community, but off-center.

Because of the failings of DOTs, City, and State policies, the real estate industry stomps around cluelessly hoping to squeeze value out of any and all piece of land that they can get their hands on cheaply. It is a process built on wish and prayer. "We're gonna develop this property and hope people come." It is supply side rather than demand driven. Creating well-designed points of convergence is city building, it is also economic development. It removes the barriers to delivering supply to a pent-up demand wanting to be near movement, near activity, at the heart of places. It makes the real estate industry smart and productive rather than the enemy of NIMBYism.

Commerce needs activity, it needs movement and predictability of location. Commerce is driven by emotional need. Here is where it is important to point out that consumerism by nature isn't bad. It is the material waste inherent in open-loop systems that is particularly insidious. Commerce is the exchange of goods, services, ideas, and genes. It has to happen. It is biologically wired into us.

However, our transportation planning and road design has undermined this. "High Streets," "Main Streets," and markets always occurred at crossroads, at intersection points, at points of convergence. Density wants to be at these convergence points, which is exactly what downtowns are/were until we gutted them with highways.

The real estate market needs predictability to infuse intelligence into the price and value of land. Otherwise, we end up with a supply of development in the middle of nowhere with no demand to match. Las Colinas once fit this bill and it has taken at least two generations to slowly ingratiate it with the rest of the City. Hence, it was a financial flop for the longest time until the introduction of DART to provide some level of convergence, of predictability, of movement.

Our highways and arterial system are repulsive forces. Nobody wants to be on them nor near them. But, we have no choice. They are unsafe and inhumane. The very nature of their planning and design violates the nature of convergence and how cities function (and their economies). Our points of convergence, the intersections of our busiest streets have to the be most pleasantly designed. The most enjoyable to be on or otherwise, our local economies will continue to leak oil, literally.

Complete Streets, Context-Sensitive Design, and incentive-laden TODs are all steps in the right direction. All of which would allow the private market (the hand) adapt the City to and work cohesively with the transportation network established by government agencies (the arm). So why do we keep widening roads when we have some of the worst traffic in the country:

John Horsley, Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, relayed the information during a news conference Monday at the National Association of County Engineers' annual conference.

The AASHTO's report, Transportation Reboot: Unlocking Gridlock, is the first in a series aimed at boosting transportation capacity.

It identifies what the agency considered needed projects across the country, including in Texas.

The study says bottlenecks cause 40% of all congestion, and the gridlock costs Americans time and money.

The solutions presented Monday include using millions of dollars to build new highways.

Texas, however, does not have the funding.

Hey John. You know what costs Americans time and money. Your industry. IntraCity highways are a drain. The cause, not the solution. How many studies do we need to undermine this nonsensical thinking?

Here is where it is important to remind of the corruption that once plagued streetcars, then railroads, and now highways. Too many are dependent upon that breast milk. We're like an 18-year old still living in the basement with an Oedipus Complex.

A monopoly is never good for markets, but particularly in transportation it becomes exceptional corrosive. If for no other reason, we need a range of transportation choices just to undermine the corruption that occurs within any one dominant form. History doesn't repeat but it rhymes.

Let's Not Bust Out the Popsicles Yet

Dallas gets front and center attention from Fast Company for advancing culture in Cities. Not surprisingly however, all three photographs shown are of the much more photogenic Winspear Opera House rather than its ugly little brother, the Wyly. Regarding the Wyly's not so coincidental appearance as a prison cell:
The unending nihilism of the twin-architects doesn't make for attractive buildings, but it does make for the kind of deep objectivity necessary for critical analysis of its audience. In that way, the Wyly actually is a work of art.
The question remains, does the Dallas Arts District get this attention because of the availability of culture, of peak experiences for all or because of its size, scale, and level of investment befitting of its marketing arm? Does it advance culture locally even as much as aggregations of local artists in Oak Cliff or elsewhere? That is a legitimate question, not a rhetorical one.

My opinion is that both are necessary. The Dallas Arts District acts as a port, importing culture to be experienced by the local citizenry, whereas Bishop Arts, X+, Deep Ellum, et al are the silent whispers of local culture screaming, laughing, crying, or lashing out.

But regarding urban form they couldn't be more polar opposite. The local is off stimulating investment in new areas, the creative busy bees are finding the sweet honey in new infill areas of opportunity. On the other hand, clumsily clumping the Arts District and bounding it by freeways and high-rises was a mistake from the beginning, dissipating the potential for leveraged qualitative improvement of under-developed or non-performing properties as interactive, participatory urban integers. Wouldn't they be better off as centerpieces of reinvestment zones scattered in and around downtown and the nearby emerging neighborhoods?

But that is water under the bridge now.

We're still a simple minded people that get the city we deserve and cultural experience more equivalent to a drive-thru Mickey D's. Or at least, that might be the way we view ourselves. Expressing the deeper issue of self-confidence we struggle with, the internal conflict of braggadocio masking a rather lowly opinion of our City.

Personally, I would like to see some more cross-pollenization between the two, the imported and the local, the potentially exported. However, I worry that the urban form and exclusive nature of one might prevent the other from using its microphone and grand stage to show that Dallas also has local voices of culture. We don't have to always import ideas. "World Class" cities don't have to. They're voices, ideas, expressions come from within.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Month's D

I encourage you all to go out and buy this month's issue of D Magazine. They have to pay for their fancy new digs in walkable downtown Dallas.

So don't go to this link about the development at Park Lane Place where I am quoted thusly:
He says a development like this one needs to do two things to succeed. “It has to be so well-designed, so lovable that the citizenry will always care for it and ensure that it endures,” he says. “The other is, it has to tie into the rest of the city, the adjacent properties, neighborhoods, street network, and transportation framework so that the improvement, stewardship, and resilience are mutually ensured. I’m not sure Park Lane successfully accomplishes either. I think the underlying logic defining Park Lane—that of convenience—undermines certainly the latter and possibly the former, as the experience is ultimately degraded by the disconnection, no matter the level of detailed design.”
And especially go buy it because of the Op-Ed by publisher Wick Allison at this link you don't want to click where Wick hops on the bandwagon to demand Mr. Leppert, Tear Down This Freeway:
Those neighborhoods—and Fair Park—are too valuable to neglect any longer. The city’s next bond election should include the funds necessary to tear down about 3 miles of I-30, from its interchange with Central Expressway to Samuell Boulevard. HNTB estimated the costs at about $200 million. The benefits are incalculable but real. These neighborhoods now contribute a disproportionately low rate to the city’s tax rolls. By restoring East Dallas as a middle-class community and by stimulating the return of the black middle class to Fair Park, the city will see a huge return on a relatively small investment of $20 million a year for 10 years. The pressure is there. People want to move into the city, close to downtown. All Dallas needs to do is remove the single biggest impediment to its own urban growth.
Exactly. As we shift from expansion to contraction, "growth" will be found in the qualitative improvement within the City. In this age of what I call "urban introspection." Since the highways are a barrier to that effort, they are therefore a hindrance on economic growth. Do we really want that as we dig out from under a recession?

The $200 million number seems like a lot. But, like any responsible investor (as the City should be with its infrastructure and urban "acupuncture" or in some cases neighborhood difibrillator), we should demand a return on investment. Trinity River Plan is nice. The Woodall Rogers Deck Park is as well. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will generate the return on investment as tearing out freeways. Whether it is I-30 or the downtown loop, there is billions in private investment pent up by the Dallas intra-city highways.

Just look what Seoul, South Korea did with $200 million. Before. After.

What I like about this picture is that bodies of water, like highways, can also act as barriers, as edges. The design shows how it can be a seam, stitching the City back together. It represents the repair of a long and degraded history for this particular body of water that was once, quite literally, used as Seoul's sewer. The first logical solution of course, was to cap and cover it with a freeway, an express lane into a modern economy.

Fortunately, they have since realized how cities and economies really work. Oh, and it has been so successful that the Mayor who was elected ON this idea, executed it, and then became so popular as to become President of South Korea. I know I feel better that the lunatic to the North is balanced by the intelligence of his southern counterpart.

Economic Development is Urban Design. Urban Design is Economic Development.

I don't mean to be harsh, but if you are in the profession of economic development, you either need to be thinking about removing intracity highways (with a CAN DO attitude!) or find yourself a new job...because my beer mug is going to need a fillin'.

-30- and I'm out. Peace.

/drops mic
Post Script: For everything I've ever written on taking out freeways, peep this link.

Friday Happy Hour - No Free Lunches

In honor of subsidized automobility, you bullies won't take my lunch (beer) money today. For the first time ever, the Walkable DFW Happy Hour ventures across the expanses of the mighty Trinity to visit Eno's in the Bishop Arts District. Why isn't there a free beer guess the city today, you ask. Because they have Mothership Wit on tap and why buy you a pint when I can attempt to hog it all to myself.

If you happen to catch a gentleman in unkempt state of repair rolling a keg of the fine wine of the Rocky Mountain foothills across Houston Street Viaduct, do the neighborly thing and give the man a lift.

Bon Vivant!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thirsty Thursday Linkages

Not much time today, so straight to it:

What Bloomberg's sustainability initiatives have achieved:

In 2009, the City reported that two-thirds of PlaNYC’s initiatives were either on or ahead of schedule. As of April 2010, the City has scored a wide range of successes toward its goals, including the following:

  • 100,000 affordable housing units created or preserved
  • 319,054 trees planted and 113 schoolyards-to-playground sites opened
  • 200 miles of bicycle lanes installed and a bike-access law enacted
  • 86 energy-efficiency projects completed as part of plan to reduce City government energy use 30% by 2017
  • 25 percent of the yellow taxi fleet converted to hybrid vehicles
  • 9 percent decrease in citywide carbon emissions due to cleaner power generation and less sulfur hexaflouride release
AskMen rates cities to live in for Men, which could be described as Y-chromosomal livability, yes? Besides simply judging by "Attractive Young Females" [grunt], they looked at such crazy, nonsensical things men might also enjoy like air quality, bikability, time off, and transit access. Even the launch graphic is a transit map. You still question whether our values have changed?
And the remnants of a world shifting from expansion to contraction, the ghost town of the aptly named California City from GOOD mag:
The dream faded quickly, however, and though California City is the third-largest city by area in California, it is home to just 14,000 people. Surrounded by a sprawling ghost-grid of empty streets scratched into the dust and gravel with nary a finished house in sight, California City is a labyrinth of meticulously named culs-de-sac—Oldsmobile Boulevard, Alpha Street, Planet Lane: a dream city that never quite happened.

Highway Dependence Begets Auto-Dependence, What's the Cost?

Well in NYC, the City and its residents save $19 billion annually.

The $19 billion number is a quick, conservative estimate that almost surely understates the savings New Yorkers reap by not driving. The study estimates that, per capita, New Yorkers drive nine miles per day. It then multiplies that figure by the national average cost of operating a vehicle, 40 cents per mile. Compare that total -- how much New Yorkers spend on driving, per capita -- to the national average, and you get $19 billion in savings.

Here's why that's a conservative estimate. The study calculated average VMT rates in New York City by distributing the average daily distance driven in the entire metropolitan region according to the city's vehicle ownership rates. If New York City car owners drive less often than their Suffolk County counterparts, or drive shorter distances when they do -- both reasonable assumptions -- then nine miles per day overshoots the mark. Moreover, the cost of driving is almost certainly higher in New York than it is nationally, due to elevated costs for parking, insurance, and gasoline. In other words, it's likely that New Yorkers save much more than $19 billion.

Cities (and larger entities) spend money on transportation and its infrastructure every single year, no matter the form. If you spend it on the kind that supports high quality dense, urban living that puts more money in the pockets of your citizenry who can then spend their savings how they choose.

You want to know why housing is more expensive there? Reason 1: the Car has less impact on livability, and Reason 2: those savings can then be spent on better housing closer to activity centers, which are always in high demand no matter the age. If economics are driven by emotion, we WANT to be near other people.

Activity hubs are where fame, fortune, and females can be found, which is why Bill Shakespeare moved to the squalor of 16th century London, hardly the paragon of livability compared to modern city standards. Due to advances in industry and sanitation our cities are no longer disease ridden, filthy mires. Imagine how valuable the land will be when we remove all of the other barriers to livability, such as intra-city highways.

I tweeted about this yesterday when reading about some American Dream Coalition. These are the kind of people so intellectually bankrupt that they apparently think the American Revolution, Civil War, and World Wars were fought for the single family home and two-car garage. Of course, none of those things existed.

What they don't understand is that the American Dream is about opportunity which is defined by and had only through CHOICE, fundamental to market economies and capitalism, no? The American Dream Coalition wants to shackle everyone to home mortgages and car payments. Why? Well, because they are made up of car companies, oil and gas companies, the dinosaurs of the real estate industry (ReMAX and Century 21s of the world) and the highway lobby.

In their world, you are coppertop. They want to suck the life out of you and every city they can touch.

I'm going to start the horse and buggy coalition. WE NEED TO BAIL OUT THE HORSE AND BUGGY INDUSTRY! What will happen to those jobs?! Oh sweet despair and dismay! I can't live without you.

Perhaps someday we too can get out of the stone ages of stupidity and begin competing with the global cities who understand a thing about real economic development.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Dallas Dynamic and Why Holding it Up to Vancouver Matters

[Warning: Prepare yourself for a long-A squiggle squiggle post.]

Recently, I received an email that could generally be described as somewhere between angst-ridden and soaked to saturation in rage-a-hol. The general gist expressed a feeling of helplessness while the City of Dallas, one in which the person obviously loved and had a passion for, was being torn asunder for more endless seas of paving, parking lots, and overly engineered contrivances.

The following was my best effort to rationally and analytically (with a great deal of insider knowledge) weave the tale of the City by the stinky-apparently flood of ark-necessitating proportions river. Afterwards, a few other nationally and internationally recognized colleagues/experts chipped in with a telling contrast between Vancouver and Dallas, which will follow my posted email.

But before you run off on the "omigod we're not Vancouver you hippy commie" reactionary tangent, let me explain the relevance within the comparison.

People are people. And because our underlying needs and desires, the way we are wired, are the same no matter where we are, city form and the processes therein function similarly. Because individuals are different, the way we flavor our cities is driven by the unique identity of the various individuals. Urbanity is the platform for expression. Urbanity is science, expression is art. In the science of cities, yes you can compare various places.

Recently, as you may know Vancouver hosted the Olympics. Dallas has on occasion chased the dream of one day hosting the Olympics as well. My recollection is that they never curried enough favor with the USOC to be considered a viable candidate to win over its grandaddy, the IOC.

Dallas also likes to talk in terms of "World Class Cities." We get all self-congratulatory when hypocritical hacks like Kotkin and Brueggman tell us we are the paragon. I don't think it would be a stretch of the imagination to say that one relatively objective status indicator as "World Class City" is membership in the prestigious club of having hosted an Olympic Games. There have certainly been more Olympics held than there are World Class Cities in the world (how else do you think Atlanta got them - oh, right...bribery and corruption), but taking a look at some of the distinguished cities on the list, it is obviously a good start (just recent and future sites):
Rio, London, Athens, Vancouver, Sydney, Beijing, Turin, Athens, Barcelona...
/once lived in Atlanta. Left.

I believe in honesty. Science and understanding require it. Improvement requires understanding. It also requires deep affection. I love the City of Dallas and all of its eccentricities and eccentric individuals. I too want it to be a world class city, but you can't get there without first being honest with yourself. Just like you can't achieve self-actualization without deep, honest introspection. The emotion is there. The direction is not.

So in the vein of achieving "World Class" thru introspection and understanding (edited to make appropriate for the blogosphere):
I think the palpable rage expressed here represents the way many (most?) Dallasites feel about the multitude of projects happening around the City. The citizenry feels misled at best and disobeyed at worst. The funny thing about Dallas is that there are many people/groups in positions of power (of various forms), but at the same time nobody is in charge. Very few get along or have been marshaled into a singular direction or vision. Filling the void is the standard operating procedure, which comes in the form of road widening and highway expansion under the guise of "road improvements" or alleviating congestion or "economic development." All of which provide temporary relief, but long-term create more problems than when they were started.

Because the rabble is starting to wise up to the way they are treated as a third world country in need of vast infrastructural projects (many of which are unnecessary and bankrupt the city of the long-term), they become further cloaked under a new "guise," public parks and green space. Who could say no to parks right?

Well, eventually Dallas citizens realized that the park was simply another way to appease the masses in order to build another highway, which not so ironically would further disconnect the City from the River improvements. Slowly but surely under intense local pressure the "parkway" was removed from the Oak Cliff side of the channel to only the Dallas side. Step 1 in the right direction. Pressure endured.

Now, a new project emerged which is the widening of Industrial Blvd and renaming to Riverfront Blvd. I had a long convo with somebody directing one of the design processes yesterday who felt the "improved" Industrial might signal a fall back plan and that under the increased and growing scrutiny the Trinity Toll Road is DOA. Of course, Industrial-turned-Riverfront is still a widening project under a guise of "complete street" and laughably gets compared to Champs Elysees...without being the Main Street for a global Capital and the cultural totems of an entire nation, unless of course if you count Lew Sterrett Jail (read into that what you will).

In sum, all of the projects: Pegasus, Woodall Rogers Deck Park, multiple Calatrava bridges, the Arts District, are all projects that, fall under misguided attempts at economic development. Sure, they might generate some, but in the long-term, I believe many to be overstated in their effect. For example, the Deck Park has the nearly fully built out Arts District on one-side and LoMac to the north side. What is left? Perhaps the improvement of one more block to the north side, which will engage McKinney Ave before the park anyway. That would be maybe a $60 million project leveraged by a $60 million park.

The "connectivity" people suggest it will add is overstated as well, as one of the three connecting roads between uptown/downtown has been removed.
Removing all of these local, "grid" connections in favor of the overly hierarchical dendritic pattern is a mistake, cutting off the neural network of local economies in favor of a system where any traffic jam acts as a stroke is no way to build a city, which is simply the physical representation of a local economy.

Furthermore, because Dallas is bounded by other municipalities, unlike Houston which annexed all of its growth, the highways act as the lifeline for the suburbs to leach the life from Dallas, who gets stuck with the carnage and the bill.

For those who don't know, LoMac (Lower McKinney) is a lot of density and very little urbanity. It was driven by the recent housing boom and the residential towers are insular and have little to no relation to a very bad street network, which is the foundation of all of the problems. The street design and transportation framework that is guided by increasing capacity and flow creates roads that go through places but never to places. The result is that any and all development is hurt by the countervailing pressures to be both near traffic but away from it.

The funny thing is that so many of the recent projects at the large scale: Victory and Park Lane Place, or the individual buildings such as the Ritz Carlton in LoMac will not reach their full potential/value for some time as they were designed to be "exclusive" both in terms of market and urban form. They didn't connect with their surrounding fabric, meaning they severed the bond between properties ensuring mutual stewardship, care.

If a city is a hierarchical pyramid where Lovability is founded upon Livability which rests on a foundation of Viability, 20th century economic development reigns supreme still in Dallas: big projects as an attempt at Lovability or in a phrase Dallasites are fond of "a world class city." The problem is that these huge projects require subsidy and that since they ignore the second step of livability, we then have to go back and subsidize efforts towards livability as well.

Rather, this so-called fiscally conservative state should be focused with their "economic development" subsidies directed at the small-scale, as incremental "acupuncture" to stimulate the livability of the neighborhoods. Once that is jump-started the private market will flock and lift areas from viable to livable to lovable, just as what happened in State-Thomas/Uptown, now a fully mature neighborhood where new businesses and neighborhood character are outgrowths of the neighborhood.

The best way to do this is to reduce vehicular capacity of the road network, increase capacity of other forms of transit, recapture ROW which can be used as incentive to roll into private development. So many areas are so fractured by repellent forces, highways, poorly designed arterials, etc. that some extra room will be both helpful and necessary to generate some critical mass.

I was referred to in this email as a local optimist. Sometimes it is difficult, but I am always imbued by the inertia Dallas generates when it puts its collective mass behind a meme (for better or worse). When it does something, it goes all the way. I see my task as marshaling that capacity for momentum under the guiding "pattern" of livability.
As promised my email was then responded to by Professor Patrick Condon of UBC with a comparison between Dallas and Vancouver (published with permission):
Dallas and Vancouver. Night and Day.

On this thread, and the tragedy of Dallas, I provide a reminder to all that some might find inconceivable. The City of Vancouver somehow survives without any freeways.

None in the downtown.

None in the surrounding neighborhoods.

None in the industrial districts.


There are no proposals to build one within the city.

In twenty years the number of jobs in the city has increased dramatically and the population grown by over 100,000 or 25%. In that same period commuting times have fallen (the only region in the country where that has happened) and the number of car trips into and out of the downtown has declined.

This is no pedestrian nirvana. Per capita car ownership in Vancouver rivals that of LA. But a robust system of four lane arterial streets (the legacy of the streetcar period located at half mile increments or a ten minute walk apart) keeps things moving, albeit slowly.

There are no proposals to add freeways within the city. The Board of Trade gave up lobbying for that in the 1970s.

While the Province, much to the dismay of many, continues to press forward on various highway widening and extension projects in the suburbs, even there they represent a minuscule fraction (on a per capita basis) of what is happening in Dallas.

Before moving here from Minnesota i would never have imagined it possible to have a major and rapidly growing center city without a freeway. How dumb i was not to realize that a distributed system of streetcar arterials was the more resilient and "right sized" way to do it.

Come up and see for yourselves.

You simply will not believe it.

I didn't.

Not at first.
Later, somebody else mentioned the following contrast in transit planning/difficulties:
And speaking of Dallas and Vancouver, here are two interesting articles that juxtapose the former region's crumbling plans to build a classic sprawl-scaled rapid transit system with the latter region's promising plans in progress to determine the most appropriate transit technology to build in a "ripe" urban corridor.



The Unfortunate Tragedy of Drinking and Driving

"If drinking and driving is illegal, then why do bars have parking lots?"
Drinking and driving is an epidemic plaguing both the country and local municipalities within DFW as well, no doubt. We like to laugh at the pathetic individuals caught on police cruiser cam miserably (or hysterically) trying to convince the arresting officer of their sobriety and unflinching motor skills. But, what is the real issue and how do they end up there?
I have no idea what this means other than a whole lotta traffic accidents are alcohol related.

People partake in alcohol for a variety of reasons, none of which are particularly important nor revelatory.

People consumed alcohol even when it was illegal during prohibition.

People still drink and drive despite stiffer and more crippling consequences than ever (which one could argue that since they are largely financial - are particularly and unfairly regressive in that it punishes the poor moreso than the wealthy).

The reason is our environment. We HAVE to live by cars. Until the recent emergence of local transit and walkable portions of uptown and downtown Dallas there were no other options for liquid revelry.

This contextually coerced outcome has a particularly ironic history. Once upon a time it was perfectly legal to drink and drive in Dallas. A driver could amicably tip his open beer can at a passing police officer if he felt so compelled. Keep in mind that I am not feeling particularly nostalgic for this time period or the policy that allowed such behavior. Obviously, society deemed the dangers enough to prohibit drinking while driving. But this prohibition has also cruelly failed society. Why?

The reason is that once upon a time, in a land not so ideologically far away, the Federal government mandated that Dallas make drinking and driving illegal in order to "enter the 20th century." The strings attached to the purse of promised futurism came in the form of Federal Highway Dollars. Want the short-term bump in economic development of new highway construction (and the long-term bankruptcy)? Dallas must ban drinking and driving.

Instead of drunk on fermented beverages, we became drunk on federal cash money; the allusion of economic development, our new and favored chemical pathogen. The result was more and more highways making driving a necessity for all and created bars like this:

I don't mean to unfairly single out this particularly bar, but it was the first that came to mind. Others like all of Belt Line Road in Addison, TX are strictly drive-to drinking establishments. If we are going to drink, our zoning and transportation policies (and funding) create unwalkable places and effectively turn all citizens into a nation of drunk drivers rationalizing "oh, I'm not that bad," as bars spread out to accommodate a population increasingly dispersed by the repellent force of intra-city highways.

Want to stop the carnage of drinking and driving? Demand walkable communities and fight against road widenings, new highways, or any vehicular capacity expansions.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Clockwork Orange Line

Something to accompany your steaky-wakes and eggy-weggs this morning:
Eye-opening ideas.

With funding problems a plenty for not just the orange line, but virtually all planned transit lines the DMN Transpo blog has an excellent idea up from the awesomely Texan-named Garl Boyd Latham.

What we are learning is that we actually can't have our steaky-wakes AND eggy-weggs AND eath them too all at the same time despite knowing full well that transit capacity and hierarchy of service is necessary for the city's and region's long-term viability. The world is no longer made of funny money...and this is a good thing. Funny money makes for incredibly (and sometimes indelibly) stupid and short-sighted city planning. It gives us time to pause...and prioritize. What is most important?

Latham's idea is to finish the Orange Line to the airport and I agree with him that connecting downtown to the airport(s) should be a priority, representing a carfree link to the global economy. If your city doesn't have that, good luck in the competition of cities of the 21st century.

One issue with the Orange Line as currently planned is that once complete, it will create a logjam of trains on the existing downtown line along with the Red, Blue, and Green all converging along the same corridor of limited capacity and inherent (in)efficiency to move them all through the City. Hence the reason for D2. The thought was that D2 would run through the southern portion of downtown, alleviate pressure on the current line and leverage private investment in the neglected areas of town.

Sounds pretty good right. Of course, there are also financial realities. One D2 alignment costs approximately $300 million. That's the cheapest. The City's preferred alignment, to the new "bricks and mortar" project, the convention center hotel, costs approximately $600 million (jaw ->floor).

Oooooooh-Kay. Time to rethink. Rather than run a second line through downtown, Latham suggests running the Orange line directly to Union Station, eschewing the train traffic snarl on the current line.

A direct link from airport to Union Station immediately increases Union Station's significance within the city. Currently, it is an afterthought. If that becomes the single place for businessmen (and women) to catch their ride to the airport, it once again becomes a hub of activity. Furthermore, it is only two blocks from the Convention Center Hotel and provides the opportunity to leverage the value of land around Belo into functional urban fabric.

His other idea is to effectively replace D2 with streetcar. I like this idea for several reasons:
  • Streetcar is cheaper than DART lines which are much closer to heavy rail than they are light rail. Streetcar can cost around $20mil/mile where DART lines could be anywhere from $80mil/mile or in downtown or subway type conditions upwards of $200mill/mile.
  • Streetcars run on the street and help to calm traffic making downtown roads more walkable, which is necessary for urban investment and development.
  • DART hasn't shown the ability to leverage much in the way of retail activity. My guess is the reasons are two-fold: it serves a much larger area meaning that, like highways, it serves macro-destination to macro-destination: 'burb to job center (downtown) whereas streetcar is much more fine-grained. Second, it hasn't shown the ability to "mingle" with cars and pedestrians alike the way streetcar can.
  • The geometries of a heavier rail like DART make it difficult to turn and corner within the confines of downtown urban fabric. We end up with more spaghetti under in and around the freeway spaghetti which act as barriers, further disconnecting downtown from its foundations, the neighborhoods adjacent.
  • Streetcar is best at leveraging investment in areas immediately adjacent to downtowns, which I'm slowly but surely leaning to the opinion that Downtown is so constrained that if you don't remove the freeways, you have to build up the value around downtown in order to make downtown viable.
  • Because streetcar is more pedestrian friendly AND cheaper, it generates more bang for the buck by way of private investment, which means...
...take whatever money is alotted for D2 and:

1) Run streetcar from Union Station to Oak Cliff as is currently planned.

2) Run streetcar from Union Station down Canton/Young into Deep Ellum.

3) Do NOT move MATA off of St. Paul and extend it past Main Street Gardens to intersect with the new Canton/Young line with plans to eventually run it to the Cedars.

Everything is linked into Union Station, and if we ever plan on having High Speed Rail, Union becomes a true multi-modal facility serving the various necessary hierarchies of transportation in order to properly link downtown with the local, metropolitan, regional, state, national, and international economies and returning "pride of place" back to Union Station as downtown Dallas's front door to the world.

Thumbs up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Industrial Boulevard

Every invisible hand is attached to the invisible arm of government. ~paraphrased from a quote by Ted Goranson in an interview by Alex Marshall in the book How Cities Work.

Over the weekend, the Unfair Park blog by the Dallas Observer has a link to a City Council presentation updating plans to make Industrial Boulevard Complete, by apparently not "completing" it at all. Here is blog buddy Jason Roberts of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff's response:
It’s a 6 lanes + 2 turn lanes street with glorified sidewalks being developed as “cycle tracks” for shared bicycle and pedestrian use. In other words, its form is:

Pedestrian/Bicycle, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Car, Bicycle/Pedestrian

There are multiple reasons to develop a complete street including lessening CO2 emissions, allowing for/enabling multiple transit options, enlivening an area with pedestrians, and greater economic development potential. Problems with our current streetscapes are that there is far too much weight given to one mode of transit which lessens the likelihood of use for any other. What are we trying to enable? Pedestrianization of an area, or automotive through-way? When it’s far easier to drive than it is to walk or bicycle, why attempt another mode? And who exactly would want to walk, or dine, or bicycle beside a 6 lane arterial?
The following is how I respond:
I concur with Jason's assessment. Streets such as these are 1) sorry attempts at compromise to appease the rabble, and 2) barriers to local economic activity despite its purpose as "connector." They are centrifugal rather than centripetal, meaning the public realm has to be safe, attractive, and amenable to cross-shopping, pedestrians crossing streets, buildings "communicating" with the buildings across the street, etc. in order to draw people to focal points of activity.

(ed: added for this posting) Commerce needs concentration and it always has. Road design like this prevents concentration and promotes dispersal which undermines social space, economic activity, and urban integration.

Given how fragmented the area is by the River swath, the highways, the rail lines, AND Industrial Blvd, maintaining a certain capacity of traffic ignores the relationship between transportation and development and the public right-of-way's dual role as link and place. It will hinder any and all attempts to "upgrade" the developments in and around this area.

If we want to qualitatively improve the development in this area, somebody has to have the gumption to say that vehicular capacity is one of the hindrances and it should be reduced in order to make private investment even viable.

If the street network isn't made more livable, then in order to attract any investment it has to be subsidized. Rather than subsidize development, subsidize livability and watch the private investment flock to it.

The area needs space. It is incredibly constrained. Why not make Industrial the attraction, by reducing traffic flow lanes, recapturing the Right-of-way and rolling that extra land into development sites. That way you incentivize development by improving the livability, safety, and possibility of Industrial rather than spending on pig lipstick and then doubling down on the subsidy that it would take to invite private developers to the area.

To paraphrase a quote that I once heard a friend use, "that kind of compromise is like a car-boat. It's not a good car and it's not a good boat."

And because I'm OCD about finishing thoughts, I add-on:
Reticence to the "complete street" movement is understandable. It comes from the conventional wisdom established over 80 to 90 years of urban and transportation planning. Unfortunately, that conventional wisdom AND the planning behind it were all incorrect and have been failures.

Economic activity requires concentration. This is why the most expensive time slots for advertising are when the most people are watching. The most expensive real estate is where the most people are. The shopping mall was a natural reaction to big roads undermining the convergence or concentration of people. But, the shopping mall is largely being undone by the same issue, its disconnection from the rest of the urban fabric.

Roads are important delivery systems for concentration. However, if the road isn't "tamed" to be more pedestrian friendly, then it undermines concentration. It becomes an agent of dispersal rather than concentration. Residential then disperses because the preponderance of unsafe, undesirable, inhumane roads. Then retail has no choice but to follow the pattern of dispersal, reducing cross-shopping, concentration, and vitality.

Also, if the road isn't "tamed" then any "urban" development nearby have to effectively turn their back on the road. The cutting edge in urban planning is showing that this too is not effectively allowing properties to reach their highest and best use or value. Studies reveal that for every deviation from a main stem or axis (the turning off of an arterial) shows a correlated reduction in real estate value.
(Some even suggest that every slight turn of a street may as well, but this can also be compensated by improved place and character of winding streets.)

This is why before assembly line, industrialization, and theoretical planning, et al began undermining thousands of years of adapted city evolution, that real estate value and density clustered along the "High" Street or "Main" Street.

On the other hand, the current design of our streets also reduces adjacent value. Developers, whether for residential, retail, or mixed-use want to be near the concentration that arterials provide, but also want to be nowhere near them.

20th century transportation policies have put the "economy of place" at odds with the "movement economy" undermining economic activity, efficiency, and value.

Monday Linkages

Some fun reading today (okay, maybe only for urban morphologist nerds like myself) while I get to play "I told you so" before unpacking my mittens and winter coat for this weather:

First, Next American City takes on Witold Rybczynski's recent broad-brush painting that all centralized planning is faulty:
Rybczynski goes on to defend the private sector’s efficacy when it comes to urban development efforts, but he omits the private sector’s failure from the dark days of the 1960’s. Blockbusting—the practice of scaring middle-class whites into thinking their home prices would plummet when people of color moved into their neighborhood, then buying the home from them at a low price, and selling it to minority buyers for an inflated price—was instrumental in the ghettoization of many American cities in the postwar years. Blockbusting at times took advantage of Great Society mortgage programs, but was ultimately a free market phenomenon. This was what the private sector did in declining neighborhoods: it expedited their decline for a quick buck. Careless federal urban policy and racial distrust created the incentives, and the free market delivered the coup de grace. This, in essence, is the problem with giving the private sector too much control over urban planning: public benefit is not at the top of their list of priorities.
This is what I had to say in reaction to first reading Rybczynski's Slate piece:

"Rybczynski is simply being reactionary here. We still need centralized planning to UNDO all of the mistakes centralized planning created. Government entities will be the only ones able to tear down intracity freeways and it will take cooperation of all levels of government to do so. Our cities will all be the better for it. This I promise you."

Not unrelatedly, a super-sweet haircut courtesy of Project for Public Spaces uses the recent rescinding of the Athens Charter in Greece to say something similar:
Economic experts believe this action will boost the sluggish global economy. Scrapping outdated zoning codes will spark a construction boom of corner groceries, pubs, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, hardware stores and small-scale office buildings in neighborhoods around the world.
Here is what I said last week and not to brag, but more poetically and (rare for me) concise:

"The tragedy of 20th century city planning is the task of the 21st."
WorldChanging on the Life Cycle of Concrete:
In addition to its contribution to climate change, concrete production generates substantial amounts of waste. In China, it is responsible for more than 40 percent of industrial dust emissions. The dust can be recycled into the production process, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that the highly acidic substance could pose "toxicological problems, human tissue burns...corrosion in pipes, and objectionable taste in drinking water" if released into the air or water...

Alternatives emerged this past year that may redefine the future of concrete. Competing U.S. and British inventors claim they have developed cement production methods that generate zero greenhouse gas emissions and capture emissions released as the cement hardens. If true, their discoveries could become the pillars of a sustainable future.
The Baltimore Sun reviews their City's new rubber tire urban circulator and mercifully not their owner-crippled baseball team (yes, I'm bitter). Short article but with several good insights:
But surely even a Tea Partier would have to approve of the circulator, which funnels parking taxes to a bus that helps you avoid paying parking taxes...

It was quite well-ridden the day I decided to test it out — there were commuters heading to or from work, workers from the University of Maryland, Baltimore campus or biotech park grabbing lunch at Harborplace, tourists from Harbor East or downtown hotels heading to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum and other attractions along the line.

Riding it is much more akin to being on a tourist coach, with cushy seats and a smooth ride, rather than a groaning, exhaust-spewing city bus. (The circulator buses are eco-friendly hybrids.) Not much waiting on the street, since they come about every 10 minutes, or to get on board since there's no fumbling for the exact change.

I actually felt a little guilty not paying anything, like I'd jumped the turnstile. Instead, we passengers were a rolling band of freeloaders. One woman told me she was saving $20 a day on parking at her job. Parking should be expensive, and public transit cheap — you want to discourage driving, particularly downtown — but should it be free?

Kendrick says in this case, yes. "It's not that one dollar or two dollars is a lot of money," he said of charging for the circulator. "But it's a psychological barrier."
Steve Mouzon at his personal blog Original Green discusses the similarities between Sprawl and Cancer:
Disease occurs in a living urbanism just as it does in living creatures. Parts of a city designed by specialists rather than generalists usually act as disease agents to a living urbanism because specialists usually create things for very narrow purposes rather than for the general welfare of the city.
Assembly Line
Streets designed by transportation engineers are a classic example of a specialist’s solution because they have a single purpose: getting as many cars as quickly as possible from point A to point B.
By creating connections like this, they are really creating barriers. Or, perhaps to continue with the metaphor, those "connections" become the straw that draws the life from the healthy organism to the cancer.
But in doing so, they make no contribution to the overall health of the city: It doesn’t matter if the zooming traffic makes the street a terrifying place to walk, or if nobody in their right mind would even think of shopping there because those things weren’t part of the engineer’s program.
The logic of barriers becomes ingrained in all things, and the end product, sprawl is the aggregation of things that have no relation, no communication with any of its surroundings, besides leaching off the healthy organism.
A specialist, you see, is someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know absolutely everything about only one thing.
The lamentable decline of liberal arts studies.