Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday Morning Linkages

Straight away to the bidness...

NYC is like, "bruh, how come there are so many cars clogging up our streets? We built all of these garages to keep them off the street and everything." And then sanity is restored:

That parking minimums are in place near New York City’s subway stations is “madness,” said Walter Hook, executive director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

In most European cities, he said, parking minimums have been replaced with parking maximums that keep developers “to those levels of parking which the traffic system can bear.” In many downtowns, he continued, there is a hard cap on the total amount of parking. “You can’t actually add a single unit of off-street parking unless you take out a parking space from the street,” Hook explained.

Simple point made, simply: If you make all/any aspects of driving cheap and/or easy, people will generally do just that. If you don't want so many cars, don't make driving so cheap/easy, which includes both finding and paying for parking spaces.

Across Europe, cities have come to understand that oversupply or subsidy of parking leads to too much driving. The effect is considerable. In Vienna, for example, when the city began to charge for on-street parking, the number of vehicle kilometers traveled plummeted from 10 million annually to 3 million.
Hit the link for all of the other approaches/figures, including this gem from the British government no less:
in the words of the British government, to “promote sustainable transport choices, reduce the land-take of development, enable schemes to fit into central urban sites, promote linked-trips and access to development for those without use of a car, and to tackle congestion.”
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In response to this weekend's Earth Day festival in the Arts District comes a sobering reminder about the bees:
The reality is a bit less romantic. The honey bees responsible for pollinating major U.S. crops are loaded on trucks, wrapped in plastic and driven hundreds if not thousands of miles to where they are needed. They are often fed high fructose corn syrup to give them the energy to accomplish their Herculean tasks. Think of it: Feeding corn syrup to a honey bee. That, surely, is nature turned on her head.
There we have our answer. The bees are disappearing because they're on a diet of corn syrup. Likely sitting in their dens watching Big Brother and washing it all down with a gallon of Brawndo. South Carolina, wassup?! /machine gun fire.

I add this because I was struck by all the displays of green buildings, green cars, green parks, and green doo-dads. But there was also little to no mention or understanding of the system between these things, as if they're each museum exhibits. Nevermind how we get between our green roofed mixed-use enclave and the Trinity River Park in our fully electric automobile that comes from coal power and rides on endless tethers of braided strands of concrete. Or that recycling is an incredibly dirty process that with each cycle downgrades the product being recycled while exhuming some of the dirty petrochemicals into the air. Until we understand (and address) the material and nutrient flows of our products (and our cities -- how we move about and give life to our cities), all of our efforts and one day a year celebrations are just bee sanctuaries.

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San Francisco has begun putting together a cluster of pop-up shops in parking lots out of...shipping containers. Who'da thunk it. No idea how the economics of this thing are working, but in a more temperate climate of SF, surely the structures require less modification than they would here:
Vacant lots in the middle of cities are spurring all kinds of temporary uses, from guerrilla gardens to public art. And one of the most interesting experiments is happening in San Francisco, with a project that is the first of its kind in the US. In the Hayes Valley neighborhood, two blocks at the end of Octavia Boulevard are being transformed into a festive combination dubbed Proxy, a temporary grouping of restaurants, retail shops, and outdoor gathering spaces. The mini-cluster is designed to give way to other permanent developments in a few years.
Provisional urbanism. There it is. I'd love to get information on who the landowner is, I'm assuming somebody purchased the parking lot to develop, but is holding off until a better lending climate, how much they're charging the businesses for rental space, etc. etc. I love the idea, as I've suggested it several times, but I'm starting to wonder if that better building climate 1)shows up, or 2) do people like the provisional aspect so much that it becomes permanent? If that is the case, I would recommend designing it provisionally too, so that it doesn't look 'too finished.' It's a fine line, because you also don't want to scare people away.