Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Morning Linkages

Quick notes today:

A group is pushing for the re-routing of I-70 in Denver around the neighborhoods it currently cuts in half.  Oddly, Denver has done an excellent job preventing highways from disturbing their downtown core (and shockingly, their downtown and downtown adjacent neighborhoods are in good shape (comparatively)).  The only highway currently running through the city is mitigated by running within the Platte River basin, which is a smart thing to do.  I know many people like to "connect to the river," but ultimately rivers tend to be every bit as dislocative as freeways.  OK, that's a bit of hyperbole.  On the other hand, immediately north of downtown Denver lies a ridiculous redundance of freeways and overpasses in (surprise!) a depressed area.  In even the best possible circumstances, the freeway would've been built partially because the land was cheap in that part of town, but also as a form of economic development.  As the area only became more depressed, you see what kind of effect intra-city highways actually have on economic development when they divide more than they unite.
The BBC sent their economics correspondent to one of this blog's favorite city of study (for a variety of reasons, not least of which...) to examine the harsh economic realities the city is currently facing after blowing all the good times on ephemeralities and vanity projects like Cidade des Artes y Ciencias, a glimmering new port for America's Cup yachts, a Formula One circuit that no longer runs, like a wall street banker snorting his ill-begotten insider trading profits directly up his nose.  Their latest problem?  The city is currently half a billion in debt to its pharmacies.
The setting: Napoli, Italia.  A city when not choked by trash has been similarly choked by vehicular incursion into the city center, like many medieval European cities.  Unlike those European cities it has done the least in combating it.  Until recently.  Last year the new mayor removed all traffic from the sea- and marina-side street Via Caracciolo.  A street, when you drop into streetview has literally no signs of life beyond moving cars and parked cars (before the car removal).  Pedestrians are sparse, only exceeded in their inconspicuousness by ground level businesses engaging the street, which sort of need pedestrian activity.  Then this year, the mayor has removed all vehicular traffic besides residents from the core of the city during business hours.  The best description comes from the comments to this article:
My last night at the World Urban Forum gave me a chance to walk along the closed Via Caracciolo and literally watch folks “dance in the street”. This was a sight to behold because the dancing was classical, and to a small band with string instruments.
His citizens clearly love it.  Those who don't?  The ever-present mob.
And lastly, a broad study on affordable housing in relation to neighborhood surroundings found that there wasn't much identifiable increase in income for poor families relocating to wealthier neighborhoods via housing vouchers to help subsidize rent.  However, there were significant gains in reported health and happiness.