Monday, January 30, 2012

Sherlock - Modern Day London

I'm a bit of a Sherlock Holmes nerd. I have the complete set of Conan Doyle's original works. I also have heard a bit about the new series on the BBC, but haven't watched any of it. Until last night, when I found the first trilogy on netflix. I didn't know that it was set in modern day London. As a city nerd, I quite liked the way London becomes a character itself, as often many of the great cities of the world do when they're established specifically as the setting, not for convenience nor a Fleming/Bond sort of glamorous jet-setting novelty factor. Those places tend to be flat. There is no life behind the glitz. A mere stage set. The places doesn't live, and breathe, and pulsate, which I feel the creators of this capture in the opening montage:

Social & Economic Exchange - Failing Both

As I wrote last week, the city and therefore the subset of its streets are meant to facilitate social and economic exchange. Ideally, this should be accomplished as cost and energy effectively as possible, for both the public sector providing that platform of infrastructure as well as private individuals seeking to meet their daily needs and wants (social and economic exchange) similarly as efficient.

As I also wrote last week, the manner in which we plan, design, and fund our transportation network badly fails in facilitating social exchange utilizing the work of Donald Appleyard. So that is one of the two-parts where we are failing. But what about economic exchange? When do streets perform better?

Our friends at Fortworthology and the Near Southside in Fort Worth tell us that sales receipts are up over 500% on Magnolia Avenue since the installation of bike lanes and bike parking along the street. The significance isn't so much about the addition of bicycle infrastructure and that all of a sudden bikes appear, but that the narrowing of traffic lanes, the slowing of traffic, the increase in both pedestrian and bicycle activity, creates a true center of gravity.


The main street of any neighborhood is its energy source, so to speak. If the energy "current" is moving too fast, it will be repulsive. When you slow that energy, you create a literal attractive environment, where people attract more people. It is a case of "traffic" being a net positive rather than car-only traffic which is rather universally seen as a negative. At the very best, a push-pull tension exists where the traffic is desirable for business but the mode of traffic instills a defensive posture to the buildings and their uses. Think of traffic like cholesterol. There is good and bad traffic. Bad traffic is car-only, inhuman. In a way, this is always forced traffic. Onto certain roads, in certain types of machines (cars). It isn't natural, nor is it authentic. It is also dangerous, noisy, and spatially consumptive.

Last year, sales receipts numbered about $2 million worth. This year, that number is up over $10 million. That is some return on less than $100,000 in infrastructure, yet the manner in which it was planned and designed is opposite that of the conventional modus operandi for both traffic planners as well as economic development, which adhere to a bastardized version of Keynesianism where road expansion = growth. Bigger isn't better. Better is better. Smarter is better. Legitimate grids where choice in mode and route is built into the system and the actors can be smart, making their own choices appropriate to their needs.

The outward expansion due to road expansion fools us into thinking it is growth. If it is a growth, it metastasizes like a cancer cell, feeding off the host organism. At best it is cannibalistic.

We get to this broken system in two ways, which I've spelled out a million times. One is the thoroughfare plans, federally mandated, with financial incentives for bigger roads. Meaning, cities get more money for having bigger roads. The irony is that they get more money upfront for construction projects, yet hurt their overall economy long-term. The second way, road expansion is encouraged is by the conventional formulae and projections used by traffic planners, mostly just as a supposedly objective justification to accomplish the previous money grab, to show numbers suggesting a bigger road is necessary.

These formulae are based on speed. Magnolia moves too slowly for them. They grade it an F, maybe a D if we're lucky. And meanwhile, it facilitates social and economic exchange better than just about any road in the entire metroplex. The city, as a system, cares nowt for speed, but efficiency, mostly thru time and energy. When things start moving fast, the city becomes spatially stretched, everything is further apart. Because longer distance movement is easier. The response is perfectly rational. The goals however are not.

However, in terms of the way cities are actually meant to function, Magnolia gets an A+ for both social and economic facilitation. And you begin to see why the entire system is profoundly broken, that the logical city is the exception to the rule, not the rule. Only when it becomes the rule, and we plan, design, and finance public infrastructure at the level of the urban network to achieve the specific goals of facilitating social and economic interaction, which eventually bears itself through increased opportunity for local business, embedded within more complete neighborhoods, will the market deliver the kind of cities that work for people.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Point?

TTI is the Texas Transportation Institute. Their work provides much of the basis for all planning, policy, and funding decisions that cities and states undergo. As the CEO for Cities report correctly points out, their metrics are badly flawed. As are pretty much all transportation planning metrics. The reason? Their objective is speed. If roads aren't flowing at their proposed speed, they are deemed failing. The next step is to add supply, more lane capacity. Houses and building along them be damned.

So the question remains: what is the point of a street? To answer that, you have to ask the larger question: what is the point of a city, the entire infrastructural network?

I don't even know where this dates back to, but I don't think anybody can argue with the answer: that cities (and their subservient subset of streets) are the platform for social and economic exchange.

Traffic planners point to speed as "efficiency." Which is odd, since all data points to their work being reactive to the inertia of their own creation. The recent Univ of Toronto study pinpoints this failing: for every doubling of lane capacity, Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMTs) double as well. There is a one to one ratio that emerges over time. You're driving further because you're moving further away.

Either the bigger roads made it insufferable to live near them (completely rational response) or they made it convenient to live further away (also rational). So if you believe that we are mostly rational actors within a system, traffic planning, which always suggests roads must be widened (to be "improved" - their term, their metrics), this points to the demand model of where people choose to locate further and further away from central core areas where real efficiency exists, the synergy of proximity, that Richard Florida and Ed Glaeser have recently been pointing to. People in proximity are more productive.

Furthermore, it is hardly efficient to be travelling long distances to do daily tasks energy and cost wise, for individuals as well as the public bodies spending on all that excess infrastructure. You begin to see why everyone is broke but those positioned to profit off of dysfunctional, disconnected systems. Oil companies and those facilitating "virtual" connections as a de facto replacement for legitimate interactions: Google, Apple, eBay, etc.

So what IS an improved road network? The last few posts have been examining some of those metrics where commercial opportunities are maximized through the creation and manipulation of proper networks. Now would be a good time to recall the work of Donald Appleyard, a transportation planner tragically and ironically killed crossing a street by an onrushing car.

Appleyard measured the amount of close social contacts, friends and acquaintances along certain streets in San Francisco, ie Social Exchange. As you can see in the diagram above, streets designed to move as many cars as possible have many fewer social contacts than those streets with calmer vehicular traffic, 3x more friends per person and 2x more acquaintances. Furthermore, you can visualize the reluctance to cross the street, as the diagram shows how much more "tethered" the two sides are on less trafficked streets. What would be interesting is the number of pedestrians per day on each street and add this to the total "traffic" number. They very well might be even.

However, it should be noted that he measured this in the heart of San Francisco neighborhoods, in densely interconnected grid streets. A functional network. This doesn't apply to a cul-de-sac where there is virtually no traffic and you may not know anybody at all. There is too much noise in dysfunctional systems. No order emerges. And that is half the point.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Resilience Quotient and Malls in Drag

A developer with his "mixed-use town center."

New Yorker architecture critic has a new article up on the American Scholar about his last visit with Jane Jacobs in 2004. It is well worth the read, particularly my favorite bit:
Not the least of the price we pay for having so many of Jacobs’s views become the common wisdom is the extent to which they are now co-opted by real-estate developers and politicians. They have realized that there is money to be made in shopping centers created as fake villages with pedestrian “streets” leading to “town squares,” and in “festival marketplaces” that are little more than shopping malls in drag. Developers proclaim these places to be like real cities, as if they were a natural outgrowth of Jacobs’s ideas. The term mixed use, which started as a sharp-eyed writer’s observation of what underlies an organic urban fabric, has become a developer’s mantra.
A few years ago I was consulting for a city in Nevada. They had such bad experience with past new urbanists and moreso the developers behind the new urbanists, that I wasn't allowed to use any number of buzzwords in the realm of sustainability and urbanism. They had been promised so much before in order to get entitlements, but then what was delivered was little different than the sprawl they were used to. They were tired of being lied to.

Everybody is using words like "mixed-use" as a sort of panacea. I disdain this kind of talk. In a D Magazine column, I derided developments like the malls in drag masquerading as urbanism as baking a cake with all of the ingredients but not following any of the actual instructions. All you end up with is a vat of goo. A checklist of buzzwords like "mixed-use," "live above the shop," "garage parking," "main street," etc. etc. are all bull shit. At least how the majority of urban design consultants use them. We think of these buzzwords, these superficialities as causes, goals, when in actuality these are effects. They are symptoms, by-products of something deeper (the emotional impulse towards real urbanism that I often write about. This results in form that is conducive to encouraging social and economic exchange. The result is the physical form that we call "urban."). And with all the promises of cake, they are they end up building goo.

It is my contention that there are various metrics emerging allowing us to understand the demand and resiliency of a place. As I pointed out in my last article for D Magazine, one of these metrics is intersection density. I'm currently working with a software developer in exploring whether we can tap into open source mapping data to turn this into a program, much like walkscore. For the time being, I am counting intersections effectively by hand.

In the linked D article, I included calculations of two of the premier examples of infill urban redevelopment: State-Thomas uptown Dallas and the Pearl District in Portland, OR. The baseline as figured by UConn Prof. Norman Garrick is about 225 intersections per square mile. State-Thomas has 250+ and Pearl District has well over 400.

Obviously there are limitations. You can't have a million intersections per square mile because then there would be no room for development. It would be nothing but roads, which seems to be the plan for downtown Dallas. Snark snark.

Furthermore, I've begun creating tiers for which these should be measured and then proportioned to the square mile metric. For example, since neighborhoods are by nature radial, organized around a center (even if the road network is rectilinear), centrality prevails. So instead of using an actual square, I've begun using circles. A circle with a radius of 2,979 feet equals a square mile in area. But, when using the ten-minute walk of about .45 linear miles to the center of the neighborhood, this equates to .63 of a square mile. This would be the neighborhood scale resiliency metric.

Ultimately, I want to be able to qualitatively categorize intersections into a hierarchy of values. Also, it needs a contextual metric as well. For example, Fair Park may have a strong historical grid (which it actually doesn't - but roll with me) within the .45 mi. radius, but if it is circumnavigated by a highway, or several highways and rail lines, fragmented from its surroundings, its neighborhood score could be high. Therefore, it needs a contextual resilience metric as well to tell the tale.

There is also the caveat that this is not a tell all. It must be done within the context of other analyses. For example, California required masterplanned developments in the Valley to build all of their roads upfront. Today, many of these developments exist almost like deserted towns, entire road networks, but only a smattering of houses. Who cares what the intersection density is here, because it was built with entirely artificial demand bubbling up over a boiling lending market.

For now, we'll stick with neighborhood score to look at a few malls in drag or Potemkin Villages. Note: each is mapped with a .45 mi radius from the approximate center of the "neighborhood."




Total intersections: 96
Intersections per sq.mi. (x/.63): 152
Resilience quotient (y/225): 67%

Note: State Thomas resilience quotient would be over 100%. It is also in high demand, occupancy rates are high and every little sliver of land is slowly, but surely being developed. There are a few ways to look at this number. One, is to see an area that has a high quotient, but low level of development and see opportunity. The next step would be to examine its context to see where the breakdown occurs. Second, is to look at an area like Victory and see a deficient quotient and then begin looking to its surroundings to what can be fixed to up the quotient in the neighborhood.

Looking at the map we see the breakdowns come on both sides of Victory, from the highway and the effectual super block that is the Jefferson Apartments (or whatever they're called these days). It's not actually a terrible score, but considering the amount of density built in Victory, the score needs to be higher. I expect this is partially to blame for the poor performance of the development compared to expectations. Looking deeper however, there are a number of intersections in the LoMac, or Lower McKinney, area. Given what we know about how horrid this spaghetti of intersections is, the score for this area is inflated. So we're missing a qualitative component which helps demerit this area for how truly unsafe and disruptive the street and intersection design is in this area, given that nobody walks the short .25 miles through it to the American Airlines Center.

Next: The shops at Allen and Fairview, which I wrote something here about and received a good bit of hate mail from nearby residents so proud of their new development:


Total intersections: 46
Intersections per sq.mi. (x/.63): 73
Resilience quotient (y/225): 32.4%

Verdict: Mall in Drag. You can see the breakdown comes from the poor connection to its surroundings, the highway on one side and the neighborhoods on the other that are completely ignored. It exists in a bubble, surrounded by a sea of parking, in other words, a mall without a roof. And malls are failing precisely because of their poor connections to their surroundings.

This development could likely be salvaged if the number of intersections is doubled since the density is not terribly high, I'm not sure it needs to get up to 100%. However, if it begins to struggle will the demand ever exist to instill the impetus for such infrastructural reconnections?

Next:
Park Lane Place, which I was interviewed about here and said the following:
Whether the development will flourish is something we’ll have to wait to find out. But there is reason to question Barnett’s assumption about the need to “internalize” the development. Patrick Kennedy, an urban planner and designer, has spent some time walking around Park Lane. 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.”

Total intersections: 37
Intersections per sq.mi.: 58.7
Resilience quotient: 26%

Verdict: Ayeeeeeeeeee! Run for the hills! It has the North Park Mall on one-side and even the mall has more intersections. That isn't really why North Park is still succeeding why all other malls are failing. Instead, it is succeeding partially because of its location and partially because it exists as THE mall in the region. Any region can only support a handful of malls at best. If I were to take a stab at a ratio, it might be a 1:1 ratio of square feet per population. Meaning a 1 million square foot mall per 1 million population. And even North Park is slowly but surely repositioning itself. I expect its surface parking lots to infill eventually.

The real breakdown with Park Lane Place is not just the poor connection to its surroundings but the design on-site itself. There are very few actual blocks and convergence points created. This is further exacerbated by the changes in plane, Whole Foods and other stores are a few stories above the street level, accessed by an elevated parking garage, disconnected from everything else.

My guess is that PLP could have done a bit better if a legitimate street and block structure was created on site. However, even if it had done so, it would have been limited by its poor connections outward. Given that it has a roughly equal amount of density as Victory yet half the resilience quotient, it is pretty easy to see how this development has failed and will continue to flounder long after Victory rights the ship.

Let's contrast these with a successful development: Legacy Town Center, aka Shops at Legacy

Total intersections: 80
Intersections per sq.mi.: 127
Resilience quotient: 56%

Verdict: It's quotient is lower than Victory's but higher than the others. Which makes some sense as the density delivered is also much lower. However, with closer examination and when looking strictly at the approximately .26 square miles that the development consists of, this number jumps to 308 intersections per sq.mi. or 137% resilience quotient. It's breakdown comes with the corporate campus sites which have few roads.

You could say this is an isolated development, much like a mall without a roof. I've heard and read of a number of critics, professional and otherwise use this criticism. Similarly, it is a cut and paste criticism of my objective critiques above clumsily and inappropriately applied. Just like when creating "mixed-use" in all the wrong places and without the proper foundation.

This is the case for two distinct reasons:

1) This development has a better housing to retail/jobs ratio than do typical "town center malls in drag" which are nearly entirely retail. And more importantly,

2) The connections to the highway and surroundings are still quite good. And furthermore, these corporate campuses can be eventually infilled as there is already thought of doing so. It makes perfect sense. Many of these corporate office parks have excess land while trying to reposition themselves and their businesses. One of their major assets is land. Legacy, rather than being a disconnected, isolated entity, will actually be the catalyst for expansion and interconnection as its urbanism spreads outward.

Why Are Skylines Roughly Conical?

I want to take a graphic look at some concepts I've been developing lately, in conjunction of course with the work it builds upon, including the Bartlett School at the University College of London and their work on mathematical models of spatial integration as well as the Andres and Douglas Duany codeveloped concept of the transect.

Spatial integration began as a scientific examination searching for objective realities to urbanism. Why were cities and their patterns so similar? Where and when have we begun to go wrong? And is the aesthetic, subjective driven world of Modernist architecture partially to blame?

Completely independent of this work, the Duany brothers saw similarities in the gradient of intensification of cities as you got closer to the core with various ecologies, particularly coastal regions:







This, became this:


Both relied, perhaps intuitively on the concept of centrality, which has its origins in the study of social networks. Since cities are the physical platform for social and economic exchange, empowering the links between them, network studies had direct relevance. Cities are networks.
But the Transect never really digs into why what was where. Sure there is a dense node at the center, with an decreasing gradient the further you get away from it. But what created centers in the first place? That is where space syntax began examining infrastructural networks. Professor Bill Hillier and his pupils/colleagues found a correlation between social network analysis and infrastructural networks. That is, social hubs have the most connections. The highest degree of integration. Likewise, this parallels with the internet. The highest trafficked sites are hubs that all others link to. Think Google. From there exists a hierarchy from most to least.

Likewise, cities have a similar hierarchy. The most connected places, have the highest degree of integration, which in turn means the highest degree of opportunity. Where there exists the greatest demand, to which the market responds with supply. Building space. Where demand is greater than supply exists the most opportunity for developers. Where integration is highest is the most opportunity for every citizen to meet their needs for social and economic exchange.

This concept exists locally, within one city, as well as globally, amongst all cities. New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, etc., are global cities because they are the most connected, both locally and globally. Within a single city, you also have a hierarchy of centers. All cities are polycentric once they get above the scale of the tiniest of hamlets. This is what sprawl apologist hacks like Joel Kotkin fail to understand. When they talk of polycentric, sprawl-based cities as polycentric cities of the future, they fail to see that New York is also polycentric. Those centers just blur together rather seamlessly, except where geographic barriers (water bodies) or physical barriers (such as highways) divide and isolate them.

Space Syntax map of London:

What they found was that there is a correlation between traffic and value. Just like with any network, particularly the web. The most trafficked sites have the most value. Remember that traffic doesn't mean cars, but people. This is a direct relationship in what I call logical cities. High pedestrian areas have far more people moving past, and capable of interacting with you (economically or socially) in these high traffic areas than does car-based traffic, which has to turn, wait for lights, find parking, etc., all of which accounts for increasing degrees of disconnection, dislocation, and inflexibility.

In the logical city, such as the London-based map above, there is another chicken/egg based component to it as with all complex, interconnected systems. The infrastructure funnels traffic to specific places and specific places also "bend" the infrastructure to them. This is why I call them centers of gravity, what many planner types call "nodes". They literally shape the city around them. Increasing their level of interconnectivity, raising demand, and eventually via opportunity, supply.

Because of the chicken/egg scenario, this also means that infrastructure can create places out of thin air, such as when two railroads meet in the midwest. The traffic intersection becomes an opportunity. And many cities are here today because of such a phenomenon. I'll look at that a little more later.

But first, here are several skylines:
While this is Dallas and the exercise is admittedly abstract, I want to show why downtowns have the biggest buildings. And why severing the interconnectivity to them, is why many of Dallas's buildings in downtown are quite empty, for example. As I have written before, Dallas experienced a building boom (high-rises) at the exact same time that the city, state, and federal level were gorging on highway building. Supply was being added while demand was being undercut, shipped out towards the suburbs.

Those polycenters, instead of being closely interconnected, became Las Colinas and the various highway adjacent corporate office parks around the metroplex. That they were newer or the space is better and they are "grade A" office is irrelevant. The newer development would be in and around more walkable, more highly integrated and interconnected places (more authentic places). They would also prove to be more resilient. I expect, unless they drastically reposition themselves, many of these office parks will fade into dust. With new light rail (another degree of interconnection) and residential, Las Colinas is already doing that.

Compare our growth to say, L'Eixample neighborhoods in Barcelona and Valencia. These were rapidly expanding areas, literally doubling city size, but they did so aggregately. These are both now considered the "old money" areas of those particular cities, and very much still central city as growth then enveloped them.








The dynamic changes a bit for cities like Paris or Washington, D.C. Both cities with extremely high levels of integration, locally and globally. Remember, that local integration is the foundation from which density and resilience lie upon. The most connections can be made locally in dense, walkable environments.
Because the level of integration is so, demand is extremely high to be in the center of Paris (or D.C.). But height restrictions limit the amount of supply of usable building space, making prices skyrocket. The center of Paris is amazing. Who doesn't love it? But it also leads to this condition where opportunity then shifts outward, toward the Banlieus, or suburbs:
The supply is much greater than the demand, which is to be actually in Paris where opportunity is high. But it the market can't meet the demand, so it spills outward. Too much supply, with too low levels of integration. There isn't a natural, organic match. This is made even worse with the design of the "towers in the park" housing for the poor. Whether they were built for the poor or not, eventually they were doomed to devolve because of supply being much greater than the demand. These types of Corbusien buildings are physically isolating, cul-de-sacs in the sky. In effect, the supply is borrowed from the areas with higher integration, higher value. Not coincidentally, these are the areas where Paris experiences the most civil unrest, in homogenous areas of poverty exemplified by socio-economic isolation. Isolation. As in not integrated.

However, this is not to say whether Paris or DC's restriction on building height is wrong. That is a political debate. In my estimation, these cities heights or lackthereof is precisely what makes them so special. 1) The building heights remain humane, lower to the street level, and more interactive. And perhaps more importantly, 2) the demand pressure exerted upon a limited supply ensures that the limited space will always, ALWAYS be maximized. And buildings will be preserved rather than destroyed.

The real issue is improving the connectivity, integration, and walkability within and to the suburbs. Here is where I shift in language from banlieus to suburbs because the need is universal. American suburbs may not have many, if any, high-rises, but supply is currently way above demand, as defined by spatial integration values. Values are plummeting across the country, not only because of the evaporation of liquidity (real or imagined), but also a general market realization and price correction towards this supply/demand imbalance.

There is a movement afoot to "retrofit suburbs." While there is certainly opportunity to do this, and a necessity in many cases. I'm afraid that while some areas will be fine, some will need salvaging, while others are fairly doomed. We simply won't have the capability of retrofitting ALL of them. And by retrofitting, I mean increasing their local connectivity/integration quotient to instill, increase the demand to catalyze the new infill that the retrofitters propose. There will be extreme levels of competition and upheaval, I expect, in American suburbs.

As for city growth:

As I mentioned earlier, it all starts with an intersection. This could be anything:

Two railroads crossing
Two ancient trade routes
Fertile soil and a deep water port

The connection globally has to be strong enough to maintain the raison d'etre. The local connections, like walkability, ensure that the place is efficient and livable. And that people like living there as opposed to the competitors. It is also important to note that no cities current place within the hierarchy is the place it will reside in 10-, 20-, 50-, or 1000-years. Such is the competition amongst cities. And such is the need to maximize local and global connectivity, as well as the raison d'etre for that city, whether it be energy production, idea production, or a socially vibrant place. Whatever it is, it better be timeless. See: Detroit, autos. West Texas, exhausted oil wells. Heterogeny ensures timelessness. Or something approaching it.

Here is the intersection. Imagine it is any of the aforementioned. The red implies the neighborhood development.




If the raison d'etre is strong enough, its opportunity level persists. It attracts more people. The city expands, aggregates:



Eventually, maybe it grows to the point where it needs more global connections. And as technology advances, the infrastructure is needed for those global connections, such as an airport and an interstate. However, all global movement is destructive to fragile local interconnections. Highways and airports can have negative effects upon overall interconnectivity despite increasing global connectivity. Local connectivity drops, therefore demand drops, therefore desirability and opportunity drop and eventually people will leave that city. That is why these global infrastructural networks must be treated very carefully, connecting with cities tangentially.

Vancouver didn't allow freeways into their city. Paris is removing all of them inside the peripherique. They're connected to their airports via subway. Subways are built because at-grade and above grade tracks are disconnective. Below grade is supremely expensive, but as all cities who have them have found, worth the high initial cost to preserve the fabric above.


And within those overall connections, smaller nodes or centers of gravity will emerge at the various convergence points. That is, only in the logical city. In the illogical city, where connections are disruptive and diminish overall connectivity and the ability of its citizens to meet their social and economic needs for exchange, a tension is created. The tension is two countervailing forces. That towards traffic, ie traffic = value. And the opposite force is the repulsive nature of those global connections, ie highways and airports.


You may have to click on the below image to expand it. It's one I've been working on to explain this concept. At the top left we have attractive nature of convergence. People create infrastructure to create opportunities for social and economic exchange, meeting points, trading places, markets. When you disrupt that network, you shift the magnetism so to speak, like putting two like poles of magnets next two each other.


When you look to the right diagram, the glass is supply of building form. The demand is liquid. When you interrupt local connectivity and overall integration (often for the sake of global connectivity), you are essentially creating a hole in the glass. All of the demand spills outward. You get sprawl and an empty glass. Like downtown Dallas highrises.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pop-Up Hood?

Not exactly sure what is pop-up besides the intent to streamline the bureaucratic process of opening businesses, and doing so without significant startup capital, in a place that needed it.


When I write about integration and opportunity, keep this video in mind. Oakland is a city, like many gutted by freeways and cheap gas that shifted the demand model away from proximity as the fundamental driver of social and economic exchange. It still had a strong, intact grid and plenty of building fabric that was cheap precisely because of the drain. Spatial supply high, demand low. This doesn't occur on a cul-de-sac or in a highway fronting strip center where eventually supply will be fairly high and demand will remain low, but in a place with implicit centrality. Undercapitalized upon. And therein lies the opportunity for these entrepreneurs and creatives.

Linkages

Lots of good linkages today:

First, the DMN picked up the Alliance for Biking and Walking report I mentioned the other day. The headline is rather loathsome and ignorant that behavior responds to context. I'd hate to do anything where I might die too. Really not looking forward to sticking my head in an alligators mouth later. Another fraggle:
An interesting takeaway from the study concerns the importance of city efforts to maximize cycling or walking. Dallas dedicated, according to the survey, $4 million in 2010 to bike or pedestrian projects. That's better than many of the cities on the list, including Washington, D.C., Fort Worth, Houston (which spent $0 city funds). Even Boston, the reigning champ when it comes to its residents walking and biking to work, spent far less -- about $600,000 in 2010.
DC ranks towards the tops of the list but spends no money. Dallas is at the bottom of the list but spends money. Is that really "better?" One could likely more reasonably argue that it is at the very least a form of playing catchup. What more do the cities at the top of the list have to do when they already have a walkable, bikable city? Or maybe the expenditure is a tacit admission of guilt. Perhaps, but I think it is something else altogether even: a bandaid. And a bandaid on urban form and interactivity is always expensive. As are the by-products of the broken form, like pedestrian and bicyclist injuries or worse.
------------------------------
Why should policies favor pedestrian and bicyclist activity? Forget that they're inherently vulnerable and should be protected (while we're at it, let's put children back to work on lathes, in a lead smelter, and coal mines. Their little fingers will get the hard to reach black stuff.). And forget that their presence is indicative of a dense, desirable, livable place founded on local interconnectivity. But that these forms of movement, of making the social and economic exchanges of our daily lives are so much more energy efficient:
RT On 350 calories, a bicyclist can go 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles, and a car 100 feet.
And energy equals cost. Every trip has its own tariff, a cost of completing a transaction, the revenue of which heads outta town.

The other point worth noting is that just because a bicycle goes further on x calories than does a pedestrian doesn't necessarily make the bike better. It has its own inflexibilities. It is more difficult to stop, start, change directions, get off, go into stores, find a place to park and lock it, etc., particularly in packs than a crowd of pedestrians. Furthermore, like heavy traffic of cars, a rush hour of bikes can be repulsive to the pedestrian. Balance and appropriation.
------------------------------
Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt in Wired: Let the Robot Drive.

After standing at an intersection during morning rush hour today, counting drivers looking down, texting, applying makeup, and generally looking rather distracted, I agree. And since it will be some time, if ever, that this becomes democratically affordable, maybe we should up the qualifying standards for operating a piece of dangerous, nay deadly machinery.
-----------------------------
The economist picks up and weighs in on a debate tangential to fixed alignment mass transit versus buses with an empathetic, aesthetic component. Perhaps one or the other isn't the way to look at it but rather integration --> accommodation --> decoration. The more convenient, as several cited in the article do, that mass transit is, the greater demand will be to amenitize it, make it more comfortable.
-----------------------------
Lastly, a primer on behavior change theory, particularly as it relates to socio-economics and therefore cities: Emotion --> Behavior --> Economics --> City Form. And vice versa. I hope to have more on this as time comes, but for now this piece on systems theory:
Interventions should aim for change at multiple points across a system, targeting a range of factors, and working at various scales (e.g. individual, organisational, community, societal).
For example, this suggests that if we see a problem, which might be a lament that "Greenville Avenue is not the complete neighborhood main street it was several decades ago" where you can no longer meet all of your daily needs. The necessary interventions range at a variety of scales, both cosmetic (it's ugly), systemic (it's unsafe), or genetic (too much parking is required by code). Partial treatment is only a partial cure.

DMag Column: Feb Issue

...is on West Dallas and the West Dallas Plan. Please go here to read it at the flagship's main page. It is perhaps worth noting that I left all mentions of the Sylvan:Thirty development implicit, as I'm referring to block size and its clownish 800 foot long building and inside-out pseudo-urbanism. Many complex urban grids are composed of blocks somewhere between 200-400 feet in the x or y direction. That is, unless it is an irregular grid akin to a medieval street and block system. Because there is no guarantee nor intent to create a complex, interconnected grid, it will likely never happen. As I closed in the article:
The West Dallas plan seems merely to hope that it will happen. And I suppose hope is all we’re clinging to right now.
As I mention in the article, the bridge connection will increase the degree of integration to some extent. The increment remains a mystery, but I argue it will be minimal. Some initial investment and development will poke its head around, mostly under the assumption that picture books can come true. Then it will fester, like an untreated toothache. Veneers look better but won't help. All places are what they are precisely because of their infrastructural context. Some may be trending upwards, other downwards. How far depends on the complexity and intensity of the network and its connectivity to all things local and global.

Integration = Accommodation. If the proportion isn't precisely equal then it is trending towards the appropriate balance. Urban morphology 501.

West Dallas is what it is today, largely vacant, a number of industrial warehouses, proportional to its degree of connectivity. It is fragmented and isolated, and therefore devalued despite its proximity to downtown. It exists on an island. The new bridge tosses a lifeline, but walkable, livable, timeless places must exist on a foundation of local connectivity. Local connectivity stems from the street and block plan, in this case, measured as intersection density. Lots of intersections means lots of complexity (but not complex), in the way a diverse ecosystem or crop rotation is more durable than single crop farming.

The point remains that the West Dallas Plan is entirely superficial: the book, its pretty pictures, many of which uptown and State-Thomas (at least in its ambition), as well as the intent. State-Thomas had a built-in historic street/block network that were maintained. Initial public investment and partnership tools were necessary to kickstart the chemical reaction past the catalytic barrier wrought by wreckless S&L investment that ripped the neighborhood to pieces in the 80s. In West Dallas, if it ever was there it is gone and must be created or recreated. There is a significant failing to understand the underlying dynamics that allow high quality urbanism to organically and incrementally emerge. Instead, words like incremental are used, but misunderstood. Misrepresented even.

It is the degree of integration, the complexity of the network that instills demand. Demand which expresses itself as maximization of development. Demand wants proximity. It is what pulls buildings up to the street. Or what wants to live above the shop. The plan refers to these things, but forgets the foundation. The structure. But it calls itself a structural plan. Pretense. If the city wants to see development happen, without the expense of a real, interconnected street and block system, they'll pay in another way: subsidy. It may produce the same development but it won't fill up and sustain itself. It won't be loved by the market, ie citizens in perpetuity.

It is how we end up with developments like Victory. Like Park Lane Place. Like Sylvan:Thirty. "Urban" only with quotation marks. Big buildings, half full. At best. A cynical attempt to capitalize on the "fad" of urbanism and get their IRR out before anybody thinks to push over the stage set. The only hope is that enough money is sunk into those places that eventually we'll have to bend the network to them, re-integrating them, just to salvage the initial (or eventual) investment. Often corrections to a property, to achieve highest and best use, must be made off-site. Unless it is just cheaper to start over on-site.

I say "hope," but the reality is there is so much more value and opportunity in doing it right from the beginning. It's really expensive to go cheap. Why sprawl has bankrupted everything. And that starts with the infrastructural framework. Not just for the private market, potential (theoretical) residents, but also the city, which needs to see a return on its investment in the form of tax base.

Monday, January 23, 2012

2012 Report: Rankings for Walking/Biking

Alliance for Biking & Walking has published their 2012 report ranking American States and Cities. Their words:

This report comes at a critical moment, as Congress takes up the imminent passage of the next federal transportation bill, which dictates how billions of tax dollars will be spent over coming years. The Benchmarking Report reveals that, in nearly every city and state, pedestrians and bicyclists are disproportionately at risk of being killed, and currently receive less than a fair share of transportation dollars. While 12 percent of trips in the U.S. are by bike or foot, 14 percent of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians. Pedestrian and bicycle projects receive less than 2 percent of federal transportation dollars.

“The Benchmarking Report shows that biking and walking are smart solutions to many of our country’s most pressing challenges when it comes to transportation, job creation and health,” Jeffrey Miller, Alliance President/CEO, says.

The report compiles persuasive evidence that bicycle and pedestrian projects create more jobs than highway projects, and provide at least three dollars of benefit for every dollar invested. The report also highlights the health benefits of active transportation, showing that states with the highest rates of bicycling and walking are also among those with the lowest rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. “The data points to one conclusion: Investing in biking and walking projects creates jobs, leads to more people biking and walking, and improves safety and public health,” Miller says.

John Pucher, a professor at Rutgers University, emphasizes: “The wide range of environmental, social, and economic benefits of walking and bicycling, so clearly documented in this report, justify greatly increased investment in facilities and programs to encourage more walking and cycling, and to improve the safety of these most sustainable of all transportation modes.”

If you just download the media fact sheet, you'll find where Dallas and Fort Worth stand amongst the 51 cities included in the rankings.

For overall levels of walking/biking:

Dallas 49th of 51
FW 51st of 51
OKC is 50th

That's the bottom three. As for the top three: Boston, DC, San Fran in that order.

For fatality rates of pedestrians/bicyclists:

Dallas 49th of 51
FW 51st of 51
Jacksonville is 50th

As for the top 3: Boston, Minneapolis, Omaha in that order

When I have more time, I'll dig into the methodology.

Friday, January 20, 2012

More on Cedar Springs

Eric Miller, of newcolonist.com, wrote about the changes to Cedar Springs. He interviewed me about it. That article is here:

Curb cuts, he said, mean that cars are "diving in and out and the pedestrian experience that is frightening at best when there are cuts every 50 feet or so."

That speaks to a long-standing issue about parking requirements in the district in which Whittall said zoning requirements have made it difficult to open or expand a business. The former owner of a popular coffee shop on the strip, Whittall sold it after his plans for expansion were denied because of parking requirement.

Kennedy says those parking requirements contribute to the risk for pedestrians in the district. Not only are patrons being encouraged to drive to places where they can drink, he said the parking requirements insure the curb cuts through pedestrian pathways.

"As long as you make it as convenient as possible for the car, it’s always at the expense of the pedestrian," said Kennedy. "If you make it inconvenient for a car, then proximity becomes a premium and things want to cluster closer together. It’s better use of the land and creates a safer environment."

These are relatively new issues in Dallas, said Whittall, because additional retail and residential development has people opting more often for shoe leather instead of rubber.

"Now that there are more residential areas, people are walking all the time," said Whittall. "All of a sudden Dallas is becoming a walking city."

Agreement seems to be emerging that Dallas also has to become a pedestrian-friendly city.

"We’re at the right point where the business community is starting to see that if it is pedestrian-friendly, they’ll have more customers because more people will be out and about walking," said Kennedy, who estimated most of the customers for Cedar Springs businesses are within a two-mile radius. "Once you get the that rhetorical start, I feel like eventually we can get there."


A truly pedestrian-oriented place is about proximity and done so in a safe, desirable, attractive fashion. And that proximity is considered an amenity. In order to empower the market to fulfill that desire, you can't change the urban phenotype, with superficial, bandaid treatments. Such is basically every single "town center" development. None are authentic, but rather imposed upon a place. You have to get down into the genetic material of a place, altering it, so that walkable urbanism occurs naturally in appropriate places, in an emergent fashion.



The Forces Behind The Market Forces

While I have a few minutes today, I couldn't let this fester. I find it rather disturbing. The Morning News conducted a Q&A with perhaps the most powerful (and unelected) person in the metroplex, Michael Morris, director of transportation for NCTCOG. It should be noted that many Metropolitan Planning Organizations (or MPOs) have begun calling themselves MTPOs, as in correcting their nomenclature to include Transportation, which is pretty much all MPOs do anyway.

In the interview, Morris cites the work of one Yacov Zahavi regarding commuting preferences. In general people don't like commuting more than an hour per day. He goes on to lament that the road building isn't able to keep up with the outward growth of the city, thereby causing congestion.

The consumer preference makes some sense when put in context of scientist, urbanist, and author Peter Newman's study showing cities throughout history tend to be an hour-wide, the size of which is based entirely on the primary transportation technology of the day. I'm also aware that commuters tend to prefer a commute of about 20-minutes as well. Again, regardless of transportation mode. People like to have enough time to decompress on the way home or mentally prepare their day on the way to work.

What I find concerning is two-fold. First, his mentioning of consumer preference seems to imply that the living arrangement in DFW and the Sun Belt in general is one of consumer preference. It horribly underestimates the role of transportation (planning, design, and ESPECIALLY funding) plays in manipulating the market. If market preference is the invisible hand, government policy provides the invisible arm.

Second, his lament about congestion suggests his mindset is straight out of the flawed and rigged formulaic thinking from the Texas Transportation Institute, that believes velocity of movement is the only goal of any road. Not energy efficiency. Not cost efficiency. Not safety. They can't "keep up" because DOTs and federal highway spending has taken a big hit with the budgetary woes that I don't think I need to explain.

I say this often, but I can walk to a store with less risk of personal injury, at less cost (to me), with less infrastructural burden on the various governmental entities responsible for public infrastructure, and more quickly than can someone in sprawl-burbia drive to the store. But since they're moving faster, COG and TTI's nonsensical formulae say sprawl-burbia is preferred. I'm walking slowly therefore the road must be widened and the sidewalk removed for more lanes. Such is the illogic of the machine.

Because their transportation policies skewed the market towards sprawl, well beyond the hour-wide city, and the funding for their failed policies has slowed from a deluge to a trickle, congestion happens. Supply-side transportation planning can go on no longer. Shame. Though they won't stop trying. They know no other way. It never seems to occur to them to work the demand levers, to lessen the need for regional commuting and focus on building strong, stable, complete, localized, and interconnected neighborhoods.

I've seen little from COG to suggest they understand how cities work. They have shown that they're very good at obtaining money for regional transportation, precisely the kind that prevents the market from delivering walkable communities to citizens that might like a shorter commute. The hardest working man in America is the junkie.

Sure, they've helped secure funding for trails and various planning efforts. Drops in the bucket compared to road building and spending. In fact, those drops in the bucket are quickly evaporated into the thin air of irrelevance when the dendritic road building pattern isolates and fragments the network into dysfunctionality.

China is trying to be "sustainable" while moving people who lived off the land into tenement high-rises at gun point. Putting a car in every garage. Widening every road to 20-lanes. Pushing bikes off the street. Razing highly complex slums for another kind of eventual slum. A monoculture of towers in the park, which surely has energy efficient LED light bulbs or some such inadequacies. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

COG is busy trying to improve regional cooperation at a time when we need more competition amongst the various cities of the metroplex for more walkable communities. Let the most walkable win.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cedar Springs Tragedy, Safety Plan

Once again, it is a shame it takes a martyr (or two) to get the city moving in a direction opposite its current inertia. In this case Cedar Springs, site of two pedestrians killed by on-rushing vehicles, will get some...facelifts? Here is a link to the list of proposed changes to the street.

Bad:
Superficial treatments. First, these are cheap and easy, therefore extenuating I suppose. Regulation (speed limits) and enforcement (increased police presence) are tell-tale signs of a poorly designed street. That is, if we answer the first question that must be asked, "what do we want this street to be?" in the affirmative with a pedestrian- and business-friendly neighborhood main street environment, which is precisely what Cedar Springs is suited for (at least in Oak Lawn - on the other side of Turtle Creek it is best served al dente, as in Spaghetti).

Drivers will proceed at the speed that feels comfortable. Similarly, pedestrians will cross where they deem it appropriate. Regulation and enforcement have little effect. The question begs, how "tethered" do we want the street to be? Main Street in downtown Dallas would be a 2. It is similarly a neighborhood service street (despite the name suggesting greater pomp & grandiosity).

Main Street: "tethered" with common pedestrian connections and crossings. The pedestrian activity itself acts as the slowing agent for traffic. The illustrated condition is what I consider a "2". A "1" is where pedestrians cross only at cross-walks and a 0 is where pedestrians don't cross at all and are in fact repelled from the street. See: Lemmon Ave and every suburban arterial.

No mention of parking code amendments. Appeasing the car. It is parking and its consumption of land that spreads people out, reduces pedestrian activity, propinquity. With reduced parking standards, or eliminated maximums, the market can respond based on local cost of land and instead choose to potentially maximize the usage of that land, with more density meaning more potential pedestrians. More repeat customers. And less costly infrastructure necessary.

More study needed. More study by whom? Transportation planners? The people responsible for the road and every other inhumane road in the city? Or the ants in the ant farm playing frogger until another one is run over? Empirical evidence points to the problem already. No, better design needed. The plan suggests a potential "compete street." Unfortunately, the bike plan has no plans for Cedar Springs. And the city has no plan for the bike plan. Coordination. We Haz It.

Good:
That the local business community is the one pushing for changes. This is often one of the hardest things to do (especially when chambers of commerce are involved). Businesses are precisely suited to the status quo, so they inherently fear something potentially disruptive. You have to convince them of how it will improve their overall business. As Kevin Buchanon just sent to me, property values are up 137% on Magnolia Avenue and sales receipts are up over 500% since the installation of bike lanes and overall reclamation of the street by the foot-powered neighborhood citizenry.

Functional change. Closing of the right turn lane and island at Douglass and CS. Please see my post on turning radii and this map overlaying outdoor cafe tables with overly generous turning radii so that cars feel unimpeded regardless of traffic signalization nor signage.

Correlation is causation in this case.

And finally, the neighborhood pushing for the road to be reduced to one-lane each direction. I can hope that this was in some way inspired by my suggestion for Oak Lawn to go on a similar diet. Too often, our streets are planned and designed as a conduit for interconnecting point A to point B. Simple right? A street is linear. It is about linear movement, amirite?

Unfortunately, that isn't the case at all. One street is just part of a much more complex network, a meshwork of interconnectivity. In this case, a neighborhood, where points D, E, F, G, H, etc., are all crossing and criss-crossing the street in countless directions. Once again we return to where we start, do we want our neighborhood "main streets" to be seams or barriers?

Linkages

If the city is an ecology unto itself, and all evidence and lines of study are pointing in that direction, Le Corbusier is Paul Hermann Muller. If you needed to look up that reference, wiki is down if you haven't noticed. The link is to an article at City Journal by Thomas Dalrymple and it is quite brilliant. I encourage you take the time to read all of it. Some of my favorite bits:
At the exhibition, I fell to talking with two elegantly coiffed ladies of the kind who spend their afternoons in exhibitions. “Marvelous, don’t you think?” one said to me, to which I replied: “Monstrous.” Both opened their eyes wide, as if I had denied Allah’s existence in Mecca.
I rather enjoyed imagining this scene. If only because I've run similar events through my head and/or life dozens of times. It reminds of the global prank turned movie that was Exit Through the Gift Shop, unwitting plutocrats masquerading as intelligentsia.

I'll leave the rest to you, but see if you get the sense that Corbu operated with a child-like understanding of the world. Everything reduced down to the simplest common denominator.


------------------------
In a related note, Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros continue to bind together the strands of design, urbanism, math, ecology, evolution, and computer science, which could all broadly be categorized within the phylum of Fractals:
But this imposition of art (real or pretend) on top of life is likely to be highly damaging to both, as the urban scholar Jane Jacobs famously warned. Moreover, an architect is not merely a sculptor at giant scales, but a professional, not unlike a medical professional, with a “duty of care” to provide a living environment with a high grade of quality of life for the rest of us. The architect is not working in a private gallery for the benefit of connoisseurs alone, but deeply affecting the ordinary life and wellbeing of people and regions.
------------------------
------------------------

I didn't particularly care for the article. It provided little context or insight despite the numerous "experts" interviewed. Not that I am for or against beltways per se. While I have a mean streak devoted to superfluous and profligate infrastructure, primarily by way of intra city highways, beltways can be fine, if they are properly integrated with the fractally hierarchical infrastructure where complexity, mobility, density, and desirability function proportionally and in concert.

No beltway in itself caused sprawl to its observable American extent without bank loans, tax policy, and zoning all favoring new "growth." In the sense, that cannibalism can be considered. growth.

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Can Do a Lot of Things, But We Can't Do That

If you hadn't heard, a bicyclist riding on the Jefferson Street viaduct was struck by a car riding from Oak Cliff to downtown this Saturday. The collision broke his neck. As the news report rightly points out, this is one of the streets suggested for initial restriping of bike lanes. Dallas has no on-street bike lanes at present. Meanwhile, cities around the country are adding them left and right.

It should also be noted that there isn't one safe connection across the Trinity River for pedestrians and/or cyclists at present. Jefferson and Houston Street viaducts, the two primary connections to/fro Oak Cliff are literal nightmares. I've ridden them several times. Yet the irony is that there is so little vehicle traffic to warrant the excess vehicular travel lanes on them. Google Earth Pro tells me that previous traffic studies suggest an average of about 8,000 vehicles per day on each. They're both 4 lanes. 8 lanes in total. The sidewalk for bicyclists and pedestrians abruptly stops. Meanwhile, Main Street in downtown moves 9,000 vehicles per day. It is one lane in each direction.

The Lance Armstrongs as I call them, those that think just some good edjumucation is in order to get ridership and safety up, want riders to co-exist with vehicles on the travel lanes. Cars routinely drive 55 mph on those two bridges. Can you pedal that fast? Can a child? Cars drive as fast as the road design allows them. They haven't a clue as this post points out, which is why they've been saying the same thing with no results for decades. They appeal only to the 1%. Not that 1%, but the 1% identified by Roger Geller that is "strong and fearless."

It is the 60% of the population which is the untapped market that is "interested but concerned." I.e. not batshit crazy enough to try and compete for roadway space with drivers conditioned by a highly competitive traffic environment to drive aggressively. I was in conversation with a woman at one of Chef Nicole's underground dinners a few nights ago. She lamented why does everybody in Dallas have a giant SUV?

The answer, beyond the various tax breaks and artificially deflated gasoline prices for hyper-inflated internal combustion vehicles, is precisely that competition. Every other driver on the road is your enemy? Why? Because the optimum condition of a road is no other drivers. This is the failed logic of the transportation planner/engineer. They're in your way. They cut you off. They slow you down. They tailgate you. It is competitively advantageous to desire a bigger vehicle. In contrast, in European cities, it is competitively advantageous to have a smaller vehicle because space is at a premium, both parking and drive lanes.

Meanwhile, in a safer pedestrian-oriented environment, each other "commuter," whilst on foot, improves the overall experience. And as I tweeted the other day, city form is commonly based on the primary transportation technology of the day. However, foot power is the only transportation technology that transcends time. Therefore, the only truly timeless cities, durable cities, that will surely last long past peak oil (unless we all kill ourselves and each other on the roads first) is the pedestrian-oriented city.

Fortunately, Dallas Torres survived the crash. Or unfortunately? Did I really just say that? In other words, he won't be a martyr for change, since that is apparently what it takes to get the city to do its primary job: ensure public safety. If the city disagrees, thinking that public safety should take a backseat to economic development, there is also the fact that investment and spending along the Magnolia Avenue bike lane in Fort Worth is up over 500%. In one year. The actions of the city make it appear that they don't understand economic development and don't care about public safety. They do however think paying $10 million to Calatrava for a redesign of a physical connection THAT ALREADY EXISTS is a good investment. Maybe he'll just pull a design off the shelf again.

If words like these offend, perhaps they should offend. While the city looks for excuses not to make any changes, will it take a death to begin making changes?


Perhaps we need to give a call to the Bobs to ask, "what exactly do you do here?"

Friday, January 13, 2012

IntraCity Freeways, Mapped

Earlier today, I wrote this as an explanation filling in the gaps between highways ----> dead downtowns. Obviously, there is cause and effect, but few take the time to explain why:
You gut the integration, you lose the accommodation. Integration = demand. Accommodation = supply. Cause and effect. As I point out in mySpace Syntax of downtown Dallas post, the real estate market and building technologies built upwards at the exact same time as cities, states, and federal government unwittingly conspired to undermine the demand to fill those towers. But since the towers were new and shiny with whatever modern doo-dads a business may look for at the time, they cannibalized from historic buildings...which could then be torn down for parking all the residents that fled when their homes were taken for highways.
So I did a quick exercise examing inner loop highways in various cities, all at roughly the same scale. When given the time, I'll likely add in the railroads, which also have a divisive effect (see: "other side of the tracks") as well as a rough approximation of the land areas which remain relatively vibrant. It might be nice to test what the ratio of vibrant area vs overall land area within the loop might be and if there is any rough correlation.


Rochester, NY:

Dallas

Houston

Charlotte

Tampa

Detroit

Kansas City

Los Angeles

Paris

Cleveland

Columbus

Cincinnati