Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mayors Innovation Project

Apparently there is a group in existence called the Mayors' Innovation Project, which defines itself thusly:
The Mayors Innovation Project (MIP) is a learning network among American mayors committed to “high road” policy and governance: shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government.
More relevantly, they've recently(?) released a report entitled, ReThinking the Urban Freeway.  Feel free to click at your leisure as I call out a few important bits below (HINT: they cite ANewDallas).  However, I do have to take issue with the use of the word 'urban,' which unfortunately has lost much of its meaning.  Urban is not merely a geographic location.  For example a freeway running through the middle of a city is not 'urban,' but an Inner-City Freeway (and freeway shouldn't be freeway but highway since nothin' more expensive than free).

A freeway is inherently disconnective by nature.  It makes places around it less walkable if not unwalkable entirely.  Further, it disaggregates people, their neighborhoods, and the economies of place.  "Urban" is about free and easy social and economic exchange.  The highway makes that not free nor easy.  Therefore, using Lewis Mumford's terminology it is anti-urban.  That's why we use Inner-City rather than Urban.

Now, to some of the interesting bullets therein:

  • The by-product:  New commercial activity shifted to outside the city boundaries to isolated strip development accessible primarily by the automobile and not integrated into neighborhoods.
  • Important note: Urban freeways occupy valuable real estate without contributing to the tax base, while increasing blight and decreasing property values nearby.
  • Indeed: Freeways in urban settings were designed to focus on throughput rather than promoting the city’s economy or connecting travelers with destinations within a city
  • True: The construction of freeways did notorious damage to neighborhoods, and had a disproportionate impact on neighborhoods that were primarily African-American and/or low income
  • I can't believe it's not butter: The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the US surface transportation system needs a total of $1,732 billion in investment to restore it to good condition – and that we need to invest $20 billion for bridges and about $170 billion for urban highways every year.40 As the gas tax declines and transportation funds become scare, that’s money we don’t have.
  • This is new and interesting information: truck traffic also has a measurable effect on residential property values. One recent study estimated that a 1 percent increase in truck traffic on an urban freeway results in a 0.5 percent decrease in property values for homes 100-400 meters from the road
  • Also had never found property valuation data from Big Dig before: In Boston, MA, increases in value of commercial properties along the former Central Artery outpaced citywide increases by more than 30 percent