Urbification: Taking the sub out of Calif. suburbs

Walking. Bicycling. Alternatives to Driving Everywhere. Social justice. Alternatives to suburban boredom and waste. And the infrastructure and technology needed to get there.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Joel Kotkin: "Generally I find cities interested in either low-income or luxury housing. This is my critique of what's happening in downtown L.A. In some cases, developers have to build high-end because if you're going to subsidize low-income, the only way it cancels out is to attract the high-end that will carry everybody else. But the real issue is, Can we create middle-class housing? It would be wonderful if people at regular jobs in downtown L.A. could afford to own a condo and walk to work. That would do more for the city." This is absolutely right on the money. I see it at work in Berkeley on a daily basis, and it seems to me to be inexorably making the city a hostile place for the middle class. Restrictive or gun-shy approaches to dense infill housing around many cities like Berkeley are the main culprit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Someone in Scranton, Pennsylvania had the crazy idea to add ground-up broken glass to road pavement, with predictable results.
How come local police blotters hardly ever list many traffic stops? Bob Matter shows how they should look.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Denver Post: "The top environmental issue in most American communities is how to save nearby farmland or build new local parks." To me, this is a crucial subject in aging suburbs. Economic pressures are forcing greater density in those suburbs, but I've yet to hear of any instance where a suburb gained so much additional population, that a new park was carved out through redevelopment. Until we have some success stories in this regard, the NIMBYs will have a field day.
Neal Pierce: "A national survey ... shows Americans are now significantly more favorable to cities, willing to spend time or live in them, than in the mid-1990s."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

It turns out that the Segway is illegal in most of Europe. The company hasn't submitted its device to European officials for fear it will be regarded as a moped and rejected for having no lights or brakes. It may be a long time before the company can establish a different category of vehicle in Europe under which operation anywhere of the Segway will be legal.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Whenever suburbanites rail against limiting parking supply, ultimately the debate turns around to the high number of pay-parking spots where meters are inoperative. While listening to a prerecorded November panel discussion at the Digital Identity World conference, I heard high tech guru Esther Dyson recount how Estonia has solved this problem: "If you want to park in Estonia, you find a parking place and you register yourself as parked in a city database. The meter maid comes along, types in your license number, and if you're registered as parked, no problem. If you're not registered as parked, you're illegally parking, you haven't paid. The only challenge is to unpark when you leave your parking spot. It's great. You need none of the parking infrastructure you need in less developed countries." The crowd laughed heartily at that point. I wonder what Estonians do if they don't have a cell phone to register the spot, though: use a pay phone?
The Washington Post (via BATN): "A recent Metro survey of 1,000 people who don't ride buses found that 30 percent want better information. 'Even if someone decided they want to take a bus, they can't,' Zimmerman said. 'It's a big secret, unless you're in the know.'" This is a huge requirement for public transit's continued viability. It's time to provide real-time information about the ETA of the next bus or train. I wonder if this imperative will be thwarted by security considerations as the world grows ever more dangerous?

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Urbification's first Web site of the month: DeadMalls.com.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Otis White, quoted on the New Urbanism email list: "It’s getting harder and harder to tell the suburbs from the city. Latest evidence: Criminal gangs are moving to the ’burbs. Take Atlanta’s Gwinnett County, which recorded 27 homicides by early August of this year, six more than in all of 2002. At least some of the murders there were gang-related. Police have identified 175 gangs at work in the county. Similar story in the Washington, D.C., area, where there are an estimated 3,000 gang members in the region, many in the suburbs. Said the head of Fairfax County, Va.’s anti-gang unit, gang leaders 'know that Northern Virginia is prime real estate. No one gang has it claimed as its drug territory. One of the richest counties, tons of kids, tons of money. They call it a green area.' In Boston, a newspaper analysis of recent crime statistics shows that crime rose sharply in suburban areas in 2002 while declining in urban centers. The number of violent crimes in Massachusetts was up 11 percent in the suburbs last year and down 2 percent in the cities. There were similar trends for property crimes."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

What has the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act been on the viability of public transit, and its competitiveness with motor vehicles? I'd venture to say that the ADA did little to make building highways more expensive, but has made public transit more expensive to build and operate. Public transit advocates are starting to express concern as well. I'm not saying the ADA should be repealed or anything. But any time the debates turns to declining per capita use of public transit, the costs imposed by and services degraded to accommodate the ADA should be factored in.