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, September 27, 2003

Michael S. Malone, writing about the failures of downtown San Jose to become a truly vibrant city after massive redevelopment investment: "The city's leaders to begin trusting the judgment of the average citizens of San Jose. For 20 years now they've been trying to force San Joseans to ride trains, carpool, move downtown, pay higher wages and, generally, behave like passive pawns in their Great Urban Game. And being wiser than their leaders, the people have either ignored these rules, sabotaged them or, as a last result, grumblingly gone along--while silently making plans to move away. We need to face facts: the People have spoken. They don't want to live, and they barely want to work, downtown--and least of all in the downtown that has been designed for them. So, let them create the place they want." Fine, as long as those people don't subsidize any parking spaces downtown. Let them pay market-rate prices for parking -- maybe build some automated garages to save space -- and I don't care that they've rejected public transit for now. Eventually, simply due to the limitations of Silicon Valley's highway system -- mass transit to downtown San Jose will look compellingly attractive. If it's simply a shortage of paid parking right now that's holding back downtown's growth, let the paid parking flourish. Also, the People now include those who have elected to live downtown, and some of them may speak out about the idea of massive new parking structures. Let them speak as well.

Friday, September 26, 2003

The Toronto Star reports that Canadian urban planners are fusing traditional grid-pattern streets with cul-de-sacs to form "fused grids" that provide efficient routes for traffic, opportunities for green spaces, improved safety, and a quick way of walking to local shops, schools, recreation and work. Overall, it improves residents' enjoyment of their neighborhood. This reminds me a lot of what's transpired with diverters in Berkeley during the past 20 years, an admittedly flawed experiment, but still intriguing. (via Planetizen)

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Video of the year has to be R.E.M.'s new "Bad Day" which skewers TV news production values and attention-getting mayhem, and yet offers a passionate commentary on life as we know it today.
Half-page ad on page 3 of the Oakland Tribune this morning trumpets: "Your employees found us...you can too! Make the move...to Stockton! Affordable housing - 50% less than the Bay Area; qualified, productive workforce; state tax credits and local incentives." It's deplorable that the state of California is offering companies tax credits to encourage employers to perpetuate sprawl, rather than building more affordable housing where the jobs and mass transit infrastructure already are. But the gubernatorial candidates are, mostly, silent on this issue.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I've added a service from Bloglet that allows you to receive Urbification updates via email every time I post an item to this blog. Unfortunately, for now, I'm unable to provide an RSS feed, due to limitations imposed by Google/Blogger.
New York Times: Scooters, Long a Nuisance, Draw Anger as a Safety Risk. "While it is against New York State law to drive either kind of motorized mini-scooter in public areas, stores are allowed to sell them, much to the ire of transportation watchdogs."

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Bruce De Benedictis: "I once pointed out that the MacArthur Freeway took out houses in Oakland that would be paying $80,000,000 per year in property taxes. In order for the gas tax to make up for that loss, there would need to be 4,000,000,000 miles per year traveled on it. That requires more than 10 times the number of cars that could fit on it bumper to bumper 24 hours a day, everyday."

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Then there's this report from a Knight-Ridder newspaper: "'If I'm in a fender bender,' said Eileen Lopez, of Miami, who drives a Lincoln Navigator, 'my big SUV can withstand pretty much everything, while your little car would be inside out. We, the SUV drivers, own the road, as we should.'" (via BATN)
The latest impact of California sprawl: a shortage of in-state sand and gravel, with negative impacts for British Columbia and Baja California. (via BATN)

Monday, September 01, 2003

Oakland Tribune: "Tailpipe emissions have dropped 90 percent since 1970, but miles driven have soared 162 percent since then, while the average number of trips made by cars and trucks has leapt 57 percent." (via BATN)
Slashdot reports that Toyota in Japan has released for sale a car that can park itself. Now we wait to find out if its fancy circuitry can detect nearby pedestrians and bicyclists as well as the cars it's parallel-parking between.
Planetizen, summarizing the New York Times: "Havens for families are expensive to run, and many of the people who run them are trying to draw childless couples, single people, retirees — anybody but children... 'It shows that the economics of the suburbs are out of phase with the original purpose of the suburbs.' "