“Today we often forget that prior to World War II, every city in America was built for easy walking and biking. In fact, the idea of living in a walkable place is nothing radical. What was radical was the program we undertook to build an entirely new type of human life. We built networks of roadways and freeways like nothing any society had ever seen before. We tore down entire neighborhoods to accommodate these roads as well as the parking lots and garages required by the cars that would travel these roads; at the same time, we ripped out the tracks for streetcars and trains.”—Kevin Klinkenberg on the journey we’ve taken to create unwalkable cities. (via thisbigcity)
“It makes little sense to expect our homeownership rates to rebound to what they were before the housing crisis. We need to accept the fact that the housing system we have today and will have tomorrow will have to be different from the one we had in the past.”—The ‘Great Reset,’ Continued (via thisiscitylab)
“Just because cars have lasted a century, that does not mean they’re here to stay, that does not mean they’re not ripe for disruption. Cars are the newspapers of today. Something oldsters can’t live without and youngsters can.”—Bob Lefsetz questioning the future role of the automobile in Kid’s Don’t Care About Cars. (via cadenced)
Hufft Projects is a design collective. Our studio combines all sorts of creative people from diverse backgrounds, people who are comfortable filling many roles. Gavin Snider is one of these creative types. Operating under the catch-all title of designer, Gavin tackles architecture, graphic design, blogging, PR and marketing here at Hufft Projects. Outside of the office, you may have seen him wandering the streets, pen in one hand and a sketchbook in the other. He stops to draw historic buildings and modern architecture, grain elevators and railroad tracks, rolling hills, open skies and the occasional sea monster. His architectural experience and illustrations inform one another.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — a pro-establishment, rock-ribbed bastion of pro-market thinking — has released a report predicting a collapse in global economic growth rates, a rise in feudal wealth disparity, collapsing tax revenue and huge, migrating bands of migrant laborers roaming from country to country, seeking crumbs of work. They prescribe “flexible” workforces, austerity, and mass privatization.
I want to take this app (open source!) and run with it, making a drag and drop webapp to redesign all public space: streets, squares, parklets, parks, intersections, tactical street festivals, the works. All the space between the buildings is up for grabs.
Say you clicked on the Streetmix view in the bottom right corner of the mock-up above, it would expand to fill the screen so you could edit lane arrangements of various cross-section points. You could also edit on the plan view to show how those cross-sections connect, and to add paint and furniture (like planters).
Then you click to minimize the editing screen, and see the 3D view above again, which you can pan and zoom around.
Brian Mount already implemented a simple plan view fork of an earlier version of Streetmix, shown below. Imagine being able to paint onto that, and drop in elements like planters and parklets.
Count Studio630 in. I am using StreetMix to help design this year’s BetterBlockKC and several planning firms in Kansas City have used the open-source program to help design streets for new bicycle paths and streetcar routes.
“Parking spaces create heat islands and sources of polluted stormwater runoff. They hollow out cities and divide neighborhoods. They are significant generators of emissions, accounting for as much as 12 percent of energy consumption and greenhouse gases, and at least 24 percent of other emissions.”—How Parking Spaces Are Eating Our Cities Alive | Citylab (via atlurbanist)
The image above compares Florence Italy with Metro Atlanta’s Interstate I-75/I-285 interchange. It’s a few years old, but it’s making the rounds on the web again thanks to some recent exposure. The line usually accompanying it claims that “entire city of Florence could fit inside Atlanta interchange” or similar.
It’s instructive in that it shows how much land space we waste on car infrastructure and how it could be better used (don’t get fooled by the lush green spot on the west corner of the interchange image — that’s about to become the new Cobb County Braves stadium). But it’s also a bit of a lie. It’s even in scale, but the Florence image shows only a portion of the historic center of that city.
Contrasting these two places has merit as a kind of fun exercise in land use. But when it comes to Atlanta’s land and the amount we devote to cars, I’m more interested in two specific, very real things.
1.) The land within our neighborhoods wasted on car infrastructure
There are many Atlanta neighborhoods I could use for this comparison of properties developed for humans versus those for cars, but to be gallant I’ll allow my own home — the Fairlie-Poplar district — to take the heat.
Below is an image I’ve made that shows, in blue, the amount of land in Fairlie-Poplar that’s devoted entirely to car storage in the form of either surface lots or parking decks (in fairness, I just realized I missed one, so it’s even worse than it looks here). The headline I’d give this is “entire human-inhabited portion of FP could fit inside the land devoted to parking.” Basically, if you developed all the parking structures, you could build a second neighborhood inside itself.
Because of the parking built for people visiting the large event facilities in Downtown, this is a more dramatic example than you’ll find elsewhere, but most every neighborhood has its unfair share of car-centric land use — space that is sitting empty much of the time and not offering the value it should to a potentially more livable neighborhoods.
2.) We’re still building these interchanges in Metro Atlanta and elsewhere
The State of Georgia is planning to add miles of lanes to those highways in an attempt to relieve congestion for car commuters. This, despite the overwhelming evidence that adding lanes on a congested highway can create more traffic via induced demand.
According to the news piece:
At an estimated cost of $950 million, it would be the most expensive road project in state history, paid for by going at least $130 million into debt, not counting interest costs. It would take three years of heavy construction to build.
This is exactly the kind of project that a growing metro, already struggling with sprawl damage, needs to avoid. Instead of affordable infill housing in a format that encourages alternative transportation options, this highway-building project is the sort of thing that enables further sprawl and car dependency.
Now is the time to learn from our mistakes in road building, not repeat them. We should build better neighborhoods, not bigger highways.
Goldman Sachs in February published a research memo advising investors to seek out “oligopolistic market structure[s]” in which “a smaller set of relevant peers faces lower competitive intensity, greater stickiness and pricing power with customers due to reduced choice, scale cost benefits including stronger leverage over suppliers, and higher barriers to new entrants all at once.” Goldman went on to highlight a few markets, including beer, where dramatic consolidation over the past decade has enabled dominant companies to use their market power to extract more from suppliers and consumers — and thereby enrich investors.
“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.”—Is Democracy dead in the USA? Martin Gilens and Benjamin J. Page think so. (via thisbigcity)
another article summarizing transportation x urbanization x climate change x advocacy x urban planning.
“Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, fine particulate matter alone, much of which comes from transportation related emissions, is responsible for up to 30,000 premature deaths each year. Yet transportation is one of the areas that we, as individuals, have the most ability to control. A whopping 60% of carbon emissions generated by transportation in this country originates from cars and light trucks (the remainder mainly from heavy-duty vehicles & airplanes). The average person who bikes five miles to work, five days a week, avoids 2,000 miles of driving a year – the equivalent of 100 gallons of gasoline saved and 2,000 pound of CO2 emissions avoided. This equates to saving 5% of the average American’s carbon footprint. This means that regular people like you and me have the greatest potential to turn this problem around.
Simply put, too many people are burning too much fuel in single-occupancy vehicles. Fortunately, a surprisingly straightforward, inexpensive, and low-tech solution to this problem is right under our noses or, more likely, stored in our garages..
Americans are no different than our friends in northern Europe when it comes to making basic lifestyle choices. How we decide to get to work, bring our kids to school, or move around for errands or recreation is largely based on what’s most convenient and expedient for us personally, not some grand environmental motivation. If it’s easier and faster to drive, we usually do. If transit is most convenient, we take the bus. If biking proves speediest and most enjoyable, then we’ll pedal.
Unfortunately for our environment (as well as our pocketbooks and general health), American communities have largely been built to prioritize automobiles, making it a challenge to see bicycling, transit, or walking trips as the most attractive options in many places.
This is where the work of bicycle advocates can be most effective. Our focus is on improving the policies, plans, and investments needed to make communities bicycle-friendly so that more people have the option of biking for more of their trips.”
"Unlike their parents, who calculated their worth in terms of square feet, ultimately inventing the McMansion…this generation is more interested in the amenities of the city itself" — Ellen Dunham-Jones, Georgia Tech professor