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February 11, 2017

Park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows ?

As American downtowns repopulate and densify, green space is at more and more of a premium. Very few open lots that could be turned into parks remain around urban cores; often, land that becomes available holds remnants of the industrial past. That's why so many of these "adaptive reuse" projects--with sleek aesthetics that often highlight, rather than hide, the old highway/flood channel/railway--are getting built.

Meanwhile, city governments rarely have room in their budgets, or even imaginations, to redevelop those tracts on their own. It's largely up to private funders to bankroll these projects--and it's mostly private individuals who dream them up. From an investor standpoint, the High Line's stunning successes make these projects no-brainers to back: Green space draws new businesses and dwellings. There's big redevelopment money to be made. So they partner with city governments, hungry for a heftier tax base, to do it.

But these obsolete bits of infrastructure generally have people living near them, and often, they are park-poor, low-income communities of color, forgotten in the shadows of that very strip of concrete or steel. This is true for many of the 17 projects involved in the High Line Network. Planners and designers--who are usually white--may try to engage residents in dialogue; often, they fail.

February 5, 2017

New York City bike lanes, circa 2002

New York City bike lanes rated Rate a C for experienced cyclists, but a F for new people on bicycles -- Clarence Eckerson of BikeTV

January 31, 2017

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate

New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate
A new book argues that poor communities of color are hurt by the city's zoning and housing policies.

Today, historical color lines are being redrawn through a concentration of wealth and the displacement of communities of color. In New York, that phenomenon may be spurred in part by the city's well-intentioned land-use policies. Various types of rezoning--upzoning and mixed-use zoning, for example--have inadvertently but disproportionately harmed poor neighborhoods. That's the central argument of Zoned Out!, a new book edited by Tom Angotti, an urban planning professor at the City University of New York, and housing advocate Sylvia Morse.

we talk about in the book is the watering down of the word "affordable." Affordable housing used to imply that it was housing for people who had less money, who needed help affording housing. Now, it basically means anything that meets the federal guidelines for rent not costing more than 30 percent of household income, and really there's a lot of room to obscure which groups you're serving through affordable housing. I think that's a very New York City-specific context. Of course, we still have the old school, low-density NIMBYism, which we talk about [in the book].

Continue reading "New York City Has Been Zoned to Segregate" »

May 4, 2016

Regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters

Are regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters are more important than 'states' ?

Britain is also in the midst of an internal reorganization, with the government of Prime Minister David Cameron driving investment toward a new corridor stretching from Leeds to Liverpool known as the "Northern Powerhouse" that can become an additional economic anchor beyond London and Scotland.

Continue reading "Regional infrastructure lines and metropolitan clusters" »

April 5, 2016

Denver-to-Boulder corridor booming (Red Rocks Edition)

When the aerospace company Sierra Nevada Corporation moved into the Colorado Technology Center about eight years ago, employees on their lunch break could stroll by the alpaca farm next door.

Olivia Sandoval, left, and Kayla Galet take a break from exercising at the top of the stairs at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colo. Cultural amenities like Red Rocks are drawing highly educated workers to the Denver area.

Now the animals are gone, and the land is cleared and ready for the new development surging along the Denver-to-Boulder corridor.

Here in the Mountain West -- but also in places as varied as Seattle and Portland, Ore., in the Northwest, and Atlanta and Orlando, Fla., in the Southeast -- employers are hiring at a steady clip, housing prices are up and consumers are spending more freely.

Continue reading "Denver-to-Boulder corridor booming (Red Rocks Edition)" »

March 16, 2016

The so-called Google buses

The so-called Google buses -- private commuter buses that whisk tech workers from the city to the corporate campuses to the south -- will be used to transport fans to Santa Clara on game day, which tourists may see as a treat. Although this does not seem to have caused an uproar among San Franciscans, it is perhaps symbolically significant, given that the buses have been a lightning rod for anger over the Bay Area's growing wealth disparity.

November 12, 2015

Mind maps of cities, by Archie Archambault

Archie Archambault, a designer who's making an ongoing series called "Map From the Mind." Archambault's maps are based solely on his own explorations and time spent with locals in a given city. "It seems kind of dishonest to make a map completely based on secondhand data," he says. "The tradition of mapmaking is surveying and being within the parameters of the space."

Brooklyn_mind_map.jpg

November 9, 2015

Millennial stealth dorms ruining Texas cities -- Citylab

Citylab reports millennial stealth dorms are ruining Texas cities.

Center: ZIP code 78751

In 2000, there were 3,723 higher ed students in 78751 (the area seemingly most affected by 'stealth dorms'). The total population in 2000 for 78751 was 14,005. So, the area was 27% students. In 2011, there were 4,760 higher ed students; the total population was 14,526. The area was 33% students. So, if you are a resident of 78751, of the sixteen people living closest to you one went from being a non-student to a college student. And by the way, four of the sixteen of them were already students. That is what is being described as 'bleeding' a neighborhood.

March 20, 2015

Street score media mit Citymap NYC

Streetscore by media.mit.edu Citymap of NYC: how welcoming are those streets ?

March 17, 2015

Shape of city blocks

Travel to any European city and the likelihood is that it will look and feel substantially different to modern American cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, or Miami.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1410.2094 A Typology of Street Patterns

The reasons are many. Most older European cities have grown organically, usually before the advent of cars, with their road layout largely determined by factors such as local geography. By contrast, the growth of many American cities occurred after the development of cars and their road layout was often centrally planned using geometric grids.

But while the differences are stark to any human observer, nobody has succeeded in finding an objective way to capture the difference. Today, that changes thanks to the work of Rémi Louf and Marc Barthelemy at the Institut de Physique Théorique about 20 kilometers south of Paris. They have found a way to capture the unique "fingerprint" of a city's road layout and provide a way to classify and compare the unique layouts of cities all over the world for the first time.

Louf and Barthelemy began by downloading the road layouts from OpenStreetMap for 131 cities from all continents other than Antarctica.One objective way to assess road layout is to think of it as a network in which the nodes are junctions and road segments are the links in between.

The problem with this method is that the networks of most cities turn out to be remarkably similar. That's because the topology captures the connectedness of a city but nothing about the scale or geometry of the layout. It is the scale and geometry of the layout that seem to be the crucial difference between cities that humans recognize.

Louf and Barthelemy's breakthrough was to find a way of capturing this difference. Instead of examining the road layout, they look at the shapes of the spaces bounded by roads. In other words, they analyze the size and shape of the street blocks.

In a city based on a grid, these blocks will be mostly square or rectangular. But when the street layout is less regular, these blocks can be a variety of polygons.

Capturing the geometry of city blocks is tricky. However, Louf and Barthelemy do this using the ratio of a block's area to the area of a circle that encloses it. This quantity is always less than 1 and the smaller its value, the more exotic and extended the shape. The researchers then plot the distribution of block shapes for a given city.

But this shape distribution by itself is not enough to account for visual similarities and dissimilarities between street patterns. Louf and Barthelemy point out that New York and Tokyo share similar shape distributions but the visual similarity between these cities' layouts is far from obvious.

That's because blocks can have similar shapes but very different areas. "If two cities have blocks of the same shape in the same proportion but with totally different areas, they will look different," they say.

So the crucial measure that characterizes a city combines both the shape of the blocks and their area. To display this, Louf and Barthelemy arrange the blocks according to their area along the Y-axis and their shape ratio along the X-axis. The resulting plot is the unique fingerprint that characterizes each city.

When they did this for each of the 131 cities they had data for, they discovered that cities fall into four main types (see diagram above). The first category contains only one city, Buenos Aires in Argentina, which is entirely different from every other city in the database. Its blocks are all medium-size squares and regular rectangles.

September 20, 2014

Mayor of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley needs a de facto "mayor", the person who represents its broad interests, and not those of a particular company, industry or advocacy groups. The Valley began with such individuals--Stanford's Fred Terman, Dave Packard and then Intel founder Robert Noyce. But that ended with Noyce's premature death in 1990. Now, poised to reinvent itself one more time and lead the global economy again, Silicon Valley needs another leader to address the great changes to come.

August 17, 2014

Flusty vs public space

Flusty believes the income inequality plaguing many American cities today is a direct result of decades of disciplinary architecture and interdictory space. By separating various economic classes in space, he says, cities and designers are both sustaining and enhancing a certain social order. A far better approach to designing public places would be creating the sort of open, democratic spaces envisioned by urbanist William Whyte in the 20th century. "Once you've got eyes on the plaza and eyes on the street and people interacting, these other sorts of threats are minimized by that," says Flusty. "That's a far more proactive and pleasant way to go about handling it."

"One thing that I think is universal about this design, no matter where you go in the world, is it has the effect of separating majorities of the population from relatively small affluent elite minorities of the population," Steven Flusty, who documented interdictory space in Los Angeles in the 1990s, tells Co.Design. "You can't have anything like a just or equitable society unless it includes spatiality."

Continue reading "Flusty vs public space" »

May 10, 2014

Co-housing, not in Georgia's Cobb County

In Cobb, where there are fewer apartment buildings and little traditional subsidized housing, the most affordable places to live are trailer parks like Castle Lake, or older homes in the county's earliest developments--low-slung brick ranches and split-levels built in the 1960s and 1970s. Politics is a factor here too: Cobb County could have done more but refused to loosen restrictions that control how many unrelated adults can live in a single-family home. Critics say the law was racially motivated, aimed at immigrants who shared houses. "In essence, we limit people's ability to make unaffordable housing affordable," says Lisa Cupid, a Cobb County commissioner who tried and failed to change the 2007 ordinance.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/sprawled-out-in-atlanta-106500_Page3.html#ixzz31KRMYHOV

Continue reading "Co-housing, not in Georgia's Cobb County" »

May 8, 2014

SFO much more tech-centric than NYC

San Francisco is much more of a company town. Go into any bar in San Francisco and you will hear people talking about their start-up, or a battle they recently had with a line of code. Stop by a coffee shop in some neighborhoods here and you will be surrounded by venture capitalists being pitched a new idea for a new app. All of these people rarely, if ever, interact with people outside the tech world.

Unfair? Sure, but we are talking about glossy magazine stereotypes here.

In New York, if you meet someone who works in tech you feel like you've met a long-lost relative. Bars, coffee shops and restaurants are a mishmash of people from vastly different industries.

The lack of diversity between social groups in San Francisco isn't going to change anytime soon, as the number of tech employees in the Bay Area is only going to continue to rise. Ted Egan, chief economist for San Francisco's Controller's Office, recently said that in the early-90s, tech workers made up less than 1 percent of city workers in San Francisco. In 2000, tech employees had risen to 3 percent of the workforce. By 2013, that number had passed 6 percent.

March 11, 2014

Metropolismag Big-Data-Big-Questions

"The old city of concrete, glass, and steel now conceals a vast underworld of computers and software," writes Anthony M. Townsend in Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for the New Utopia (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013), perhaps the best book written on the phenomenon. "Not since the laying of water mains, sewage pipes, subway tracks, telephone lines, and electrical cables over a century ago have we installed such a vast and versatile new infrastructure for controlling the physical world."

February 21, 2014

nyc.gov motorist alternate side parking

Wherein "Do not park here" is revealed to be "park on other side of street": nyc.gov/motorist/alternate-side-parking.

August 25, 2013

Peak car


city, state and federal policies that for more than half a century encouraged suburbanization and car use -- from mortgage lending to road building -- are gradually being diluted or reversed. "They created what I call a culture of 'automobility,' and arguably in the last 5 to 10 years that is dying out," Ms. Sheller said.

New York's new bike-sharing program and its skyrocketing bridge and tunnel tolls reflect those new priorities, as do a proliferation of car-sharing programs across the nation.

A study last year found that driving by young people decreased 23 percent between 2001 and 2009. The millennials don't value cars and car ownership, they value technology -- they care about what kinds of devices you own, Ms. Sheller said. The percentage of young drivers is inversely related to the availability of the Internet, Mr. Sivak's research has found. Why spend an hour driving to work when you could take the bus or train and be online?

From 2007 to 2011, the age group most likely to buy a car shifted from the 35 to 44 group to the 55 to 64 group, he found.

Continue reading "Peak car" »

June 13, 2013

Lower East Side's south side is quiet


The Lower East Side, whose tenements teemed with immigrants for generations beginning in the 19th century, has in recent years become known north of Delancey Street for crowds of a different sort: the whooping revelers who stream down its streets and cascade from its scores of bars, restaurants and falafel shops on weekends. Indeed, the density of raucous nightspots has earned the nickname Hell Square for the area between East Houston and Delancey from Allen Street east to the Delancey, a club near Clinton Street.

LES_SoDel_12living-map.png

Below Delancey, however, a quieter, more residential atmosphere prevails.

"When you cross south over Delancey you feel your blood pressure go down," said Para Rajparia, a psychologist, who moved into a three-bedroom Grand Street co-op in 2010 with her young family, joining the many other young professionals who have recently put down roots in the area. "I have a sense of safety and comfort."

Although new night-life attractions have begun pushing south down Ludlow Street from Delancey, they do not for the most part extend below Grand, leaving intact, at least for now, a certain low-key authenticity that many residents say they prize.

Continue reading "Lower East Side's south side is quiet" »

June 9, 2013

Citi Bike NYC is alive


CitiBike NYC is alive.

Looking forward to system data and realtime updated maps.

Already two weeks in service, it looks popular and very useful.

Posted to Green transit urbanism NY.

June 1, 2013

Conservatives hate Citi bike: NY Mag venn diagram


Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal called the Bloomberg administration "totalitarian" for ... encouraging the riding of bikes.
In perhaps the best unhinged rant of any kind ever, Daniel Greenfield at the always enjoyable FrontPage Magazine refers to Janette Sadik-Khan, the city's pro-bike transportation chief, as a "Muslim Nazi collaborator's granddaughter" who in "partial revenge ... made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather's wartime Dresden."

NY Mag's intelligencer CitiBike NYC venn-diagram: why-conservatives-hate-citi-bike.

CitiBike_a_560x375.png


Sharing: So central to the concept of bike shares, they put it right in the name. But conservatives hate sharing -- tax dollars, calamari, doesn't matter. True story: Louie Gohmert never shared a toy for the duration of his childhood.
It is a very slippery slope from sharing bikes to sharing everything. You blink and all of a sudden we're a socialist dystopia, and everyone's eating Bloomberg Vitamin Mush for every meal.

Environmental: Bike are also good for the environment. This will please you if you think the environment actually needs help. But if you think carbon emissions and climate change are conspiracies (like 58 percent of Republicans) perpetrated by Al Gore and a handful of scientists at the University of East Anglia, then bikes are just lies on wheels.
Vaguely French: French people ride bikes, right? Like, more than other people? There's something vaguely French about this whole thing. Doesn't sit well.

Continue reading "Conservatives hate Citi bike: NY Mag venn diagram " »

May 27, 2013

Triumph of the Educated City


Like many Rust Belt cities, it is a captive of its rich manufacturing past, when well-paying jobs were plentiful and landing one without a college degree was easy.

Educational attainment lagged as a result, even as it became more critical to success in the national economy. "We were so wealthy for so long that we got complacent," said Jane L. Dockery, associate director of the Center for Urban and Public Affairs at Wright State University here. "We saw the writing on the wall, but we didn't act."

Dayton sits on one side of a growing divide among American cities, in which a small number of metro areas vacuum up a large number of college graduates, and the rest struggle to keep those they have.

The winners are metro areas like Raleigh, N.C., San Francisco and Stamford, Conn., where more than 40 percent of the adult residents have college degrees. The Raleigh area has a booming technology sector and several major research universities; San Francisco has been a magnet for college graduates for decades; and metropolitan Stamford draws highly educated workers from white-collar professions in New York like finance.

Metro areas like Bakersfield, Calif., Lakeland, Fla., and Youngstown, Ohio, where less than a fifth of the adult residents have college degrees, are being left behind. The divide shows signs of widening as college graduates gravitate to places with many other college graduates and the atmosphere that creates.

Continue reading "Triumph of the Educated City" »

April 23, 2013

saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities


In the early 1990s, Shanghai organized a special economic zone that led to the development of a financial hub in Pudong, on land previously occupied by warehouses and wharves. Towers sprouted to create an instant iconic skyline, but with a regrettable, scaleless urban moonscape below.

Should we in New York in 2013 emulate the Shanghai of the 1990s? Or should we heed the lesson the Chinese themselves have subsequently learned, that saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities? In Shanghai, the pre-World War II buildings along the Bund, which loom so very large in the city's appeal, have been saved and repurposed. Nearby, at Xintiandi, a historic residential neighborhood of stone houses and tight alleys has been transformed into a chic, walkable retail and entertainment district.

Terminal City, a sophisticated mix of hotels, clubs, office buildings and residential blocks at the heart of East Midtown, was built on platforms bridging the rail yards north of Grand Central. It was a bold plan to create valuable real estate where once there had been urban blight. As much as anything, this development created what the world knows today as Midtown Manhattan.

-- Robert A. M. Stern

Continue reading "saving old buildings and neighborhoods is essential to the continued vitality of great cities" »

April 12, 2013

Detroit revival


"The villains are the rules of the game," he said. "Developers find it far more profitable to build in farmland in the suburbs than in vacant land in the urban core. It's easier to acquire big sites without worrying about hidden basements, or gas stations, or a reputation for violence, or corruption or inefficiency or the potential racism of your customers."

It makes financial sense for developers, but it is disemboweling the city, he said. Which is why he believes that without reform to housing and development laws, neither Mr. Gilbert nor the emergency manager, nor any combination of earthly forces, can salvage Detroit.

Continue reading "Detroit revival" »

March 27, 2013

Clean as I've been


In the flowering of modernism between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, architects forged a stainless-steel connection between housing and health. Victorian homes were a nightmare to them, a cesspit at any level of society: they were dark and stuffy; they were filled with carpets and hangings and ornate picture frames that harbored dirt and were difficult to clean; their primitive plumbing made it hard to bathe.

See Light, Air and Openness: Modern Architecture Between the Wars
By Paul Overy, reviewed by Edwin Heathcote.


The early modernists wanted to wash away this squalor with an ocean of shining chrome, tile and white plaster. Dirt-hoarding fabrics with grime-concealing patterns would be consigned to the efficient rubbish chutes. Furniture would be made from wipe-clean leather and steel. Generous windows and electric light would expose every speck of dirt. In "Light, Air and Openness," the architectural historian Paul Overy showed how the early modernists were obsessed with healthful living and influenced by the design of sanitariums.

The better home would lead to better people. Love of purity, in the words of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, "leads to the joy of life: the pursuit of perfection." He was far from the first to tie minimalist hygiene in the home to moral purity. Adolf Loos famously connected decoration with degeneracy in his 1908 essay "Ornament and Crime." A person's soul could be cleansed only when his domestic surroundings were purged: "Soon the streets of the town will shine like white walls. ... Then fulfillment shall be ours."

Continue reading "Clean as I've been" »

March 24, 2013

Kotkin vs Florida


Among the most pervasive, and arguably pernicious, notions of the past decade has been that the "creative class" of the skilled, educated and hip would remake and revive American cities. The idea, packaged and peddled by consultant Richard Florida, had been that unlike spending public money to court Wall Street fat cats, corporate executives or other traditional elites, paying to appeal to the creative would truly trickle down, generating a widespread urban revival.

-- Joel Kotkin

Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members--and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the "creative class" strategy, he notes, "flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers," since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see "disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account." His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: "On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits."

Yes: Boulder and Raleigh-Durham and Fairfax County


No: Cleveland, Toledo, Hartford, Rochester, and Elmira, New York.


Continue reading "Kotkin vs Florida" »

February 13, 2013

Azerbaijan of Ibrahim Ibrahimov


Ibrahim Ibrahimov, who plans to live in the penthouse of Azerbaijan Tower, had his epiphany on a flight from Dubai. The vision behind Khazar Islands, after all, is not a vision so much as a simulacrum of a vision. The fake islands, the thousands of palm trees and the glass and steel towers -- many of which resemble Dubai's sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel -- are all emblems of the modern Persian Gulf petro-dictatorship. And two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union -- its final custodian during 23 centuries of near-constant occupation -- Azerbaijan could be accused of having similar ambitions. The country, which is about the size of South Carolina, has 9.2 million people and is cut off from any oceans. It builds nothing that the rest of the world wants and has no internationally recognized universities.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, the energy sector became a source of enormous wealth. Now Azerbaijan is trying to take advantage of that wealth. As such, Avesta's sales and marketing team recently produced a gleaming 101-page coffee-table book in a gilded box promoting Khazar Islands. It features photographs of men in Italian suits and women with pouty faces; everyone drinks wine and is on a cigarette boat or in a Mercedes convertible. There's also a video that shows computer renderings of Khazar Islands in the not-too-distant future. The video lasts 5 minutes 6 seconds and includes an image of a make-believe skyline at night and another of Ibrahimov on a cellphone in front of a private jet, even though, he conceded, he doesn't own one.

Continue reading "Azerbaijan of Ibrahim Ibrahimov" »

November 30, 2012

FHA condo mixed use mortgages


The trend toward such development has grown in recent years, as younger and older people alike have migrated to urban centers to be close to jobs, cultural amenities and entertainment, said Peter D. Cummings, chairman of Ram, a Florida-based mixed-use developer focused on the Southeast and Michigan.

That "back to the city" movement is now spilling into the suburbs, said John K. McIlwain, senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research organization.

"We've learned that this mixing of development makes for a better urban design, so towns and cities are designing codes to encourage it, and the market is showing interest," he said. "We're going to see a lot more mixed use, whether it's in the urban central city or suburban town centers."

The F.H.A.'s mixed-use rules date to its inception and the growth of federal housing initiatives, according to the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which promotes pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods. The rules stemmed from fears that one component of a mixed-use development could fail and place strain on others to maintain the property, a concern revived by the housing crash in 2007.

Continue reading "FHA condo mixed use mortgages" »

June 13, 2012

A highway that is running at peak capacity has only 4.5 percent of its surface area occupied.


Traffic jams can form out of the simplest things. One driver gets too close to another and has to brake, as does the driver behind, as does the driver behind him -- pretty soon, the first driver has sent a stop-and-go shock wave down the highway. One driving-simulator study found that nearly half the time one vehicle passed another, the lead vehicle had a faster average speed.

All this leads to highway turbulence, which is why many traffic modelers see adaptive cruise control (A.C.C.) -- which automatically maintains a set distance behind a car and the vehicle in front of it -- as the key to congestion relief. Simulations have found that if some 20 percent of vehicles on a highway were equipped with advanced A.C.C., certain jams could be avoided simply through harmonizing speeds and smoothing driver reactions.

One study shows that even a highway that is running at peak capacity has only 4.5 percent of its surface area occupied. More sophisticated adaptive cruse control systems could presumably fit more cars on the road.

-- Tom Vanderbilt

May 29, 2012

The primacy of Interaction Design


The primacy of Interaction Design

The new digital landscape in which entrepreneurs operate is no longer dominated by sales-driven cultures, or by the need to deploy and maintain infrastructure. Instead, amazing products, products that are often bought rather than sold, dominate this new landscape.

Designers of these products are increasingly in direct touch with their users. We have spoken of this product-driven versus sales-driven change, and it impacts every sector we invest in. Design moves to the center. We believe designers are choosing urban life in the city over suburban life elsewhere.

-- Benchmark

Continue reading "The primacy of Interaction Design" »

May 4, 2012

Avent, Glaeser and Yggls go urban


Cities are really important, as engines of the broad economy via industrial clustering, as enablers of efficiency-enhancing specialization and trade, as sources of customers to whom each of us might sell services. Contrary to many predictions, technological change seems to be making human density more rather than less important to prosperity in the developed world. Commerce intermediated at a distance via material goods has become the province of cheap workers in distant lands, and will very soon be delegated to robots. The value of human work is increasingly in collaborative information production and direct personal services, all of which benefit from the proximity of diverse multitudes.

-- and Avent, Glaeser and Yglesias

Continue reading "Avent, Glaeser and Yggls go urban" »

September 23, 2011

Optimal number and locations of fire stations, by RAND


Take the 1968 decision by New York Mayor John V. Lindsay to hire the RAND Corporation to streamline city management through computer models. It built models for the Fire Department to predict where fires were likely to break out, and to decrease response times when they did. But, as the author Joe Flood details in his book "The Fires," thanks to faulty data and flawed assumptions -- not a lack of processing power -- the models recommended replacing busy fire companies across Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx with much smaller ones.

What RAND could not predict was that, as a result, roughly 600,000 people in the poorest sections of the city would lose their homes to fire over the next decade. Given the amount of money and faith the city had put into its models, it's no surprise that instead of admitting their flaws, city planners bent reality to fit their models -- ignoring traffic conditions, fire companies' battling multiple blazes and any outliers in their data.

The final straw was politics, the very thing the project was meant to avoid. RAND's analysts recognized that wealthy neighborhoods would never stand for a loss of service, so they were placed off limits, forcing poor ones to compete among themselves for scarce resources. What was sold as a model of efficiency and a mirror to reality was crippled by the biases of its creators, and no supercomputer could correct for that.

Continue reading "Optimal number and locations of fire stations, by RAND" »

July 2, 2011

Cars are 38 times bigger than people


Zurich's 's chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. "So it's not really fair to everyone else if you take the car," he said.

April 23, 2011

Whole Foods Market: leads or follows gentrification


But Christy Pardew, spokeswoman for Whose Foods, Whose Community?, an activist group protesting the forthcoming Whole Foods, says the issue is "keeping multinational chains out." According to Ms. Pardew, the addition of a high-end grocery store to Jamaica Plain will result in higher rents, pushing low-income residents from the neighborhood. "It's a term that real estate agents use," she intoned, "called 'the Whole Foods effect.'"

But real estate agents aren't economists, and Ms. Pardew admitted that there "isn't a lot of academic research" to back up the claim that stores like Whole Foods destroy low-income, ethnic communities. In fact, evidence points in the opposite direction: "To blame gentrification for rising rents is to get things exactly backwards," says Duke University economist Jacob Vigdor. "Companies like Whole Foods are building in places where the clientele is there already. They follow the customer."

When studying gentrification patterns in Boston, Mr. Vigdor investigated claims that elevated rates of neighborhood departure correlated with rising rents. "Actually, I found that in the gentrifying neighborhoods, the turnover rate among long-term residents was actually lower than it was in other parts of the city," because most residents see changes like lower crime rates and the revivification of derelict buildings as positive developments.

"People think that gentrification is causing prices to rise, when it's actually the reverse. In cities that are popular places to live, where demand exceeds supply, and prices go up all over the place--this leads people to seek out neighborhoods that are less expensive," says Mr. Vigdor.

Census data for Jamaica Plain show that Whole Foods is indeed following demographic trends, not simply hoping that if a store is built, the yuppies will come. In the past decade, the Hispanic population in J.P. has declined by 10%, while the African-American community shrunk by almost 15%.

Continue reading "Whole Foods Market: leads or follows gentrification" »

October 28, 2010

Is quality of life about square footage ?


During the last decade's real estate boom, the annual demonstration kept up with the times: designs abounded with baronial features like colonnades, cathedral ceilings and observation towers, and they sometimes topped 6,000 square feet. But then the crash came, wiping out credit lines and shaking the industry's confidence. For this year's show, Boyce Thompson, the editorial director of Builder, wanted a look more attuned to curtailed appetites, so he came up with a concept that he called a Home for the New Economy.

The most salient specification of the house was its modest proportions. At around 1,700 square feet, it was the size of the average American home built in 1980. Since then, new houses have on average grown by more than 40 percent, as dens have expanded into great rooms, and tubs and sinks have multiplied. "Houses got too big, because people were chasing investment gains and there was cheap money, and the industry responded by building houses that were too large," Thompson says. "So we really wanted to focus people's attention on doing smaller, better homes." He points to Census statistics that show a slight decline in the size of homes built over the past two years and to a much larger drop in the square footage of those that have just started construction, and suggests that the market may be headed toward a more austere norm.

That's certainly debatable. If dissecting the causes of the housing market's crash is a task for economists, predicting its future is a fuzzier matter of sociology. Will Americans re-evaluate cultural assumptions that equate ever-larger houses with success and stability? Or will they invest more in their lived environments, figuring that with the demise of the quick flip, they are now in for the long term? In the absence of much real market activity, imaginations are free to run wild. The Home for the New Economy is one such exercise in speculation, a proposal that the future lies in denser, more walkable, modestly scaled communities. Marianne Cusato, who designed the Home for the New Economy, sees it as a rebuke to the ethic of the McMansion. "We're not going to go back to 2005," she says. "What was built then is not going to come back, and this is not a bad thing. What we were building was so unsustainable, and it didn't really meet our needs."

Cusato, who is 36, started her career drawing up million-dollar mansions, but she has made a name for herself by going smaller, designing a 300-square-foot Katrina Cottage meant to be a replacement for the trailers the government set up after the 2005 hurricane. When Cusato sat down to devise the Home for the New Economy, she tried to consider how families actually use their living areas. She started with a simple, symmetrical three-bedroom plan, excising extraneous spaces -- the seldom-used formal dining room, for instance -- while enlarging windows wherever she could and adding a wraparound porch. A result was a house that was compact, comfortable, bright and energy-efficient.

Continue reading "Is quality of life about square footage ?" »

October 21, 2010

The block of 35th St. between Sixth and Seventh Ave is said to be uglty


The block of 35th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves. plays starring role in Municipal Art Society's 'Ugly Streets' tour.
Some streets are mean. Others are just plain ugly.

The ugliest stretch of midtown - and maybe all of Manhattan - is 35th St. between Sixth and Seventh Aves., according to Municipal Art Society member Frank Addeo.

"It's midtown's ugliest block," said the former Department of Transportation and Downtown Alliance staffer, who highlighted the spot as part of an "Ugly Streets" walking tour Friday.

"Blank-wall buildings drive me crazy," he said, gesturing to the shuttered back entrances and boring brick along the block.

Scaffolding and sidewalk sheds cover the back side of Macy's along the entire south side of the block, making it even darker.

People who walk the block every day were far from surprised at its dubious distinction, although a homeless man wearing underwear on his head seemed to find it an ideal spot to spend the afternoon.

Rick Tiberii, 39, a manager at nearby Premier Technology Solutions, said, "It's hideous! It's dirty. And the traffic! The road is always packed with cars. And it's dark. I just try to block it out."

Continue reading "The block of 35th St. between Sixth and Seventh Ave is said to be uglty" »

July 21, 2010

Beijing edition of Queens' Crap.


Instead, they seize property in parts of the city they deem "unhygienic and unsafe," rezone much of it as commercial property and sell it for huge profits. The concession to history often consists of a few new buildings with upturned eaves and garishly painted timber slapped on concrete facades.

Aarguments have had limited impact on this redevelopment-crazed city. In recent years, two-thirds of Beijing's 3,000 narrow lanes, known as hutongs, have been subsumed by mega-developments, many of them in neighborhoods that were officially designated preservation zones.

Continue reading "Beijing edition of Queens' Crap." »

March 30, 2010

Conservatives should blame the state for sprawl


We all hate suburban sprawl, right? "Wrong." So says libertarian John Stossel as he attempts to debunk the sprawl-is-bad argument in his Myths, Lies and Nasty Behavior series on ABC.

If Stossel wants to to expand Americans' lifestyle choices, he should attack the very thing he was defending," says Austin Bramwell: "For the 101st time: sprawl--an umbrella term for the pattern of development seen virtually everywhere in the United States--is not caused by the free market." Instead, government regulations, zoning laws, building codes, and street design regulations actually "mandate" it. Bramwell is perplexed: "You would think that libertarians would instinctively grasp the deeply statist nature of suburban development."

- Austin Bramwell of the American Conservative

Continue reading "Conservatives should blame the state for sprawl" »

December 22, 2009

Light rail of Tempe, Arizona

The silver and teal trains that light up the bridge over Town Lake, swish through downtown, sound their bells near campus and travel along Apache Boulevard have become part of Tempe's identity.

Metro light rail has changed the landscape of the city since service began last Dec. 27. As the transit system marks its first year of operations Sunday, Tempe is celebrating the successes.


tempe_lightrail_train_PHP4B32E6D0A4073.jpg


People driving from the West and East Valley to get to the nearest light-rail station made the Phoenix and Mesa end-of-the line stops the most popular of the 28 stations. But Tempe's station near University Drive and Rural Road is on track to be the third most frequented stop. Students and faculty using that station and others hubs near Arizona State University account for a bulk of light-rail riders.

An ASU study released earlier this year also showed Tempe's land value near rail stations had increased at a greater rate compared to Phoenix and Mesa.

Continue reading "Light rail of Tempe, Arizona" »

December 14, 2009

Pocket parks


Pocket parks -- also known as miniparks and vest-pocket parks -- are small patches of landscaped nature generally built on vacant building lots or scraps of city land that fall between the cracks of real estate interests.

Jacob Riis, the urban reformer, is credited with inventing the pocket-park concept in 1897, when he served as the secretary of a city committee on small parks. The committee issued a statement declaring that "any unused corner, triangle or vacant lot kept off the market by litigation or otherwise may serve this purpose well." Though turn-of-the-last-century New York was filled with spaces that fit the bill, Riis's idea went largely unrealized until after World War II, when bombed-out building sites in European cities provided opportunities to create small parks at less cost than reconstruction would have entailed.

Mr. Hoving may have seen parallels between New York's crumbling urban landscape and Europe's war-ravaged capitals when he started his micro-park effort in 1966. That year, he identified 378 vacant lots and 346 abandoned buildings in Bedford-Stuyvesant alone.

Continue reading "Pocket parks" »

October 17, 2009

Whitopian migration results from tempting pulls as much as alarming pushes

When those pop-up lists beckon you from your Web browser ("Retire in Style: Fifteen Hotspots!"), or those snappy guidebooks flirt with you from the bookstore shelves (America's 25 Best Places to Live!), ever notice how white they are?
Whitopian migration results from tempting pulls as much as alarming pushes. The places luring so many white Americans are revealing. The five towns posting the largest white growth rates between 2000 and 2004 -- St. George, Utah; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Bend, Oregon; Prescott, Arizona; and Greeley, Colorado -- were already overwhelmingly white. Certainly whiter than the places that new arrivals left behind and whiter than the country in general. We know why white folks are pushed from big cites and their inner-ring suburbs. The Whitopian pull includes economic opportunity, more house for your dollar, a yearning for the countryside, and a nostalgic charm.

Most whites are not drawn to a place explicitly because it teems with other white people. Rather, the place's very whiteness implies other perceived qualities. Americans associate a homogeneous white neighborhood with higher property values, friendliness, orderliness, cleanliness, safety, and comfort. These seemingly race-neutral qualities are subconsciously inseparable from race and class in many whites' minds. Race is often used as a proxy for those neighborhood traits. And, if a neighborhood is known to have those traits, many whites presume -- without giving it a thought -- that the neighborhood will be majority white.

Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America (Hardcover)
by Rich Benjamin (Author)

October 6, 2009

Hovnanian on cheap design

Even among competitors, he gained a reputation as a builder of bare-bones homes who kept prices low. In the early 1980s, for example, the typical Hovnanian condominium residence was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom dwelling that cost about $30,000. In his developments, Mr. Hovnanian kept prices down by omitting the amenities, like swimming pools and community buildings, that other builders used to attract buyers.

"There are limited recreation facilities going in because people have little time for socialization," Mr. Hovnanian told The New York Times in 1983, explaining his philosophy.

By 1989, his company had sold more than 30,000 condominiums and other residences in states stretching from New Hampshire to Florida. The projects were so popular that they sometimes sold out over a weekend. Mr. Hovnanian also operated a finance company that made loans to buyers, who sometimes bought more than one residence, including some as investments.

Since then, the company has built more than 200,000 other homes. And in recent years, it has expanded its portfolio to include the construction of medium-price homes, luxury homes and retirement communities with recreational facilities.

Continue reading "Hovnanian on cheap design" »

October 4, 2009

Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions

James Perry, executive director of the housing center and a candidate for mayor of New Orleans, said class animosity might be at the root of much of this anger, though discrimination against the poor is not a violation of the Fair Housing Act. It is illegal to discriminate against minorities, however, and given that a disproportionate number of those who need affordable housing in the area are black, he said, these arguments almost inevitably involve race.

Continue reading "Low-income housing in New Orleans stokes long-simmering tensions" »

September 12, 2009

New Canaan: Concentric larger, smaller lots sized ring the transact

The 22-square-mile town of New Canaan, CT, has concentric circles of one-third-, one-half-, one- and two-acre lots, capped by a swath of homes on four acres or more. About 1,200 apartments and condominiums mingle with roughly 6,000 single-family homes.

Continue reading "New Canaan: Concentric larger, smaller lots sized ring the transact" »

August 16, 2009

Texting while walking: dangerous at any age

We've all heard that driving and texting is dangerous, but Dr. Milteer (Dr. Regina M. Milteer, a pediatrician in Fairfax, Va., and member of the Academy of American Pediatrics council on communication and media) warned that pedestrian accidents have occurred because children were texting as they crossed the street and were not aware of their surroundings. And even though it may not be as hazardous to use cellphones while sitting at the dinner table or mingling with friends, it is just plain rude.

Continue reading "Texting while walking: dangerous at any age" »

August 7, 2009

stupid stupid stamps

stupidstupidstamps is another tumblr example of blogging one thing and one thing only.

copernicus_stamp_250.jpg

Stamps are educational. Here, millions of Americans are introduced to the inventor of Orange-On-A-Stick, who apparently lived a REALLY long time.

Continue reading "stupid stupid stamps" »

June 27, 2009

New rail lines, new urbanism, still growing

Urban-style development may be the brightest spot in a generally gloomy market. A recent survey of developers and investors by the Urban Land Institute for its annual Emerging Trends in Real Estate report found that urban redevelopment had the best prospects among all types of housing, while urban mixed-use properties and town centers scored high among niche property types. "These are the places that will be creating and holding value," Ms. Poticha said. She said proximity to public transit could raise property values significantly.

"It's moved from being an interesting idea to a core investment," said Jonathan F. P. Rose, the president of the Jonathan Rose Companies, a New York-based developer and investor.

The most successful projects do more than build housing near transit stations. They take pains to create livable neighborhoods, with parks, paths, retail stores and places for people to gather. "Place-making is key," Ms. Poticha said.

new_carrolltonTX_14sqftC_large.jpg

Continue reading "New rail lines, new urbanism, still growing" »

May 27, 2009

Cited for parking in their own driveway

Cars parked in front of their owners houses, but partly on the street, or partly on the side walk, are sometimes given parking tickets.

Pedestrian advocates emphasize the 'blocking the sidewalk -- stop sidewalk parking' aspect. Others just want the free parking without acquiring the land to build private parking.

See also old Ken Garcia column in SF Gate (may be on BATN).

May 23, 2009

Late night safety bus

If public transport and public health could merge, there would be a safe way to get home at night.

Atrios would approve, if public safety is a public good.


Phoenix, AZ 2009 May 21:

The Valley's light rail will soon extend its hours on the weekends.

Currently, the light rail makes its last run at 11 p.m.

However, starting July 1, the trains will leave from both ends of the line at 2 a.m., which means if your stop is somewhere in the middle, the final train will sometimes come past 2 a.m.

On Wednesday, the METRO Board of Directors approved the new hours.

The change was made after getting feedback from passengers and businesses along the light rail route.

Melissa Harrigan, a bartender at Zuma Grill in Tempe, said she thinks the change will be good for business because people will be able to stay longer.

She also said that she feels it will keep the roads safer because a bigger group of people won't be drinking and driving.

According to a METRO news release, the estimated fiscal and maintenance impact for extended weekend service is $254,500 annually to the METRO operating budget.

After six months, the Board will review ridership statistics and costs associated with the service extension to see if the change is cost effective.


Published in transit, urbanism, UK, SFO, ny.

May 22, 2009

Town for car-free life: Vauban

While there have been efforts in the past two decades to make cities denser, and better for walking, planners are now taking the concept to the suburbs and focusing specifically on environmental benefits like reducing emissions. Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

"All of our development since World War II has been centered on the car, and that will have to change," said David Goldberg, an official of Transportation for America, a fast-growing coalition of hundreds of groups in the United States -- including environmental groups, mayors' offices and the American Association of Retired People -- who are promoting new communities that are less dependent on cars. Mr. Goldberg added: "How much you drive is as important as whether you have a hybrid."

Levittown and Scarsdale, New York suburbs with spread-out homes and private garages, were the dream towns of the 1950s and still exert a strong appeal. But some new suburbs may well look more Vauban-like, not only in developed countries but also in the developing world, where emissions from an increasing number of private cars owned by the burgeoning middle class are choking cities.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting "car reduced" communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said. In previous bills, 80 percent of appropriations have by law gone to highways and only 20 percent to other transport.

In California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village on the outskirts of Oakland, accessible without a car to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and to the California State University's campus in Hayward.

Continue reading "Town for car-free life: Vauban" »

November 14, 2008

Why Squatter Cities Are A Good Thing ?

A TED talk, The Shadow Cities Of The Future and Why Squatter Cities Are A Good Thing by Robert Neuwirth, author, Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, gives a different take on development economics, from mud hut cluster to developed city, with or without debt and property rights.

Video after jump.

Continue reading "Why Squatter Cities Are A Good Thing ?" »

July 22, 2008

McMansions no more (Leigh County, PA)

Bethlehem Township developer Abraham Atiyeh announced two weeks ago that he's building a downtown Bethlehem development of town homes starting at $129,000, and national builder Pulte Homes has halted its large-home building in the area and last winter began marketing a new home, called "The Lehigh", with 1,050 square feet and starting price of $139,000.

McMansions No More ** Fewer behemoth homes may be built in the Lehigh Valley as turmoil in the housing market opens the door for smaller, more affordable living
Morning Call - Allentown, Pa.
Author: Matt Assad
Date: May 25, 2008
Start Page: A.1
Section: National
Text Word Count: 2299

[Via McAll]

February 11, 2007

Alpine, NJ is in the winners' circle

Experts say the phenomenon of the newly rich gravitating
toward country-club enclaves like Alpine is well established
in American society.

The old adage is crowding into the winner’s circle
and so these superaffluent communities are very desirable
for the big winners in our society, and there’s always
the contrast between the old money and new money.

-- Jim Hughes,
Dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and
Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Especially in the case of hip-hop stars, many of whom insist
they’ll never lose touch with their street roots.
-- NYT, on Alpine NJ, 07620.

Continue reading "Alpine, NJ is in the winners' circle" »

June 10, 2006

Silicon Valley is grown, not built. By Paul Graham

Shorter Silicon Valley.
Need nerds (smart creative fanoys, not computer operators)
and rich people (investors and mentors within an hour's drive),
nice place to live (San Fanciscso, Boston, Seattle, Buffalo, Pittsburgh)
Need free thinking ofbeat (Portland, Boulder, New York,
Los Angeles, Las Vegas
) not stodgy (Saint Louis, Detroit) bureaucrats.

Silicon Valley is grown, not built (comments).

-- Paul Graham

Continue reading "Silicon Valley is grown, not built. By Paul Graham" »

April 25, 2006

Top 18 skylines in world

City views, cityscapes: Top 18 skylines in world.

March 16, 2006

McMansion congratulations

When neighbors return, after having moved out temporarily to
have one of these steroid palaces built for them, I'm at a loss
for what to say.

Nice house seems insincere.

Where the hell did you get the money ?
would be aggressive and intrusive.

But it seems as if you should say something, right?
I want to say,

Why ? or,

You expecting quintuplets ?

I settle for

Looks like it's really coming along.

December 29, 2005

New Haven apartments

Agent for some nice downtown New Haven apartments.

December 26, 2005

transport and transit: transportblog

Update 2006 November 24: transportblog is back to full strength posting.

Sadly, transportblog was on hiatus in 2005
Coverage of transport and transit, wide ranging.

July 29, 2005

bad architecture in Beijing

An investigation of the not-so-subtle bad architecture in Beijing.

Three Rockets

Continue reading "bad architecture in Beijing" »

July 1, 2005

Art of the New Urbanist Deal

New urbanism proposes new models for the urban design of
master-planned communi-ties and town centers. The financial
performance of three projects is examined in detail: Seaside, a
second-home resort in Florida; Lakelands, a master-planned community
in Gaithersburg, Maryland; and Haile Village Center, a mixed-use
residential, commercial, and retail center outside Gainesville,
Florida.

Seaside, which consists of 630 residential units, about 45,000 square
feet of retail, and about 18,000 square feet of commercial space, has
slowly developed into a financial success. The first lots sold in 1982
for $15,000; by 1992, the average price of new lots sold was $130,000
and by 2001 it was $690,000. The project has become a model for
several larger second-home village-type resorts in northwest Florida.
Lakelands, with 220 developable acres, has about 1,572 residential
units (houses as well as multi-family), the majority produced by
national homebuilders. The selling rate has been good: in the first
three years, the project sold about 400 units a year.

The land at Haile Village was originally bought for $2,500 per acre
and is today sell-ing for more than $300,000 per acre; the value of
the project at build-out is estimated to be about $500,000 per acre.
Due to lack of visibility, there has been some difficulty in
attracting a large variety of retail tenants.

Continue reading "Art of the New Urbanist Deal" »

May 24, 2005

Union City intermodal station

Union City, CA intermodal station will connect BART, Dumbarton Rail,
Capitol Corridor, and ACE Rail.

April 28, 2005

Urban Review STL

Excelent Urban Review STL architrectural review of Saint Louis, MO
housing and commercial real estate.

April 22, 2005

The High Cost of Free Parking

Free parking isn't really free. In fact, the average parking space
costs more than the average car. Initially, developers pay for the
required parking, but soon tenants do, and then their customers, and
so on, until the cost of parking has diffused throughout the economy.
When we shop, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking
indirectly because its cost is included in the price of everything
from hamburgers to housing. The total subsidy for parking is
staggering, about the size of the Medicare or national defense
budgets. But free parking has other costs: It distorts transportation
choices, warps urban form, and degrades the environment.

It doesn't have to be this way. In The High Cost of Free Parking,
Donald Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking, namely,
charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue
to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove
zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according
to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make
parking easier and driving less necessary.


The High Cost of Free Parking
by Donald C. Shoup.

Continue reading "The High Cost of Free Parking" »

March 26, 2005

Torto Wheaton Research (TWR)

Torto Wheaton Research (TWR) studies commercial real estate.
Their Debt Risk Management has a nice list of features. See also
Portfolio strategy and misc research desk.

Continue reading "Torto Wheaton Research (TWR)" »

November 12, 2004

New Partnews for New Urbanism

New Partnews for New Urbanism have a nice conference in Miami.

October 18, 2004

Architectural eyesores

Architectural eyesore of the month, selected by James Howard Kunstler.