Sunday, September 26, 2010

Top 20 Urban Planning Successes of All Time

Via Public Servant Blog

Planning a great yet functional urban area takes innovation as well as knowledge. The following top 20 urban planning successes of all time range from the Taos Pueblo to the current functionality presented by Camden Town, London. In between, you’ll discover plenty of examples of urban planning that stood the test of time or that successfully remedied the ravages of time.
Granville Island, Vancouver, source: Google Maps
  1. Amsterdam, Netherlands: The capital and largest city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam has flourished from the 14th century. In the early 17th century, a comprehensive plan was developed that was based on four concentric half-circles of canals with their ends emerging at the IJ bay. Today, with little expansion, only 20 percent of trips around the city are in a car. Amsterdam is one of the most bicycle-friendly large cities in the world.
  2. Billerica Garden Suburb, Massachusetts: Incorporated in 1914, Billerica offered the country’s first garden suburb designed specifically for workers. Modeled after Ebenezer Howard’s English garden city designs, Billerica combined a limited dividend corporation with co-partnership. Workers would own their homes by purchasing shares. The result was the construction of 70 new homes between 1914 and 1917.
  3. Granville Island, Vancouver:    Read more

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sustainable Transport Ideas: Cycling in Amsterdam

Via Planning Pool blog

Amsterdam is one of the most frequently-cited examples of a cycle-friendly city, and I recently had the opportunity to experience it from the perspective of the cyclist, the pedestrian, the automobile passenger, and the transit user. I was not disappointed by the transport network from any perspective, and was most impressed by the infrastructure that allows cycling to be a dominant form of transport in the city. Cyclists are accommodated by a vast network of well-connected bicycle lanes, traffic-calmed streets, and plentiful bicycle parking (though still not enough).
Amsterdam’s canal streets are, for the most part, traffic calmed to allow cyclists easy passage without dedicated cycle lanes. Cycle lanes on other streets are wide enough for two bicycles side by side, but only for those who can steer – I had to improve quickly!  Major streets include a priority position for cyclists to help keep them moving safely ahead in traffic.

The Great American Streetcar Myth

by Stephen Smith

Among liberals in the planning profession today, the story of the Great American Streetcar Conspiracy is widely known. There are more nuanced variants, but it goes something like this: Streetcars were once plentiful and efficient, but then along came a bunch of car and oil companies like General Motors and Standard Oil, and they bought up all the streetcar companies, tore out their tracks and replaced the routes with buses, and ultimately set America on its present path to motorized suburban hell. Although the story dates back to a 1950 court conviction and was retold by academics and government employees throughout the ’60s and ’70s, the theory leapt into the public consciousness in 1988 with both a 60 Minutes piece and a fictionalized account in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Even today it resonates with liberals – The Atlantic casually mentions it as the reason America abandoned mass transit, The Nation wrote a whole article about it a few years ago, Fast Food Nation discusses it, and in the last week I’ve seen two references to the theory in the planning blogosphere.
Though the story has embedded itself in the liberal worldview, it has little basis in reality. A cursory look at transportation history shows that motorization was already well underway by the time National City Lines – the holding company backed by GM, Firestone Tire, and Standard Oil, among others – started buying up transit companies in 1938.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reclaiming the Streets on World Car Free Day

by Angie Schmitt
September 22, 2010

Lace up your walking shoes. Tune up your bicycle. Ditch your keys. Today is World Car Free Day.
The global event to reclaim streets from the automobile has been building momentum since it launched in Toledo, Spain 16 years ago.
Network blog The City Fix is offering a glimpse of what different cities throughout the world are planning to reassert people’s right to the road:
Austria:  Seven cities will compete to see which type of transportation – bike, mass transit, car, bus – is fastest in each city.

On Walkability, Density, and Transit Villages

by Transbay Blog
17 July 2008

It’s official: according to the rankings, San Francisco has been determined to be America’s most walkable city, as reported by the Chronicle. Our fair city’s score of 86 out of 100 just edged out New York’s 83, Boston’s 79, Chicago’s 76, and Philadelphia’s 74. The WalkScore algorithm does have some shortcomings (which the site frankly admits) — pedestrian conditions on Stockton Street in SF’s Chinatown could be much better than they are now, but that did not stop Chinatown from receiving a top score of 99 out of 100, a score largely based on the high density of a large variety of shops and services in a very compact area. But for anyone who has strolled through San Francisco’s downtown or neighborhood commercial districts, this news does not really come as too much of a surprise. Check out the complete listing of neighborhood scores here.
But the most revealing part of the article was not the part glorifying San Francisco, but rather, the part indicating that the Bay Area, taken as a whole, could be much more walkable than it is now. The Bay Area region fell in third place, “well below the greater Washington, D.C., and Boston regions,” according to the Chron.
Read more

The Pedestrianization Fever Moves South

by Transbay Blog
20 May 2009

Has the new 17th Street pedestrian plaza in San Francisco’s Castro District set off a spark? San Francisco is not the only Bay Area city that dreams of creating bustling new pedestrian open spaces, nor is it the only one that isn’t quite satisfied with the current state of its main street.  But of all places, Palo Alto, which has of late gained more of a reputation for NIMBYism than for embracing progressive city planning? Well, sort of. Not surprisingly, this latest push for pedestrianization is of local collegiate origin, coming from students in a class at Stanford University’s design institute, but the idea seems to be catching on fast; the Facebook group created just this week has added on average more than 100 new members each day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rail stops that make sense

Aug. 28, 2010

The locations of the high-speed rail stops between Milwaukee and Madison have come under scrutiny as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has canceled the planned stop in Oconomowoc due to what it says is local and mayoral opposition. This is a positive development since the inclusion of the three stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc and Watertown will not create significant ridership because people need to use their cars to get to the stations in the first place.
It is common knowledge that to support local mass transit, population densities need to be at least around 14 units per acre. For intercity travel, the critical mass of total population needs to be around 50,000 people.
These three locations have neither. At one point, they did have rail stops, but that was before the widespread use of the automobile and their subsequent development pattern has been that of automobile suburbs.