Thursday, May 30, 2013

From Project for Public Spaces
Streets That Work

The optimist says the glass is half full.
The pessimist says the glass is half empty.
The engineer looks at the glass and concludes it is twice as big as it needs to be.
But you are the thirsty person, you don’t care about who is right; 
you just want a drink!

In the above joke the community is the thirsty person; the advocates are either the optimist or pessimist; and the engineer plays himself. The customer isn’t engaged, and those who are in the fray carry solutions that fit their preconceived notion of what the problem is. These “solutions” obstruct our ability to have a meaningful conversation about the problem we are trying to solve. Not every street needs a bike lane; not every congested road needs to be widened; some streets are successful places despite failing our definition of a complete street. Some streets just work. Read more: Project for Public Spaces | Streets That Work

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From Streetsblog Capitol Hill
Taxes Too High? Try Building Walkable, Mixed-Use Development

Smart growth could increase Fresno’s tax revenue by 45 percent per acre. In Champaign, Illinois, it could save 23 percent per year on city services. Study after study has demonstrated: Walkable, mixed-use development is a much better deal for municipalities than car-oriented suburban development.

Smart Growth America recently conducted an analysis of research examining the impact of efficient development patterns on municipal bottom lines. The authors looked at 17 case studies, from California to Maryland, and, taken together, they say the findings clearly illustrate how walkable development leads to healthier city budgets than drivable sprawl.

For starters, smart growth is cheaper to build. On average, municipalities save about 38 percent on infrastructure costs like roads and sewers when serving compact development instead of large-lot subdivisions. Furthermore, SGA researchers say, “this figure is conservative, and many communities could save even more.” In the case studies, these upfront cost savings ranged from 20 percent to 50 percent. Read more: Taxes Too High? Try Building Walkable, Mixed-Use Development | Streetsblog Capitol Hill

From BT | A | Works
The Life, Death, and Reincarnation of the Great Vancouver Corner Grocery

BTAworks is the architectural and urban research and development division for Bing Thom Architects. Click the above image for the interactive map of Neighbourhood Corner Grocery Stores in the City of Vancouver.

Continuing with variations on the theme of exploring the centres of community and commerce, this entry looks at the phenomenon of the neighbourhood corner grocery stores in the City of Vancouver. In the spirit of contributing to urban planning discourse, this map of the corner groceries is the done within the context of existing land use zoning in the City. As reported by the intrepid Frances Bula, most of these shops were established when zoning requirements in many neighbourhoods were more flexible and when the slurpee was the unfortunate cause and effect of a night’s overindulgences. However, as explored in her piece, many of these corner groceries have seen a life, death and reincarnation over the decades. More at: BT | A | Works » The Life, Death, and Reincarnation of the Great Vancouver Corner Grocery

From The Atlantic Cities
Quantifying the Cost of Sprawl

EMILY BADGER  Sprawl is expensive. It costs more money to pave a road and connect a sewer line to five families each living a block apart on wooded lots than to build public infrastructure for those same five families living in a condo. It costs more money (and takes more time and gas) to serve those families with garbage trucks, fire engines, and ambulances. And in return – aswe've previously written – those five sprawling single-family homes likely yield less in tax revenue per acre than the apartment building that could house our fictitious residents downtown. Read more: Quantifying the Cost of Sprawl - Emily Badger - The Atlantic Cities

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

From Smart Growth America
Building Better Budgets:
Savings and Revenues of Smart Growth

Local governments across the country have compared development strategies to understand their impact on municipal finances. These studies generally compare two or more different development scenarios, and help local leaders make informed decisions about new development based on the costs or revenues associated with them. No national survey has examined these savings as a whole until now. This report is the first to aggregate those comparisons and determine a national average of how much other communities can expect to save by using smart growth strategies. (Pic links to report pdf).

bbb-infra1. Smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves an average of 38 percent on upfront costs for new construction of roads, sewers, water lines and other infrastructure. Many studies have concluded that this number is as high as 50 percent.
bbb-services2. Smart growth development saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services.
Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on police, ambulance and fire service costs.
bbb-revenue3. Smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.
Our survey concluded that, on an average per-acre basis, smart growth development produces 10 times more tax revenue than conventional suburban development.
Read more: Building Better Budgets quantifies average savings and revenue of smart growth development | Smart Growth America

Thursday, May 23, 2013

From City Block — Development Costs
And Housing Affordability

Two competing narratives often emerge when talking about policy responses to housing costs. One asserts that lowering the costs of construction and development will allow those savings to be passed on to eventual users of the real estate; the other asserts that markets set prices, and lowering the cost of development would yield pure profit to developers who will charge what the market will bear. So, which is it? TheVancouver Sun has a series of articles on housing affordability in Vancouver, BC. One of these articles focuses on development impact fees(among other causes) and their role in affordability. The two basic narratives are on display: Read more: Development costs and housing affordability « City Block

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From BT | A | Works
The Sociology of Caffeine in Vancouver

BTAworks is the architectural and urban research and development division for Bing Thom Architects.The above interactive map provides the locations of the independent coffee and teahouses in the City of Vancouver used in the study.

The task of documenting the independent purveyors of caffeine in the City of Vancouver has been a far more complicated task than analyzing major coffee chains. These complications come as a combination of hard technical challenges of mining and mapping raw business license data with the softer subjectivities of what qualifies as an “independent” coffee and tea house. This analysis not only includes caffeine in the form of coffee, but, to reflect the multicultural fabric of this city, include those who also sell tea beverages including, of course, Bubble Tea Cafes. In this collection, the sociology of caffeine in Vancouver also reflects the cultural buzz found in this City. More at: BT | A | Works » The Independent Purveyors of Caffeine in the City of Vancouver

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From The Better Block
Community Plaza Project

Building on the work of the Winnetka Heights Neighborhood Association, the city of Dallas and Team Better Block led a planning and design process to permanently close an unneeded section of West 7th Street from West Davis to Montclair in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, TX. Read more: Community Plaza Project | The Better Block

Monday, May 20, 2013

From rethink urban — Victoria Plazas Dead and Lively and the Passageways that Connect

To celebrate Jane’s Walk on May 4, The Places Project hosted a walk that explored a variety of plaza spaces in downtown Victoria (BC, Canada) and the curious walkways that connect them. Our route was intentionally a mid-block route. Like many cities, Victoria features some blocks that are relatively long. As none other than Jane Jacobs herself noted, short blocks are better – better for pedestrians because they allow more options for movement and better for retail because they provide more of those high-profile corner locations. Read more: rethink urban - Plazas dead and lively and the passageways that connect

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Save the Lakes! Sign the Petition

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Timelapse: 28 Years of Landsat Satellite Images, via Google Earth Engine

Timelapse, was undertaken in conjunction with Time, NASA and the United States Geological Survey. Satellite images taken by the Landsat Programfrom 1984 to 2012 have been compressed from trillions of pixels into small GIFs and a zoomable map.

"We believe this is the most comprehensive picture of our changing planet ever made available to the public," Google wrote on their official blog. "We also hope it can inform the global community’s thinking about how we live on our planet and the policies that will guide us in the future."

The project features incredible environmental changes, including the retreat of the Columbia Glacier, deforestation in Brazil and coal mining in Wyoming.

Recent polling suggests Americans place less importance on environmental issuesthan they did in the 1970s. Yet a majority of Americans surveyed acknowledge climate change is both occurring and manmade. More at: Timelapse: Landsat Satellite Images of Climate Change, via Google Earth Engine

Monday, May 13, 2013

From Business Insider
50 Women Who Are Changing The World:
How Janette Sadik-Khan Has Improved NYC
In her six years as the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan has made a lot of changes.

Those changes are all aimed at her goal of making it easier and safer to get around in New York, and to make the city a better place for residents and businesses, she wrote in a 2011 essay for Slate.

Sadik-Khan manages a $2 billion annual budget and 4,700 employees. She is in charge of maintaining and improving 6,300 miles of road, nearly 800 bridges, 12,000 intersections with traffic signals, and the Staten Island Ferry.

Read more: How Janette Sadik-Khan Has Improved NYC - Business Insider

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Calling All Dreamers and World-Changers: Win $50,000 to Launch a Social Enterprise

Calling all dreamers and world-changers: Do you have an amazing idea that has the potential to transform lives? GOOD and Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS and the Start Something That Matters Foundation, have teamed up to help budding social entrepreneurs like you launch an idea with the power to change the world for good. We know that when it comes to bringing a dream to life, it can take a lot more than passion and a brilliant idea: you need a little financial support too. We’re proud to announce the Start Something That Matters Challenge, which will award $50,000 to help one enterprising individual launch his or her plan for driving social impact.

GOOD Maker Challenge: Win $50,000 to Launch Your Social Enterprise | Entrepreneurship on GOOD

Friday, May 10, 2013

From — Locally Owned Businesses Can Help Communities Thrive

Cities where small, locally owned businesses account for a relatively large share of the economy have stronger social networks, more engaged citizens, and better success solving problems, according to several recently published studies.

And in the face of climate change, those are just the sort of traits that communities most need if they are to survive massive storms, adapt to changing conditions, find new ways of living more lightly on the planet, and, most important, nurture a vigorous citizenship that can drive major changes in policy. Read more: Locally owned businesses can help communities thrive — and survive climate change | Grist

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Public Path Used as "Driveway" and
"Tenant Parking" is Contrary to the
Downtown Urban Design Plan, Diminishes The Integrity of the Heritage Restoration

Email to:
Nanaimo City Councillor
Island Corridor Foundation Director
Ted Greves

E&N Train Station

Date: 9 May, 2013 11:55:27 AM PDT
To: Ted Greves

Cc:, Island Corridor Foundation

Hi Ted — further to earlier communications in regard to the use of the pathway at the E&N Train Station. I have received a somewhat bureaucratic note from someone I think identified as an "office manager". Not someone in any decision making position within the Foundation I assume. Again, no one from ICF in any senior decision or policy making role has extended the courtesy of a phone call or an email on this issue. I want to ask if you would, at the next Island Corridor Foundation board meeting, please convey the following points:

I'm in the process of bringing this to the attention of MLA Leonard Krog and other candidates running in the Provincial election.

• The Old City Residents Association have agreed to take up the cause. 

•  I'll seek opinion also of the Young Professionals of Nanaimo who lead the Train Station heritage restoration fundraising efforts in honour of their colleague the late Blair McKinnon (I know that a parking lot was not the memorial they had in mind). 

• I'm receiving preliminary legal opinion of the chance that a court will uphold the ICF's right to assign some private use on this public property. 

• Ultimately the court of public opinion, after needless public relations harm to the ICF, Fibber's and the City of Nanaimo Planning Department, will establish that this important neighbourhood public walkaway is not and cannot be a driveway.

• I'm researching minutes of the Design Advisory Panel meetings that reviewed the landscape architect's plans and will endeavour to find a copy of the original drawings. I will be contacting individuals who sat on the Panel at the time to ask them if in their opinion "on-site tenant parking" on this walkway at this heritage restoration was their intent.

The use of this area as a driveway and as tenant parking is contrary to the Council adopted Downtown Urban Design Plan and Guidelines and diminishes the integrity of the heritage restoration. These central points inexplicably escaped the scrutiny of the Design Advisory Panel.

Thanks and please let me know if you are agreeable to submitting these points to the board.

Frank Murphy

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Junction Design the Dutch
Cycle-Friendly Way HT @BicycleDutch

Sunday, May 5, 2013

From Project for Public Spaces
Expanding the Rightsizing Streets Guide

Click to check out PPS interactive rightsizing project map
Project for Public Spaces have unveiled several new resources within the Rightsizing Streets Guide, including an interactive map featuring more than fifty successful rightsizing projects from around the US. And two new full case studies to the guide. The case studies, contributed by the Congress for the New Urbanism, both illustrate the benefits of the removal of urban freeways—rightsizing at a grand scale! 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013

From NPR — How Does the Ceiling
Of the NYC Grand Central Oyster Bar
Explain Antoni Gaudi?

How does the tile ceiling of the oyster bar in New York City's Grand Central Station explain Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi? This NPR report details the work of the Guastavino family creating beautiful and durable tile arches and domes in public buildings in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century. Robert Hughes' epic Barcelona sets out to put Barcelona, Catalunya and the modernisme architects Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Josep Puig i Cadafalch, into perspective. He describes modernisme as "eclectic, architecture that looked to the past for inspiration: mainly Gothic and Arabic too.But its attitude was one of transformation, not passive copying and "correct" quotation. At its best it was highly adventurous, open to new structural techniques—and capable of using old ones with a daring and precision that rivalled or even surpassed their original uses. To see the kind of craft base it could draw on one may reflect on a family of tilers and bricklayers, the Guastavinos." The Guastavinos distilled centuries of brick and tile know-how into thier work, they knew all the empirical secrets of the wide-span, flat Catalan medeival arch." For me it was a revelation that Gaudi and Barcelona's distinctive architecture isn't about art nouveau but about the proud and centuries old traditions, arts, crafts and building technologies of Catalunya, brought into the modern world with such originality. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

From — Graphic Design Finds its
Way in a Digital World

Over several decades, the iconic wayfinding designs of the New York Subway and London Underground has become a part of the cultural fabric of the cities they map. The concrete jungle could be just that without the skillful guidance of graphic designers who help make sense of complex civic spaces..

With the recent discovery of the New York City Transit Authority’s “Graphics Standards Manual” for the New York Subway, dating back to 1970, it is clear that impactful graphic design stands the test of time. Bob Noorda and Massimo Vignelli, designers of the manual, had a clear vision for the role of signage, cautioning, “the subway rider should be given only information at the point of decision. Never before. Never after.” Fifty years later, their subway iconography is still a point of civic pride. Read more: Graphic Design Finds its way in a Digital World | Archimemo