Community Architect: Urban Design and Transportation – A City for People Instead of Cars

Fells Point in Baltimore. From

In this post, Klaus Philipsen describes how exactly the car is a bane to designers. You have to figure out approaches and parking before you can really do anything else. And because the metrics of traffic flow are easily quantified, they are often more strongly argued than the qualitative points of design. Philipsen discusses how the development in this country since WWII has largely been car-centric, although recent trends are pointing toward a more balanced transportation network. He has a number of images and examples from his local Baltimore to illustrate his point. But my favorite line is this: “design is definitely more encompassing and fun than just making sure the traffic flows. The promise of design: A better and more livable city.” Let’s work on designing a fun city more than one that is easy to drive through.


Cities Could Use Your Tweets To Build Better Infrastructure | Co.Exist: World changing ideas and innovation

Conditions in India, via Twitter. From

Ariel Schwartz posted this over the weekend, discussing how IBM used posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites to create a vision of what people in India think about their transportation network and what officials can do about it. Their results show a variety of things, such as that people in different cities in India have different feelings about different transportation issues: people in Mumbai are more concerned about pollution, while people in Delhi are concerned about public transit. Although the survey was largely about negative concerns or stressors, it also showed that people in Bangalore and Delhi, for example, have a generally positive feeling about construction and infrastructure, possibly indicating that recent projects have done a good job of alleviating some transportation stress. Since people may be more likely to complain via twitter than to an elected official, this is a great way of harnessing people’s true feelings about transportation projects.

Link and Place « isthmusblog

Streets on a link/place matrix. From

This post from Isthmus discusses streets in a way I haven’t heard of before that I think is very innovative and useful. The writer discusses how, during the Modernist era, engineers and planners thought that the way to make roads the most “efficient” was to maximize flow. This is only one dimension of what streets are. Another dimension is that they are the major public spaces in most cities, and a simple measure of flow neglects this quality. What Isthmus discusses is instead a matrix measurement, with the idea of flow represented on the Link scale, and the place quality of a street on the Place scale, as applied to streets in Auckland above. In the post, they show how a street can maintain its same link value while improving its place value, or making improvements on both scores. It is very interesting and I think it would be a good thing to apply elsewhere.

Tennessee DOT Moves Past Road-Widening as a Congestion Reduction Strategy | Streetsblog Capitol Hill

The existing transportation/land use cycle. From

Tanya Snyder brings us this post on changes going on at the Tennessee Department of Transportation. John Schroer, the current TDOT commissioner, wants to be the “no-bypass commissioner,” and as such, has worked with Smart Growth America and other state agencies to try and find solutions other than the traditional roadway widening. They came up with a range of context-sensitive solutions that are not only cheaper, but often greener and better for economic development. They’ve realized that transportation and land use cannot be separated, and since they have no authority over land use decisions, they have been partnering with local governments to try and come up with solutions together and avoid sprawl. For instance, instead of a new bypass, you could improve congestion by fixing signal timing at congested intersections for a fraction of the cost. While the Department doesn’t have a set of binding recommendations, it has come up with a set of metrics by which to evaluate projects. This will lead to better transportation projects that fit with good land use decisions.

Indy Green Growth Loop: An Urban Design Proposal to Revitalize Indy’s First Ring Suburbs | URBN DSGN

The Green Growth Loop. From

This post on Urbn Dsgn shares a bold new idea for Indianapolis’ first ring suburbs. These areas boomed in the early post-war years, but as manufacturing jobs dried up and development continued further afield, they fell into decline, and are in need of major investment. This plan proposes redesigning a decommissioned rail belt as a two-way light rail track and jogging path. This bears some superficial resemblance to the Atlanta Beltline, much of which was shot down in the recent defeat of the Transportation Improvement Act. If this effort is to succeed, it needs to be sure to do more than just install this infrastructure. Transportation and land use are strongly tied, and these communities need to allow mixed uses and higher densities than they may be used to to truly take advantage of this investment. Hopefully they can adjust, and in a few years, will be in a much better state.

The Michigan Transportation Musical

Why doesn’t every neighborhood in America have something like this to give to new residents?

Vote, and vote Sestak

You ever do something dumb?  Well, I did.  I mailed in my voter registration form the day before it was due, and just got it back because after filling the whole thing out, I forget to sign it before I mailed it, so now I can’t vote in Pennsylvania’s second district.  As far as national politics goes, I’m not worried about The House; I think Chakah Fattah‘s position is safe until he dies or gets bored, whichever comes first.  But I am worried about the open senate seat in Pennsylvania, and since I can’t vote, I’m going to try and encourage some of you to vote the way I would have.

The two candidates are Joe Sestak (D) and Pat Toomey (R).  If you go on the internet and are from Pennsylvania, you’ve probably seen a few Toomey ads, since he has been a lot more aggressive in internet advertising at least (I don’t have cable so I haven’t seen any of the attack ads that I’ve been hearing about).  I think the web pages of both candidates are sort of funny.  Here’s Sestak:



And here’s Toomey:



Notice anything?  That’s right, they’re both about Sestak!  Toomey would rather demonize Sestak than talk about what he actually believes.  And the sad thing is that might work better for him.  Republicans generally respond better to attack adds than Democrats, which is probably why I think Toomey is being stupid and evasive, while someone form the Alabama part of Pennsylvania would think that Sestak is a socialist and probably Kenyan.

A little bit about backgrounds.  Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and reached the rank of three-star general before being elected to the House of Representatives.  He has served our country and has been given a distinguished rank for his service.  Toomey was in the financial sector when he finished college at Harvard (where Sestak also went), and after doing a short stint in the House switched to the more lucrative position of being a small-government, free-enterprise lobbyist.  He’s basically been a money-grubbing, selfish jerk his entire life.

The most important issue to the nation right now, as almost anyone can tell you, is jobs.  Sestak, who has worked on the Small Business and Education and Labor Committees in The House, focuses on stabilizing volatile institutions, investing in small business and working families, support new industries and public-private partnerships, and enforce fiscal discipline.  Toomey is a broken Republican record, saying cut taxes and decrease regulation.  That’s what got us here in the first place, and the last time we were in a crisis like this we got out of it by Keynesian pump priming.  We need to spend federal dollars so that we can actually get some dollars into the economy, not pull back.

Of course, the most important issues to me are urban issues.  Toomey doesn’t even mention them.  Sestak specifically addresses our failing infrastructure and how we need a major overhaul.  In congress, he actually was able to get money to support SEPTA, and in the senate, he could do more to help public transportation elsewhere.  Failing infrastructure is one of America’s greatest problems, a problem that could be addressed by creating a WPA-like body that could put thousands of Americans to work, and give them the money they need to spend in the private economy.  This is crucial, and Toomey doesn’t even address it.

For me, the choice is easy.  Toomey is the type of person that we can blame for most of the problems in America – a financial goon, a government lobbyist, and someone that doesn’t care at all about cities.  Sestak is someone who has been a public servant his entire life, who addresses real issues with intellect, and who should be the next senator from Pennsylvania.

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