A neat street design resource that collects the before-and-afters (good ones anyway) of streets from StreetView.
Here is a highly recommended interview with Mark Todd of Ockham Residential properties where he discusses his business model of providing high quality, high density residential projects across Auckland. He also discusses the “dysfunction” of the Auckland housing market where planning regulations limit the ability of developers to deliver new housing units below the median level.
Towering Silliness, The Economist.
The sudden spike is largely attributable to a clause in the city’s complicated property-tax code, which taxes different types of abode at different rates, and favours homeowners at the expense of renters. In order to reduce taxes on the construction of new multi-family high-rises—which tend to be taxed at especially high rates—developers rely on something called the 421-a programme, which exempts new construction from property taxes for decades on the condition that they also build some more affordable units, and is yet to be renewed by the state legislature.
Launched in 1971 as a way to spur investment in what was then a rather decrepit city, it has since helped generate around 251,000 of the city’s 2.2m rental units, a significant share—approximately 35%—of new construction in the city, according to an analysis from the New School in New York. This includes an estimated 37,400 affordable units, mostly in Brooklyn, as of 2013. The fact that this benefit could disappear in 2016 helps explain why so many developers are rushing to break ground now. “We’ve been working day and night to get the permits in time,” says Omri Sachs of Adam America, a developer with several big projects in Brooklyn.
Jacob Saulwick, “Rear-door bus boarding in Sydney proves a success, made permanent“, The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney joins the growing number of cities using rear door boarding to speed up bus services.
“It was clear that at these busy stops, rear-door loading under the supervision of a marshal made a real difference to dwell-times, reduced footpath crowding and in some cases traffic congestion was reduced,” he said.
“The biggest improvements were seen between 5pm and 6pm, but there were unexpected benefits such as marshals being able to keep the bus stops clear of other vehicles and some buses loading more evenly rather than standing passengers congregating near the front.”
Patrick Barkham, “Introducing ‘treeconomics’: how street trees can save our cities“, The Guardian.
In Toronto, researchers recently found that people living on tree-lined streets reported health benefits equivalent to being seven years younger or receiving a $10,000 salary rise. As well as studies revealing benefits from everything from improved mental health to reduced asthma, US scientists have even identified a correlation between an increase in tree-canopy cover and fewer low-weight births. And economic studies show what any estate agent swears by: leafy streets sell houses. Street trees in Portland, Oregon, yielded an increase in house pricesof $1.35bn, potentially increasing annual property tax revenues by $15.3m.
Michael Andersen, “As big bike investments loom, the debate goes on: Which neighborhoods need most?“, Bike Portland. An interesting debate about where bike infrastructure should be prioritised. Using Jarrett Walker’s “coverage vs ridership” language, the question is posed should we spend a million dollars on getting thousands of users, or do we spend a million dollars on getting hundreds of users who may be more deserving. Spoiler: there is no right answer.
“Because we have nothing more than the change behind the couch cushions to work on bike projects, I think we’re seeing a lot of tension between I guess what you might call equity-based arguments and people who want to see us direct our resources to the parts of our city where we already have people biking,” Roberts said in an interview. “You’re both right! … You don’t really have to choose only one or only the other, but it behooves transit agencies and especially transit agency boards to have a really explicit conversation about why they run their transit system, what their goals and objectives are.
Chris McCahill, “Study confirms that 10-foot lanes make safer intersections“, State Smart Transport Initiative. More evidence of the somewhat counter intuitive relationship between lane widths and safety.
“Side impact- and turn-related crash rates are lowest at intersections where average lane widths are between 10 and 10.5 feet, according to a study presented at the Canadian Institute of Transportation’s annual meeting last month. This challenges the long-held, but often disputed, assumption that wider lanes are safer.”
Suzanne Goldenberg, “As cities fall out of love with cars, Toyota redefines its role as ‘mobility provider‘”, Guardian Cities.
In an era of rapid urbanisation, single-person households and a generational shift away from private car ownership, the world’s largest car manufacturer last year, Toyota, says it is redefining its core mission from making and selling cars to bridging small transport gaps in urban areas.
As Toyota sees it, the future of cars for city drivers – particularly in the US – lies in covering the short distances between bus or subway stop and home. And so it wants to rebrand itself as a public transport provider, not merely a vehicle manufacturer.
In a strategy that could expand commuting options for city dwellers, the company is developing a number of new vehicles aimed specifically at car-sharing in mid-size urban environments.
Sarah Goodyear, “Walkability Comes to the American West“, City Lab.
“A number of communities have begun to rethink their approaches to economic development,” says Anderson, citing Bozeman, Montana, and Rifle, Colorado, as examples. “The ones that are looking for answers are the ones that get that old-school approaches aren’t taking them very far, and maybe not even in the right direction.”
Here are some of the findings of the “Place Value” report:
- About 70 percent of business owners did not move to a community specifically to start a business, but rather picked a community they wanted to live in and then decided to start a business once they moved there.
- When asked about what factors were most important to them when deciding where to locate their businesses, only 4 percent of business owners cited favorable tax structures as one of their top two criteria.
- The top criterion chosen by business owners was “overall quality of the community,” defined by respondents to a follow-up question as including “people and overall friendliness, sense of community, sense of safety, access to activities, and access to outdoor recreation.”
- Some 83 percent of employees said they were willing to accept a smaller salary to live in a community they considered ideal.
- When asked what their preferences were in terms of neighborhoods and housing, 75 percent said they favored a smaller home close to services and amenities over a larger home with a longer commute.
- Some 71 percent said they preferred to be able to bike or walk to work and errands rather than driving.
- Another 52 percent said there are too few shops and restaurants within walking distance of their homes.
- And 71 percent preferred to live in a mixed-use neighborhood rather than a purely residential neighborhood.
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities. via Cap’n Transit Rides Again.
“In orthodox city planning, neighborhood open spaces are venerated in an amazingly uncritical fashion, much as savages venerate magical fetishes. Ask a houser how his planned neighborhood improves on the old city and he will cite, as a self-evident virtue, More Open Space. Ask a zoner about the improvements in progressive codes and he will cite, again as a self-evident virtue, their incentives toward leaving More Open Space. Walk with a planner through a dispirited neighborhood and though it be already scabby with deserted parks and tired landscaping festooned with an old Kleenex, he will envision a future of More Open Space.
More Open Space for what? For muggings? For bleak vacuums between buildings? Or for ordinary people to use and enjoy? But people do not use city open space just because it is there and because city planners wish they would.”
Ross Gittins, “Is this the graph that explains why our cities are clogged?“, The Age.
The Productivity Commission says in a recent report, “not all public infrastructure supports productivity and generates economic growth and wellbeing”. Poorly selected projects may actually make things worse…
As the Grattan Institute put it more bluntly, “the capacity to waste money is a serious risk for infrastructure, given the very large amounts of money involved”.
Get it? If we take the attitude that more is always better, and more is never enough, the pollies will happily spend more of our money, but much of it will be wasted.
So just as important as making sure our infrastructure spending is adequate is making sure what we do spend is spent wisely. But how?
Paul Goddin, “Uber’s Plan for Self-Driving Cars Bigger Than Its Taxi Disruption“, Future Structure.
Uber has fundamentally changed the taxi industry. But its biggest disruption may be yet to come.
The ride-hailing company has invested in autonomous-vehicle research, and its CEO Travis Kalanick (pictured above) has indicated that consumers can expect a driverless Uber fleet by 2030. Uber expects its service to be so inexpensive and ubiquitous as to make car ownership obsolete…
A study by Columbia University calculates that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxicab in New York City – with a passenger wait time of 36 seconds and a cost of $.50 per mile.
PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates, as noted by writer and entrepreneur Zack Kanter, that “autonomous vehicles would reduce the number of vehicles on the road by 99 percent, and the fleet of cars in the U.S. would fall from 245 million to 2.4 million.