Good morning and welcome back to Sunday Reading. Here are a bunch of links I found interesting over the last week. Please share your own links and thoughts in the comments below.
— M. Colville-Andersen (@copenhagenize) April 15, 2016
Edward Humes, “The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life“, CityLab. This was a widely shared, fact-filled polemic about the use of the car for transportation.
Then there is the matter of climate. Transportation is a principal cause of the global climate crisis, exacerbated by a stubborn attachment to archaic, wasteful, and inefficient transportation modes and machines. But are cars the true culprit? Airplanes, for instance, are often singled out as the most carbon-intensive form of travel in terms of emissions per passenger-mile (or per ton of cargo), but that’s not the whole story: Total passenger miles by air are miniscule compared to cars. In any given year, 60 percent of American adults never set foot on an airplane, and the vast majority who do fly take only one round trip a year. Unfortunately, air travel is not the primary problem, contributing only 8 percent of U.S. transportation-related greenhouse gases. Cars and trucks, by contrast, pump out a combined 83 percent of transportation carbon.
Adele Peters, “Paris Is Redesigning Its Major Intersections For Pedestrians, Not Cars“, Fast Co Exist. Paris, like many European big cities continues to wind back the dominance of cars on city streets with car-free days and a now a major reallocation of street space (image above).
Each of the new designs give pedestrians at least 50% of the space in the square, taking away lanes of traffic even though each of the streets is a major route in the city. At the Place de la Bastille, the square will reconnect with a curb on one side, creating a new green space for people to sit. At the Place de la Madeleine, trees will mark off more pedestrian space and a new weekly market will be added.
Zach Shaner, “Driving for Urbanists – 15 Do’s and Don’ts“, Seattle Transit Blog. As someone who rarely drives and occasionally gets in the wrong side of the car and switches the wiper blades on when indicating, this advice is spot on. I particularly like the “don’t honk your horn” rule.
14: Don’t look at your phone, period. Turn off the ringer and stash it in the glove box until you turn off the car. It can wait. Drive simple cars with the least amount of distracting tech. If you need to stay connected during your travel time, there’s this great thing called transit that allows you to browse and tap and text to your heart’s content.
From the “Free Range Kids” advocate Lenore Skenazy and traffic guru Sam Schwartz here’s an explanation for why the kids aren’t driving like they used to- “Forget the car: Young adults are opting to use their feet“, New York Post.
Call it the Back-Seat Rebellion. Helicoptered kids who spent their childhoods ferried from school to playdate to soccer are now young men and women voting with their feet . . . by using them. They are so sick of cars, they can’t abandon them fast enough.
But one other reason young people aren’t driving as much is that they’ve already been driven enough for a lifetime. What holds allure is not driving — experiencing the fun and freedom they missed out on as micromanaged kids who never got to walk to school or ride their bikes till the streetlights came on.
Joe Cortright provides a nice recap of recent research on the influence of neighbourhoods on providing an environment for adult economic success. “Why mixed-income neighbourhoods matter: Lifting kids out of poverty“, Strong Towns.
There’s a hopeful new sign that how we build our cities, and specifically, how good a job we do of building mixed income neighborhoods that are open to everyone can play a key role in reducing poverty and promoting equity. New research shows that neighborhood effects—the impact of peers, the local environment, neighbors—contribute significantly to success later in life. Poor kids who grow up in more mixed income neighborhoods have better lifetime economic results. This signals that an important strategy for addressing poverty is building cities where mixed income neighborhoods are the norm, rather than the exception.
Barbara Eldredge, “This German Affordable Homebuilding Plan Be a Model for the U.S.?”, Curbed. Baugruppe is a development model where a group of people come together to build collectively. This model removes the developer and other costs. This model is used in Germany where it can save up to 25% on the overall costs. I hear there are similar groups already working in Auckland.
Imagine getting your friends together, pooling your money, and building a rad apartment building tailored precisely to your needs. Units would come in different sizes and configurations, depending on what each family wants, and shared community spaces, such as a library or indoor garden, could also be added to the floorplan, depending on the group’s interests.
“Here in Seattle, we want a bike-only, car-free, net-zero Baugruppe with a bike shop in the building,” Eliason told Curbed. “You’re not going to find a developer anywhere in the U.S. who will built that.”
Sarah Mikhitarian, “Less You and Me, More We: How Land-Use Regulation Impacts Inventory, Rents and Roommates“, Zillow. Zillow the on-line real estate and analytics company sifts through its data and compares it to an index of land use restrictiveness (Wharton). The relationship of land use regulation on rents, housing stock, and household composition is interesting, if not surprising.
More tightly regulated land use in these cities is associated with more rapidly rising rents, more acute shortages of homes for sale and more adults living with roommates in the face of rising housing costs and fewer housing options.
While a number of factors impact growth in rents and the number of homes for sale in a given market, local housing and land-use regulation are inextricably linked to a city’s ability to ensure it has enough housing to meet demand.
The YIMBY movement is growing stronger around the world. There is a conference in Bolder, Colorado in June. Here is a great profile of Sonja Trauss the head of SF Bay Area’s Renter’s Federation (BARF). Conor Dougherty, “In Cramped and Costly Bay Area, Cries to Build, Baby, Build“. The New York Times.
Across the country, a reversal in urban flight has ignited debates over gentrification, wealth, generational change and the definition of the modern city. It’s a familiar battle in suburbs, where not-in-my-backyard homeowners are an American archetype.
In San Francisco, though, things get weird. Here the tech boom is clashing with tough development laws and resentment from established residents who want to choke off growth to prevent further change.
Ms. Trauss is the result: a new generation of activist whose pro-market bent is the opposite of the San Francisco stereotypes — the lefties, the aging hippies and tolerance all around.
Ms. Trauss’s cause, more or less, is to make life easier for real estate developers by rolling back zoning regulations and environmental rules. Her opponents are a generally older group of progressives who worry that an influx of corporate techies is turning a city that nurtured the Beat Generation into a gilded resort for the rich.