Welcome back to Sunday reading. As a reminder, the K Road Open Streets event is happening today from noon through 7pm. It sounds like a great opportunity for some premeditated city fun.
Here’s Patrick Sisson’s long read take on the state of transportation investment in American cities. Spoiler: the system inherently favors roadway projects over mass transit. “The United States spends 55 percent of available transportation funding expanding one percent of the system, and 45 percent maintaining the other 99 percent.” – “Fixing the American Commute“, (Curbed)
Nearly every city has tried to build its way out of traffic congestion, but the approach hasn’t yet worked. Even Houston’s new mayor, Sylvester Turner, who calls for more light rail and mass transit spending, called out the Katy extension in a speech where he said these kind of building solutions are “exacerbating our congestion problems.” According to Olivieri, this build-first mentality is built into our system for funding transportation.
“State transportation departments that do much of the highway building across the country see themselves as highway builders,” says Olivieri. “They’re removed from city transit organizations. They believe there are economic benefits to building roads. They’re not bad people. They’re just living in a world that doesn’t exist anymore, and ignore a host of negative externalities such as pollution and congestion. Politics lag behind policy in this case.”
Stephen Moss, “End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile“, The Guardian. Here’s another good one on transportation and cities focusing on European cities.
What is evident is that the cities of tomorrow are likely, in effect, to revert to the cities of yesterday: denser, more neighbourhood-based, with everything you need for work and leisure in one district. There will be less separation of functions, less commuting, less travel generally.
“To me, this last 50 or 60 years feels like an anomaly,” says Hill. “If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a non-driver. I think we will look back on this time and say, ‘Wasn’t it odd that we drove ourselves around?’ In the 1920s and 30s, you’d have gone to the butcher on your high street, and a grocery boy (it would have been a boy then) would have delivered the goods to your home on a bike – and they’d have been there by the time you got back.”
In Hill’s view, that age and those services will return. Neighbourhoods and self-sufficient communities will make a comeback in a new era that will be dominated not by the car, but by the smartphone and the network. The commuter is dead. Long live the hipster.
Surely one more lane will finally solve our congestion problem, right? (Slightly better GIFF. Feel free to copy) pic.twitter.com/uDJwqVT3WI
— Jeffrey Tumlin (@jeffreytumlin) April 15, 2016
Ben Schiller, “How Copenhagen Became A Cycling Paradise By Considering The Full Cost Of Cars“, FastCoExist.
When the city decides on a cycling project, it compares the cost to that of a road for cars, and it includes not only the upfront amount, but also things like the cost of road accidents to society, the impact of car pollution on health, and the cost of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. After including these factors, it comes to a rather startling calculation. One kilometer driven by car costs society about 17 cents (15 euro cents), whereas society gains 18 cents (16 euro cents) for each kilometer cycled, the paper finds. That’s because of factors like the health benefits of cycling and the avoided ill-effects of cars.
This story reminded me of the win/win outcome of the Franklin Road cycleway project redesign. It describes how kerb protected lanes can be less costly to build and maintain than conventional roadway space. Michael Andersen, “Surprise: Protecting Bike Lanes Can Cut The Cost of Brand-New Roads“, People for Bikes.
Curb-protected bike lanes, his firm realized, can reduce the huge cost of managing rainwater that falls on pavement and then flows into streams and rivers. That runoff is a major source of water pollution, which is why the federal Clean Water Act requires local governments to minimize it. But in rainy parts of the country, preventing excess runoff from pavement that cars are driving on has also become a major cost factor in road construction…
But their discovery is similar to the one Portland made on Cully Boulevard. When it rebuilt that street in 2011, the protected bike lane along each side reduced costs, because it didn’t require as much excavation as a wider road bed would have. Unlike with a conventional bike lane, there was no need to layer the pavement deep enough to carry a truck.
— Christopher Dempsey (@Christodemp) April 2, 2016
Last Sunday Peter linked to this excellent post from Bike Portland which argued that before zoning west coast cities would simply build more to accommodate booming population growth. Here’s a related take from Granola Shotgun in San Francisco,”Jiffy Lube Metropolis“. The photos from these blog posts of dense, mid-rise housing reminded me of this tweet (above) showing the Mayfair apartments in Parnell with a few admirers.
Victorian era builders didn’t construct gas stations. At one time these streets were lined with grand homes and businesses that were incrementally torn down and replaced with new auto-oriented establishments. People often forget that San Francisco went in to serious decline for a few decades after World War II and followed the same general trajectory as many other industrial port cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There was a time in the economic and cultural history of the city when traditional buildings were out of fashion and economic liabilities. It made sense to clear away under performing buildings to make way for more productive and profitable structures.
San Francisco’s economy recovered sooner and stronger than most other inner cities. Today real estate in once undervalued neighborhoods is astonishingly expensive. The culture has changed and so has market demand. As a result many aging gas stations, auto repair shops, and parking lots are being converted back to residential buildings – many incorporating retail shops on the ground floor.
And here’s the context for these new buildings. What we’re witnessing isn’t a modern aberration of multi story buildings being imposed on the traditional city. It’s actually a return to the historic pattern after an odd twentieth century hiatus. The car oriented land use pattern was the real anomaly.
Please post additional links in the comments section.