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From Destination Casa Blanca, the Latino Voice in Politics, comes this very interesting clip that discusses how transportation and land use policies either help to eliminate or perpetuate social inequities. Among the key one-liners is this one from Deron Lovaas of the NRDC:

“Clearly, a public investment program that caters to the automobile also caters, largely, to white people, and that’s a huge problem.”

What do you think? Are we investing in our built environment in smart ways to help eliminate these historic inequities? How could we do better?

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Seattle PARK(ing) Day is coming!  On September 17th parking spaces throughout Seattle will be transformed into mini-parks.  Here’s the latest news from Max at Feet First.

All of the permit applications have been filed with the City of Seattle and I am waiting on their approval. In the meantime, I am working with The Trust For Public Land to produce a map of all the PARKs throughout the city. This map should be produced in a week or so and will be available for download so that people can explore all the sites on the day of the event. There will also be Central Park again this year, located in the People’s Parking Lot at 500 E Pine on Capitol Hill.
In addition, for First Thursday and the International District Art Walk on September 2, there will be a PARK(ing) Day display in a storefront on the corner of 7th and Jackson. We are currently planning a wrap-up party for the night of September 17th, details of which will be finalized shortly. Then on Saturday, September 18, the Brite Collective and WKND Studio will continue with the festivities by hosting many of the PARKs from the 17th at an abandoned parking lot in the International District (more details forthcoming).
All in all, nearly 60 on-street parking spots throughout the city will be occupied by green space, people, and art on the day of the event. This is double the amount of converted on-street parking spaces last year. PARK(ing) Day Seattle 2010 is on its way to becoming a huge success and we are very excited.
To learn more visit the Seattle PARK(ing) Day site or contact Max at max@feetfirst.info
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But leave your cars at home.

One of the things great cities do well is accommodate a crowd. A lively, bustling city is a place like no other so we’re always thinking about ways to draw the energy into Seattle and minimize the grind of urban life. Because it’s not Manhattan gridlock that makes Midtown. That’s why we are a founding member of the Streets for All Seattle campaign. We know Seattle can grow and flourish with more folks living here but it is already too many a Seattleite that is car-dependent.

With the State of Washington officially abandoning pedestrian-only ferry service, it is encouraging to see Kingston, to the west, picking up the slack. Because while some folks (at all income levels) will simply always prefer to live outside the city, we just hope the infrastructure of the future better supports a car-free lifestyle for them, too.

Crosscut wonders, could this be the beginning of the return of the Mosquito Fleet? We hope so.

Passenger-only ferry service on Puget Sound continues to make a comeback, with the announcement of a proposed schedule for a Kingston-Seattle foot ferry, and more car-free possibilities on routes as far north as the San Juan Islands.

Could Washington State see a return to the era of the “Mosquito Fleet,” the swarm of passenger-only steamers that covered the Sound before the automobile pushed pedestrian travel aside?

In Kingston the answer appears to be yes. Scheduled to begin service in mid-October, the Kingston-to-Seattle SoundRunner will join two other passenger-only routes on Puget Sound: Kitsap Transit’s Port Orchard-Bremerton-Annapolis service and the King County water taxi, which ferries people from West Seattle to the downtown waterfront. Interest in the expansion of car-free service is widespread, and more foot ferries are likely to join the roster in years ahead. More…

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Via the Seattle Condo Review blog, we found this cool video of some pretty versatile furniture for city living…  Enjoy.

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Here from NPR is another interesting way libraries are branching out to new areas to provide grocery access to local residents.

On a bright spring morning in Baltimore, retiree Gwen Tates goes over her weekly grocery list — oatmeal, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, pea soup. But it’s where she’s shopping that might surprise you: at the public library.

Under a new city program, patrons can order groceries online and pay with cash, credit or food stamps. The orders are filled by Santoni’s supermarket, a longtime Baltimore grocer. They deliver the items to the library the next day. Tates says she loves the convenience.  More…

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Via Planetizen, here is some more great image-driven commentary from Great City board member Chuck Wolfe — in an international blog collaboration on “the evolution of place.”

Two people who have never met (Venezuelan architect Ana Maria Manzo, who blogs at the place of dreams, http://anammanzo.wordpress.com/, and American environmental and land use lawyer Chuck Wolfe, founder of myurbanist, http://www.myurbanist.com) merge writing and imagery to create an evocative, interactive story of the evolution of place, blending multiple dimensions and cultures.

Together, in simultaneous postings in English and Spanish, they argue for a “broader, holistic effort” among professionals, mindful of context, “a movement that evokes positive emotions in those who inhabit cities, and a movement which makes us dream.”

Through 22 comparative images, the authors emphasize not only history, but a “best practices” effort to achieve a common goal: human life in a better urban landscape premised on, inter alia: sense of place, climate, sound, population density, geographic orientation and neighbor buildings.

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Sounder Commuter Rail

Via Designer Dale

The Ballard News Tribune has a story today on a citizen petition effort to build a station for Ballard on the existing Sounder commuter rail line through the neighborhood.  Is this a quick and easy way to help foster a car-free lifestyle for the northwest corner of the city?

When Crown Hill resident Kevin Morgan watches the Sounder trains whoosh past Golden Gardens and the Shilshole Bay Marina on their way between Edmonds and downtown Seattle, he sees missed opportunity.

“If you really want to get people out of their cars, you have to get serious about it,” Morgan said.

Morgan is pushing for Sound Transit to construct a Sounder Commuter Rail stop in the Golden Gardens area to accommodate Ballard riders. In the past weeks, he has gathered 80 to 100 signatures of support on posters he put up around the neighborhood.  More…

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From the Seattle Times here’s evidence that libraries continue to open doors and serve a vital role in our communities.

America’s public libraries, fast turning themselves into “one-stop shops” for digital job searches, appear to be staging one of their great historic transformations.

Responding to a rush of recession-time visitors, 88 percent of our libraries now offer access to job databases. And at least two-thirds of library staffs are helping applicants complete online job applications, according to a national survey by the American Library Association and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As for access to free wireless services, 82 percent of libraries now provide it — up from just 37 percent four years ago. In two-thirds of cases, the libraries are the only source of free Internet service in their communities.  More…

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From the Urban Farm Hub blog here’s the low down on Seattle’s recent urban agriculture code changes:

Seattle City Council unanimously voted to pass the urban agriculture land use code amendments yesterday (with the exception of Councilmember Jean Godden who was not present when the vote took place). These amendments were drafted in response to the Local Food Action Initiative’s call on the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to find ways to promote growing food in the city. 

Throughout the process, the largest debate on these code amendments swirled around chickens. At first, it was proposed that roosters be banned in the city. But an appearance by a local urban farmer, her children and her rooster at a council meeting seemed to sway councilmembers to drop that part of the proposed legislation. (Council President Richard Conlin and Councilmember Mike O’Brien seemed to be convinced that the problems some roosters present were covered by the noise ordinance.)  More…

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This post was originally published at SvR Design Co.’s blog.

The local Smart Growth advocacy organization, Futurewise, posted this rather amazing presentation to their Facebook page this morning. It is a study by Public Interest Projects, Inc. for Sarasota County, Florida. In it they make the financial case for Smart Growth with some exceptionally compelling graphs.

After analyzing the county’s current tax yield for various land uses, they determined that the local mall was the county’s financial engine, grossing some $21,752 per year.

Sarasota County Tax Yield Per Acre. Image by Public Interest Projects, Inc.

But changing the scale of the analysis, the returns of the mall look paltry when compared to various mixed use developments within the City of Sarasota, the most dense of which is netting some $803,000 for County coiffers per year.  That’s  3,500% higher than the mall.

County Tax Yield Per Acre with Mixed Use Development. Image by Public Interest Projects, Inc.

There’s another story to be told too, which is particularly compelling for us: the cost of infrastructure. Factoring in infrastructure, the comparison between high-rise urban residential land uses and suburban multifamily land uses shows a 35%  ROIf for the municipality compared to a 2% ROIf for the suburban land use. Infrastructure surrounded by mixed use buildings makes the city money, and it generous financial returns happen in as little as 3 years.

Number of Years to Receive a Return of Infrastructure Dollars. Image by Public Interest Projects
Number of Years to Receive a Return of Infrastructure Dollars. Image by Public Interest Projects
The number of Years it will take Sarasota County to pay off its infrastructure investments. Image by Public Interest Projects, Inc.
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Over at SLOG, they have an update on the progress on Bell Street, a park-like environment planned where we held last summer’s Great City Summer Street Scene party and funded in part through the parks levy we helped write and pass in 2008.

The Seattle Parks Department has secured the last $1 million needed to fully fund the Bell Street improvement project in Belltown. The $3.5 million revitalization plan will transform Bell Street from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue by reducing car capacity, expanding sidewalks, and adding more trees, public art, and large gathering spaces, among other things.

“Belltown is this incredibly dense neighborhood without a lot of park space, and it’s been really difficult for us to acquire property because it’s so expensive,” explains Joelle Hammerstad, spokeswoman for the parks department. “So we’re converting Bell Street into a park-like environment in the absence of more land.”

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From Dom’s Plan B blog here’s an interesting take on what happens to traffic when you reduce disincentives to driving like congestion.

“Induced traffic” represents new car trips created by, for example, a road widening that would have not occurred had we not widened the road. The “triple convergence,” as described by Anthony Downs, occurs when, for example, a road is widened, which attracts new car trips to the widened road that were previously using other routes, attracts car trips during rush hour that were previously avoiding rush hour, and/or were non-car trips that are now car trips due to the widening.  More…

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Just in case anyone needs more information on complete streets here’s a new toolkit from Minnesota. 

The Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition has published the first addition of two toolkits to help support local Complete Streets work.

The Local Government Toolkit is geared toward local elected officials and city staff while the Local Advocates Toolkit is for citizens or community groups. Both toolkits include background on Complete Streets, common steps that communities or citizens can take to help make it happen, answers to common questions, and additional resources. The information is geared toward Minnesota and based on the experiences of local and national Complete Streets efforts.

We hope that they prove useful and that you will be inspired and empowered to be a champion for Complete Streets in your community!

The Coalition will make updates and additions to the toolkit as warranted. A future toolkit will include comprehensive information about the technical engineering side of Complete Streets to help with implementation of Complete Streets. If you have any comments about either of the toolkits, please contact Vayong Moua with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota at Vayong_Moua@bluecrossmn.com. We want to hear ways that we can make the toolkits even better!

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Is your wallet full of cards about which fruits and vegetables are low in pesticides and which seafood is ethical and safe to buy?  Well make some room because now there’s a new way to show your food smarts.  It’s a low carbon diet.  Learn more in this recent article from the Seattle Times.

So you think trading in your gas guzzler for a hybrid will save the planet?

Try cutting back on cheeseburgers! And mangos! And fish flown in “fresh” from the southern hemisphere!

Old millennium: Low-carb diets. The new cool: Low-carbon diets. As in eat green. As in healthy for the environment. As in reduce global warming by minding what you swallow.

Just ask the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. A few years ago, it released a study showing that livestock cause more harm to the environment than all global transportation systems combined. Numero Uno emission emitter? Beef.

If Americans reduced meat consumption by just 20 percent, a University of Chicago study found, it’d be like all of us switching from a standard sedan to an ultraefficient Prius. A Japanese study estimated that raising 2.2 pounds of beef creates the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide as driving an average European car for 155 miles or burning a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.

Producing a pound of feedlot beef creates the equivalent of 14.8 pounds of CO2. By comparison, a pound of pork creates the equivalent of 3.8 pounds of CO2; chicken, the equivalent of 1.1 pounds.

Why do cattle have such a huge carbon hoof print? Surprisingly, it’s not so much because of transport from feedlot to fast-food joint or land cleared for grazing or even the chemical fertilizers used to grow the feed, though all that also adds up.

It’s largely because cornfed cattle pass a lot of gas.  More…

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Room for all.

Here is some great information from NPLAN on how to make sure that local comp plans include effective complete street language.

Across America, there is a movement afoot to build “complete streets” that allow people to get around safely. Conventional street design promotes traffic congestion, pollution, and collision injuries, and it discourages physical activity. Complete streets, on the other hand, are designed so that people of all ages and abilities can travel easily and safely, while also getting the regular physical activity that is critical to preventing obesity.

Whether you are looking to promote complete streets by enacting a resolution, a state statute, or a local ordinance, or if you’d like to revise your comprehensive plan to include complete streets, NPLAN has models and findings that you can tailor and use in your community. (Be sure to check out NPLAN’s Model Comprehensive Plan Language and Model Local and State Laws and Resolutions on Complete Streets.)

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