An interesting assertion, and question, from Transportation Nation:

(Photo (cc) by Flickr user Leo Reynolds)

Even in the worst traffic jam, our roads are still mostly empty. That’s if you think about the car seats, not the just the cars. For commutes, the average number of people per car in the U.S. was 1.1, according to 2008 data. That’s a lot of unused capacity.

Or, as Odile Beniflah sees it, a millions of idle assets, wasted resources. She is working to launch in America. Europe’s largest ride sharing company used by 2 million people each month in 45 countries. And that’s just through one website. It’s cultural,  she says.  “People [share rides] first for the money, but they come back to it because they enjoy the experience, they enjoy the social aspect.” …More via Europe Loves Carpooling, Why Don’t We? | Transportation Nation.


Here’s a top ten list we can dig into. Films that portray great places:

Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” beautifully illustrates the mix of uses and resulting social vibrancy at Paris’ now-demolished Gare Montparnasse / Photo: Paramount Pictures

When you’re watching a movie, how much attention do you pay to the setting? While the best way to learn about what makes a great place is often to get out and observe how public spaces work first-hand, there are films that illustrate Placemaking principles quite beautifully. We’ve collected ten of our favorites here, with explanations of why we think they tell great stories about place. Take a look, and let us know if you have a favorite Placemaking-related movie or two (or three!) that we should add to our Netflix queues!

Click here for the list: Ten Great Movies for Placemakers « Project for Public Spaces – Placemaking for Communities.


Happy Friday! Let’s check out some charts from Seattle environmental engineer Chad Newton:

Seattle is busy building the city.  Over the past year construction cranes have once again dotted the neighborhoods surrounding the urban core, building apartments and office buildings.  There are four city blocks under construction within two blocks of my South Lake Union office.  Local and national media have jumped on the trend.  Nationally, multi-family housing starts have ranged from one-sixth to one-third of the total over the past several decades.  How has the ratio of single-family to multi-family housing starts varied in the Seattle metropolitan area?

The Puget Sound Regional Council publishes such stats, so I was able to make some charts.  The first chart below shows total housing starts (in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties) and City of Seattle multi-family starts, over the past 20 years.

During the 1990s, Seattle multi-family averaged at 9% of the total metro housing starts – a pretty small slice of the pie.  During the 2000s, the Seattle multi-family average increased to 23% of the total, and to 30% of the total since 2007.  When the recession of 2008 hit, housing construction tanked.  But single-family construction tanked worse than Seattle multi-family.  And now Seattle multi-family is roaring back to life, while suburban single-family plods along.  The chart includes projections of Seattle multi-family construction based on thesearticles: it appears that by 2013 multi-family construction in just the City of Seattle could nearly equal 2009 total metro area housing charts.  If suburban home construction continues at the same pace, nearly 50% of the total metro housing starts in 2013 would be apartments in the city.

More via Seattle multi-family is an increasing share of the metro construction pie « Build the City.


Cities are where people want to be, according to the most recent data available. The Transport Politic has more:

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties as of July 2011. These data provide significant insight into changing population trends in the United States, and the results offer considerable support for the argument that the country’s growth is moving back into its cities, at least to some degree.

National coverage of the data release focused on the fact that the data showed a significant drop in residents moving to exurban counties at the edge of metropolitan areas. The massive creation of housing at the far reaches of regions appears to have slowed to a trickle, and even the movement of the population from Northeastern and Midwest metropolitan areas to Southern and Western areas has decreased. The fastest-growing counties by numeric population change between April 2010 (when Census 2010 was completed) and July 2011 were counties that contain large central cities — Harris, Los Angeles, Maricopa, New York City (if the five boroughs are combined), and Miami-Dade.

Of 21 metropolitan areas reviewed (chosen based on their size and presence of a central city), just five saw decreases in the population of their core counties between 2010 and 2011 (Cleveland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Detroit), while two of those also saw declines for the metropolitan area as a whole (Cleveland and Detroit). Many cities that have historically had declining populations, including Philadelphia and Washington, grew quite strongly over the  year-long period…

More via In New Census Data, An Improved Outlook For Core Counties « The Transport Politic.


Here’s some good advice from a man who knows what he’s talking about. Former Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Douglas MacDonald suggests you check out the matchup of dueling transit-nerd-celebs Jarrett Walker and Darrin Nordahl at Town Hall tomorrow:

For all the endless discussion of public transportation in an around Seattle, it’s all too rare that a forum presents serious students of transit practices debating basic orientations to transit planning unencumbered by hardened positions we locals often take in pronouncing what we know must be right for us.

Darrin Nordahl (Making Transit Fun, e-published April 13) and Jarrett Walker (Human Transit, 2011) are both Island Press authors, and an excellent idea it is for their publisher, Island Press, to put them on the stage together, since they vigorously and energetically disagree. Nordahl’s title is his not-tongue-in-cheek prescription for building transit’s usefulness. Walker takes a different approach, urging that the right goal isn’t just to buy any particular transit technology (fun or not) based on its perceived standing in a hierarchy of transit modes. Rather, what matters are community-specific architectures of transit networks designed to deliver best value for money in all-important dimensions of frequency, convenience, and reliability that are the basic draws for ridership.

Jarrett and Nordahl each have fervent admirers in planning and transit professional circles around the country. It’s a fair bet that part of the interest in the Town Hall event will be listening to the sidebars emanating from the audience. Transit Establishment Seattle is likely to be well represented. But real estate developers, neighborhood advocates, elected officials, labor unions, and construction engineering firms will be in the audience, not on the stage, for this one. Imagine what fresh insights might emerge to infuse our sometimes-stale and predictable civic discourse on transit goals and investments.

If you go: From Island Press: Darrin Nordahl and Jarrett Walker: Perspectives on Public Transit, 7:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday (April 18), Downstairs at Town Hall; enter on Seneca Street, $5. Click here for more information and advance tickets.

via Crosscut Tout: 2 serious students of transit will speak |


America’s fifth largest city is turning back the clock to an era of walkable urbanism to address future challenges of sustainability.

Philadelphia has a brand new land use code. It’s famous row-house typology had been nonconforming since the era of “Urban Renewal.” Through the advocacy of the Next Great City coalition (no relation to us) the new code replaces 1960s, suburban separation of uses with a healthy mix of uses close to residents.

916 Spruce Philadelphia

By David Morley, AICPAPA’s Planning Advisory Service Coordinator

In case you missed the news in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, on December 22, 2011, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed a new comprehensive zoning ordinance into law.

Although the new code won’t take effect until August, the formal adoption represents a hard-fought victory for zoning reform advocates. Economically driven critiques of the city’s current zoning(originally adopted in 1962) circulated for years before voters finally approved the creation of a new Zoning Code Commission to spearhead the reform effort in May 2007.

The city’s previous code was emblematic of the urban renewal era, requiring a strict separation of uses and dictating suburban lot sizes and setbacks throughout the city’s many single-family residential neighborhoods. As a result, the classic Philadelphia rowhouse became a nonconforming use. While these standards likely seemed reasonable, or even necessary, in 1962, by the mid-2000s the original goal of introducing suburban character to the inner city seemed quaintly out of step with contemporary zoning practice…

More via Promoting Sustainability through Zoning Reform in Philadelphia « Sustaining Places.


Since 2007 Minnesota’s exurban growth rate slowed to 1.1 percent, down from 25.5 percent in the years prior. 

Credit:Flickr user Worker101

While tower cranes continue to proliferate in Seattle’s apartment-hungry center city, “The latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that people no longer are rushing to fringe communities for large lots and spacious homes.” More via Next American City » Buzz » Twin Cities Mimic Nation as Exurban Growth Slows.


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