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Posting on the Congress for the New Urbanism’s blog, Michael Lewyn, author of “A Libertarian Smart Growth Agenda,” makes the argument that while small towns can be walkable without being densely developed, the opposite is true for urban areas. Have you experienced both small town and big city walkability? Is density truly the secret ingredient?

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Los Angeles has over 7000 people per square mile, yet doesnt have a reputation as a particularly walkable place.  By contrast, I was pretty happy living without a car in Carbondale, IL a small college town with 2178 people per square mile.  How come?

I would suggest that the bigger a city is, the more dense it needs to be to be walkable and transit-friendly.  For example, suppose that city X has 4000 people and encompasses only 1 square mile, while city Y has 2.1 million people and 300 square miles.  City X is less dense than city Y- it has 4000 people per square mile as opposed to city Ys 7000.  But obviously city X is more walkable: a person of average walking speed can get from any point to any other point in 20 or 30 minutes on foot.  In such a small place, only the elderly and disabled will need public transit.

By contrast, in a 500-square-mile city, walking outside your neighborhood will be pretty time-consuming.  So you will need New York-level density and transit service to enable most people to function without cars… (Continue reading: How Much Density Is Enough? It Depends | Congress for the New Urbanism).

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SDOT has a new video on bike boxes, PEMCO has a new poll reflecting public perception of them…

Here’s Seattle Bike Blog on the poll:

A recent PEMCO Insurance poll found that while only a third of the Washington State respondents they contacted were familiar with bike boxes, a majority of respondents thought they were a good idea.

About 52 percent of respondents in the state said they supported green bike boxes on city streets even after the pollster explained that they could limit driver’s ability to make free right turns on red. 64 percents of respondents in the state said they had never seen a bike box before.

However, people are still a little unsure about how the green boxes work. A majority of people in the state knew it was illegal to stop inside a bike box, but that’s only 53 percent. Nine percent thought it was legal to stop inside them, and 38 percent were not sure. Though Seattle got its first bike box only a year and a half ago, there is obviously a long way to go to educate people on how to use them… (Continue Reading: Poll: Majority of Washington residents support installing more bike boxes | Seattle Bike Blog).

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COURTESY VDT

The Architect’s Newspaper has an update some stalled, high-visibility development projects in Chicago that are beginning to show signs of life. While Chicago’s overall population has declined over the past decade, it’s downtown has boomed. So-called “zombie” projects there are getting new investment and a fresh look as relatively safe investments.

Two high-profile Chicago eyesores that for four years served as testimonials to the recession’s chill on real estate have found new life in recently announced developments. Once destined to be the first Shangri-La Hotel in the United States, the concrete base at 111 West Wacker Drive has stood unfinished since May 2008. The then-named Waterview Tower was originally designed as a 1,000-foot, 1.3-million-square-foot luxury hotel and condominium building. But without end financing, Teng & Associates abandoned the project.

In 2011, developer Related Midwest revived the stalled project with money from their recovery fund, which focuses on distressed properties. The new plans call for a slightly shorter tower, but at 57 stories the new design should easily fit in among the towers of Wacker Drive’s canyon.

“One eleven West Wacker Drive is an incredibly prominent location in Chicago. In fact, the architectural boat tour starts at this location,” said Related Midwest president and CEO, Curt Bailey. “We recognize the significance of the location and are designing a building befitting its importance. It’ll be an incredible addition to the Chicago skyline,” Bailey told Bloomberg News… (Continue reading Zombies Live! – The Architect’s Newspaper).

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Paris station de bus du futur 1

Given the notoriety of the Paris Metro, it may seem beside the point to talk about something as pedestrian as bus stops. But Jarrett Walker at Human Transit describes that city’s rethinking of street level transit that offers lessons to cities around the world:

Now that Paris has bus lanes on almost every boulevard, we can expect their transit agencies to continue investing and innovating around their frequent and popular bus services.  Today we get “the bus stop of the future,” where designer Marc Aurel has packed in every convenience that will fit in the space, plus a few more.

Yes, it’s still a bus shelter, but the idea is to make it both more useful and more of a social space.  People may come here for a range of things other than catching the bus, so that social interaction and the life of the street intermix with waiting to produce a more vibrant, interesting, and safe environment.  It’s the same principle by which transferring passengers can help activate civic squares.  From Bati-journal (my rough translation):

“This experimental station at boulevard Diderot is not just a place to wait for a bus. Covering an area of ​​80 m2, it was designed as a multi-purpose public space … .  Here you can buy a bus ticket, get information about the neighborhood, have a coffee, borrow a book, play music, recharge a phone, buy a meal to take away, rent an electric bike, stay warm while eating a sandwich, or set up a bag on a shelf to do your makeup.  Variable light adjusts for day and night conditions. This project will also be the first urban test of materials and technological innovations … such as ceramic furniture invented by Marc Aurel, and a sound design integrated into the fabric of furniture…” (Continue reading: Human Transit: paris: “the bus stop of the future”).

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Much of the exceptional infrastructure that defines America’s urban landscape was constructed in very different times. Their legacy: aesthetics, mobility and more. A historian reflects on the political lessons, in particular, offered by the story of the Brooklyn Bridge.

(New York, NY — Anna Sale, It’s a Free Country.Org) “Don’t you think this is a wonderful thing to walk across this bridge!”

Historian David McCullough has had a lot of honors in his career – two Pulitzers, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and just this week a gold medal for biography from the American Academy of Arts and Letters – but he still gets that thrill crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.

(To hear David McCullough speak on the bridge, click here.)

On a bustling, bright morning this week, the 78 year-old and I started walking over from Manhattan. He is re-releasing a 40th anniversary edition of his 600-page history, The Great Bridge: the Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge… (More: Historian David McCullough on What the Brooklyn Bridge Says About Politics Today | Transportation Nation).

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From Seattle Transit Blog:

Two interesting opportunities for the public to comment this week:

  • Sound Transit is holding a public hearing on Ride Free Area elimination. It’s at Union Station this Thursday from 12:30 to 1pm. The stated purpose of this meeting is to receive comment from the public.
  • The Puget Sound Regional Council is doling out $2.3m in federal funds, for operating subsidies to Community Transit as well as transit facility construction in Kitsap County. The deadline to submit comments is May 31st, but May 24th is the deadline to get your comment in the agenda packet… (Continue reading and join the comment thread: Two Deadlines – Seattle Transit Blog).
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What’s in a name? The Capitol Hill Seattle Blog wants to know what you think:

In addition to vigorous debate over potential changes to the citys zoning laws around small commercial development in residential areas of Seattle, the most recent Capitol Hill Community Council meeting also revealed an important naming decision moving forward with Sound Transits U-Link project that will bring light rail to Capitol Hill by 2016. As we see, it you have two choices — and its a pretty big deal as far as the long-term “brand” of the light rail line and the neighborhood go.

Should it be Capitol Hill Station — or Broadway Station?

Here’s what a Sound Transit community rep who couldn’t make the meeting provided in email form to the council outlining the station naming proposals currently being considered by the agency:

“All the tunneling for the projects is complete! ST will now focus on construction of cross-tunnel passages between the two tunnels for ventilation and emergency/safety exits. At some point this coming summer, the ST board will adopt formal station names for the University Link and North Link projects. The proposed station names are: Capitol Hill Station, University of Washington Station Husky Stadium, U-District Station Brooklyn, Roosevelt Station and Northgate Station… (Read more and weigh in: When light rail is complete, should it be Capitol Hill Station or Broadway Station? | CHS Capitol Hill Seattle).

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Every year, college students from around North America develop creative video answers to the question “what makes your campus green?” It is called the Herman Miller Student Video Contest. 2nd Place for 2012 went to Seattle’s own Erik Alskog of the University of Washington. Congrats!

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Roger Valdez (who spent a year reading the Seattle Land Use Code and lived to blog about it) has an prescription for getting Seattle back to where it was in the 70′s, when affordable homes were plentiful… No Boeing Bust required.

Among the more risible arguments advanced by the anti-growth crowd is that somehow by allowing more development in Seattle we will end up overbuilt, with too many housing units and not enough people to fill them. One Seattle City Councilmember even worried aloud that neighborhoods like Roosevelt would become transit oriented “ghost towns“ with window shutters flapping in the wind, and tumbleweeds rolling down the street if the Council rezoned key blocks there.

In my ongoing reading about how the law of supply and demand plays out in the housing market I found a study that looks at the overbuilding issue,”The Supply Side of the Housing Boom and Bust of the 2000′s. Even if we were overbuilt or overbuilding, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, especially with Seattle’s already tight supply of housing.

But don’t just listen to me, here’s one of the findings from a literature review of a variety of studies including one by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko:”

(Keep reading Build, Baby, Build! “Overbuilding” Seattle May Be a Good Idea | Seattle’s Land Use Code.)

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Do you cycle in Seattle? Do you have any fashion tips?

It’s a conundrum faced frequently by any intrepid Seattle bicyclist: the choice between wet jeans and awkwardness.

Let me explain.

You push open the door to a bar. It can be any bar, but let’s say it’s in Belltown, and let’s say it’s loud and packed full of folks in business casual, sipping from martini glasses. Your glasses fog up in the heat of the place, and the rainwater runs from your jacket, forming a puddle on the floor. The host’s wide smile does little to hide his disdain as he regards the puddle, the mud-splattered panniers, the bright yellow jacket… (Continue reading: To change or not to change « Cascade Bicycle Club Blog).

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How Bikes Make Cities Cool – Portland

H/T: Transit Sleuth.

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Win this Raleigh Clubman from Cascade Bicycle Club!

It is bike to work month, are your wheels spinning? Let’s see it! Submit your video and you could win a bike from Cascade  Bicycle Club.

Why do you ride? For fitness? For transportation? To feel the wind in your hair? Being on a bike represents different things to different people. To capture the stories of these many, awesome reasons for getting on a bike, Raleigh has recently launched a new website that’s designed for sharing videos about what riding means to you.

As a special promotion for Bike Month, anyone who visits Reasons to Ride and submits a video during the month of May will be eligible to win a new Raleigh Clubman (valued at $1,150).

All you need to do to enter is visit the site, create an account, and upload a video, tagging it to Cascade Bicycle Club under “Cause ride name.” At the end of the month Raleigh will chose their favorite of all the videos tagged to Cascade to receive the bike… (Continue reading and enter to win: Show us why you ride and win a Raleigh Clubman « Cascade Bicycle Club Blog).

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2012-05-07-XSkyDeck.jpg

via Apartment Therapy

Cool! But, probably illegal; so don’t try this at home.

;)

The small, portable, and frankly genius Sky Deck table is a mini table designed to “wrap” itself around the rails of balconies or fire escapes, giving you just enough horizontal surface space for a small plate and something refreshing to drink… via: The Sky Deck Fire Escape Table | Apartment Therapy.

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Downtown Seattle gets bigger as Amazon continues to grow its corporate headquarters.  From the Puget Sound Business Journal:

The latest planning documents for Amazon’s proposed 3 million-square-foot campus in Seattle’s Denny Triangle area show big changes in the neighborhood are expected in upcoming years as numerous projects get built.

Within a couple of blocks of Amazon’s future campus, developers have proposed five residential projects, including two high-rise towers of 39 stories and 40 stories. These developments could one day add more than 1,700 residential units to the neighborhood.

To the west of the campus are: The Martin, 2105 5th Ave., a proposed 24-story residential building with188 units; 2116 4th Ave., a 40-story residential tower with 365 units; and 2121 Sixth Avenue, a 24-story building with 654 residential units. Just east across Westlake Avenue is the site of the proposed 39-story 2030 8th Ave. building, with 380 residential units. A couple of blocks to the north would be 975 John, a proposed seven-story building with 145 residential units… Continue reading (and check out the slide show): Amazon plan: 2 towers, 1,700 living units near future Seattle campus – Puget Sound Business Journal.

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Jack Black once demanded “get the scientists working on the tube technology immediately!” on his rock-comedy Tenacious D album. It would seem, no kidding, certain scientists have been busy. Architizer recently posted about a transportation concept that seems more science fiction than serious science. For more, here’s the post on the series of tubes that could be an in-real-life superhighway:

This might be the closest that we’ll ever get to teleportation. In what sounds like the hyper-accelerated modes of travel as theorized (and popularized) by sci-fi, the Evacuated Tube Transport could send commuters halfway across the world in as little at 2 hours! The irrevocable social and cultural changes this would effect on all global systems, not to mention the toll it would take on the formation and growth of cities–you could live in Sioux Falls and commute to the office in Chicago–would be innumerable. “Destination dining” could very well become a viable option for bored couples and eccentric retirees

These claims, of course, seem preposterous, if not downright polemic. The thinkers behind the project, et3.com, have devised a schematic system comprised of cross-continental airless vacuum tubes lined with frictionless maglev (magnetic levitation) tracks, on which are mounted 16-foot capsules capable of achieving speeds ranging from 350 mph to a staggering 4000 mph. There would be different models of capsules, each one suited to a specific type of cargo; those ferrying commuters could carry up to six passengers, who would not feel any “discomfort” that would accompany travel at mach speeds. The company says that the construction of the tube transport would be a tenth of the cost of a high-speed rail system and a quarter of that of a freeway. Without wind turbulence or storms to worry about, you’d literally be able to fly faster than Superman… (Click to continue reading: Fiction? Transport System of Tubes Claims Can Cut Commute from New York and Beijing to under Two Hours).

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