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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