We are big fans of ASLA’s The Dirt, and big fans of thinking big-picture on climate change. Instead of simply looking at new technologies that will allow us to do more of the same (use lots of energy in our daily lives driving everywhere we need to go and living and working in inefficient buildings – minus the pollution) we think the inefficient land use and transportation patterns of modern life are not only problems worth solving to save the earth, but also to improve our quality of life. As this book points out, transportation and buildings are the number one and two sources of climate-disrupting emissions. Transforming land use and transportation will make our cities not only more sustainable but more adaptable, according to Bloomberg’s architecture columnist. Read on for more.
Out with the Old: The Agile City
08/11/2011 by asladirt
The agile city would evolve out of innovative policies that “deploy regulations straightforwardly, balancing them with incentives. Rules will reward performance (energy, water, and emissions saved) rather than prescribing what lightbulbs we’ll use and what cars we’ll drive.” These regulations will also boost well-being and produce economic values that gross domestic product (GDP) fails to measure, like increased real estate values from repaired natural systems and health care costs saved from reduced rates of cancer.
In The Agile City: Building Well-being and Wealth in an Era of Climate Change, James S. Russell, architecture columnist for Bloomberg News, argues against taking a mainstream, business-as-usual-approach to addressing climate change in the U.S. The current global warming debate focuses on harnessing “alternative energies” strategies, like hydrogen-powered cars and biofuels, clean coal, and reinvented nuclear that Russell calls speculative technologies that may not prove viable, require significant investments and have large environmental effects. He proposes a different approach, one that could have manifold benefits and achieve faster and more effective results than making massive alternative-energy investments that amount to tax gimmicks. There is just one sticking point: they would require the U.S. to move away from the “normalcy” of overconsumption.
Russell’s solution for adapting to climate change and achieving carbon neutrality is based on proven efficiency measures and some renewable energy. He targets buildings and transportation, the two largest sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that respectively account for 40 percent and 28 percent of emissions. Addressing them simultaneously with denser, energy conservation-oriented and transit-centered development, Russell says, could result in more agile cities, those that are able to adapt to constant change, simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions while coping with climate-change effects …More
This is, by far, the most exciting nugget we’ve had to share. While it is just a start, it is movement in the right direction:
A light ballot measure for westside light rail
Unbowed by the gloomy budget news he dispensed this week, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is still working toward his 2009 campaign promise to offer rail transit, linking West Seattle and Ballard to downtown.
The latest strategy, outlined in a letter from McGinn to a transit advisory group, suggests asking voters this year to approve just $10 million — enough money to complete 15 percent of the design for an 8-mile line. Taxpayers already are being asked this fall to double the Families and Education Levy right after a recession.
“The level of design work funded would allow us to seek federal grants for construction, as well as develop a timetable for a larger ballot measure to fund construction,” says McGinn’s message to Kate Joncas, Downtown Seattle Association director, and Ref Lindmark, a King County transit planner who helped plan the 2006 “Bridging the Gap” measure to improve city roads and bicycle-pedestrian travel.
Here’s a great opportunity to join a crack team on an exciting mission to transform transportation across the State of Washington:
Volunteer & Internship Opportunities with Transportation for Washington
Address: 814 Second Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98104
Great For: Teens, 55+, Groups (up to 10)
Interest Area: Advocacy & Human Rights, Environment, Politics
Date: This is an Ongoing Opportunity.
Minimum Age: 16
Volunteers Needed: 30
Deeper into the conversation about transit service expansion and sprawl:
Seattle Transit Blog: Can Rail Cause Sprawl?
On Seattle Transit Blog today, Andrew Smith asks: Can rail lines between suburbs and cities actually cause the kind of sprawl transit is ostensibly supposed to help prevent?
The argument that it can, basically, is this: If you build rail lines out to sprawling suburbs, like highways, they’ll drive more people to live far away from cities, prompting expanded suburbs (and exurbs) with single-family, car-dependent development and zoning patterns that require people to own cars and drive just about everywhere. (Josh made a version of this point in Fizz the other day, when he argued that a state grant for commuter trains to Lakewood constituted a victory “for sprawl over density.”)
STB, however, makes a convincing case that in places like the Puget Sound region, rail is both necessary and unlikely to result in the sort of development that we would consider sprawl. (First Hill, STB notes, was considered sprawl in the Victorian era, and streetcar suburbs like Ballard would count as sprawl by the standards of the era in which they were built).
Last month, Great City supported Transportation Advocacy Day in Olympia, sending several members to Olympia to participate in small group meetings with legislators and help launch a new statewide campaign. Here is an update on one of our shared Transportation Advocacy Day 2 for this legislative session:
Complete Streets bill passes Senate Committee!
One of TCC’s top legislative priorities, the Complete Streets bill, ESHB 1071 passed out of Senate Transportation today. Sen Haugen, the Chair of the Senate committee, asked for support of the bill saying it is a good bill that gets Washington, “looking at things in a more holistic manner”. The bill had bipartisan support with all members of the committee voting for the bill except Sen. Erickson (42nd). Now the bill will wait in the Rules committee until it is ready for full Senate action.
From Martin K. Duke at the Seattle Transit Blog:
West Seattle Blog has a roundup and full video (part 1 is above) of last night’s event. It was a blast to participate, and I was pretty pleased with the things I had an opportunity to say. I’d also like to thank whoever it was at Sustainable West Seattle that decided to distribute copies of Oran’s frequent transit map, which turned out to be a useful prop.
Downtown needs a congestion management strategy, regardless of what we do about the Viaduct.
By Alex Broner
London. New York City. Stockholm. Singapore.
What do all of these cities have in common? They’re all great cities and they’ve all approved congestion pricing for their downtown areas. As Seattle comes to terms with replacing the Viaduct we should make sure our downtown is not overwhelmed by traffic and remains a vibrant place for people and for local businesses.
I watched the Publicola Tunnel debate in December with great interest in order to confirm a theory I had been developing. What the tunnel debate confirmed was that no one wants more automobile traffic on the streets of downtown. Indeed both sides tried to outdo each other in complaining about the traffic generated by their opponent’s alternative. The thing is both sides are right that both the Deep Bore Tunnel and the I5/Surface/Transit option in their present form are expected to push enormous numbers of cars onto surface streets. Fortunately for us, there are things we can do about it.
Why is more traffic a problem? More traffic means more delays for both drivers and transit users. More traffic means more long lines of idling vehicles at traffic lights and more noise and pollution. The pedestrian experience worsens and becomes more dangerous. As traffic increases street life disappears and businesses close. No one wants this.
In Thursday’s Debate the 2008 Gehl Architect’s study was mentioned, it’s worth quoting from page 10 of this study:
“Pursuing traffic capacity is an endless task. a rule of thumb: the more cars we invite, the more cars will come; therefore, the system will never be sufficient. trying to ‘solve’ the traffic problems encountered in the city today will only lead to larger streets and a more congested traffic network.”
The report goes on to talk about designing for people, what it calls the “3 mph” scale as opposed to the “40 mph” scale. They conclude that creating a vibrant pedestrian environment necessitates reducing the amount of traffic on city streets.
How do we do this?
Congestion pricing works on the principle of charging drivers for use of motor vehicle travel lanes. In practice it means charging more to enter a set area when demand is high, and charging less (or nothing) during other times of the day. Modern toll collection technology means that cars need not stop at toll booths. This technology is already used throughout the world and is planned for use on the SR99 tunnel and the 520 bridge.
Tolling for the SR99 tunnel is part of a funding package that requires tolling to pay for part of the construction costs. As Cary Moon pointed out in Thursdays debate, the state draft environmental impact statement shows that tolling diverts a further 40,000 cars onto downtown streets for a total of 80,000 thousand cars under the tunnel + tolling scenario. She also pointed out that absent tolling we’d need to find another 300 million dollars from somewhere. The I5/surface/Transit option relies upon improved surface streets to handle traffic along with the I5 and Transit components. While this is better than the existing tunnel’s plan to handle surface diversion (there is none), traffic on improved surface streets is still traffic and therefore undesirable if we want a vibrant street life and economically successful downtown. The way out of this Hobson’s choice between traffic clogged downtown streets and a giant budget hole is to price access to downtown streets according to the level of traffic we’d like to see. Pricing our city streets according to demand will shift incentives the same way that tolling the tunnel does. Only in this case we’re pricing something we don’t want: excess traffic downtown. Congestion pricing will divert trips to the tunnel (if we build it) and to transit. People will also live closer to where they work and walk and bicycle more. As we reach the desired level of automobile traffic, increased street life will develop. In places where people used to hurry past on foot, (if at all) they will now stroll down. New plazas and parks will be created and new space for outdoor seating for businesses will be possible. Street food vendors, plays, and performers will draw crowds and children will run and play without fear of being struck down. Seattle will enhance its status as a regional destination. Regardless of whether or not we build the tunnel, congestion pricing is the right policy for increasing the vitality of downtown Seattle.
If that weren’t enough, here are some additional reasons to do congestion pricing:
Congestion pricing will help drivers.
Automobiles will always be part of our transportation system because there will always be people who’s unique circumstances make transit impractical. It is these people who most need an uncongested roadway and are most ill-served by allowing traffic to slow to a crawl. Both emergency vehicles and delivery services will benefit from reduced congestion.*
Downtown is well served by transit (and it will only get better).
In the next 6 years Light rail will connect downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and to the University district. Rapid Ride lines from Downtown to West Seattle, Ballard and Shoreline will be completed in the next two years. By 2023 we will have light rail to Northgate and Redmond. We can use the money from congestion pricing either to buy more service on already planned transit lines or to fund construction of new projects. The mere fact of reduced congestion will help transit in mixed traffic flow more smoothly, allowing greater service quality and frequency before another dollar is spent. Increased frequency, quality, and funding will together drive up ridership, pushing our transit system towards the kind of high ridership/high quality equilibrium that residents of great cities have come to expect.
We are already moving towards congestion pricing.
We’re going to toll the Viaduct and also State Route 520. Tolls for the I-90 bridge and for Lake Washington Boulevard are under consideration. Meanwhile the city council has voted to support increased parking meter rates downtown and to move towards a performance driven parking system. Pricing use of through lanes appropriately follows the same principle as pricing parking appropriately. Additionally, we should not make driving through downtown without stopping cheaper than stopping to patronize downtown businesses. With these two policies in place, the efficient price of parking actually drops from what it would be without congestion pricing.
Other cities have successfully implemented congestion pricing.
London, Singapore, Stockholm and Milan have successfully implemented congestion pricing. New York City approved a congestion pricing system but it failed to gain approval at the state level. San Francisco congestion pricing is currently being planned.
Congestion pricing will accomplish state and city policy goals
In 2008 the State Legislature passed and governor Christine Gregoire signed into law HB2815 which makes reducing vehicle miles traveled part of the state’s greenhouse gas reduction strategy. The City of Seattle in early 2010 announced its intent to make Seattle Carbon Neutral by 2030. Congestion pricing not only allows us to reduce automobile emissions, it will allow us to generate much needed funding for pedestrian, transit, and bicycle improvements.
Where we go from here
The first step is for the City Council to direct the Seattle Department of Transportation to conduct a study of the issue. SDOT should look at how congestion pricing fits in with the existing legal framework and with various other transportation policies and programs. We will want to examine the relationship between currently planned highway tolling and congestion pricing. We’ll also want to examine ways to repurpose street real estate for people and local businesses, such as they did in New York City with the highly successful Broadway pedestrian plaza or in San Francisco with their new “parklets”. After SDOT completes its study, the council, the mayor, and Seattle’s delegation in Olympia will be able to craft the appropriate legislation at the city and state level. Ultimately I believe this project will unite otherwise divided political leadership and create a downtown that we all can enjoy.
The opinions above represent those of Alex Broner alone and not those of Great City or any other organization.
Alex Broner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Emergency vehicles and some other government vehicles will be exempt. Delivery vehicles may be charged at a full price and then the money refunded to them on an equal basis (incentivizing off peak deliveries) or else might be charged a reduced rate or nothing at all.
One of the reasons we helped found Streets for All Seattle is because of the need to make sure that kids have places to play in the city. That’s what makes this video from England so heartwarming; if you close it, they will play.
The following is a post from Cheryl dos Remedios, an artist/advocate and member of the Great City Board. Any opinions expressed here are Cheryl’s, and do not represent Great City. As an organization, Great City has not taken a position on the tunnel, nor do we plan to since that space in our civic dialogue is already well represented. If anyone would like to post any commentary on the tunnel process–regardless of your position–we are happy to make this blog available to you as we believe that honest, fact-based dialogue is important to a strong city. If you would like to contact Cheryl directly, her email address is: email@example.com.
Constructing a tunnel on Seattle’s waterfront will permanently alter the historic character of Pioneer Square. Whether you are pro-tunnel* or anti-tunnel, here is some information that might be new to you:
· The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has identified 13 buildings with historic significance that may be damaged during construction, including several that have direct ties to the Seattle arts community (see list below). This project is incredibly risky. Why? Because this would be the biggest bored tunnel ever.
· Many Seattleites are dreaming of an open waterfront. Please know that the same 4-lane road is being planned along the waterfront with –or- without the tunnel. In fact, the tunnel generates more traffic on the waterfront than the surface street/ transit/I-5 option (that’s the option that the citizen advisory group recommended 2 years ago in consultation with WSDOT before Gregoire, Nickels and Sims pulled plans for a bored tunnel out of a back room)
· The tunnel will more than double traffic in Pioneer Square because there are no exits into downtown. The traffic numbers are 50,000 a day at the southern interchange without tolling, with an additional 40,000 autos once tolls kick in. Currently, autos can exit on and off the viaduct at Seneca, Columbia, Elliot and Western. But once the tunnel is built, Pioneer Square becomes the south portal in-and-out of downtown. Many people will drive through Pioneer Square just to avoid tolls.
· For over a year, WSDOT has been aware that the volume of traffic in Pioneer Square “would not be acceptable” but offers no alternatives. The amount of traffic – combined with the scale of the interchange itself – would permanently alter the character of this historic district. In addition to the giant portal, likely changes include constant streams of traffic on previously quiet streets, no street parking, elimination and damage to trees, damage to buildings from traffic vibration, etc.
· My favorite oxymoron is “value engineering.” This is what happens when the State runs out of money and all of the promises they made regarding aesthetics and other culturally important values get cut. All that’s left is the mega-engineering. This project has a high likelihood of being “value engineered.”
What to do?
There are a handful of historic preservationists who are diligently responding to the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (S-DEIS), but your stories are equally important.
Why do you care about Pioneer Square?
WSDOT and the mayor, SDOT, and the City Council members** need to hear from you. Please write today. Your letter can be as short as “Protect Pioneer Square” or as long as you’d like. Both types of messages are needed.
If you can get your comments in during the public comment period for the SDEIS – that would be great. The deadline of Monday, December 13, 2010 is looming. If this date passes – yet this is the first time you’ve heard about the threat to Pioneer Square – just note that fact in your email.
Want to do more?
Please share this information with other artists, musicians, architects, landscape architects, gallery owners, club owners, theater people, film makers, historic preservationists, etc.
Thanks so very much for your help in getting the word out!
Cheryl dos Remedios
Cheryl dos Remedios is an artist/advocate and member of the Great City Board. Great City has not taken a position on the tunnel.
* If you are pro-tunnel, I’m betting that the tunnel WSDOT has designed is not what you have in mind. Please engage in this process so that we can get a better design at a lower risk.
** If the link doesn’t work, please cut-and-paste these addresses into your email:
awv2010SDEIScomments@wsdot.wa.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Buildings at Risk:
At least twelve buildings that are located within the Pioneer Square Historic District or listed on the National Register for Historic Places may be damaged during tunnel construction:
1 Yesler Building — 1 Yesler Way
Maritime Building — 911 Western Ave
Federal Building — 900 First Ave
National Building — 1000 Western Ave
Alexis Hotel/ Globe Building — 1001 First Ave
Arlington South/ Beebe Building — 1015 First Ave
Arlington North/ Hotel Cecil — 1015 First Ave
Grand Pacific Hotel — 1115 First Ave
Colonial Hotel — 1123 First Ave
Two Bells Tavern — 2313 Fourth Ave
Fire Station #2 — 2334 Fourth Ave
Seattle Housing Authority — 120 Sixth Ave N.
One additional building that is a Seattle landmark but not listed in the NRHP:
Watermark / Colman Building — 1107 First Ave.
The 2 buildings most likely to experience damage (and be torn down):
Polson Building at 61 Columbia
Western Building at 619 Western
Here’s what the Western Building website has to say:
“The Art Building of Seattle – Celebrating 100 years! More than one hundred artists work from studios in this six story building. 619 Western is one of the largest artist studio enclaves on the west coast if not the world. It has been a workspace for artists since 1979.”
And what does the S-DEIS have to say about the Western Building? “Mitigation measures to protect the building may not prevent the need for demolition to avoid the possibility of collapse.”
Patrick McGrath‘s recently filed field report made us want to go back and watch this great video. It is a tremendous overview of the concept of Shared Space, with some real life before and after examples.
This is a guest post by Great City alumni Roger Valdez, originally appearing on Facebook. We think Roger’s vision is pretty compelling, but what do you think? Do you consider yourself an “urbanist,” and does this reflect your principles? What’s missing?
Sprawl—small numbers of people living far from one another and connected by expensive roads—contribute to many of our most significant resource and social problems. Sprawl contributes to obesity and bad health outcomes; it creates air and water pollution, it is an inefficient use of land and energy, and it tears at the social fabric by alienating people from one another.
How we want to live
Human beings crave connection. We seek each other out. We need each other. Seattle’s future is in its people, and how we build and weave our lives together. How we live together in private and in public is largely the consequence of our use of space and how it is used and organized.
While we do crave togetherness we also value our time alone—our privacy. But privacy is not a wall, or technology, or even physical separation from each other, but rather having discretion for each other within a community.
People also value variety, opportunity, and choice. Our cultural preference is to be able to move freely about our neighborhoods and city and choosing where we live and how we get around is important to us.
The future of Seattle is as a city
We believe that city life—lots of people living close together—is healthier, creates less damage to our air and water, is a more efficient use of land and energy, and it creates social cohesion and community.
We believe that the division between public and private realms is conceptual not physical, and that we can build a Seattle that allows every resident or visitor to move between these realms at will, affordably, and with ease. We further believe that a family’s home is their castle, and they should be given as much choice as possible about how they organize their living space to support their livelihoods.
We believe that aggregating the way we meet our basic needs—eating, drinking, housing ourselves, clothing ourselves, and entertaining each other—makes common sense, is more efficient than zoning, and will build stronger connections between people of every race, class, sex, and orientation.
We believe that living close together and meeting our needs close to home makes getting around easier. By bringing the things we want and need closer to where we live we ensure less time traveling and more time living.
Finally, we believe that many of Seattle’s greatest economic an social problems—poverty, crime, homelessness, poor academic performance—can be significantly and positively impacted when people live closer together because, if nothing else, our proximity to each other makes the suffering of our fellow person intolerable.
We believe in building a Seattle that is close knit, efficient, and that is sustainable and self sufficient.
And we believe now is the time to get started building the city we want to live in.
We’ll also be giving thanks for the great effort by many of you over the past few months in the fight for a future of smart transportation in Seattle. There are heroes among us!
Here’s an update on the campaign:
Yesterday, the Seattle City Council passed the city’s 2011-12 budget. Our elected leaders faced the daunting task of closing a $67 million deficit while maintaining crucial city services. We are proud to say that the city’s 2011-12 budget takes a number of positive steps in the right direction towards providing transportation choices that will make our city safe and accessible for everyone. However, we will need to take much larger steps next year if we are serious about funding a transportation system that works for our future.
Positive steps this year include:
· Spending on the pedestrian and bicycle master plans will increase by seven percent over 2010;
· Funding for basic street maintenance will increase by over $1 million in both 2011 and 2012;
· A $784,000 increase in the Neighborhood Projects Fund (small pedestrian and bicycle improvements); and
· A nearly $2 million increase for Mobility Operations, such as wayfinding, the Transit Master Plan, and safety projects.
Prior to the budget process the City Council also passed a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) and will form a public advisory committee to advise the Council on transportation priorities. The Citizens Transportation Advisory Committee 3 (CTAC-3) will report back to the Mayor and City Council early next summer with recommendations to design, fund and build a transportation infrastructure that aligns with the values and priorities of our citizens. The City Council enacted a vehicle license fee as part of this legislation to fund pedestrian and bicycle improvements and help support basic street maintenance.
None of this would have been possible without Streets For All Seattle volunteers like you, who “dominated the mic” and packed the house at budget hearings, sent thousands of emails to the City Council in support of our goals, and provided our elected leaders with the support they needed to do the right thing.
In fact, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Chair of the Transportation Committee, wrote us last week because he:
“…wanted to thank you and the other members of the Streets for All Seattle campaign for all your hard work over the last year to elevate the importance of increased investment in Seattle’s bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure…. I believe your work was critical in getting us to create a TBD and pass the $20 VLF earlier this year. I also believe we would not be moving forward with CTAC-3 but for your advocacy.”
City Council President Richard Conlin added that: ”…with all of this work and commitment, and the strong advocacy of a new coalition called Streets for All Seattle…we have a great opportunity to move forward together with increased ped/bike investments.”
While we applaud these positive steps, the City Council missed an opportunity to significantly increase funding for pedestrian, bicycle and transit improvements when they failed to pass the larger revenue increase proposed in the budget. Despite modest increases in funding for walking, biking and transit, this budget barely makes a dent in meeting the great remaining needs for sidewalks, transit, and bike facilities in our city.
But this campaign has always been about more than this year’s budget process – it’s about engaging the entire city in a conversation on how to make Seattle into the city we want it to be. That’s why we’ll be back in 2011 to work with the City Council, Mayor McGinn, and people like you to build a transportation system that will make Seattle work for our future. Stay tuned for updates about our plans moving forward.
The Conservative Planner takes exception with the urban design of a Salt Lake City Airport play area’s simulated-town mat. Part II in an ongoing series where we pull from the latest commentary about our built environment, real, envisioned and imagined.
Here’s an excerpt:
B: Safe Routes to Schools: The lack of sidewalks, combined with the railroad crossing, create an unsafe situation for children whose parents would like to have them walk to school.
C: Abandoned Train Station: The town recently lost out on the eighth round of stimulus grants geared toward funding new High Speed Rail investments.
D. Random Park Bench: This is the tell-tale sign that a landscape architect was involved with this beautification project in the early 2000s to help bring life back to the west side of downtown. The project stalled when overruns by the Public Works Department left the project without its water feature.
Now, please excuse us while we go draft our open letter to the pile of felt-cutout townsfolk characters we’re calling the “local planning board.”
The Conservative Planner’s full critique here.
Part one here.