MLewyn's blog

Rebuilding urban Judaism

In most car-oriented American cities, Jews moved to the suburbs as rapidly as anyone else, if not more so.  As a result, most such cities lack a Jewish presence anywhere near downtown.  For example, until recently the most "urban" synagogues in Dallas and Kansas City were six or seven miles from downtown, and there is only one synagogue left within the Cleveland city limits (only a few blocks from said city limits).

High-Rises and New Urbanists: How to Attack Both

I realize that high-rises aren't perfect.  They may consume more energy than smaller buildings, and under the wrong circumstances, high-rises can coexist with bad urbanism (for example, a tall building in the middle of a suburban office park, or surrounded by ten-lane roads).  Having said that, I do think some criticisms of tall buildings go overboard.

How Much Density Is Enough? It Depends

Los Angeles has over 7000 people per square mile, yet doesn't 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?

against "sustainability" (the word, not the policy)

(cross-posted with my personal blog)

Literally (i.e. in normal, non-jargon English) “sustainable” means that it is capable of being sustained over time, whether it is good or bad.

But in environmentalist jargon, “sustainable” means “environmentally friendly” or “non-polluting.”  It seems to me that this jargon creates a completely unnecessary barrier between professional environmentalists/planners and the rest of humanity. 

How not to make public transit tourist-friendly

After CNU, I rode Tri-Rail and Miami-Dade transit to visit a friend in Miami Beach.  The Tri-Rail trip was fine; Miami-Dade transit, however, was more of an adventure.

Calthorpe on Chinese urbanism

Peter Calthorpe spoke this morning on Chinese urbanism- the good and the bad. From a new urbanist perspective, the good includes density and transportation: Chinese cities tend to be more compact than ours, and the government seeks to limit car use to a 20% modal share (i.e. 20 percent of all trips by car- still an increase over the current 12 percent share).

The bad: lots of streets that are too wide to comfortably cross, and lots of blocks that tend to be on the long side.

how walking became a crime

I just heard an amazing set of presentations by Eric Dumbaugh and  Peter Norton (author of a new book, Fighting Traffic). Dumbaugh begin with a statistical table listing causes of pedestrians being killed by cars; nearly every cause somehow showed pedestrians at fault (e.g. jaywalking, pedestrian using electronic device, etc.). In essence, our culture presumes that if a pedestrian is killed by a 2-ton vehicle, the pedestrian rather than the driver is generally at fault.

Tumlin on parking

This afternoon, Jeffrey Tumlin spoke on how to reform parking to reduce the negative results of minimum parking requirements. (If you're not familiar with them, google "Donald Shoup"). Some of his solutions were stuff I've heard before: abolish parking requirements, create residential permit systems to reduce the threat of spillover parking, and set market prices for parking to discourage driving. But I heard a few neat ideas I hadn't heard before.

Such as:

1. If a city does have a parking permit system (i.e.

Duany speech at Thurs. morning CNU plenary: Why Code?

For me, the highlight of CNU 20 so far was Andres Duany's speech at this morning's plenary session. Most of his speech was about the SmartCode, responding to libertarian objections. He said, in so many words: if we don't code, and if we don't consider aesthetics when we do, someone else will (usually a local aesthetic review committee or zoning board). He added that given the United States' century-long history of bureaucratic control over land use, the most likely alternative to coding is not the free market, but decisionmaking by bureaucratic discretion.

Driving and the young


I just saw the recent study, "Transportation and the New Generation" put out by NJ PIRG, which seeks to explain why the young are driving less. 

Figure 7 contains the results of a poll asking respondents to choose between "smart growth" and "sprawl" environments.  62 percent of 18-29 year olds chose smart growth, as opposed to 54 percent of thirtysomethings and 58 percent of sixtysomethings.