In a recent Planetizen blog post, Brett Toderian had an interesting insight: "When vehicles are moving, they take up much more space. The faster they move, the more separation distance and space between vehicles is needed." This makes intuitive sense to me: when I am driving on a 20 mph street, I am willing to drive only a few feet behind other cars, while when driving 60 mph I don't feel comfortable getting so close to the car in front of me.
An interesting and provocative blog post by Chicago planner Pete Saunders argued that urbanites should not be pressing too hard for upzoning well-off urban neighborhoods because "maybe they ought to consider more of the city to live in.
I recently read an article suggesting that Cleveland's problems were in part due to "negative thinking"- some fuzzy "vibe of negativity" that discourages people from moving to Cleveland. I am skeptical of this claim for two reasons.
A story from a coworker of mine: Mr. X (the coworker) and his family move from Queens to Long Island to take advantage of the allegedly better public schools. As a result, they are able to save money by pulling their children out of Catholic school. Were they better off? Apparently not. Mr. X explains that what they saved in tuition was more than balanced over time by the cost of having to have a car for every adult, and later for every teenager.
Tonight I saw lawyer Kevin Dwarka speak on smart growth in Israel, focusing on the weaknesses of Israel's railway system. Although Israel's major cities have rail service, that nation's major rail stations are a classic example of auto-oriented transit: stations surrounded by huge parkiing lots instead of housing and shopping.
One sprawl lobby argument I have occasionally is heard: "So what if people have to drive to reach jobs in sprawling areas? Used cars are so cheap that even poor people can afford them!"
One common argument against infill: "but there isn't room for any more people!" (or, alternatively, "we can't have more people without turning into a skyscraper monoculture!"
Manhattan is far from a skyscraper monoculture- even in midtown there are lots of 2-6 story buildings of all types. And yet our housing density is 70,000 people per square mile- more than four times that of San Francisco, more than seven times that of Washington.
In other words, at Manhattan densities San Francisco could accommodate more than 3 million people.
(Cross-posted, with some additions, from my personal blog).
Since the weekend that just ended was Presidents' weekend, I thought now would be a good time to acknowledge some especially pro-urban Presidents. I don't plan to focus on their actual policies (a complicated topic, and one not very relevant to most pre-New Deal presidencies) but on their post-White House personal lives. The majority of Presidents have retired to resorts, estate-home suburbia, or (in the 18th and 19th century) country plantations.
However, I would like to honor a few exceptions to this rule:
I am currently reading White Flight/Black Flight by Rachael Woldoff of West Virginia University. The book discusses a neighborhood at the edge of a northern city (Philadelphia, I suspect) which was overwhelmingly Jewish as late as 1990, and became black in the 1990s. One area of interest to new urbanists is its discussion of white "stayers" - elderly people who are not at all displeased with integration. What drives them out is not crime or social disorder, but steps.