MLewyn's blog

Tisha'b'Av and Urbanism

Monday night and Tuesday, observant Jews all over the world will be fasting for Tisha'b'Av, a day dedicated to remembering pretty much every major disaster befalling Jews over the past twenty centuries or so, or at least a few of the major ones- especially the destruction of the Jewish Temples by foreign invaders (Babylonians in 586 BC, Romans 656 years later).  What does this have to do with urbanism?

Another Way To Measure the Sprawl/Obesity Relationship

One dispute in the literature about sprawl and obesity is whether the impact of sprawl is significant compared to the impact of social class.  It could be argued that obesity is primarily a function of poverty and lack of education, rather than of automobile dependency.

Cities Just Can't Win With Some People

I just read an attack (or at least an expression of concern about) gentrifiation of urban neighborhoods in the New Geography blog; Cleveland blogger Richey Piiparinen complains that the people moving back to the city are mostly white, and that this is b

The Times' Attack on Gentrification: Sloppy, Sloppy, Sloppy

In a recent article entitled "Gentrifying Into the Shelters", the New York Times blamed homelessness on middle-class New Yorkers who dare to move into the city's poorer neighborhoods.

Learning from Seattle, Part 2: Streets

Normally, sidewalks in residential areas are surrounded by short planting strips with grass and (sometimes) street trees. But in Seattle recently I saw something interesting: a planting strip that I would guess is twice the size of a typical one.  I thought the king-size strip was a very nice touch in two ways.  First, it narrows the street and calms traffic.  Second, it beautifies the street.

Learning from Seattle: Transit

Before attending the Livable Cities conference in Portland, I am visiting Seattle for a few days.  As in Salt Lake City, there are some things I like and some I don't.

Seattle seems to have an extensive bus system.  Ideally, a bus system would give riders a way to pay without having to fumble for dollar bills and quarters- New York's metro card system comes to mind. 

Seattle has such a system; however, to get a metrocard you have to pay a $5 start-up fee- not exactly a tempting option for visitors and occasional users.

Neighborhood Character vs. Diversity

The conventional zoning wisdom is that all structures in a neighborhood should have the same density, in order to preserve "neighborhood character."  So even in mixed-use urban areas, this sort of zoning leads to a kind of monoculture: high-rises attract high-rises, low-rises attract low-rises.

A (Possible, Partial) Myth About Suburban Poverty

A recent blog post commenting on the growth of suburban poverty has the headline: "As Cities Prosper, Poor Move to Suburbs."  The headline seems to imply a simple story: poor people priced out of the city are moving to suburbs.  (In fairness, the story itself is much less simplistic).  But it seems to me that there are a variety of other possible explanations for the growth in suburban poverty:

Another Way To Measure Car Dependence

I got into an argument on Twitter about how widespread car ownership was in NYC's outer boroughs, which in turn caused me to go to city-data.com to answer the question: how do you measure how many people own cars, anyhow? The City Data website has data not just for cities and counties, but for individual neighborhoods within a city.  In particular, the site gives data for household size and for the number of cars per household.

Environmental Law and Road Widening: A New Ruling in Wisconsin

A federal district court in Wisconsin recently ruled that Wisconssin highway officials failed to prepare an adequate environmental impact statement about a proposed highway widening in Milwaukee.