As many people (including me) have written, minimum parking requirements encourage sprawl by requiring "islands of building surounded by seas of parking." Generally, municipalities trying to end or modify these rules have started with downtowns and worked their way outward.
A recent article discussed in the Atlantic blog suggests that suicide rates increase as density goes down, especially below 300 people per square kilometer (i.e. 777 people per square mile). The title of the article: "The Unsettling Link Between Sprawl and Suicide."
Last week, I blogged about the relationship between sprawl and poverty, using metro Atlanta as an example. I showed that in Fulton and DeKalb Counties (the two most urban, transit-friendly counties in the region) the obesity rate was only slightly higher than the poverty rate, while in more suburban counties the obesity rate was MUCH higher than the poverty rate.
If you've gone to conferences addressing the relationship between public health and sprawl, you may have heard of something called a "health impact assessment." If you are a little fuzzy on how this works out in practice, you may want to read a new article coauthored by Prof. Pamela Ko and the Dean of Touro Law Center, Patricia Salkin. (In the interests of full disclosure, I note that since I teach at Touro, Dean Salkin is my boss).
When I read Robert Caro's The Power Broker (a biography of New York road-builder Robert Moses), one story that didn't quite make sense is Caro's discussion of the Henry Hudson Bridge. Caro writes that Caro's routing of this bridge caused "the destruction of Manhattan's priceless last forest" in Inwood Hill Park. But I visited the park yesterday afternoon, and it didn't look at all "destroyed" to me. Inwood Hill Park is still one of the jewels of Manhattan's park system, full of primeval-looking forest.
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?
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.
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.
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.