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Announcing Victor Dover Presentation in Boulder CO

CITY OF BOULDER COMMUNITY EVENT

“The Art of Street Design”

 Presentation and Community Discussion

with Victor DoverVictor_Dover

When: Wednesday March 26, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

      • Opening reception: 5:30 – 6:00 p.m.
      • Presentation and Q&A: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

 Where: Chautauqua, Grand Assembly Hall, 900 Baseline Rd., Boulder

Who: Victor Dover, cofounder of Dover, Kohl & Partners, Town Planning in Coral Gables, Florida, has 25 years experience restoring healthy neighborhoods and creating walkable communities. The coauthor of Street Design: The Secret of Great Cities and Towns, he has designed 150 neighborhoods, urban revitalization programs, and regional plans across five continents, including the 1994 North Broadway Plan for North Boulder.

What:   Victor Dover will describe how to fix our streets, and, in the process, shape enduring cities that people really love.

  • Information regarding City of Boulder North Boulder Plan Update, Envision East Arapahoe Plan, and Transportation Master Plan Update
  • Book signing for new book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns

Why: America is rediscovering its streets. A revolutionary makeover is underway to promote walking and cycling and appeal to a new generation of creative, demanding citizens.

RSVP:  No RSVP required.  Free. For more information – https://bouldercolorado.gov/calendar

About the book: Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns (January 2014) by Victor Dover and John Massengale with foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales shows how to create great streets where people want to be. That begins with walkable streets where people feel comfortable, safe, and charmed by their surroundings. Through hundreds of examples of streets old, new and retrofitted, Street Design shows how good street design can unlock value, improve life and re-knit neighborhoods.

 

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Filed under Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Transportation is Destiny: Design for Happy People, Not Happy Cars

by Dom Nozzi

The following is a summary of a talk I was invited to give at a PLAN-Boulder County forum on Friday, January 24. As a town and transportation planner, I cautioned Boulder not to put too much emphasis on easing car traffic flows—particularly by such conventional methods as adding a second turn lane at intersections or requiring a developer to provide too much car parking. I described the ingredients of a healthy, vibrant city, summarized how a seemingly beneficial city objective of reducing traffic congestion can often undermine important Boulder objectives, and offered a number of strategies that would help Boulder both properly manage transportation and promote its long-range goals.

A great city is compact, human scaled, has a slow speed center, and promotes gatherings of citizens that catalyze “synergistic interaction” (brilliant ideas and innovations, as the sum becomes greater than its parts). Most importantly, a quality city does exceptionally well in promoting “exchanges” of goods, services, and ideas, which is the most important role of a city, and is best promoted by the interaction that occurs through compact community design.

About 100 years ago, automakers, home builders, and oil companies (“the Sprawl Lobby”) started realizing that they could make lots of money by creating what has since become a self-perpetuating vicious cycle in communities. If communities could be convinced to ease the flow of car traffic by building enormous highways and parking lots (and subsidizing car travel by having everyone—not just motorists—pay for such roads, parking, and gasoline), huge amounts of money could be made selling cars, homes and gasoline. The process eventually was feeding on itself in a growing, self-perpetuating way, because the highways, parking and subsidies were forcing and otherwise encouraging a growing number of Americans to buy more and more cars, use more and more gasoline, and buy sprawling homes that were further and further from the town center. Why? Because the subsidized highways and gasoline were powerfully promoting community dispersal, high speeds, isolation, and an insatiable demand for larger highways and parking lots. Each of these factors were toxic to a city, led to government and household financial difficulties, destroyed in-town quality of life (which added to the desire to live in sprawl locations), and made travel by transit, bicycle or walking increasingly difficult and unlikely (an added inducement to buy more cars).

The inevitable result of the Sprawl Lobby efforts has been that cities throughout America are dying from the “Gigantism” disease.

The “Gigantism” Disease

One of the most important problems we face is that cars consume enormous amounts of space. On average, a person in a parked car takes up about 17 times more space than a person in a chair. And when moving, a motorist can take up to 100 times as much space as a person in a chair. Cities are Untitledseverely diminished by this level of wasteful use of land by cars—particularly in town centers (where space is so dear), and especially in communities such as Boulder, where land is so expensive.

Overemphasis on car travel breeds and spreads the gigantism “infection,” and promotes ruinously higher travel speeds. What happens when we combine the gigantism and high speeds with the “travel time budget” (humans tend to have a budget of about 1.1 hours of round-trip commuting travel each day)?

People demand larger highways and parking lots. Gigantic highways, overpasses, and asphalt seas of parking are necessary to accommodate the space-hogging, high-speed needs of the growing number of cars. This process dramatically increases the “habitat” for cars, and because such places are so utterly inhospitable to people, substantially shrinks the habitat for people.

Because it is so dangerous, unpleasant, and infeasible to travel on these monster highways by bicycle, walking, or transit (what economists call “The Barrier Effect”), an endlessly growing army of motorists and sprawl residents is thereby created, which, of course, is a financial bonanza for the Sprawl Lobby.

It is surprising and disappointing that Boulder has, on numerous occasions, shown symptoms of the gigantism disease (surprising because citizens and city staff are relatively well-informed on transportation issues). A leading concern in Boulder is the many intersections that have been expanded by installing double left turn lanes. Installing a single left turn lane historically resulted in a fair improvement in traffic flow, but when a second left turn lane is installed, intersections typically suffer from severely diminished returns. There is only a tiny increase in traffic accommodated (and often, this increase is short-lived) and this small benefit is offset by a huge required increase in walk time for crosswalks that are now very lengthy to cross on foot (which necessitates a very long “walk” phase for the crosswalk). Indeed, some traffic engineers or elected officials are so intolerant of the time-consuming long walk phase that many double-left turn intersections actually PROHIBIT pedestrian crossings by law.

These monster double left turn intersections destroy human scale and sense of place. They create a place-less, car-only intersection where walking and bicycling (and, indirectly, transit) trips are so difficult and unpleasant that more trips in the community are now by car, and less by walking, bicycling and transit. And those newly-induced car trips, despite the conventional wisdom, actually INCREASE greenhouse gas emissions (due to the induced increase in car trips).

Double left turn lanes (like big parking lots and five- or seven-lane highways) disperse housing, jobs, and shops in the community, as the intersection—at least briefly—is able to accommodate more regional car trips. Because the intersection has become so inhospitable, placeless and lacking in human scale, the double left turn repels any residences, shops, or offices from being located anywhere near the intersection, and thereby effectively prevents the intersection from ever evolving into a more walkable, compact, village-like setting.

The following chart shows that, because of the enormous space consumption caused by higher-speed car travel, land consumption rate increases are far out-pacing growth in community populations. For example, from 1950 to 1990, the St. Louis population grew by 35 percent. chartYet land consumption in St. Louis grew by 354 percent during that same period.

Given all of this, a centerpiece objective of the Boulder Transportation Master Plan (no more than 20 percent of road mileage is allowed to be congested) may not only be counterproductive in achieving many Boulder objectives, but may actually result in Boulder joining hands with the Sprawl Lobby.

The congestion reduction objective has a number of unintended, undesirable consequences. The objective tells Boulder that the highly desirable tactic of “road diets” (where travel lanes are removed to create a safer, more human-scaled street that can now install bike lanes, on-street parking, and wider sidewalks) are actually undesirable because they can increase congestion. The objective provides justification for looking upon a wider road, a bigger intersection, or a bigger parking lot as desirable, despite the well-documented fact that such gigantic facilities promote sprawl, car emissions, financial difficulties, higher taxes, and lower quality of life, among other detriments.

The objective also tells us that smaller, more affordable infill housing is undesirable—again because such housing can increase congestion.

The Shocking Revolution

The growing awareness of the problems associated with easing car travel (via such things as a congestion reduction objective) is leading to a shocking revolution across the nation. Florida, for example, now realizes that if new development is only allowed if “adequate” road capacity is available for the new development (which is based on “concurrency” rules in Florida’s Growth Management law), the state is powerfully promoting sprawl. Why? Because the available road capacity tends to only be found in sprawl locations. In-town locations, where new development tends to be much more desirable, is strongly discouraged by this Florida concurrency rule because in-town locations tend to have no available road capacity (due to existing, more dense development in town).

As an aside, “concurrency” is a rule that says new development is not allowed if it will lower service level standards adopted by the community. For example, standards might state that there must be at least 10 acres of parkland provided for every 1,000 residents. While concurrency is clearly a good idea for such things as parks and water supply and schools, it is counterproductive for roads.

The shocking revolution in Florida, then, is that the state is now allowing local governments to create “exception areas” for road congestion. If the community can show that it is providing adequate bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities, the state will grant the local government the ability to create road exceptions so that the road congestion avoidance strategy brought by Florida’s road concurrency rule does not significantly encourage new sprawl and discourage in-town, infill development.

Similarly, California is now acknowledging the unintended, undesirable effects of past efforts to ensure that roads are “free-flowing” for car traffic. “Free flowing” car traffic tends to be measured with “level of service” (LOS) measures. Road LOS is a measure of traffic delay. An intersection (or road) where a car must wait for, say, three cycles of a traffic signal to be able to proceed through the intersection might be given an LOS rating of “F.” An intersection where a car can proceed through an intersection without such delay is given an LOS rating of “A.”

California now realizes that too often, building wider highways or stopping new development as a way to maintain free-flowing car traffic (LOS “A”) is substantially counterproductive. The state now realizes that maintaining or requiring easy, free-flowing car traffic increases greenhouse gas emissions (shocking, since the opposite was formerly believed), increases the number of car trips, and decreases the number of walking, bicycling and transit trips. Free-flowing road “LOS” measures are therefore now being phased out in California.

The “congestion reduction” objective in Boulder’s transportation plan is, in effect, a “happy cars” objective that equates easy car travel with quality of life and sustainability. One important reason why this “happy cars” objective is counterproductive is that cars and people have dramatically different needs and desires—needs and desires that are significantly and frequently in conflict. For example, designing shopping for happy people means the creation of smaller, human-scaled settings where buildings rather than parking lots are placed next to the streetside sidewalk. Where streets are only two or three lanes wide and designed for slow-speed car travel. Where street trees hug the street.

Designing shopping for happy cars, by strong contrast, requires huge car-scaled dimensions. Giant asphalt parking lots are placed between the now giant retail store and the street, which invites easy car parking (but loss of human scale, sense of place, and ease of walking). Streets become what Chuck Marohn calls “stroads”:  5- or 7-lane monster roads intended for dangerous, inhospitable high-speeds. They are roads where streets belong, but their big size and high speeds make them more like roads. Street trees are frequently incompatible with happy cars, as engineers fear cars might crash into them.

Again, this comparison shows that by promoting “happy cars,” Boulder’s congestion reduction objective is undermining its important quality of life and city-building objectives.

Indeed, Enrique Penalosa, the former mayor of Bogota, Columbia, once stated that “a city can be friendly to people or it can be friendly to cars, but it can’t be both.” Boulder’s congestion reduction objective is in conflict with this essential truth.

Fortunately, congestion regulates itself if we let it. Congestion will persuade some to drive at non-rush hour times, or take less congested routes, or travel by walking, bicycling, or transit. Congestion therefore does not inexorably lead to gridlock if we don’t widen a road or intersection, because some car trips (the “lower-value” trips) do not occur. Many of those discouraged trips are foregone because of the “time tax” imposed by the congestion.

But widening a road (or, in Boulder’s case, adding a second left-turn lane) short-circuits this self-regulation. A widened road or a double-left turn lane intersection induces new car trips because the road/intersection is now (briefly) less congested. The lower congestion encourages formerly discouraged car trips to now use the route during rush hour. Car trips that used different routes to avoid the congestion now converge back on the less congested route. And some get back in their cars after a period of walking, bicycling or using transit.

The process is very much like the infamous Soviet bread lines. The Soviets wanted to reduce the extremely long lines of people waiting for free bread. Their counterproductive “solution” was to make more free bread. But more free bread just induced more people to line up for bread. Likewise, the conventional American solution to traffic congestion is to make more free space for cars (widening the road or adding a second turn lane). The result is the same, as the bigger roads and intersections inevitably induce more car trips on those routes. The efficient and effective solution, as any first-year economics student will point out, is to NOT make more free bread or wider, free-to-use roads or second turn lanes. The solution is to price the bread and the car routes so that they are used more efficiently (and not wastefully by low-value bread consumers or car travelers). Or, to let a moderate level of congestion discourage low-value rush hour trips.

Given all of this, widening a road or adding a second left-turn lane to solve congestion is like loosening one’s belt to solve obesity. Similarly, despite conventional wisdom, car traffic does not behave like water flowing through a pipe (i.e., flowing easier if the pipe is expanded in size). Car traffic, instead, behaves like a gas. It expands to fill the available, increased volume provided.

Boulder’s Overriding Objectives

Boulder (and PLAN-Boulder County) has outlined key community objectives.

1. One is higher quality of life and more happiness. But counterproductively, happy cars lower quality of life due to clashing values and needs.

2. Another objective is for a more compact, walkable, vibrant city. Unfortunately, over-emphasizing cars means more sprawl.

3. An objective that is much talked about in the area is more affordability. By inducing more car dependence via easier car travel, the congestion reduction objective undermines the affordability objective by making Boulder less affordable (more on that later).

4. Given the growing concern for global warming, Boulder is placing more emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Easing traffic congestion, however, induces new car traffic, which increases car emissions.

5. Boulder and PLAN-Boulder County seek more travel (and lifestyle) choices. But the congestion reduction objective in Boulder’s plan is again undercutting other objectives because it leads to bigger car infrastructure (bigger roads and intersections), thereby reducing travel and lifestyle choices.

As shown above, then, Boulder’s congestion reduction objective undermines each of these five essential community objectives.

Oops.

Conventional methods of reducing congestion include wider roads, bigger parking lots, one-way streets, and huge intersections. These tactics are a “win-lose” proposition. While they can reduce congestion (briefly), they also cause a loss of human scale and charm; a loss of social gathering; sprawling dispersal; more car dependence and less bicycling, walking, transit; higher taxes; economic woes (for government, shops and households); a decline in public health; and more air pollution.

By striking contrast, other less commonly used but much more beneficial transportation tactics are “win-win” propositions. Some of these tactics include road diets, designing streets for slower speeds, and designing for travel and lifestyle choices. They can result in:

  • More parking spaces
  • More civic pride (induced by human scale)
  • More social gathering
  • A more compact and vibrant community
  • Less car dependence and more bicycling, walking, and transit
  • Lower taxes
  • Economic health (for both government and households)
  • Improvement in public health
  • Less air pollution

If we can’t get rid of congestion, what CAN we do? We can create alternatives so that those who are unwilling to tolerate the congestion can find ways to avoid it. Congestion can be better avoided if we create more housing near jobs, shops, and culture. Doing this allows more people to have better, more feasible ways to travel without a car. We can also create more travel routes, so that the congested routes are not the only routes to our destinations. Some of us can be given more flexible work schedules to shift our work hours away from rush hour. And some of us can be given increased opportunities to telecommute (work from home).

How Can We Design Transportation to Achieve a Better Destiny?

An important way to start Boulder on a better destiny for the city is to revisit the “No more than 20 percent congested road miles” objective in the Boulder transportation master plan. Some possibilities: adopt a “level of service standard” not for cars, but for bicycle, walking and transit travel; “Level of service” standards for cars is becoming outdated because it is being increasingly seen as counterproductive, as described earlier. Other alternatives to the “congestion” objective is to have a target of controlling or reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) community-wide; or set a goal of minimizing trip generation by individual new developments in the city.

Another option is to keep the congestion objective, but create “exception” areas where the congestion rule does not apply. Those exception areas would be places where Boulder seeks to encourage new development.

Boulder needs to ensure that the community land development and transportation design tactics are appropriately calibrated within each “transect zone” of the community. (The “transect” principle identifies a transition from urban to rural, whereby the town center is more compact, formal, low-speed, and walkable; the suburbs are more dispersed, informal, higher-speed, and drivable; and the rural areas most remote from the town center are more intended for a farming and conservation lifestyle. Development regulations and transportation designs are calibrated so that the differing lifestyle and travel objectives of each zone are best achieved.) However, the difficulty with the transect principle in places like Boulder is that the demand for compact, walkable lifestyles and travel choices is much higher than the supply of such places in Boulder. There is, in other words, a large mismatch. By contrast, the supply of suburban, drivable areas is quite high. To correct this imbalance, Boulder should strive to create a larger supply of compact, walkable places similar to Pearl Street Mall, the Boulder town center, and even the CU campus. Opportunities now being discussed are the creation of new, compact villages and town centers at places such as street intersections outside of the Boulder town center.

As an aside, the community transect concept informs us that in the town center, “more is better.” That is, the lifestyle being sought in the community center is one where more shops, more offices, and more housing enhances the lifestyle, as this more proximate, mixed, compact layout of land uses provides the thriving, sociable, convenient, vibrant, 24-hour ambience that many seeking the walkable lifestyle want more of.

By contrast, in the more drivable suburbs, “more is less.” That is, the drivable lifestyle is enhanced in quality when there is less density, less development, more dispersal, and more isolation of houses from shops and offices. The ambience generally desired is more quiet and private.

While town center housing is increasingly expensive compared to the suburbs—particularly in cities such as Boulder—such in-town housing provides significant cost savings for transportation. Because such a housing location provides so many travel choices beyond car travel, many households find they can own two cars instead of three or one car instead of two. And each car that a household can “shed” due to the richness of travel choices provides more household income that can be directed to housing expenses such as a mortgage or rent. Today, the average car costs about $9,000 per year to own and operate. In places that are compact and walkable, that $9,000 (or $18,000) per year can be devoted to housing, thereby improving affordability.

In addition to providing for the full range of housing and travel choices, Boulder can better achieve its objectives through road diets, where travel lanes are removed and more space is provided for such things as bike lanes or sidewalks or transit. Road diets are increasingly used throughout the nation—particularly converting roads from four lanes to three. Up to about 25,000 vehicle trips per day on the road, a road that is “dieted” to, say, three lanes carries about as much traffic as a four-lane road. This is mostly due to the fact that the inside lanes of a four-laner frequently must act as turn lanes for cars waiting to make a left turn. Four-lane roads are less desirable than three-lane streets because they induce more car trips and reduce bicycle, walking and transit trips. Compared to three-lane streets, four-lane roads result in more speeding traffic. As a result, four-laners create a higher crash rate than three-lane streets. Finally, because the road-diet (3)three-lane street is more human-scaled, pleasant, lower-speed, and thereby place-making, a three-lane street is better than a four-lane street for shops. The three-lane street becomes a place to drive TO, rather than drive THROUGH (as is the case with a four-lane street).

If Boulder seeks to be transformative with transportation—that is, if the city seeks to significantly shift car trips to walking, bicycling and transit trips (rather than the relatively modest shifts the city has achieved in the past)—it must recognize that it is NOT about providing more bike paths, sidewalks, or transit service. It is about taking away road and parking space from cars, and taking away subsidies for car travel.

Another transportation tactic Boulder should pursue to achieve a better destiny is to unbundle the price of parking from the price of housing. People who own less (or no) cars should have the choice of opting for more affordable housing—housing that does not include the very expensive cost of provided parking. Currently, little or no housing in Boulder provides the buyer or renter the option of having lower cost housing payments by choosing not to pay for parking. Particularly in a place like Boulder, where land values are so high, even housing intended to be relatively affordable is more costly than it needs to be because the land needed for parking adds a large cost to the housing price. Indeed, by requiring the home buyer or renter to pay more for parking, bundled parking price creates a financial incentive for owning and using more cars than would have otherwise been the case.

Boulder should also strive to provide parking more efficiently by pricing more parking. Too much parking in Boulder is both abundant and free. Less parking would be needed in the city (which would make the city more affordable, by the way) if it were efficiently priced. Donald Shoup recommends, for example, that parking meters be priced to ensure that in general, 2 or 3 parking spaces will be vacant on each block.

Efficient parking methods that could be used more often in Boulder include allowing shops and offices and churches to share their parking. This opportunity is particularly available when different land uses (say churches and shops) don’t share the same hours of operation. Again, sharing more parking reduces the amount of parking needed in the city, which makes the city more compact, walkable, enjoyable and active.

Like shared parking, leased parking allows for a reduction in parking needed. If Boulder, for example, owns a parking garage, some of the spaces can be leased to nearby offices, shops, or housing so that those particular land uses do not need to create their own parking.

Finally, a relatively easy and quick way for Boulder to beneficially reform and make more efficient its parking is to revise its parking regulations so that “minimum parking” is converted to “MAXIMUM parking.” Minimum parking rules, required throughout Boulder, are the conventional and increasingly outmoded way to regulate parking. They tell the developer that at least “X” amount of parking spaces must be provided for every “Y” square feet of building. This rule almost always requires the developer to provide excessive, very expensive parking, in large part because it is based on “worst case scenario” parking “needs.” That is, sufficient parking must be provided so that there will be enough on the busiest single day of the year (often the weekend after Thanksgiving). Such a provision means that for the other 364 days of the year, a large number of parking spaces sit empty, a very costly proposition.

In contrast, maximum parking rules tell the developer that there is an upper limit to the number of spaces that can be provided. This works much better for the community and the business because the business is better able to choose how much parking it needs and can finance. Since financial institutions that provide financing for new developments typically require the developer to provide the conventional (read: excessive) amounts of parking as a condition for obtaining a development loan, the big danger for communities in nearly all cases is that TOO MUCH parking will be provided rather than too little. The result of setting “maximum” instead of “minimum” parking rules is that excessive, worst case scenario parking developments become much more rare.

The reform of parking is easy: simply convert the existing minimum parking specifications to maximum parking standards (“at least 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet” becomes “no more than 3 spaces per 1,000 square feet). An incremental approach to this conversion is to apply maximum parking rules in those places that are already rich in travel choices, such as the Boulder town center.

Again, what will Boulder’s destiny be? As the preceding discussion sought to demonstrate, much of that destiny will be shaped by transportation decisions.

Will destiny be shaped by striving for happy people and happy places for people? Or will it be shaped by opting for the conventional, downwardly-spiraling effort of seeking easy car travel (and thereby unpleasant places where only a car can be happy – such as huge highways or parking lots)?

Will Boulder, in other words, retain or otherwise promote place-less conventional shopping centers full of deadening parking, car-only travel, lack of human interaction, and isolation? Or will the city move away from car-happy objectives such as the congestion reduction policy, and instead move toward a people-friendly future rich in sociability, pride in community, travel choices, sustainability, place-making and human scale?

An example of these contrasting destinies is Pearl Street. West Pearl features the charm and human scale we built historically. West Pearl Street exemplifies a lovable, walkable, calm, safe and inviting ambience where car speeds are slower, the street is more narrow, and the shops—by being pulled up to the streetside sidewalk—help form a comfortable sense of enclosure that activates the street and feels comfortable to walk. The shops tend to be smaller—more neighborhood-scaled.

East Pearl Street near 28th Street is starkly different. There, the street is a “stroad,” because it is an overly wide road that should be a more narrow, lower-speed street. Shops are pulled back long distances from the street. The street here is fronted not by interesting shop fronts but enormous seas of asphalt parking. The layout is car-scaled. The setting is hostile, unpleasant, unsafe, stressful and uninviting. The shops tend to be “Big Box” retail, and serve a regional “consumershed.” There is “no there there.”

East Pearl Street was built more recently by professional planners and engineers who have advanced degrees that far exceed the professionalism and education of those who designed the more lovable West Pearl Street. Where has the charm gone? Why have our streets become less pleasant in more recent years (by better trained and better educated designers, I might add)? Is it perhaps related to our more expensive and sophisticated efforts to ease car traffic and reduce congestion?

There is an inverse relationship between congestion and such measures as vehicle miles traveled and gas consumption. At the community level—despite the conventional wisdom—as congestion increases, vehicle miles traveled, gas consumption, air emissions DECREASE. And as conventional efforts to reduce congestion intensify, quality of life and sustainability also decrease.

Again, is Boulder aligning itself with the Sprawl Lobby by maintaining an objective of easing traffic flow – by striving to reduce congestion?

 

On Controlling Size

David Mohney reminds us that the first task of the urban designer is to control size. This not only pertains to the essential need to keep streets, building setbacks, and community dispersal modest in size. It also pertains to the highly important need to insist on controlling the size of service and delivery trucks. Over-sized trucks in Boulder lead the city down a ruinous path, as street and intersection dimensions are typically driven by the “design vehicle.” When trucks are relatively large, excessive truck size becomes the “design vehicle” which ends up driving the dimensions of city streets. A healthy city should be designed for human scale and safety, not for the needs of huge trucks. Indeed, because motor vehicles consume so much space, a sign of a healthy, well-designed community is that drivers of vehicles should feel inconvenienced. If driving vehicles feels comfortable, it is a signal that we have over-designed streets and allocated such excessive spaces that we have lost human scale and safety.

A proposal for human-scaled streets: in Boulder’s town center, no street should be larger than three lanes in size. Outside the town center, no street should be larger than five lanes in size. Anything more exceeds the human scaling needed for a pleasant, safe, sustainable community.

It is time to return to the timeless tradition of designing to make people happy, not cars. Boulder needs to start by revisiting its congestion reduction objective, putting a number of its roads on a “road diet,” and taking steps to make the provision of parking more efficient and conducive to a healthy city.

__________________________________

 More about the author

 Mr. Nozzi was a senior planner for Gainesville FL for 20 years, and wrote that city’s long-range transportation plan. He also administered Boulder’s growth rate control law in the mid-90s. He is currently a member of the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board.

 Studies Demonstrating Induced Traffic and Car Emission Increases

Below is a sampling of references to studies describing how new car trips are induced by easier car travel, and how car emissions increase as a result.

http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/articles/hwyemis.asp

http://www.vtpi.org/gentraf.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/1993/04/18/does-free-flowing-car-traffic-reduce-fuel-consumption-and-air-pollution/

TØI (2009), Does Road Improvement Decrease Greenhouse Gas Emissions?, Institute of Transport Economics (TØI), Norwegian Centre for Transport Research (www.toi.no); summary at www.toi.no/getfile.php/Publikasjoner/T%D8I%20rapporter/2009/1027-2009/Sum-1027-2009.pdf

Robert Noland and Mohammed A. Quddus (2006), “Flow Improvements and Vehicle Emissions: Effects of Trip Generation and Emission Control Technology,” Transportation Research D, Vol. 11 (www.elsevier.com/locate/trd), pp. 1-14; also see

www.cts.cv.ic.ac.uk/documents/publications/iccts00249.pdf

Clark Williams-Derry (2007), Increases In Greenhouse-Gas Emissions From Highway-Widening Projects, Sightline Institute (www.sightline.org); at

www.sightline.org/research/energy/res_pubs/analysis-ghg-roads

TRB (1995), Expanding Metropolitan Highways: Implications for Air Quality and Energy Use, Committee for Study of Impacts of Highway Capacity Improvements on Air Quality and Energy Consumption, Transportation Research Board, Special Report #345 (www.trb.org)

D. Shefer & P. Rietvald (1997), “Congestion and Safety on Highways: Towards an Analytical Model,” Urban Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 679-692.

Alison Cassady, Tony Dutzik and Emily Figdor (2004). More Highways, More Pollution: Road Building and Air Pollution in America’s Cities, U.S. PIRG Education Fund (www.uspirg.org).

http://www.opr.ca.gov/docs/PreliminaryEvaluationTransportationMetrics.pdf

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Energy, Environment, Miscellaneous, Peak Oil, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

The Impact of Road Widening on the Local Economy

By Dom Nozzi

For nearly a century, road widening has been touted as a powerful stimulus for the local economy.

However, by striking contrast, I have learned the opposite.

One of the most important lessons I have learned in my many years as a city planner is that quality of life is a powerful economic engine, and that the “habitat” intended to make cars happy is, conversely, one of the most powerful ways that quality of life in a community is damaged.

Road widening, as my book Road to Ruin illustrates, is the best invention humans have come up with (short of aerial carpet bombing) to destroy community quality of life. Widening a road inevitably creates a “For Cars Only” ambience. It creates a “car habitat” that screams “CARS ARE WELCOME. PEOPLE ARE NOT.”

The car habitat makes for a world that repels humans. Huge asphalt parking lots. High-speed highways. Sterile dead monstor hwyzones which form “gap tooth” tears in the fabric of a town center. Large amounts of air and noise pollution. Awful levels of visual “Anywhere USA” blight. Worsened safety — for pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users, that is.

And worst of all, because a person in a car consumes, on average, about 19 times as much space as a person sitting in a chair, places designed for cars lose the comfortable, compact, enclosed, charming, human-scaled, vibrancy-inducing spacing and place-making that so many people love to experience.

As David Mohney once said, the first task of the urbanist is controlling size.

One consequence of this worsening quality of life that comes from widening a road to improve conditions for cars: The quality of the public realm worsens to the point where American society is noted for growing levels of retreating from the public realm and a flight to the cocooning private realm.

Given this, road widening and the substantial increase in auto dependency that the widening induces sends the quality of life of a community into a downward spiral. And that, in my opinion, is toxic to the economic health of a community.

Note that road widening inherently creates increased auto dependency because big, high-speed, “happy car” roads create what economists call a “barrier effect.” That is, big and high-speed roads make it more difficult to travel by bicycle, walking or transit. So wider roads recruit new motorists in a vicious, never-ending cycle of widening, more car dependence, more congestion, more calls for widening, etc.

The end result?

Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit, Newark, Buffalo, Cleveland.

As Richard Florida powerfully argues in The Rise of the Creative Class, the centerpiece of successful community economic development is recognizing that instead of following the conventional model of drawing businesses by lowering business costs and relaxing regulations, quality of life should be enhanced to attract and retain quality “creative class” employees. It is not a coincidence that Florida describes this form of quality of life as one which includes walkable, vibrant, 24/7 vibrancy (where the car is subservient to the needs of people).

It is also no coincidence that Boulder, Colorado – where I now live – is ranked, over and over again, as the city ranked first in a long list of quality of life measures. Therefore, despite the fact that Boulder assesses relatively high costs on businesses, applies relatively aggressive regulations on businesses (measures traditionally assumed to be toxic to economic health), the Boulder economy is consistently quite healthy. Even in times of national economic woes.

One awful tragedy for the State of Florida is that the 1985 Growth Management law adopted by that state enshrined Community Design for Happy Cars by requiring that future development be “concurrent” with adopted road standards. That is, new development must not be allowed to “degrade” adopted community “free-flowing traffic” standards. In other words, the state requires, under the rubric of “growth management,” that all local governments must be designed to facilitate car travel (too often doing so by widening a road). The apparent thinking is that “free-flowing traffic” is a lynchpin for community quality of life. The be-all and end-all. In my opinion, nothing can be further from the truth.

It is a law that locks communities into harming its quality of life.

Another telling piece of information about economics: About 100 years ago, households spent approximately 1-2 percent of their income on transportation. Today, about 20-22 percent of the household budget goes to transportation. Transportation costs have, in other words, been privatized, to the great detriment of the economics of households.

In sum, widening roads, drains dollars from a community as the purchase of car-based goods and services (cars, oil, gas, car parts, etc.) largely leave the community, rather than being recycled within the community. Because the “car habitat” and the “people habitat” clash, quality of life is significantly degraded when the community is designed to facilitate cars (by widening roads, most infamously). And that, as Richard Florida clearly shows, undercuts future prospects for community economic health. Finally, household expenses are severely undermined as the growing (and extremely costly) car dependency leads to a declining ability to afford other household expenses.

The key is not so much to “get rid of cars” as to avoid overly pampering them (through such things as underpriced [untolled] roads, free parking and subsidized gasoline) in the design of our community. Doing so quickly leads to the car dominating and degrading our world. Destroying our economic health and quality of life. Cars must be our slaves rather than our masters. They should feel like intruders, rather than welcomed guests. Only then will the future of a community be sustainable and high quality.

It is time to return to the tradition of designing our communities to make people happy, not cars.

___________________________________

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: Car is the Enemy book coverhttp://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover = http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

Visit my other sites:

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Best-Ever Lists blog

http://dombestlist.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

Increasing the Amount of Parking Required is Counterproductive

By Dom Nozzi

In the mid-2000s, the Gainesville City Plan Board submitted a proposal to increase the amount of parking required of new developments. There are a number of reasons why such a proposal is ruinous for Gainesville. The proposal sickens me as a city planner.

The following will be some of the consequences of the City of Gainesville increasing the amount of parking required for developments within the city.

Increased suburban sprawl, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased stormwater pollution.

Increased flooding.

Increased “heat island effect.”

Increased auto dependency.

Increased per capita car use.

Less walkable neighborhoods and commercial areas, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased political demand for bigger roads.

Increased pressure to build and enlarge Big Box retail in the Gainesville area.

Increased number of injuries and deaths due to increased car use.

Increased gasoline consumption in the city.

Increased household transportation costs.

Increased loss of natural features paved over by asphalt, which directly contradicts two objectives I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced transportation choice, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced neighborhood quality of life, which directly contradicts an objective I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced neighborhood compatibility with nearby commercial, which directly contradicts two objectives I had written for the Future Land Use Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Reduced property values.

Reduced residential densities within the city.

Increased air pollution.

Reduced bus ridership, walking, and bicycling.

Increased single-occupant-vehicle (SOV) travel, which directly contradicts a goal and objective I had written for the Transportation Mobility Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

Increased cost to agencies, organizations, businesses, who must provide an increased amount of parking.

Increased number of instances in which a business cannot be created, renovated, or expanded due to inability to increase parking.

Increased per capita consumption of land.

Reduced amount of market demand for mixed-use development, which directly contradicts two objectives and five goals I had written for the Future Land Use Element, five goals and six objectives I had written for the Transportation Mobility Element, and two goals and nine objectives I had written for the Urban Design Element of Gainesville’s adopted long-range plan.

In sum, if there is one change in our Land Development Code that more overwhelmingly and comprehensively subverts our Comprehensive Plan than increased parking requirements, I am not aware of it.

What are the benefits that would outweigh the above harms when we go ahead and increase our already excessive parking requirements?

Does Gainesville’s adopted city long-range plan mean anything? Or is the long-range plan adopted to be ignored?

Does it mean anything that all of the planning literature over the past 25 years strongly argues against increasing parking requirements—parking requirements that are already excessive in Gainesville?

What ever happened to the alleged efforts of the City of Gainesville to be “business friendly” (increasing parking requirements would substantially increase burdens to business—particularly small, local business).

Is city planning a waste of time?

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

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My YouTube video library

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Recipe for a Vibrant Street

By Dom Nozzi

Dom’s Vibrant Street Casserole (serves…everyone)

Ingredients

  •  Elect wise, courageous leaders (cooks) who are well-versed in the creation of walkable street casseroles.
  • Select a “kitchen” staff that has high-quality knowledge regarding the creation of traditional, walkable street casseroles.
  • Add 4 cups of colorful building facades that abut the streetside sidewalk, with entrances on the sidewalk.
  • Add 3 cups of relatively high residential density on or near the street.
  • Add 4 cups of homes, offices and retail. Mix well. Be sure not to add too much office, as this will lead to a tasteless, boring casserole that is utterly unappetizing at night.
  • Layer 10 cups of on-street parking along the street.
  • Evenly sprinkle 8 cans of shading street trees along your streets and use a loper to limb them up. The trees should be placed along your streets in such as way as to have them be formally aligned. The trees should be spaced and limbed up so as to avoid blocking the view of at least the first floor building facades.
  • Cut and trim your streets so that they are short in block length, have modest turn radii, have square curbs, and are no fatter than 3 lanes of 2-way street (3rd lane is landscaped median with pocket turn lanes). Any street fatter than 3 lanes will need to be put on a diet so that it is no more than 3 lanes. Your street should be designed so that motorists are obligated to drive slowly and attentively.
  • Shape your street buildings for verticality. Your buildings should be at least 2 stories high.
  • Insert 2 tablespoons of street lights and traffic signals into your casserole that are modest in height (no more than 8-12 feet in height).
  • Trim your building lot widths so that they are narrow.
  • Provide a heaping helping of windows on at least the first floor of the buildings for your street casserole. Your casserole should strive for high levels of transparency by having abundant windows eye level. Minimize blank walls on the first floor of your buildings.
  • Add generous portions of streetscaping such as street furniture, and encroachment into the sidewalk by outdoor cafes.
  • Place and shape your sidewalks to offer ample sidewalk width so that there is room for sidewalk cafes, couples comfortably walking side-by-side, and street furniture. Be careful not to provide too much width, as excessive width coupled with insufficient pedestrians will deaden the flavor of your casserole.
  • Chop and mince your signs into modest sizes, modest heights, and do not allow them to be animated.

Bake until your casserole sizzles. Serve immediately.

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Urban Design, Walking

What Is “FAR”?

By Dom Nozzi

“FAR” is a land development regulation used by planners and developers, and is found in most town zoning regulations. It refers to the “Floor Area Ratio” of a development. As an example of how FAR is used, an FAR of 1.0 allows a single-story building to cover an entire plot of land, or a two-story building to cover half of the land in question. An FAR of 2.0, therefore, allows a two-story building to cover an entire plot of land, a four-story building to cover half of the land, or an eight-story building to cover a quarter of the land. And so on. NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) in communities throughout the nation tend to be well aware of FAR regulations, and often counterproductively fight aggressively to minimize the FAR ratio. I recommended relatively high FARs in town centers or other places where compact, higher-density development is desired because it is well known by researchers that low FARs kill transportation choice. Walking, biking and transit are nearly impossible when FARs are low. I also happen to believe that higher FARs are much more charming and lovable (when done right). Most NIMBYs improperly assume that higher FARs mean that all greenspace on a lot or in a neighborhood would be consumed by asphalt or buildings. Ironically, the places that most all of us love most (including NIMBYs) are those places with relatively high FARs (much higher than NIMBYs want when they yell and scream at public meetings). It would be nice, in site plan review, to do two things: 1. Invite citizens randomly throughout the community to attend the public meeting (as suggested by Andres Duany) so that you reduce the NIMBYism associated with the typical scenario where only those living close to the project are invited. A broader geographic range of citizens attending development review meetings is much more likely to elicit support for a fuller range of community quality of life objectives, rather than more narrow, emotional, counterproductive NIMBY sentiments. 2. Figure out a way to allow citizens who attend (or vote at) the development review meeting to somehow FEEL what the design will be like. This can be done either by having people visit a representative site so they can feel it and see it with their own eyes, or prepare quality 3-D images for the presentation. Just stating what the FAR will be for the project with a number (“this project has an FAR of 2.0”) can easily terrify those who are not designers. _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Bicycling, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

The Threat of Suburbanization

By Dom Nozzi, AICP

 

“Suburbanization is the biggest threat to cities in North America.” — Paul Bedford,TorontoPlanning Director, 1997.

What are the features of suburbs that Mr. Bedford is referring to as threats to our town centers? The litany will sound familiar, because it has metastasized everywhere in America.

Segregation, homogenization and isolation of land uses. Substantial building setbacks—from streets and other buildings. Wide, high-speed roads, disconnected with dead-ends and cul-de-sacs. Sidewalks an afterthought—as a result, they are often not installed, or too narrow and cluttered with smelly, unsightly dumpsters, mechanical equipment, blank walls and poles. Street blocks are too long for easy walking.  Lots of parking for cars—usually in front of the building. Buildings turning their backs to the street and sidewalk. Big buffers. Compared to a healthy, convivial, sociable city, the ambiance is barren, monotonous and sterile. Generous amounts of randomly placed clumps and bands of landscaping. One-story “icon architecture” or “look-at-me” buildings. Drive-thru’s, auto sales, and auto repair. Glaring, excessive lighting on tall, highway-oriented light poles. Excessive signage. “Anywhere USA” character. No sense of place (no “there there”). Low densities—too low to make transit or walking possible. Important civic buildings placed in out-of-the-way, low-visibility, unimportant locations.

The reason such mind-numbing suburbanization is such a threat to our town centers is that many of the above-listed suburban features seem to be “good” features that anyone would want.

In the suburbs.

As a result, many well-informed, well-intentioned people are often easily seduced into agreeing that detrimental, anti-town center features would be helpful to the city. Elected officials are regularly convinced to opt for anti-city actions by those who are on a moral crusade to “save” our cities.

By suburbanizing them.

Crusaders for drivable suburban features sincerely believe that to incorporate their “pet” suburban features in the city will save the city from becoming an ugly, unpleasant, concrete- and skyscraper-filled megalopolis.

I am convinced, however, that if our cities are to again become attractive places to live in, shop in, and work in—if we are to reverse the “flight” to the outlying suburbs—our cities must build on their strengths. Among the strengths of the city are walkability, unique character, sociability, ambiance, vibrancy, diversity, civic pride, transportation choice, and buildings and streets scaled for people instead of cars.

The suburbs will always win if the city tries to compete on suburban terms—by attempting to incorporate elements of suburbia that can always be done cheaper and better in the suburbs. To attract investment, houses, jobs, and retail back to our city, we need to build on the inherent leverage of cities—those things that make cities wonderful.

And distinct from the suburbs.

Here is my idea of the strengths of a city—strengths that, when protected and promoted—will ensure our town center has a healthy future that will attract, rather than repel, those seeking a walkable lifestyle.

Retail buildings that are pulled up to, and face, the street and sidewalk so that the building gives its vitality to the sidewalk, and thereby makes our walks safe, pleasant and interesting.

Proximity of destinations, so that it is possible for us to walk, bicycle or use transit to get from our house to our job, city parks, the library and other public buildings, and retailers. In other words, we have a choice about how we will travel, instead of being forced to drive a car to get to anything.

Modest street sizes and parking lots, fairly priced car travel (ie, motorists are charged to park and to drive on a road), traffic calming and other techniques to ensure that cars behave themselves. There is nothing more critical than this to make our community sustainable, to make our neighborhoods safe and livable, and to make locally-owned retailers viable.

A vibrant, romantic, people-scaled, unique, prideful, diverse town center that thrives with pedestrian activity and therefore creates sociability, conviviality, safety, and fun, and makes downtown businesses profitable.

Buildings and street trees that are lined up along and near the street to form a pleasant, cozy “outdoor room”—the wonderful “public realm” that we admire in Charleston, Savannah, and the many walkable European cities.

A mixture of housing types and household incomes so that we do not live in a homogenized, upper-income or low-income enclave.

A neighborhood where we can “retire in place,” instead of being forced, as seniors, to be warehoused in a retirement village when we can no longer drive a car.

Streets with alleys, so that driveways, dumpsters, service vehicles, utilities, and garages can be moved away from the sidewalk.

On-street parking, so that our walks are safe and enjoyable, so that our small retailers do well, so that cars do not speed, and so that we can find a convenient parking space when we go to the town center.

Street vistas terminated with important buildings so that we are filled with pride because of all of our picturesque views.

Finally, let me hasten to add that this is not a clarion call to “eliminate” suburbs. There is no danger that we will lose the suburban option, nor do I think we should “get rid of” a lifestyle that so many enjoy. Since the vast majority of America is suburban, and the threat of our suburbanizing our small slivers of quality urbanism is so serious, there is, on the other hand, a real danger that we will soon lose a lifestyle choice for those of us who enjoy quality: walkability.

The solution is not to suburbanize our remaining remnants of walkability. To do so is akin to “destroying the city to save it.”

Because so many of our cities have been harmed by suburbanizing them, there is a substantial, untapped market for the strengths that make the city livable. We can best fight unsustainable sprawl and the flight from the city if we protect and promote our city as a place that we and our children, as lovers of the city, want to live in, shop in, school in, work in, and entertain ourselves in.

Let’s capitalize on the competitive leverage and “wealth” of the city.

Let the city be a city.

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Politics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

We are “Pro-Growth”… But Only on Our Terms

We are “Pro-Growth”… But Only on Our Terms

By Dom Nozzi

Frequently, citizens striving to protect their neighborhood or community quality of life find themselves opposing most, if not all, proposed new developments in their community.

And who can blame them?

After all, communities across the nation have seen the charming, unique, pleasant characteristics of their towns and cities degraded over and over again by a new development paradigm that emerged roughly at the time of World War II. Prior to that time, we designed our communities to make people happy. But since then, our primary development imperative has been to make our Fords and GMs happy. Our pick-up trucks and sedans have vastly different needs than little Judy and Aunt Suzie. Cars like vast spaces for enormous asphalt parking lots and high-speed roads. People like modest, safe, human-scaled, slow-speed, quiet places.

As Fred Kent once said, whatever a traffic engineer tells your town to do, do the opposite and you’ll improve your community.

By focusing on making our cars happy, we have unintentionally made it harder to live without a car, because happy cars make it so much more difficult and unpleasant to be a pedestrian, a transit user or a bicyclist. Therefore, a growing number of us are increasingly dependent on car travel and are increasingly obligated to argue for the needs of our SUVs instead of our kids. It is a vicious cycle, because the more we improve conditions for cars, the more we need our cars and the more, in turn, a growing army of us plead for improved conditions for cars.

Note, too, that because “improved” conditions for cars undercuts the quality of life for people, there is a growing desire to flee the degraded, car-happy community for remote, sprawling locations. Locations that lock people into even more car dependency because trip distances are now so enormous.

We are, then, trapped in a vicious cycle. And become our own worst enemies. Which helps explain why it has become so very common today for citizens to loudly protest against nearly all development—development that for the past 60 years has suggested to citizens that, once again, the proposed project is another crappy, car-happy, community-tarnishing project to be inflicted on us.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Even the not-in-my-backyard “no growthers” can, slowly, become pro-growth if we return to the timeless tradition. The tradition of designing for happy people instead of happy cars.

For example, let’s say a new development is proposed in our community. Due to its car-friendly design and remote location, it is expected to produce a great many new car trips.

But instead of deciding to spend an enormous amount of public dollars to widen our roads or install new intersection turn lanes to “accommodate” the new growth (thereby harming our quality of life and small town charm), a community can choose to draw a line in the sand. Your growth can happen here, but only on our terms.

We welcome your new development if it exemplifies some or all of the following:

1. The development is a form of infill development. A new development within the heart of our community which either replaces an underused property (such as a parking lot) or refurbishes and re-uses a vacant building.

2. The development is modest, quiet and human-scaled. A new development that is modest in height and not a skyscraper (no more than 5 stories). That uses a modest parking lot behind its building. That pulls the building up to the sidewalk to provide a vibrant, walkable ambience. That does not create noise problems for nearby properties. That does not use glaring, obnoxious signs or lights, or day-glow building colors. That builds modest, narrow streets with low design speeds. Indeed, modest building setbacks and narrow streets are the fundamental building blocks of place-making. That is, instead of creating an over-sized no-man’s-land where only a car could be happy, the new development creates intimate spacing which delivers a sense of place. A sense of community. A place where people feel pleasant, sociable, safe, and proud of their town.

3. The development respects the public realm. A new development that uses buildings which respect the public realm, instead of turning its back to it. An entrance faces the street. Building ornamentation is incorporated (instead of bland, boxy design). Generous sidewalk-level windows are used. The building fits into the context of the neighborhood.

4. The development is self-sufficient and sustainable. A new development contains a mix of uses, incorporates energy-efficient strategies and is walkable in scale and design. Such a design promotes proximity, which promotes transportation choice and sustainability.

5. The development obligates cars to be “well-behaved” and optional. A new development that accepts being served by off-site streets that remain modestly-sized, instead of obligating that 2- or 3-lane roads become high-speed, 5- or 7-lane superhighways. Any streets internal to the development are similarly modest in size, connected, and low speed. Similarly, any off-street parking that is part of the development is small in size, hidden from view, and has its price “unbundled” from the price of any housing that is part of the development.

Ultimately, by following most or all of the above principles, a great many of the “no growth” NIMBYs can become pro-growth “YIMBYs” (yes in my back yard).

If the developer finds the traffic “intolerable” with our small-town streets, perhaps the developer should consider not building in our town. We are fiercely proud of our community, and want to retain our charm. We refuse to be a doormat and let you have your way with us.

We insist on building and protecting a quality habitat for people, not a habitat for cars.

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is Enemy cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Miscellaneous, Politics, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Dom Nozzi’s All-Time Favorite Planning and Transportation Books

By Dom Nozzi

I have read over 1,000 books in my life.

Here are my all-time favorites in the fields of transportation and planning, in alphabetical order of author name. The most important or influential books I have ever read in my profession.

The most important books are The High Cost of Free Parking, Cities and Automobile Dependence, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and The Great Good Place.

Do yourself a favor and read some (or all) of these.

Arnold, Henry F. (1993). Trees in Urban Design, 2nd Edition.

Belmont, Steve (2002). Cities in Full

Daly, Herman (ed) (1973). Toward a Steady-State Economy

Downs, Anthony (1992). Stuck in Traffic

Duany, Andres, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Jeff Speck (2000). Suburban Nation

Durning, Alan (1996). The Car and the City

Harris, Marvin (1968).         The Rise of Anthropological Theory

Harris, Marvin (1979). Cultural Materialism

Jacobs, Jane (1961). The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Kuhn, Thomas         (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Kunstler, James Howard (1998). Home from Nowhere

Levine, Jonathan (2006). Zoned Out: Regulations, Markets in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use

Lomborg, Bjorn (2001). The Skeptical Environmentalist

Meadows, Donnella & Denis (1972). The Limits to Growth

Miller, G. Tyler         (1979). Living in the Environment

Newman, Paul & Jeffrey Kenworthy (1989). Cities and Automobile Dependence

Norton, Peter (2008). Fighting Traffic

Oldenburg, Ray (1991). The Great Good Place

Ophuls, William (1977). Ecology & the Politics of Scarcity

Orlov, Dmitry (2008). Reinventing Collapse

Orwell, George (1949). 1984

Owen, David (2009). Green Metropolis

Putnam, Robert (2000). Bowling Alone

Sale, Kirkpatrick (1980). Human Scale

Shoup, Donald         (2005). The High Cost of Free Parking

_________________________________________________

Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF

My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover

My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290

My Adventures blog

http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/

Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog

http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/

My Town & Transportation Planning website

http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/

My Plan B blog

https://domz60.wordpress.com/

My Facebook profile

http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi

My YouTube video library

http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi

My Picasa Photo library

https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534

My Author spotlight

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

 

 

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Energy, Environment, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking

Books Dom Read in 2010 and His Recommended Readings

By Dom Nozzi

I have always been an obsessive list-maker, as most of my friends have been amused to learn. I make lists of nearly everything. One of the lists I started making about 30 years ago, that I have since updated and maintained each year, is a list of books I’ve read. By doing so, I know such things as the book title of each book I’ve read, the book author, what month and year I read the book, and the overall number of books I own and have read over the years. My book list informs me that I have reached a book-reading milestone this year. As of the end of 2010, I have read over 1,000 books in my life. Here is the list of the 65 books I read in 2010. Note that a single asterisk indicates that I found the book to be excellent. One that I highly recommend. Two asterisks indicate that the book was one of the best, most important books I have ever read. Don’t miss it! Bacevich, A (2010). Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War* Chomsky, Noam (2010).  Hopes and Prospects * Epstein, Greg (2005). Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe Fenton, Tom (2009). Junk News: The Failure of the Media in the 21st Century Flynn, Tom (1993). The Trouble With Christmas * Goleman, Daniel (2009). Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything Lutz, Catherine & Anne (2010). Carjacked: The Culture of the Auto & It’s Effects on Our Lives Park, Robert (2000). Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud Rogers, Heather (2010).  Green Gone Wrong: Can Capitalism Save the Planet? Wills, Garry (2010). Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State * Wise, Jeff (2009). Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger Chomsky, Noam (2007). Interventions Johnson, Steven (2010). Where Good Ideas Come From * Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution Onfray, Michel (2005). Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism and Islam Schiff, Peter (2009). Crash Proof 2.0: How to Profit from the Economic Collapse Stilgoe, John R. (2007). Train Time: Railroads and the Imminent Reshaping of the American Landscape Sullivan, James (2010). Seven Dirty Words: Life & Crimes of George Carlin Taber, Robert (2002). War of the Flea: Guerilla Warfare * Agin, Dan (2006). Junk Science: How Politicians, Corporations and Other Hucksters Betray Us Ellsberg, D (2002). Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam & the Pentagon Papers ** McCommons, James (2009). Waiting on a Train : The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service Prochnik, George (2010) In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise Carlin, George (2009). Last Words Fox, S, Armentano, P, Tvert, M. (2009). Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? * Roselle, Mike (2009). Tree Spiker: From Earth First! To Lowbagging. My Struggles with Environmental Radicalism Berkun, Scott (2010). Confessions of a Public Speaker Carr, Nicholas (2010). The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains * Elder, Robert K.(2010). Last Words of the Executed Gray, James (2001). Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It * Robbins, John (2010). The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less Wurman, Richard Saul (1989). Information Anxiety: What to Do When Information Doesn’t Tell You What You Need to Know Frazier, Kendrick (ed) (2009). Science Under Siege: Defending Science, Exposing Pseudoscience Kirkpatrick, David (2010). The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World Lovenheim, Peter (2010). In the Neighborhood: Searching for Community One Sleepover at a Time Viega, John (2009). The Myths of Security: What the Computer Security Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know Hewitt, Ben (2009). The Town that Food Saved: One Town Sows Seeds of Change Levitt, Steven D. & Stephen Dubner (2009). Super Freakeonomics Lewis, Michael (2010). The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Parker-Pope, Tara (2010). For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage Pollan, Michael (2009). Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual * Pollan, Michael (2001). The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World Slone, Daniel & Doris Goldstein (2008). A Legal Guide to Urban and Sustainable Development Duany, Andres, Jeff Speck, Mike Lydon (2010). The Smart Growth Manual Handler, Chelsea (2005). My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands Krier, Leon (2009). The Architecture of Community Lomborg, Bjorn (2007). Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming * Millais, Malcolm (2009). Exploding the Myths of Modern Architecture Semes, Steven (2009). The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism and Historic Preservation Brockman, John (2007). What Is Your Dangerous Idea: Today’s Leading Thinkers on the Unthinkable Ehrenreich, Barbara (2009). Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Lehrer, Johah (2009). How We Decide Anonymous (2004). Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror Bishop, Bill (2008). The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart Stenger, Victor (2007). God: The Failed Hypothesis * Venturi, Robert (1972).  Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form Zinn, Howard (2003). A People’s History of the United States * Brand, Stewart (2009). Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto * Byrne, David (2009). Bicycle Diaries Freeman, John (2009). The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your In Box Rubin, Jeff (2009). Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil & the End of Globalization  * Sniegnoski, Stephen (2008). The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel ** Sperling, Daniel & Deborah Gordon (2009). Two Billion Cars: Driving Towards Sustainability Winik, Jay (2001). April 1865: The Month that Saved America                  _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607Car is the Enemy book cover My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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Filed under Bicycling, Economics, Environment, Miscellaneous, Peak Oil, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design, Walking