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- May 20, 2009BY JULIE KIM
We've been stealthily—until today—working away in our new building at 654 Mission Street to get ready for the grand opening of the Urban Center next week. Now there's no mistaking where we've been hiding out!
- May 19, 2009BY DAVE SNYDER
The Transportation Authority today released the draft Strategic Analysis Report on "Transportation Options for a Better Market Street."
SPUR has long considered potential improvements to Market Street, and advised the Transportation Authority on the scope of this SAR. We urged the agency to be bold, but positive. That is, we emphasized that a study of Market Street ought to focus on the goals first before proposing solutions such as banning car traffic. We cited five goals:
- speeding transit vehicles by 20%, at least.
- a contiguous, carfree bicycle path of travel
- elegant bus stops, that are comfortable and more like "stations" than "stops."
- more convenient and safer pedestrian conditions on the north side, where the "pork chop" intersections damage the walking experience
- beautiful streetscapes with plenty of options for sitting
How did they do? Plesae review the study and give them, and us, your feedback.
- May 14, 2009BY MARY DAVIS
Accessibility for persons with disabilities, New Urbanist planners and architects will tell you, is an important principle. Still, other New Urbanist principles can come into conflict with accessibility; or, at least, they often clash with interpretations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, or with accessibility as defined by disability-rights advocates. Take February’s “Lifelong Communities” charette in Atlanta, at which Congress for the New Urbanism co-founder Andres Duany and Eleanor Smith, of the organization Concrete Change, were able to agree on the removal of requirements for elevated entries from the Duany Plater-Zyberk SmartCode—prized by New Urbanists for the privacy they enable, but a barrier for wheelchairs—but had to agree to disagree on issues including the utility of walk-up apartments located above retail.
- May 14, 2009BY MARY DAVIS
To the litany of statistics bearing out the severity of this recession, add one more: the number of Americans who moved between March 2008 and March 2009 was just 35.2 million, the lowest total in 47 years – and back in 1962, there were 120 million fewer Americans. Such relative stability might be viewed as a good thing for neighborhoods besieged by foreclosures, or cities suffering from long-term economic decline (not to mention the effect on the environment). But, economists point out, reduced mobility is, rather, a sign that people are unable to move in pursuit of jobs. And it’s not just emigration: the 1.1 million immigrants who arrived from overseas between March of last year and this, meanwhile, constituted the lowest number since 1995. The little movement there was, however, was outward: Suburbs gained 2.2 million movers while major cities lost 2 million.
- May 14, 2009BY MARY DAVIS
Toronto, Ontario, is, by any measure, one of North America’s greenest and most sustainable cities. It is also, by some accounts, the continent’s densest metropolis – but this is due in large part to the hundreds upon hundreds of “slab” highrises that sprouted across its outer neighborhoods in the postwar era. While Toronto’s “commie blocs,” as they’ve been derisively dubbed, provide the sort of residential density necessary to support transit and walkability, they are limited in their effectiveness by acres of surrounding lawn. Enter the Mayor’s Tower Renewal Program, which would first retrofit the buildings to make them more energy-efficient during long Canadian winters, then, over the long term, would encourage urban food gardens and mixed-use development on their grounds. Refitting, rather than demolition and new construction, could save the city as much as $55 billion. In the name of efficiency, the plan calls to house all decision-making parties for the redevelopment of apartment communities under one roof, effectively combining transit and energy planning with the designing of land use codes.
- May 14, 2009
What did modernist planning and architecture look like from the perspective of the modernist? It was progressive, forward-thinking—and may have had more in common with contemporary planning than we'd care to admit. A 1959 time capsule recently unearthed in Burbank included these predictions by a local city planner: in 50 years, seven of every eight residents would be living in garden apartments made of plastic, and incorporated into mixed-use complexes; and a “rapid monorail” system would connect “metro centers” including malls. These ideas have more space-age characteristics than our current thinking (we have no goal to inhabit plastic pods, have automated parking at every destination or live in homes connected to a shopping mall), but the ambition of having an urban density connected to mass transit is still alive. Perhaps another 50 years will realize our ideas.
- May 14, 2009
Since the Madrid-Barcelona leg of Spain’s AVE high-speed rail system opened last year, air travel in the corridor has been cut by half. But bullet trains aren’t just changing the ways Spaniards get around: according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, they are literally uniting the country, and revitalizing rural areas. Spaniards historically have been reluctant to travel, but “the AVE has radically changed [the younger] generation’s attitude,” a professor noted. Meanwhile, the once-forgotten town of Ciudad Real, now a 50-minute commute to Madrid (a distance of 120 miles), is booming as new residents take advantage of sudden proximity to the capital: new students from other regions are enrolling at the once isolated university; businesses have moved in; and an airport is being built next to the town’s train station, marketed as a cheap alternative to Madrid’s.
- May 7, 2009
SPUR's Transportation Policy Director today will tell the Board of Supervisors that the SFMTA budget approved by the SFMTA Board last week does not do enough to maintain quality transit service in these tight budget times. The SFMTA is leaving too much on the table in the form of new revenue and cost savings, at least $20 million of budget space that could be used to stave off cuts that will reduce the system's improving reliability.
- May 6, 2009BY LAURA TAM, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM DIRECTOR
National Geographic recently featured a photo essay of green roofs around the world. Featured projects included the Academy of Sciences (of course!), but also a Civic Center bus shelter that SPUR's green roofs task force worked hard to design and build. Diane Loviglio, a task force leader, came up with the idea that was later funded by the Academy as a way to bring green roofs to the pedestrian realm.