Tag Archives: cities

Have you done your homework?

The city of Seattle has Transportation and Pedestrian Safety Committees and a Pedestrian Master Plan. “The plan (a summary you can find here) sets goals and performance measures for making Seattle a more walkable city and reducing the number of car-pedestrian accidents. The plan was developed with help from a citizens’ advisory group.” (see this blog post)

So do a bit of reading about walkability, urban design, and design guidelines and join the discussion. Then let’s debate the merits of what you have read. What specifically is wrong with Seattle’s plan or what do you like about it?

Our aim is to prevent in Eastwood the kind of disaster that happened at Lodi and Butternut.

How about Washington, DC? Did you know that the whole city is booming? Why? In large part it’s due to its walkability. Here’s another article whose points might be debated: Walkability = livability = billions.  Read that article – copyrighted by The Washington Post Writers Group – and find this assertion:

(C)ities, competing, will likely keep heeding advice to lure creative young professionals; in fact, those that don’t offer true walkable urbanism, … are “probably destined” to lose out economically.

All across this country, cities are waking up the facts that European cities have known for decades: when mass transit is subsidized like highways are, when cities are valued, when a diversity of businesses that are easy to get to on foot are encouraged to develop, then cities are economically healthier, its residents are physically healthier, and communities are more cohesive.

Do your homework. Read the above articles, and more. And come back and share what you’ve read. Let’s educate ourselves, others, and in the process have some healthy discussion about walkability and its impact.

The challenge is to bring an article from a reputable source that is stating that walkability is not good for the economic health of communities. See if you can find any studies that show that single-use, suburban-style buildings set back in a big parking lot are good for urban neighborhoods. Please link (cite) your sources so the rest of us can read what you’ve found. It’s important to back claims with sources – that way our discussions remain focused.

– Lonnie and Jessica

Other cities series: Isn’t this Syracuse?

Quoting in full an article published July 25, 2009, by the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, it seems Mr. Bennett was actually writing about Syracuse. All bolding is mine; wherever you see “Terre Haute”, just envision “Syracuse” and where you see “Hauteans” think of “Syracusans”:

MARK BENNETT: Walkable neighborhoods of the ’20s make sense again

By Mark Bennett
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Tom Roznowski might’ve captured people’s attention as he strolled South Ninth Street in downtown Terre Haute.

Perhaps it was his striking linen suit, his fedora, or the sweeping gestures of his arms as he spoke. But, more than likely, the Bloomington writer raised folks’ curiosity because he was doing something rare for most Hauteans.

He was looking at the town’s big picture.

As Roznowski strode the sidewalk on an unusually cool July day, he marveled at the canopy of trees shading the neighborhood of old brick homes south of Ohio Street.

You can just walk and walk and walk in these neighborhoods,” Roznowski said, “and just have a wonderful after-dinner walk.”

Unlike many Hoosier cities, Terre Haute still contains — at least physically — a significant number of its early-20th-century neighborhoods. In that pre-Depression era, those areas were little communities within a larger community. People lived within walking distance of their job place, their kids’ school, their church, grocery stores, eateries, corner taverns, tailors, hotels, barbershops and hair salons, banks, drug stores, shoe stores, theaters and funeral homes.

Most small businesses from the 1920s are gone, but some of the houses remain.

There’s such an amazing historic housing stock in Terre Haute,” Roznowski said, “and from that arises walkable neighborhoods.”

The concept of “walkable neighborhoods” underpins Roznowski’s upcoming book, “An American Hometown: Terre Haute, Indiana, 1927.” The city, then, functioned as a network of self-sustaining neighborhoods. Less than two decades later, the popularity of the automobile allowed Americans to live farther and farther apart. We got used to driving longer distances to work, learn, dine, shop and recreate.

Now, in the 21st century, city planners around the country see wisdom in resurrecting or rebuilding those walkable neighborhoods. Some reasons for that revival are purely practical. Gasoline, as high as $4.19 just a year ago, is eating up a larger portion of U.S. incomes. Sustainable living, where local folks consume more locally produced goods and services, is making sense again. But also, having daily needs within a convenient walk restores a “sense of place” that small cities lost when Americans began relying on corporate chains and big-box retailers.

As Roznowski writes, “We are now witnessing the larger impact of scrapping mass transit systems, demolishing urban neighborhoods, paving green spaces and shifting from the reusable to the disposable.”

The renewed appreciation for walkable neighborhoods is not some dreamy, ’60s counterculture vision from Greenwich Village or Berkeley.

“People are paying attention to it across the country,” said Maria Choca-Urban of the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago. “It’s not just a coastal phenomenon.”

“Their need has been reasserted by the realities,” Roznowski said.

Terre Haute is “uniquely positioned” to see some of its aging, surviving neighborhoods regain those bygone local amenities, he added. That’s because most of the once-sustainable, walkable neighborhoods of decades ago have long since been leveled in many Hoosier cities. Those towns would have to start from scratch, with new buildings and infrastructure. Terre Haute, in many areas, would not.

But can Terre Haute capitalize on that edge?

“Maybe,” said Roznowski, who spent 15 years researching the city’s 1920s history. “It’s a close call.”

The key is whether rank-and-file Hauteans, as well as their civic leaders, see walkable, sustainable neighborhoods as a realistic goal. “There are amazing resources and advantages this city still has,” Roznowski said, “but being aware of them, and being convinced that they’re still relevant and not just vestiges of the past, that’s the important thing.”

Neighborhoods, particularly their living conditions, have been in the consciousness of many Terre Haute residents in recent years. The Terre Haute Neighborhood Partnership Inc. regularly convenes groups from Farrington’s Grove, Ryves, the 13th Street Corridor, Collett Park, Dobbs Glen and other locales. Mayor Duke Bennett has also conducted summits in various neighborhoods around the city, with residents airing concerns about streetlights, crime and sidewalks. The sprawl of the expanding campuses of Union Hospital and Indiana State University into and over older neighborhoods has made headlines during the last few years.

Even with all those efforts to raise awareness, and Terre Haute’s rich past of urban neighborhoods, their importance is not widely embraced.

“The concept of neighborhoods is something that has escaped a lot of us,” said Marie Pontius, an advocate for the Farrington’s Grove neighborhood.

A few Hautean areas have several elements and amenities of a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The neighborhood just south of Poplar Street, near the Meadows Shopping Center and Baesler’s Market, is a good example, said Todd Nation, president of the City Council. Much of that neighborhood has sidewalks. In addition to Baesler’s and the shopping mall, there’s a funeral home nearby, a banking outlet, a couple of churches, Woodrow Wilson Middle School and Meadows Elementary, and hair salons.

Though some older neighborhoods are struggling to stave off decline and preserve their bastions of self-sufficiency, Nation senses a turning point in public attitudes.

“I know that people are thinking this way now,” he said, “and I see evidence of it in Terre Haute.”

The economic sense of walkable, sustainable neighborhoods must be clear to people. The cul-de-sac suburbs are still real, attractive options for many people. But a variety of neighborhoods will help lure businesses and talent to the community — both those wanting to live close to their jobs at ISU, the hospitals or the local schools and their daily living needs, and those wanting space and distance.

Efforts to reinvigorate the pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods need to continue.

“The more options that we have as neighborhoods, the more likely we are to have a neighborhood that meets [a prospective employer’s] niche for the employee they want,” said Jeremy Weir, executive director of the Vigo County Area Planning Department.

Don Bradbury walks that neighborhood south of the Meadows daily, delivering mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He grew up within minutes of his local schools, then moved to the countryside to raise his family. Now, he’s living in a neighborhood along Brown Avenue.

“It’s strange, because there was a time when you had all these neighborhoods, and then everybody moved out to the country,” Bradbury said, in a brief stop between houses near Oak and 27th streets. “And now, they’re going back to it again.”

Other cities series: Seattle’s bag fee

When I discovered bits of plastic in the “compost” sold to me locally for my organic garden, I really got sore. But then, is there any compost anywhere that doesn’t have plastic in it? Even if you can’t see it, those plastic molecules don’t break down into something harmless; they just become smaller and smaller and gain even easier entry into your body, and the bodies of your children.

It’s time Syracuse put some teeth behind its talk about becoming the nation’s greenest city. This could hardly be difficult to enact: a bag fee. A similar fee in Ireland cut plastic bag usage by over 90%. When it’s universal, there’s no pain for individual companies. There’s more good news for businesses, but to get the details of how this benefits everyone, check out this page.  And watch this video: