Welcome to the first edition of the Monday Member Blog Roll [Monday Member Digest? Monday Member Blog Digest?] !
This is a new feature on the Strong Towns Blog highlighting some of the excellent content produced by Strong Towns Members every week. Jesse Bailey, Seth Zeren, and I have been honored with the task of curating a sort of Friday News Digest made up entirely of Members’ blogs found on the ST Member Blog Roll RSS feed. That said, if you are a Strong Townie and blog about anything relevant to Strong Towns, become a Member today to get your writing on the Member Blog Roll and featured on one of the most widely read urbanism-related blogs out there!
By now we’ve heard all about the demographic trends that are returning America to a nation filled with dynamic urbanism: the two largest generations in American history (Millennials and Baby Boomers) are foregoing the suburbs in record numbers. One of the arguments that is frequently used to dismiss the Millennial side of that trend is the classic “Wait ’til they have kids!” The thought goes that young urbanite families in New York and San Fransisco will eventually flee to the fertile pastures of suburbia to raise their broods. Strong Towns contributor Johnny Sanphillippo provides some insight into a more likely scenario.
“Pittsburgh is just one of hundreds of small and medium sized cities in the interior that people in coastal cities like to dismiss as part of “Flyover Country”. What isn’t clearly understood is that Pittsburgh isn’t competing with New York or San Francisco. Instead Pittsburgh is competing with the distant suburbs of places like New York and San Francisco out in the endless smear of anonymous tract homes and strip malls that ring those cities. Pittsburgh wins that taste test hands down every time for anyone who shows up and actually looks around and experiences what’s on offer.”
We live in a world filled with nuances, but it seems like few people are willing to step outside of their black and white worldviews. Here at Strong Towns, we often rail against Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) and other tax abatements for “economic development” projects. But are they always a bad idea? Our friends at nextSTL wade into the controversy surrounding a project that would add hundreds of residents to a population-deprived area, fill in some missing teeth in the urban fabric, need almost no new infrastructure, increase the productivity of a $500 million commuter light rail line, and help achieve the community's master development plan.
“The broad ideological anti-incentive brush must consider what type of places we want to build, and what builds sustainable wealth in a community. The Crossing would bring young professionals to Clayton, living adjacent to the region’s $500M light rail investment. This is what we want and need.”
There is a debate raging in Florida right now that will hopefully be a precursor for transportation planning reform nationwide. Monday Member Blog Roll co-author (it’s on a rotational basis) Jesse Bailey of Walkable West Palm Beach has been busy getting into the thick of things to push FDOT towards prioritizing safe, walkable street design.
“This is a very timely debate as the public’s simmering discontent over dangerous by design county and FDOT roads builds to a boil. Jeff Speck’s article last week puts the onus on FDOT to prove why 10′ lanes shouldn’t be built in an urban setting, with ample evidence to back up the safety benefits. For its part, FDOT has recently issued a memo supporting Complete Streets, a positive move in the right direction for which they are to be applauded. Meanwhile, on a project for which they could make a safer and more responsive choice, today, by simply restriping lanes differently, FDOT is ignoring this mandate. Cognitive dissonance, anyone?”
Has your town’s local news ever done a piece about crime rankings? Rational Urbanism points out some major flaws in how most of those rankings are both created and used.
“Of course, the source of this information is an FBI data set which has attached to it these words from a page labeled “Caution Against Ranking”:
The UCR Program provides a nationwide view of crime based on statistics… Although many of the listed factors equally affect the crime of a particular area, the UCR Program makes no attempt to relate them to the data presented. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual reporting units… Until data users examine all the variables that affect crime in a town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction, they can make no meaningful comparisons.”
In another piece from nextSTL, we find an interesting look at something of a local phenomenon in St. Louis, the “defensible space” street closure. I witnessed something similar in Minneapolis during the Strong Towns National Gathering’s Active Towns bike tour, but it was gentile and humane compared to the closures in St. Louis. Utterly fascinating.
Are mobile home parks a model for senior living? Dave Alden of Where Do We Go From Here? walks us through some interesting pros and cons of that housing type for seniors.
“Margonelli makes a reasonable case for mobile homes, but I’ll add another point. Mobile home parks encourage alternative transportation modes. With narrow roads, frequent driveways, and a well-gridded layout, automobile drivers intuitively reduce their speed, often as low as 15 miles per hour, well below the 20 mile per hour threshold where the dominance of cars begins to wane.”
Finally, we’ll end this historic post (the first of a Monday tradition that will last for centuries, I’m sure) with another post from Walkable West Palm Beach, though this time it’s not from our own Jesse Bailey, but the estimable Baron Haussmann. The Baron gets into the nitty gritty details of getting a stalled road diet to take that next baby step – adding on-street parking. Is this how he built the Champs-Élysées?
“The infrastructure necessary for a surface lot to provide 23 parking spaces would cost $115,000 (23 X $5,000). All that is necessary to create these parking spaces [on this street] is some paint and a few signs.”