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2013-03-12 16:10:46.494877+00 by Dan Lyke 4 comments

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Invention and Design Work, productivity and environment Public Transportation Archival ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2013-03-13 16:31:32.732171+00 by: Dan Lyke

I suspect that you and I may actually be fondling different elephants on "New Urbanism". I see it as multi-pronged, but largely about people discussing ways in which to move from the unsustainable automobile commuter-based 'burbs to a less energy and infrastructure intensive lifestyle.

I was particularly interested in that article because our local (Petaluma) urbanism discussion group is talking about Jeff Speck's Walkable City[Wiki], and Speck is big on the interplay between cars and pedestrians. He makes a big deal about how the big US conversion to pedestrian mall projects of the '80s have almost all failed, and how mixed-use, especially where parking provides a buffer between motor vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic, works better.

Combined with the "we need to get our ladder trucks everywhere" attitudes from the fire department, that makes the narrow pedestrian walkways of those pictures a complete pipe-dream in terms of our cities, but it's still intriguing (and interesting to compare to things like Montreal's Place Jacques Cartier).

One of the things that makes Japanese cities unique is that they rebuilt largely from scratch after WWII, didn't have the copious free energy and boundless resources that the U.S. had, and that the transit franchises allowed the train corporations to fund themselves using value capture. Which means that "transit oriented development", including integrated department stores owned by the rail lines, was the goal. Rather than the modern US act of balancing lots of competing interests with differing profit motives.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-03-13 15:27:29.166297+00 by: other_todd

Incidentally, the New Urbanism he likes to kick around is basically already dead - or rather, is evolving into a different kind of New Urbanism that doesn't mean the same as what it once did.

These days in urban design the Big Pressing Problem is "What do we do about informal cities?" which is urban planning speak for "people are living in shantytowns, not just because sometimes that is all they can afford, but because in some cases they prefer the absence of regulation (don't have papers, etc) - how can we get them into the official world, get them on the power mains, etc without either making it unaffordable or scaring them into just making a shantytown somewhere else?"

Interestingly, informal cities tend to be on the souk model, mostly because no one in them can afford a car and would have no safe place to put one if they did.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-03-13 15:17:14.528712+00 by: other_todd

This guy (and I'm sure it's a guy) is hilarious. I read that page and the one he links near the top (about "what happens after Heroic Materialism") and it seems to me that in both cases he really just wants an excuse to post pictures of cute Tokyo girls (and boys). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it does make one think he is not entirely serious about his theses.

That said, in both essays he has a point but fails to consider the full ramifications of the situation. I'll leave out the Heroic Materialism one (ask me if you care) and just consider this one.

Sure, Tokyo is a fabulous pedestrian city and a horrible car city, and I like that. But some of how it got that way is a hidden, enormous investment in infrastructure (go look at a good train and subway map of the Tokyo metro area, but be sure you take a headache pill first), and some of it has hidden consequences - notably, living in Tokyo means being comfortable with living in a very small space, in an area with a nastily high population density, high prices for everything because of increased cost of supply lines and dense demand, et cetera. If I already think someone is crazy for wanting to live in Manhattan and pay danger money for an apartment the size of a walk-in closet, you can imagine what I think of living in Tokyo.

And I LIKE cities, you understand. I am a city dweller at heart. I like the souk model with lots of narrow little streets to wander. But there are consequences, and they're consequences that many people will be unwilling to pay, if developers et al are honest to them about it. Sure, if you work on the Boulevard Model (I prefer to think of them as the boulevard model and the souk model rather than those other more opaque terms - WTF does 'hypertropic' mean anyway), he's right, you're not going to get car-free and pedestrian-friendly except in extraordinary circumstances. But he does not discuss sound reasons why people may choose to prefer the boulevard model.

We didn't get where we are in America just from political machination. We got the situation we got because a majority of people honestly prefer it. They want the yard, they want the visual distance from their neighbors, they want the independence of a car. If we're going to work on scaling that down, either in cities or out, the primary battle isn't a political one; the primary battle is convincing the bulk of citizens that the tradeoffs are actually in their interest.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-03-12 20:14:48.989219+00 by: Mars Saxman

All of the Weird Capitalized Phrases make the author seem like a Bit Of A Crank who has some Familiar Hobbyhorses that are Not Explained Here. Or maybe the author reads too much TVTropes, which also comes off as being Only For The In Crowd.