28 December 2010
I think the thing I am most excited about is that the junction for the two lines in the bottom right corner of the map is Downtown Springfield! That's my project area! The impact that the EmX will have and already has had on the district is so significant! As stated in my letter to the Editor last week, the positive things happening in Downtown Springfield will only be reflected with yet another line out to West Eugene and the many more LTD has planned.
26 December 2010
Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, wrote an Op-Ed in the Orlando Sentinel this week, emphasizing that "High-speed-rail will be our generation's legacy". His comments, directed at Rick Scott, are exactly what I would have argued if I was put in his position. Scott's campaign platform was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. Some elaborate plan using the number '7' (that he had published) to create an extremely optimistic amount of jobs in his term. Jobs? Construction industry jobs? What Florida is really good at? And Scott is considering turning down a high-speed-rail project? How many thousands of jobs will he be missing out on? I wouldn't be too disappointed if he even claimed all of the jobs created by such a project as ones toward his goal!
Instead, he is still undecided, and rather mute, about the topic, and it is beginning to worry myself and others. This is such an incredible opportunity for the region and the country! Even though the proposed rail line has flaws, right now, it IS a pilot, and it IS SOMETHING! If nothing happens now, nothing will ever happen, and all of the money that has already been spent on planning for this project will go to waste, and all of the money set aside for construction, will most likely end up in California, where amazing plans for their line will become reality sooner rather than later.
Dear Rick Scott,
Don't be a like all of the other Republicans. You said you were a "political outsider", and people believed you (for some ridiculous reason). Live up to your promises.
22 December 2010
2010 Census data is out! Great news for all of us statistics nerds and planners. The APA analyzes briefly how the redistricting works and why some states gain and some lose, even though it may not look like they should.
Common Ground, the seasonal publication of the National Realtor Association, takes an in depth look at economic growth and how it is stimulated by a variety of things including transit, art, zoning, public space, and public markets, all from the perspective of a Realtor. Check it out! (PDF - May take a bit to load)
And finally, an Op-Art piece from the New York Times about the controversial bicycle lane expansions taking place the Big Apple.
20 December 2010
I will say it from the start: I am no biologist or physicist or scientist, but having understood and passed the required scientific classes throughout my pre-college education, I feel qualified enough to understand how cities are so incredibly similar to organisms.
Today, I read a fascinating piece by Jonah Lehrer from the New York Times Magazine about how a physicist, Geoffrey West, compared cities to organisms. Yes, I have been taught the concept of cities growing, surviving, and dying like living things throughout my education in the urban planning field, but it always blows my mind to really stop and think about how real it can be. I think this is what really beckons my calling to study cities from a different perspective; one that analyzes why humans survive best in urban atmospheres and why varying types of personalities are attracted to specific cities and their cultures and ways of life.
Jane Jacobs has always been my favorite of the classic urban planners, and her book The Life and Death of Great American Cities will forever be on my bookshelf within reference grabbing distance. The author writes about his conversation with West about Jacobs:
“She compared the crowded sidewalk to a spontaneous ‘ballet,’ filled with people from different walks of life. School kids on the stoops, gossiping homemakers, ‘business lunchers’ on their way back to the office. While urban planners had long derided such neighborhoods for their inefficiencies — that’s why Robert Moses, the ‘master builder’ of
New York, wanted to build an eight-lane elevated highway through SoHoand the Village — Jacobs insisted that these casual exchanges were essential. She saw the city not as a mass of buildings but rather as a vessel of empty spaces, in which people interacted with other people. The city wasn’t a skyline — it was a dance.”
All of those things are vital characteristics of true communities, towns, cities. Many of the so called “neighborhoods” across
Our organism-like cities became too large and sprawled out, causing the brains of our civilizations to lose their relevancy and central command power. Now, populations are realizing the damage done and yearning for a return to the original foundations of our metropolitan regions. Community was lost but is returning. We thought we could survive in our own separate personalized modes of transportation, but we can’t. Someone thought building enormous expanses of open pavement was a great place for parking those vehicles instead of using that space for basic human essentials like parks, public plazas, and general space where natural socializing can occur.
Like an organism, more specifically, a human body, a city will perish (or at least be a really unpleasant and embarrassing place to live) if certain things are glossed over. This simply cannot be reiterated enough. I am beyond excited to see just a general interest in people of my generation realizing the need for cities and wanting to stay or relocate into more urban areas. This is what makes cities survive! Initiatives like Obama’s Office of Urban Affairs are a step in the right direction for the future of
Wow. I really make city related things sound exciting! Or maybe I put you to sleep… Either way, dense, thriving, urban districts are our future. Why shouldn’t we be supporting them in every way possible?
17 December 2010
I was approached by a guy on the EmX bus the other day who asked me to write a letter to the Editor of the Register-Guard about the EmX expansion here in Eugene/Springfield. He is apparently going to send it to the City Council and Lane Transit District Board as well... Nice!
16 December 2010
To the Editor,
Efficient and effective transit is a privilege in communities for certain people. It is a necessity for others. The EmX system in the Eugene/Springfield area is not only a necessity for me personally but the envy of many medium sized cities. I have recently relocated to the area to work in Downtown Springfield. I have lived in cities throughout the southern U.S. where transit is simply ignored. Moving to Eugene/Springfield has been a challenge because of its small size, but the local transit, is a lifesaver! I ride the current EmX everyday directly into Downtown Springfield. The Downtown Springfield community is seeing the positive effects of EmX. The new Gateway line opening in January will benefit the district even more with new accessibility, economic development, and pride! I will be one of the first on the new line opening day! If Downtown Springfield can experience the great benefits of EmX already, with even more coming soon, I can only imagine the success for businesses along the West 11th expansion! LTD is proud to serve its community through an effective and comprehensive EmX system, and it has been proven throughout the world that this kind of transit expansion is cost effective and vital for the growth of communities like our own.
14 December 2010
Now, Downtown Springfield is similar to your average downtown district, and yes, even the one in the famous Simpsons show. Once a thriving town profiting off of the nearby lumber industry. When that went dry decades ago, the city turned to other sources of revenue, namely growth and development. As the city grew, strip malls, office campuses, and the typical shopping mall came in leaving the original core of the city in the dust
An unfortunate piece of Springfield's history goes back to the prohibition era as well. Back when the country was dry and slowly began to become wet again, the city of Springfield began alcohol consumption again several years before the city of Eugene (Springfield's metro area neighbor and more well known municipality). Thus, Springfield's reputation in the region as "the town where you went to get drunk" began. So, currently, Springfield, more specifically, Downtown Springfield, has a very negative perception among the majority of the local population as a sketchy part of town where druggies, prostitutes, and questionable people hang out. The streets are dark at night, and people just are worried to be on the streets leading to businesses closing shop at 4pm, because, apparently, "people get mugged."
Committees have been formed under the Four Points of Main Street: Organization, Promotion, Design, and Economic Restructuring. These committees are developing work plans and courses of action for the coming year to tackle some small but visible victories for Downtown Springfield to keep the momentum going and action happening.
Already, a major culture shift is taking place in Downtown Springfield! We have partnered with the Eugene Storefront Art Project (ESAP) to place numerous art installations in vacant storefront throughout the district. People are now stopping to see the art, and realize that these so called "scary" streets really aren't that bad. New stores are filling these vacancies, and a very successful Art Walk has been established on the second Friday of each month!
People are taking note, and Downtown Springfield is already turning around! Several strip clubs and bars that have been the staple of the downtown's negative perception, have recently been denied their liquor license renewals and are being shut down the first week of the new year. This is great news for the community and will only lead to a more inclusive and inviting community.
The city has some elaborate downtown renewal plans, which you can view here. The Main Street program looks at downtown revitalization from a more grassroots, business perspective. Still, whatever projects we decide to pursue will be directly related to the overall vision of the urban renewal plans.
I am really enjoying working this job, even though it might be a temporary thing. I am getting some excellent experience and developing some extraordinary networking and public interaction skills. Meeting and working collaboratively with city officials, board directors, and local movers and shakers is pretty exciting. Coordinating committees is quite the challenge I am figuring out.
For a good summary news article, read this if you haven't already. I love positive, free PR for my downtown. haha
10 December 2010
09 December 2010
This is a fantastic quick spiel about how to handle the issue of parking in downtowns. I want to show this to all of the merchants and those concerned with parking in Downtown Springfield. Some key quotes:
"Just because the driver doesn't pay for parking, doesn't mean the cost isn't there."
"The cost for free parking in the United States is somewhere between what we pay for MediCare and Defense."Thanks to Brandon at Masters Planning for this gem!
07 December 2010
- Question & Answer with Peter Weingarten, studio director at Gensler design firm and former Treasurer of the US Green Building Council, about sustainable design in tall buildings and whether or not that is an oxymoron. Read part 1 and part 2.
- "It's time to update the definition of 'smart growth'"! Over at the Natural Resources Defense Council blog, the 10 principles of smart growth are outdated and need to be amended. I couldn't agree more! This is a great list of suggested additional foundation statements.
- Over at Embarq, there is some great collaboration happening about "Megacities on the Move: Scenarios for the Future of Sustainable Urban Mobility". Solutions to the future problems of our cities are being recommended and I especially like the four possible scenarios for the future of cities: Planned-opolis, Sprawl-ville, Renew-abad, and Communi-city. Found on TheCityFix.
- Also over at TheCityFix, the future of sustainable transit is to "integrate, integrate, integrate!"
- Theft and vandalizing is apparently not turning out to be a problem for American bike sharing programs! If this was various cities' only reason for holding back, then why aren't there more cities looking into the program? Stick a GPS on 'em!
- The streetcar is coming back to downtown Atlanta! Great news for the city, I just hope that it is more than a tourist attraction...
- AND, the best article yet was written up in Eugene's local paper this past Sunday about my project doing downtown revitalization and the Main Street program in Springfield. The local paper's website sucks so here is a nearby city's news site which actually has a picture, but left out some of the original content... I wasn't interviewed, but that's alright, I get it enough. We've been getting a ton of positive press lately. ha
05 December 2010
02 December 2010
However, over the past few weeks leading up to the midterm elections and the weeks since, there has been a sudden backlash against these high-speed rail projects as well as other public transit projects within cities. This anti-transit sentiment seems to be due solely to the fact that tax dollars are required to fund these projects.
Do these governors who actually want to give back federal dollars because they think this is a waste of taxpayer dollars really believe that things will just happen? Even with a market like this? Some solutions are to just not spend the money (even though thousands of jobs would be created...) or to put it toward something like highways. Really?