January 16, 2012

West End 1959
Boston's West End during demolition in 1959
(Photo courtesy Boston Globe)


  • The Tricky Second Wave of Urban Highway Removals (Atlantic Cities)
    By Anthony Flint -- Dismantling urban freeways—replacing elevated viaducts of steel and concrete with parks and boulevards—is happening in so many places, it’s like an unspoken national urban policy. We've reached a unique point in city-building when the destruction of a public works project has all the glamour and buzz of breaking ground on a new one. [...] The three post-Big Dig interventions are surely less well-known around the country, but passions about them are running just as high: the McGrath/O'Brien Highway in Somerville and the Rutherford Avenue connector through Charlestown, both north of the city, and the Casey Overpass in Jamaica Plain, well south of downtown.
  • MBTA: Fare and Service Proposals, Public Outreach (MassDOT Blog, Boston Globe, Bloomberg)
    MassDOT today [Jan 3] released proposed fare increase and service reduction plans for the MBTA aimed at closing a projected $161 million budget gap for fiscal year 2013. Earlier estimates projected the gap would total approximately $185 million for FY13.  The MBTA has taken aggressive steps to reduce that deficit: reducing energy purchase costs, planned introduction of single person train operation on the Red Line, encouraging MBTA employees to enroll in more affordable health insurance plans and other operating and administrative efficiencies.  However, growing debt service costs associated with capital projects, significant increases in maintenance costs for an aging fleet and higher costs for the RIDE mean additional solutions are necessary.
  • The case for the $6 parking meter (Boston Globe)
    By Leon Neyfakh -- The search for a parking space on the streets of downtown Boston can warp a person’s world. Fire hydrants become symbols of thwarted hope. Other drivers become bitter enemies. Signs assume the properties of Talmudic texts, calling out for interpretation and bedeviling us with their complexity. As we drive in circles, sweating and honking hopelessly, our eyes dart around and the clock ticks. Happiness is the sight of red taillights coming on as someone prepares to leave; temptation is a taunting yellow placard offering garage space for $15 an hour. In dense, urban areas like Boston, as many as 30 percent of cars on the street are cruising for parking at any given time.
  • The cost of auto orientation (Strong Towns)
    By Charles Marohn -- In the United States we've proceeded for sixty years with reconfiguring our public spaces to accommodate the automobile. The built in assumption of this approach, especially when it comes to commercial property, is that the more cars driving by the better. What we've overlooked in our haste to "modernize" is the lower return on investment we get from this approach, even under ideal conditions. Today we need the humility to acknowledge that our ancestors -- who built in the traditional style -- may have known what they were doing after all.
  • Paved, but Still Alive (New York Times)
    By Michael Kimmelman -- THERE are said to be at least 105 million and maybe as many as 2 billion parking spaces in the United States. A third of them are in parking lots, those asphalt deserts that we claim to hate but that proliferate for our convenience. One study says we’ve built eight parking spots for every car in the country. Houston is said to have 30 of them per resident. In “Rethinking a Lot,” a new study of parking, due out in March, Eran Ben-Joseph, a professor of urban planning at M.I.T., points out that “in some U.S. cities, parking lots cover more than a third of the land area, becoming the single most salient landscape feature of our built environment.”
  • Guide to Street Design in Urban India (Planetizen)
    By Todd Litman -- A new guidebook illustrates ways to create safer streets and more livable public spaces. This detailed and illustrated manual, produced by the Institute for Transport and Development Policy and the Ahmedabad-based Environmental Planning Collaborative, provides guidance on how to apply good design to create attractive, safe multi-modal streets and more livable public spaces.






Transportation financing/Government

Development projects

Land Use/Planning

  • BRA board unanimously approves proposed Hyde Park re-zoning (Boston Globe)


National trends

  • High Speed Rail --
    • For High-Speed Rail, Support in the Past From G.O.P. Presidential Hopefuls (New York Times)
  • 2012 Presidential Election --
    • Romney As Executive: Big Dig Crisis Management (WBUR)
    • Iowa-centric candidates ignore the urban crisis (Salon)
  • How to Pay for America's Infrastructure (Atlantic Cities)
  • Opening and Construction Starts Planned for 2012 (Transport Politic)
  • Many Urban Cities Now Welcome Walmart (Planetizen)
  • A Proposal To End The Highway Trust Fund (Planetizen)
  • Playing Tea Party: Planning and Agenda 21 (Better Cities)
  • Paved, but Still Alive (New York Times)
  • What Citizens Add to Planning (Atlantic Cities)
  • The versatility of passenger train investment (NARP)
  • Subway Blues: Car Commuters Are Getting Bigger Tax Breaks Than Transit Riders (GOOD)
  • Improving Towns One Walk at a Time (AARP)
  • After Demolishing a Highway, How Should a City Rebuild? (Atlantic Cities)
  • Retrofitting the Suburbs to Increase Walking (UCTC)

International news

  • VIDEO: Master Planner - Jan Gehl (Monocle)
  • Cycling fines to increase dramatically in 2012 (Copenhagen Post)
  • Looking to the skies for answers: a second look at gondola transit (Toronto Star)
  • Polar challenge: How do you cycle to the South Pole? (BBC)
  • Dublin city centre plan will see cars give way to pedestrians (Irish Times)
  • Seville goes green (BBC)
  • More rental bikes, subway lines to ease Beijing traffic congestion (English.news.cn)
  • VIDEO: Copenhagen Cargo Bike Culture (Copenhagenize.com)
  • Guide to Street Design in Urban India (Planetizen)