Urban Trends We Hope Die in 2013

JohnAKeith

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Atlantic Cities has a column today about trends we hope to see the last of in 2013 (and beyond).

Any that you would add? Any you disagree with?

Urban Trends We Hope Die in 2013
By Sara Johnson, The Atlantic Cities

Keeping track of emerging trends across the world's major cities is pretty much our job here at Atlantic Cities, but not every new idea or enthusiasm is worth repeating. Many, in fact, have already outlived their usefulness. Below, our collective plea to stop the (urbanism) madness and start getting real in 2013.

- Pedestrians fighting bikers. Bikers fighting drivers. Bus riders fighting train commuters.

- Moving away from hybrid cabs.

- Using public transportation to advance a hate-filled agenda.

- Building facilities for the Olympics that have no real use afterwards.

- Lax attitudes about subway "grinding."

- Downtown casinos.

- Focusing on fancy bike lanes.

- Yarn bombing.

- Selling naming rights to transit stations.

Pop-up (stores).
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Matthew

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How about "New Urbanism" that's neither new nor urban.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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"Greenspace." All forms of it designed to implicitly ignore or restrict public use or act as a "good fences make good neighbors" wedge in urban density for super-rich developers.
 

czsz

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Naming new streets "drive" or (in cities that are not French) "boulevard".

Any newly-developed blocks without at least 2-3 independent parcles (too much to hope for?)

Shaky project financing (recovery, where art thou?)
 

choo

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regulated parking minimums

(too much) community input
 

czsz

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They typically mean the loss of a future transit ROW.
 

BostonUrbEx

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They typically mean the loss of a future transit ROW.
Depends on the situation. A rail trail could have meant we'd have BLX to Lynn by now, but now there's an apartment complex partially blocking the ROW. The Northern Strand Trail also put a stop to some very serious encroachment on the part of residents and businesses in Malden. And there is a clause that the MBTA can seize back the ROW, or wait out the 99 year lease and repurpose it back at that time.
 

czsz

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True. But politically it's difficult to lay rail on top of or next to what's become a recreational trail filled with kids falling off their trikes onto neighboring embankments. "Think of the children!" etc.
 

F-Line to Dudley

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True. But politically it's difficult to lay rail on top of or next to what's become a recreational trail filled with kids falling off their trikes onto neighboring embankments. "Think of the children!" etc.
It's a NIMBY wedge issue, and Massachusetts has been much more permissive about it than other local states. Couple recent examples are the trail in Lawrence and Methuen where the rails got ripped out this fall, and a spur in Chicopee that served Westover AFB. The Methuen one passes through very uninviting and unsafe industrial decay, and the sidewalk access to reach the ROW in the first place is almost nonexistent. That one is not going to attract recreational users, and it's probably going to fill right back up with trash and discarded crackpipes. The one in Chicopee is a grade crossing gauntlet that slices MA 33 at an unsafe angle, and dead-ends in an industrial park at the AFB. Nobody's going to go over those deathtrap crossings. And in this case the nearby Pioneer Valley shortline wanted to reactivate it because it had interested customers in the industrial park, and the local yokels trailed it as a pre-emptive "Suck it, stupid trains!" move. They already regret it because the Vermonter project is going to bring a shitload more freight to the area, and Holyoke is trying (and probably will succeed) to vulture businesses away from Chicopee who want the access.

It's suburban warfare by boards of selectmen with too much time on their hands to grind pointlessly small-minded political axes. And unfortunately they're aided and abetted by vultures like Iron Horse Preservation, which swoop in with their scam sales pitch to haul away the scrap rail hardware in exchange for a "free" landscaped trail. They end up ripping the towns off by profiting off sky-high scrap prices for rail and ties, do a once-over on the ROW with a weedwacker and bulldozer, and leave a shit lumpy surface behind that immediately succumbs to washouts. Then the all-volunteer "Friends of the Trail" lobby that got them into the mess suddenly disappears and abdicates their responsibility to clean and maintain the trail, and the town gets all indignant and demands DCR spend real, scarce state parks budget to annex and maintain a trail it doesn't even want.

Another recent case is the trail in Danvers and Lynnfield. Which is one DCR actually does want to do up professionally someday, but doesn't have the money to do before 2020. The towns caught one sniff of the North Shore Transit Improvements study calling for Peabody commuter rail, got scared that their own citizens might start lusting after further extensions of that line, and brought in Iron Horse ASAP to tear up the rails. They got the predictably lumpy, washout-prone surface that's murder on a bicycle, and have been screaming at DCR to come do the full paved trail, like, yesterday. Using the shit surface as leverage for them to spend the millions they thought they'd be able to slow-fund. Dick move.

I guarantee if South Coast Rail gets mercifully punted out that Easton and Raynham are immediately going to throw their next temper tantrum on getting a trail on the Stoughton Branch as their wedge to keep commuter rail out of town. That's just about the last MBTA-owned unused ROW that they haven't farted away for a trail, and since they've been so permissive about that past precedent may bind their hands.



That shit has to stop. In CT all landbanked ROW's are under ironclad control of the state park system, and nobody from the outside gets a say in what to do. In NH, aside from a couple landscaped trails in populated areas (e.g. Salem-Manchester), abandoned ROW's are offered up in 'as-is' condition by the state liability-free as minimally maintained snowmobile and hiking trails...nobody from the outside gets to dictate usage unless they pony up bucks and sign a binding agreement to maintain (which they never do, because nobody in NH pays for anything). And about the most the state does with them is vegetation control. In ME they usually don't even take the rails out and allow snowmobiles in the winter, on-rail 'speeder' vehicles in the summer (which actually help control the vegetation in the track area and scrape rust off the rails to preserve their future use).


There are some good ones around. But they're all designed with clear purpose. The Minuteman, Somerville Community Trail, and to-be-completed Watertown Branch trail act as real-deal bipedal transit lines. The Bike to the Sea and Bedford/Yankee Doodle trail serve as valuable ROW preservation when abutters would otherwise encroach. The Bruce Freeman Trail is excellently landscaped, will get great utilization when it's complete from Framingham to downtown Lowell, and the East Coast Greenway outfit that funded it do a really pro job and have it flagged as a major leg of their national network. And there's some bona fide rail-with-trail options options out there, like on the Southern New England Trunkline trail that occupies the Franklin Line ROW out to Blackstone and CT, and trailing the active Milford Branch to connect the SNE Trunkline to the Upper Charles trail to Framingham and eventually the Freeman trail. But it's just like any other transit planning...you have to study it for the best use and not let mission creep and stupid political spats send it over the edge. If it's going to be a shitty trail--which many of those industrial backlot ROW's are--then it's better not to do anything than waste money just because a ROW exists. Massachusetts does not fucking understand this, and is getting eaten alive by it.
 

Ron Newman

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the Bike To The Sea organization has been pretty happy with Iron Horse Preservation's work on the Saugus branch right-of-way. Their trail wouldn't have been built otherwise. Malden is now considering a plan to pave their section.

I'd add Newburyport and Nashua River (Ayer to Nashua) to the list of good rail trails.

What are the plans for bringing the Bruce Freeman into downtown Lowell? Its current endpoint in the Cross Point Towers parking lot is really obscure and hard to find from the surrounding streets.
 

JonFrum

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Using public transportation to advance a hate-filled agenda.


I thought this referred to your own Matthew and his endless bile-spewing against automobiles. :rolleyes:
 

Shepard

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I'm going to put this article right into this thread. Knocking down perfectly good dense housing stock to advance "right-sizing" (an Orwelian term if ever there was!) is short-sighted on so many levels. This kind of density will not ever be rebuilt in our lifetimes. Why can't the root problem be addressed - the need to constrain growth at the periphery to return density to the core?

Blighted Cities Prefer Razing to Rebuilding
New York Times

BALTIMORE — Shivihah Smith’s East Baltimore neighborhood, where he lives with his mother and grandmother, is disappearing. The block one over is gone. A dozen rowhouses on an adjacent block were removed one afternoon last year. And on the corner a few weeks ago, a pair of houses that were damaged by fire collapsed. The city bulldozed those and two others, leaving scavengers to pick through the debris for bits of metal and copper wire.

“The city doesn’t want these old houses,” lamented Mr. Smith, 36.

For the Smiths, the bulldozing of city blocks is a source of anguish. But for Baltimore, as for a number of American cities in the Northeast and Midwest that have lost big chunks of their population, it is increasingly regarded as a path to salvation. Because despite the well-publicized embrace by young professionals of once-struggling city centers in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, for many cities urban planning has often become a form of creative destruction.

“It is not the house itself that has value, it is the land the house stands on,” said Sandra Pianalto, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “This led us to the counterintuitive concept that the best policy to stabilize neighborhoods may not always be rehabilitation. It may be demolition.”

Large-scale destruction is well known in Detroit, but it is also underway in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo and others at a total cost of more than $250 million. Officials are tearing down tens of thousands of vacant buildings, many habitable, as they seek to stimulate economic growth, reduce crime and blight, and increase environmental sustainability.

A recent Brookings Institution study found that from 2000 to 2010 the number of vacant housing units nationally had increased by 4.5 million, or 44 percent. And a report by the University of California, Berkeley, determined that over the past 15 years, 130 cities, most with relatively small populations, have dissolved themselves, more than half the total ever recorded in the United States.

The continuing struggles of former manufacturing centers have fundamentally altered urban planning, traditionally a discipline based on growth and expansion.

Today, it is also about disinvestment patterns to help determine which depopulated neighborhoods are worth saving; what blocks should be torn down and rebuilt; and based on economic activity, transportation options, infrastructure and population density, where people might best be relocated. Some even focus on returning abandoned urban areas into forests and meadows.

“It’s like a whole new field,” said Margaret Dewar, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, who helped plan for a land bank in Detroit to oversee that city’s vacant properties.

In all, more than half of the nation’s 20 largest cities in 1950 have lost at least one-third of their populations. And since 2000, a number of cities, including Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Buffalo, have lost around 10 percent; Cleveland has lost more than 17 percent; and more than 25 percent of residents have left Detroit, whose bankruptcy declaration this summer has heightened anxiety in other postindustrial cities.

The result of this shrinkage, also called “ungrowth” and “right sizing,” has been compressed tax bases, increased crime and unemployment, tight municipal budgets and abandoned neighborhoods. The question is what to do with the urban ghost towns unlikely to be repopulated because of continued suburbanization and deindustrialization.

“In the past, cities would look at buildings individually, determine there was a problem, tear them down and then quickly find another use for the land,” said Justin B. Hollander, an urban planning professor at Tufts University. “Now they’re looking at the whole DNA of the city and saying, ‘There are just too many structures for the population we have.' ”

Cleveland, whose population has shrunk by about 80,000 during the past decade to 395,000, has spent $50 million over the past six years to raze houses, which cost $10,000 each to destroy, compared with $27,000 annually to maintain.

Some neighborhoods have lost two-thirds of their residents since 2000. There are so many vacant lots that the city, now home to more than 200 community gardens and farms, zones for urban farms and allows people to keep pigs, sheep and goats in residential areas. A vineyard has popped up as well.

Two miles northwest of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which has at least 6,000 vacant buildings, is an uninhabited deciduous forest where a sprawling 74-acre housing development once stood before the city demolished it because so few people lived there.

Philadelphia, which has 40,000 vacant lots, has promoted the benefits of lower-density living by allowing people in largely vacant neighborhoods to spread out to the lot next door — where a neighbor’s home once was. The city has been studying a plan to sell $500 leases to urban farmers. One such farm, Greensgrow, which was built on a former Superfund site, sold $1 million in produce in 2012.

Baltimore has begun to turn over vacant lots to groups of amateur farmers. Boone Street Farm, boxed in by abandoned rowhouses on an eighth of an acre, is completing its third season of growing tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes and other fruits and vegetables in the city’s Midway neighborhood. It sells produce to restaurants, has a table at a local farmers market and delivers $10 boxes of produce weekly to members of its community-supported agriculture program.

But even as they bulldoze thousands of vacant houses, Baltimore and other shrinking cities have continued to seek new people.

“I’m trying to grow the city, not get smaller,” said Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore’s mayor, about the notion that the city could be fine with between 500,000 and 600,000 people. “I’m not the first to say that a city that’s not growing is dying.”

Baltimore lost nearly 110,000 jobs from 1990 to 2010, about 23 percent, and has seen its population drop from 950,000 in 1950 to 621,000 today. The city has 20,000 vacant buildings and lots, and more than one house in eight is vacant.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake wants to attract 10,000 families to the city within a decade and has reached out to immigrants, gays and lesbians (Maryland allows same-sex marriage), and Orthodox Jews who might want to buy newly refurbished three-story rowhouses that the city is selling for as little as $100,000.

At least one city that has taken a pioneering approach to confronting diminution has found that accepting shrinkage does not mean problems go away. Youngstown, Ohio, once a bustling steel city of 170,000 but now with only 66,000 people, has sought to head off collapse by tearing down thousands of vacant houses — 3,000 so far and 10 more each week.

But while the city had planned on a stable population of 80,000, more than 1,000 people move away every year, leaving behind 130 additional empty homes in addition to the city’s 22,000 vacant properties and structures. Four thousand of those homes are in dangerous condition, according to the city, but each demolition costs $9,000 and the city has yet to decide whether to close nearly abandoned neighborhoods to try to save money.

“It’s almost anti-American to say our city is shrinking,” said Heather McMahon, the executive director of the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative, a Youngstown community group.

“But if we’re going to survive as a city and not go bankrupt like Detroit,” she said, “we’re going to have to figure something out.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/us/blighted-cities-prefer-razing-to-rebuilding.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&hp&pagewanted=all
 

Matthew

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That's terrible. I was just in Baltimore this weekend actually. One thing that stands out to me is the proliferation of those rowhouses on nice small streets. It's very characteristic of the city. The ones that are fixed up are very nice, city appropriate housing stock. Baltimore should be embracing its heritage, not destroying it.
 

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