betacity


stockholm metro bathrooms
October 9, 2018, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Cities, Transit | Tags: , , , , , ,

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already-there travel
September 22, 2018, 2:37 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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In the pool at East 54th Street swimming laps, I used to make ratios of the total with each lap completed: four laps of eighty is five percent, eight laps ten percent and so on. I had a feeling of lethargy and dread at the lower percentages and a sort of sustained thrill by the time I hit the eighties and nineties. Eventually I realized that throughout my swim, by concentrating on the end goal I was pretty consistently anxious.

So, I made a conscious effort to concentrate on the number itself instead of it’s relationship to my end goal of eighty laps. The anxiety subsided considerably.

The Buddhists say focus on the air flowing in and out of your nose and you will be withdrawn from the anxiousness of your day and into the calm of meditation.

It’s the same with a trip. Are you seduced by your new car – it’s sexy interior, the purr of the engine – and then quickly let down when you realize you’re still on your dull daily commute? Or maybe you concentrate on your final goal and are frustrated with all the little things you have to do on the way: the tickets, waiting, lines, smelly armpits, delays, breakdowns, etc.

Maybe adjust your thinking as the Buddhists suggest to see what elemental and interesting things are happening near you and in real time. Watch the world in its tragic beauty unfold in front of you, breathe in, breathe out, live.

Not the usual starting point for transportation planners. In planning circles, some officials talk about more transit or smarter highways or bigger airports; everybody talks about shorter commutes. Yet wherever they fall on what we now call the “sustainability” continuum, most planners, as Hiss underscores, hold on to the highly instrumentalist, technocratic thinking that prioritizes the getting-from-here-to-there, with little regard for the experiencing-on-the-way. Car manufacturers, of course, want us to fetishize the vehicle, promoting fantasies of power, agility and status: with the right car or truck or car-truck combo, you won’t be a commuter — you’ll be a savvy, sexy thrill-seeker. Hiss is keenly aware that the fantasy rarely feels true; most of the time you really are just a commuter, and if you’re unlucky, you’ll be on a roadway both stressful and dull, where it’s the distractions, from relatively benign radio to dangerous texting, that make it bearable. This is, in Hiss’s description, “already-there travel,” an inconvenient intermission from “real” life. Travel that is unvalued; hence his exploration of how we might make this experience more.

Ray Gastil, In Motion: The Experience of Travel



one big city
September 22, 2018, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Cities, economy | Tags: , , ,

Slums are a big problem – too many people live in them; they are hard to change, they are arguably awful places to live.

Our response is analysis and debate.

These two realities lead to a sort of intractability and stasis.

The author below says rather than treating the slum as a special case – the awkward stepchild – why not design for the slum the same way we design for the rest of the city?

It seems very accurate to see the rapidly expanding rich and middle class megacity as being completely connected to the slum – its forms, ambitions etc. The solutions for one are going to be closely linked to solutions for the other.

It seems to me that people who live in slums, at one point or other, found the formality of the regular city intractable and the informality of the slum more accommodating, whether by necessity or choice. There is a passage in Maximum City in which Mehta describes having a flat in a tower and a place in the slum and liking the slum better for its ease of access to basic comforts like food and sex. In a way, in its informality and organicism, the slum may be a better environment in significant ways; and rather than one seen as the superior of the other, the formal city may take clues from the slum, as the slum takes clues from the formal city.

Slums are a prevailing reality dominating the conscience of cities and city makers across the globe − a human disaster at an unprecedented scale. Perhaps what is needed is a conceptual re-thinking of the situation to accompany the statistical analysis and high-level strategic debate. Rather than treating formal and informal cities as separate and parallel entities, seeing slums as an unhappy by-product of the Modern City and a problem to be solved, perhaps we need to address the interconnections between the two systems, treating them as inextricable parts of the same urban whole. Forgive me if this comes across as a conceptual digression, but this was the conversation I felt many people at the conference needed to have. Adding this kind of thinking may have benefited the discussions by bringing a projective dimension to them, critically analysing the accepted norms of city-making and searching for new tools of urbanism and spatial strategy appropriate to move the city on.

Cities for Life: World Urban Forum 2014, 18 April 2014 | By Alex Warnock-Smith

 



I’m not subsidized!
September 21, 2018, 5:12 pm
Filed under: economy, Suburbs | Tags: , , , , ,

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Huh, our government subsidizes the suburb. Suburban mortgages, oil, highways and runways (instead of trains and mass transit), urban development, fuel prices: all items manipulated and subsidized by our governments to incentivize suburban living.

The obstacles are huge: the contented middleclass who like their creature comforts and basically just deny they are subsidized at all.

The object of change is even bigger: improved economy and environment which are both in crisis phases.

While the ‘inversion’ is irrefutable and, some would argue, welcome, few examine the potential long-term benefits of this trend – particularly if government rather than promoting suburbanization instead encouraged urbanism, or at least gave an even chance. The necessary changes would include modifying or curtailing the vast array of federal policies that currently subsidize suburban America, including: phasing out the federal home mortgage interest deduction (MID); ceasing the backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac of large mortgages that otherwise would not be underwritten by the private market; removing subsidies for the oil industry; reclassifying SUVs and minivans as light trucks; allocating federal transportation dollars by population, and distributing those dollars fairly across all modes of transportation, including rail and mass transit, instead of disproportionately funding highways and runways; streamlining the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) to drastically reduce the red tape associated with urban development and building large-scale infrastructure; and, finally, pricing fuel to reflect what economists call the ‘negative externalities,’ or the actual price of gas if the societal costs of pollution and congestion were included (many economists put this price at $10 or more per gallon).

As we will see in the pages that follow, such policy reforms would dramatically improve our economy, our environment, and our chances for equal opportunity. Achieving consensus for these changes, however, would be a tremendous challenge, and would require a recasting of the political spectrum as we know it. People are accustomed to their subsidies, particularly those in the middle class, who tend to believe they are not subsidized at all.

Vishaan Chakrabarti, A Country of Cities



10 billion trips
September 21, 2018, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Transit | Tags:

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There are 319 million people in the US. If you divide the 10.8 billion trips taken on public transportation by the 319 million people that live in the country, you get 34 rides per person over the course of a year – which is 52 weeks or 365 days. That’s less than a ride a week for each American. Not enough if you care about the deficit, and climate change.

We spend massive amounts of public dollars on cars and the very expensive and very inefficient infrastructural systems that support them. These systems are a major contributor to public debt and to an increase in carbon in the atmosphere and climate change.

If you doubled the 10.8 billion trips to 21.6 billion trips everyone would still take only just over a trip a week. That’s still not enough. If you quadrupled the rides to 43.2 billion trips, each citizen would take 135 trips a year, and significantly reduce single occupancy vehicle use and per capita carbon emissions.



beer maps
September 21, 2018, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Cities, food | Tags: , ,

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half mile maps
June 11, 2018, 1:18 pm
Filed under: Cities, Transit | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Here are some maps of cities with blue half mile circles drawn around each subway station. If you live in a blue dot, you are within a quarter mile of an affordable, low energy means of getting to your grocery store, work place, friend’s house, bank, park and gym. If you live outside of the dots, you must rely on a bus or car which makes your life more difficult and costs the municipality much much more money to support in complex subsidy schemes.

The idea is that you are well served – and you tax money well spent – if you are within walking distance of a subway train, and not well served, in terms of access and public expenditures, if you have to get into your car and drive for errands, work etc. within your city. If you live in one of the blue dots, you’re well served, if not you should stop paying your taxes because, your municipality is throwing away money by subsidizing cars which cost exponentially more per capita.

Taipei quarter mile cropped.png

Taipei: the downtown is comprehensive, with dense strings going out into the suburbs.

S Diego quarter mile cropped.png

San Diego: downtown is poorly covered, a big loop and a string going down to the Mexican border. A loop inside the loop would connect a lot of people and encourage downtown development.

Rome quarter mile cropped.png

Rome: lots of gaps to fill in, no doubt because it’s difficult to tunnel under the world’s richest archeological site.

Paris quarter mile cropped.png

Paris: comprehensive in all arrondissements and connected to regional rail to bring in the suburban folk. You can’t get better than this.

miami quarter mile cropped.png

Miami: two lines and a toy train loop in downtown. Sad for the hub of a region that has eight million inhabitants. A proper subway would solve Miami’s horrible traffic problems inexpensively, but the resistance and misinformation surrounding transit is a massive barrier to change. Lots of underused existing rail already in place which could be incorporated into a more comprehensive system.

LA quarter mile cropped.png

Los Angeles: they’ve built dozens of stations in the past 20 years, but they’re far flung, like the original town. Most places have two systems: regional and metro. LA is all regional. Four or five more lines to fill in the gaps would make it easier to get around the city and save the municipality a large fortune in subsidies for other wasteful transportation infrastructure.

berlin quarter mile cropped.png

Berlin: well served downtown with dense spokes radiating into the suburbs – a good system.

Bangalore quarter mile cropped.png

Bangalore: two dense lines that radiate into the neighborhoods. If filled in with three or four more lines, the system could have better coverage and radically reduce the traffic gridlock and air quality in the rapidly growing city.