Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

World Carfree Day: Saturday September 22nd

The Guardian calls our attention to how more car free communities would improve air quality and reduce deaths and illnesses related to air pollution.

Car Free Day is a way to bring attention to this fact ("We can cut air pollution drastically right now. Here’s how").

The DC area has a "Car Free Metro DC" initiative but it isn't particularly visible.

-- World Carfree Network

H Street Festival crowd shot, September 20th, 2014
H Street Festival crowd shot, September 20th, 2014

I'm thinking just as various neighborhoods and cities have festivals from Adams-Morgan Day to the H Street Festival in DC, and how I keep advocating for Bike Expos and such on the part of transportation departments and college campuses, besides "back to school" events and such, Walk to School Day in October, Bike Month and Bike to Work Day in May, etc., that sustainable mobility agencies and programs should organize an annual transportation festival in association with Car Free Day.

Think of it as "not the auto show."

Toyota exhibit at the Cleveland Auto Show
Toyota exhibit at the Cleveland Auto Show

Although I'd call it "car light" and allow car sharing vendors to participate.

Model it after Ciclovia/CicLAvia--Los Angeles County tends to get between 100,000 and 250,000 participants in their "Open Streets" events, which they move around to different locations throughout the county.

CicLAvia, San Fernando Valley, March 22, 2015
Cyclists and rollerbladers enjoy the streets during a CicLAvia event in the San Fernando Valley. Photo: Rob Rovira, March 22, 2015.

But also in a very purposeful way, include focused exhibits on various elements of sustainable mobility--various transit modes, biking, walking, school and campus-focused programs, delivery programs, car sharing, bike sharing, scooter sharing, transportation demand management, trails and friends groups, etc. E-vehicles I'm not sure.  It still promotes automobility.  OTOH, you can get money from producers for sponsorships (same with car sharing).

Arlington County, Virginia has done the expo part, with the Arlington Car-Free Diet program but not linked with "a festival."  And social media campaigning.

The two elements need to be combined into one.

In DC, I've argued that Massachusetts Avenue, at the least from 9th St. to Dupont Circle would be a great place to do this as it would not impinge on any regular bus routes, is centrally located, is close to transit stations, and is highly visible.

Aerial_view_of_downtown_Washington,_D.C., Massachusetts Avenue is in the center right
Aerial view of Downtown Washington,D.C., Massachusetts Avenue is in the center right of the photograph.

Before the Metrorail system opened in DC, there was a "festival" on the National Mall, introducing Metrorail cars to the public. DC did this with the Streetcar c. 2007-2008.

Poster highlighting the creation of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and celebratory events on the National Mall, 4/1/1967
Poster highlighting the creation of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and celebratory events on the National Mall, 4/1/1967.

There was a festival on the National Mall when the US Department of Transportation was created.

But I think from the standpoint of "what have you done for me lately" ("A consultant told Metro what many riders already know: It's the service," Washington Post), sustainable mobility programs and agencies need to be more outwardly focused and marketing "all the time."

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Dockless Bikes/Why We Can't Have Nice Things/Ignoring Past Experience

Dockless bicycle share bicycles (LimeBike) left on the Sligo Creek Trail, Montgomery County, MarylandI know I am beating a dead horse here, as it appears that most of the traditional (non-electric powered) dockless systems that were deployed in the US over the last year seem to be disappearing ("Theft and destruction of dockless bikes a growing problem," Washington Post).

-- "Bike sharing data from Seattle," June
-- "Maybe New York City just needs to invest in public secure bike parking (re: dockless bike sharing)," April
-- "I finally figured out why mobility services are buying other mobility services: they're acquiring customers already familiar with smart mobility," July

Over the weekend, my brother who lives in South Florida sent me this article, "The bike in the middle of Biscayne Bay: Why we can't have nice things in Miami," from the Miami Herald). It laments that vandalism etc. makes it impossible for dockless bike share to succeed there.

Yes, it does.  And everywhere.  Even with the very first attempt at bike share in the late 1960s in Amsterdam.  After a few weeks, the bikes were all gone, either stolen or wrecked ("How this Amsterdam inventor gave bike-sharing to the world," Guardian).

That's why the response in later iterations was both sound locking systems (second generation, Deutsche Bahn's Call-A-Bike) and later third generation systems with relatively impregnable dock-based systems in Europe with particularly hardy bikes.  (I say the "fourth generation" is dock-based systems that are solar powered.)

The dockless systems unleashed over the last year, but previously in China and elsewhere, ignored those lessons.  Cheap bikes.  Cheap locks pretty much (not for the Jump e-bikes).  No docks.  In a place like Singapore where crime is taken very seriously, people won't vandalize bikes.  That's not the case in major cities in the US or the UK ("Mobike no more: dockless bikes could soon be gone from UK streets," Guardian), or elsewhere.

I am reminded once again of a story told by Olmsted when he was creating Central Park.  He was at the garden party of a grandee, who complained to him that the landscaping and accountrements Olmsted was installing in Central Park was nicer than his own garden.  Olmsted replied that far more people would be using Central Park and it had to be built hardier in order to withstand all the use it was going to get.

Even systems with higher order checks on use, like Airbnb have had problems with vandalism by "guests" ("$5.3 million home in San Francisco wrecked after Airbnb rental," KGO-TV)  to the point where stays now come with $1 million of protection for the property owner (What is the Airbnb Host Guarantee? | Airbnb Help Center).

And it's not like car sharing systems leave the cars unlocked.  You go through a driver's license check first, each use must be authorized by the credit card before you have access to the car, there is a hardcore unlocking procedure.

I have zero "sympathy" for the failed dockless bike schemes, because they ignored past experience with "free range" bike sharing.  In places where people can vandalize, that small percentage of the population that has that propensity to violence will act it out, wrecking the system for others.

Broken seat, LimeBike dockless bicycle shareAlthough, not all of the problems with the bikes are due to vandalism.  The bikes are cheap and break easily, even when not being pushed to the edge.

Separately, I've come to believe, at least in the US, that the issue about people not biking for transportation isn't access to bikes.  If access had been the issue, then you'd have seen lots of people using the dockless bikes for non-recreational purposes.  That wasn't the case.

Capital Bikeshare dock station in Takoma Junction, Takoma Park, MarylandInterestingly too, the visibility of the dock stations for bike share might aid as a marketing device, but also as a branding and community building element--potentially, if that aspect is developed by the system.

I'd figure out a way to encourage "super users" to become brand ambassadors, volunteer trail ranger programs, to expand the user base.  In the case of DC, the system grows in membership from year to year but not hugely.  Other systems, like Divvy in Chicago, do a lot more marketing and community building.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Department of Duh: Apartments not always successful next to transit stations

Bisnow, a real estate information company, ran a conference on Prince George's County and in their write up of the event, "Why Building Apartments Next To Suburban D.C. Metro Stations Doesn't Always Work," they make the point that you can't just construct a building anywhere. From the article:
Developers see suburban Metro stations as some of the most prime opportunities in the D.C. region, and Prince George's County in particular has several undeveloped transit stops that appear to make it poised for growth. But some developers who have done transit-oriented projects in the county say it is not as simple as just building apartments on top of a Metro stop.

The Metro-centric developments that have had the most success have included a host of retail and restaurant offerings, neighborhood services and employment opportunities, Transwestern Mid-Atlantic Multifamily Group co-director Robin Williams said. "A handful of others have had residential but not accessibility to employment and/or walkable lifestyle amenities," said Williams, speaking Thursday at Bisnow's Prince George's County State of the Market, held at The Hotel at UMD. "And we've seen some real struggles there."
Duh.  I've been making that point for years and years, even before I got "schooled" on this while analyzing various MARC train stations in Baltimore County when I worked there.

-- "Tips for urban revitalization, including transit," 2009
-- "What matters isn't "transit oriented development": what really matters is compact development and integrating transportation and land use," 2011
-- "What the State of Maryland still doesn't get about smart growth," 2011
-- "Bad Montgomery County policy/law initiative #1: removing density bonuses for building around MARC train stations," 2012
-- "
Prince George's County still doesn't get "transit oriented development" and walkable communities: Greenbelt edition," 2012

It's about both transit access and place and urban design characteristics simultaneously. I wrote this in the 2009 piece:
So a couple lessons are: (1) put the stations in places with the right morphology. This includes a focus on active streets and streetscape. (2) have a station area plan, especially if the spatial patterns need to be changed. (3) have an economic development plan focused on sparking new development where appropriate, and improvement of existing buildings and businesses.
Note that Metrorail, a hybrid commuter railroad and heavy rail subway system, has the same issue.  Distant stations, especially endpoints, without place characteristics, haven't been particularly successful as development nodes.

And it's an illustration of the problem of the failure to codify the lessons from Metrorail and transit oriented development in the DC area.

Basically it's worked really well where there are existing centers and nodes, even if the process takes decades.

 It hasn't worked so well where the station connections are distant from centers and nodes, even if they are somewhat proximate (Alexandria is something of an exception, but they'd do way better if there was a more central connection within the core). It hasn't worked so well in sparking improvement in areas that are disconnected from centers and nodes (e.g. West Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Vienna).  And it could work a lot better if there was a strong focus on urban design and connection (Prince Georges Plaza, Fort Totten).

And this is pretty much the case across the board. I know it's true in Greater Baltimore, although there it's abetted by the failure to have a transit network rather than two truncated lines.

 That's the case in Miami, where many of the stations were located in places "that needed development," not in locations that were already successful and destinations.  It's true with the BART system, even stations touted for what became unsuccessful TOD projects like at Fruitvale in Oakland ("Bitter fruit in Fruitvale," 2006).

You need station area plans and a means to effectuate them.  More recently, I've argued that station areas need to have "public improvement districts" created even before they open.

-- "(In many places) Public improvement districts ought to be created as part of transit station development process: the east side of NoMA station as an example," 2016

(I am about to write a piece about this and the Purple Line, using Takoma Crossroads/Langley Park as an example.)

And similarly, we need to create TMDs as a matter of course for station catchment areas.

-- "Creating transportation management districts (sustainable mobility districts) as an organizing framework," 2017

If we did this, there would be much faster improvement and a greater take up of sustainable modes than through the trickle down processes that occur as part of the "market."

Building it is key.  But they have to be given a good reason "to come" if they are comfortable with existing transportation and land use processes.

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Lehman Brothers and the Great Financial Crisis: Ten Years Later

I still don't understand fully "high finance," and so I am not sure about "credit swaps," interest rate swaps, etc., and how they influenced the Real Estate and Finance driven "recession" in the US and Europe.

The New York Times has a very detailed special section, "Crisis and Consequences," and after reading it which I haven't done yet, maybe I'll understand high finance a bit better.

Back in 2008, not unlike John Gapper of the Financial Times ("My naive part in Lehman's downfall"), I too thought it was the right response for the US Government to not bail out Lehman Brothers as it went into bankruptcy. Government officials were hesitant because of all the criticism of their bailout of Bear Stearns a few months before. From the article:
A few hours before Mr Paulson spoke, the Financial Times published a rather jaunty column by me, advising the Treasury secretary to take the weekend off to pursue his hobby of birdwatching. The government should resist the pressure to save Lehman Brothers, as it had Bear Stearns and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage institutions, I wrote. It had “talked tough about moral hazard . . . but been a soft touch.”

Within days, Mr Paulson took my advice (and that of others) and allowed Lehman to collapse, triggering the worst postwar financial crisis and unleashing economic and social damage that still endures. It is rarely that an article backfires so rapidly and spectacularly, and I have had a decade to reflect on my part in Lehman’s downfall.
Yes, it sucks that excepting a few companies, leaders, and stockholders there wasn't much consequence for the "moral hazards" that financialization of so much of the economy got us into.

A protester in Chicago.  Photo: Keystone.

But I failed to consider  the ramifications of letting such a big actor fail and the mulit-year e negative impact this would have on real estate development -- both office and multifamily residential -- in urban cores.

The market was devastated and took years to recover, although some cities like Washington, Seattle, San Francisco, and "West Los Angeles" managed to recover sooner, although certain types of construction like condominiums, took much longer to recover.

But as we all know, the consequences of the GFC are far greater than the construction meltdown in US cities.

The government response, focused on maintaining financial institutions but not in helping the people, mortgages, and businesses that were "collateral damage," led in the US the rise of the "Tea Party" and rightward "populism" in Europe, including the Brexit vote in the UK.

In the US, the Tea Party furthered the anti-government strains within the Republican Party.  Whereas the Occupy Wall Street movement likely has had some impact on the current move for a more progressive Democratic Party.

I say I am not that good at economics (I do understand microeconomics pretty well in practice), in particular macroeconomics, but I definitely understand the concept of Keynesian economics, and why governments are supposed to be "countercyclical" in fiscal responses to crisis.

To stoke demand in times of recession, they should spend.

Note that what happened in 2008 is also a classic example of what Marxists call a "capitalist crisis," and it was a joke that Tea Partiers complained that the government was taking over the economy, that President Obama was a socialist, etc., as this was a classic example of the government stepping in to bail out capitalism."

-- "The Global Crises of Capitalism: Whose Crises, Who Profits?," Global Research

Also a good example of "neoliberal overreach."

-- "Neoliberalism: The Idea that Changed the World," Guardian

Unfortunately, in Europe definitely and in the US somewhat -- although there was a fiscal response in terms of the ARRA, the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act -- it wasn't enough because of Republican opposition, the response was government fiscal austerity, which New York Times columnist economist Paul Krugman has written about ad nauseam ("A General Theory Of Austerity?"), which extended the recession by many years.

Sadly, that was the time to build big infrastructure projects, when money was cheap and demand was low keeping prices down, but as the Republican response against "high speed rail" showed, the bias against government involvement and investment of almost any kind meant we failed to do any of that.

That's another economic lesson I learned, because I was aware, growing up in Michigan, how much of the state's infrastructure, be it dormitories at colleges or sidewalks, was constructed as part of New Deal projects, and this investment had great impact in later years and continues to do so.

Of course, in the US we've learned that Republican opposition to fiscal spending because of a concern about debt is total b.s. given what's happened to the US government budget after a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy ("Republican tax cuts to fuel historic U.S. deficits: CBO," Reuters).

Republicans are fine with debt if it funds tax cuts but otherwise they don't want to support government spending for much other than the military. And even though they produced the "debt crisis" by cutting taxes, they become a-historical and use the debt as the reason for further cuts to social spending.

In the UK, austerity led to the Brexit vote. The Conservative Party shifted "responsibility" for their recession from their choices on austerity, blaming the EU.

In Europe, austerity drives much of the hard right response in many countries, although this is abetted by immigration from Africa, which has been abetted both by the consequences since the US-initiated war in Iraq which destabilized the Mideast as well as drought further south.

While yes, it's true that for the most part, no one went to jail and that's probably not good there are a bunch of lessons.

The big problem is that the government response was focused on institutions, not people ruined by the failure of institutions.

The second was the failure to apply Keynesian approaches for substantive fiscal stimulus.

The third is the failure in the adoption of neoliberal approaches to government -- government always bad, market always good, globalization of the economy -- was the failure to build a substantive safety net for people buffeted by the changes, from robust health care access to housing assistance. 

Although this problem has existed since the time of the Reagan Administration.  But as economic shocks become more severe, the need for and the consequences of not having such a safety net become more pronounced.

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

North Carolina Main Street presentations

I was at a farmers market today, talking to some people working on Main Street programs in DC, and I wasn't particularly cheerful.

I have learned so much about how commercial district revitalization works and it amazes me that DC, despite having a Main Street program for 16 years, and many programs across the city, hasn't really codified the learning that has occurred across programs both in terms of success and failure, doesn't leverage the value of commercial district revitalization programs as a network, doesn't have the same commitment to technical training that it did at the outset, and has a two sizes (Business Improvement Districts for bigger places and Main Street for smaller places) fits all approach to commercial district improvement when a greater range of approaches and a more defined set of supports is needed.

Despite being down about this here, I happened to come across the North Carolina Main Street website and they are featuring their annual conference which was in March, and have almost all of the presentations up on the site.

The two plenary presentations were by Ben Muldrow, of Arnett Muldrow, a planning consulting firm that uses design and branding methods in their approach to commercial district revitalization planning and Ed McMahon, now a fellow at the Urban Land Institute, who is a national leader on the value of aesthetics and design in defining and maintaining community identity.

-- The Future of American Downtown – Ben Muldrow
-- 21st Century Economic Development – Ed McMahon

Both presentations are very good. ... I'm not sure I've heard Ben Muldrow speak. If not it was someone else from his firm at the 2005 National Main Street Conference in Baltimore, and it was mind blowing to see how they applied the design method and branding to "land use planning" and commercial district revitalization.

I've seen Ed McMahon speak a few times, and he is always good at rekindling the desire to keep at this work.

This is a slide from Ed's presentation, where he contrasts 20th and 21st century approaches to economic development. I particularly liked the line about "transaction vs. vision" in driving projects.
Slide on 20th vs. 21st century approaches to economic development, Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute
It's funny.  There's a slide in the McMahon presentation featuring a photo of the book, Cities: Back from the Edge by Roberta Gratz, and that was the one book I recommended to the woman I talked to at the booth. 

I always say if you only have time to read one book on commercial district revitalization, that's the one, because it's easier to grasp than Jane Jacobs as it is more of a set of vignettes or case studies of various improvement initiatives.

Both keynote presentations key on the value of place and distinctive communities as a way to attract and keep "capital."  I don't feel like elected officials and stakeholders really understand and believe that here in Washington.

I first wrote about this in 2005:

-- "Town-City Branding: We are all "destination managers" now"

The book I mentioned in that post, Tourism Development Handbook: A Practical Approach to Planning and Marketing by Kerry Godfrey and Jackie Clarke is for the most part, excellent, and I am surprised it is out-of-print.  It's applicable to commercial district revitalization as much as it is to tourism.

The point I made in the blog entry is that if we make places great for ourselves, often they'll be attractive to visitors as well, and the additional spending by the visitors will help support a broader range of retail and services.

The book I am trying to read in preparation for some posts in advance of World Tourism Day (September 27th), is The Competitive Destination: A Sustainable Tourism Perspective. It's even more of a primer than the other.

(Unlike states like North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, and others, DC doesn't have an annual Main Street training conference, although various organizations do various economic development presentations throughout the year.)

Secrets of Successful Communities, presentation slide, Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute
Secrets of Successful Communities, presentation slide, Ed McMahon, Urban Land Institute

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Great resource: Urban Wayfinding Planning and Implementation Manual

-- Urban Wayfinding Planning and Implementation Manual, published by the Sign Research Foundation which it turns out has a resource library with more than 4,600 items, and the International Signage Association

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Should small city economic development over minor league baseball and other sports be treated differently from big city cases?

Potomac Nationals move to Fredericksburg.  In the DC region, the Potomac Nationals minor league baseball team affiliated with the Washington Nationals will be moving from Prince William County to Fredericksburg, Virginia, because the team owner couldn't get a deal with the local government and the team had been served notice by its league that it had to develop a new stadium by a certain date ("Fredericksburg approves Potomac Nationals new stadium, Washington Business Journal").

Pawtucket Sox move to Worcester.  Separately, the Pawtucket Sox, affiliated with the Boston Red Sox, after many years of trying to develop a new stadium, in part with state subsidies and loan guarantees, decided to move to Worcester, Massachusetts, because of the inability to get a bill through the Rhode Island State Legislature.  (Technically a bill was passed, but with a provision that made the law a deal killer.)

The Diamond, Richmond.  Wikipedia photo.  Compared to Greensboro, the current stadium location is not in the core ofthe city but more on the outskirts.

Richmond's tried for years to build a new minor league baseball stadium.  Richmond, Virginia has been going back and forth for years about building a new minor league baseball stadium too   ("A new baseball stadium is striking out in Richmond," Washington Post; "Editorial: Can big, beautiful RVA arena lead to a new park for the Flying Squirrels?," Richmond times-Dispatch). Among other things, delays led to a loss of one team affiliated with the Atlanta Braves and a gap without a team, before landing a new one.

One of the problems is the complicated political structure in Virginia.  As a city, Richmond is disconnected from counties, and the Richmond Metropolitan Authority funds cross-jurisdictional infrastructure, but it's difficult to get the counties to agree to pay towards a facility wholly within Richmond.

Louisville.  Louisville has a minor league stadium on the waterfront, and it was a key element of the downtown revitalization program there ("Waking Up Louisville's Downtown," New York Times; "A closer look at the ACC baseball tournament – is it really a 'multimillion-dollar gift' to Louisville?," Louisville Courier-Journal).

Fluor Park at the West End, Greenville, SC.  Wikipedia photo.

Greenville, SC.  Greenville is a small city revitalization success story ("Liberty Bridge, Falls Park transformed downtown," Greenville News, "Opening the Gate to a Vibrant Main Street in Greenville, S.C.," New York Times).

It took a few planning iterations before elected officials and stakeholders accepted the idea put forth by planning consultants that instead of hiding a waterfall placed downtown, they should show it off, which they did by removing a road bridge that obscured it.

Once they did, in 2004, the downtown became a destination, and the city continues to build on and extend that success with other elements, including the West End Field minor league baseball park located downtown, which opened in 2006.

Note how the minor league baseball stadium in Greensboro is embedded in the center of the city. How cool is that?

Greensboro, NC.  What really got me to thinking about this was a few years ago, in an interview with an economic development official in Greensboro, NC (for pieces related to colleges as economic drivers, they do some amazing stuff in Greensboro), we argued for a moment about how his foundation provided $25 million towards a minor league stadium ("How other cities have funded baseball stadiums," Wilmington Star News; "Ballpark money from Bryan fund?," Greensboro - Triad Business Journal).

Are minor league stadium matters worthy of deeper academic study?  But since, I've wondered if I was too doctrinaire.  That perhaps community considerations need to be outlined and weighed differently than how I look at it for big cities (see my big city sports facility evaluative framework here).  Just as I argue for a more nuanced look at the issues for cities--all the while angling for the best deal for the community as opposed to the team owner--the same goes for small cities.

When so many smaller communities are "hollowing out," minor league baseball as well as college sports and other events can be important community anchors.  And I remember how a minor league stadium project in Memphis won an award from the Congress for New Urbanism back in 2002, partly because it anchored a new ballpark district, with additional mixed use development.

I think the issue of minor league stadiums in smaller cities is worthy of a separate vein of academic research, separate from that on the impact of professional sports teams in large metropolitan areas, which comprises a majority of the studies in the field.  Note that this is different from spring training sites too.  (In the DC area, there are also minor league teams in Bowie, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Waldorf, Maryland, as well as teams elsewhere in Virginia and Maryland.  The main minor league team for the Washington Nationals is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is within driving distance.)

Note that isn't just for baseball. Also for soccer ("Louisville City FC stadium isn't only Butchertown project," Louisville Courier-Journal"), and college facilities--Baylor's football stadium used local funds and maybe some of the money for the University of Washington football stadium in Seattle too.

And I also remember issues concerning minor league baseball in Brooklyn and Staten Island, where there are active teams in facilities partly funded by the city and state.  So it can be a bigger city issue also, but usually with special considerations.  Outside of NYC, I don't know of examples of minor league teams also located in the same city alongside major league teams.

Pawtucket.  The Providence Journal has been covering the Pawtucket stadium proposal for years, and in the face of the loss of the team, published an analysis, "How Rhode Island lost the PawSox."

It's a great, thorough piece and it discloses something that I didn't know, that because of problems with previous stadium proposals as well as the loss of millions of dollars of public money on former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's failed video game venture, Senator William Conley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, decided to hold hearings around the state, the lengthening the process, but to truly gauge citizen sentiment on whether or not to support public funding.

Such a hearing process is almost unprecedented and a real statement of leadership.

At the hearings, 70% were in favor, and in terms of online submitted comments, 60% were in favor.  Conley moved the project forward in the Senate, but key officials in the State House balked, and the project sputtered, leading the team to decamp.

Probably the hearings run by the Senate should have been held jointly with the State House, thereby developing consensus across the Legislature.

According to the article, while Senate participants in the process believed their concerns were addressed and the project had statewide support, House members did not, and because they hadn't run a thorough public process of their own, they believed that a majority of their constituents were opposed.

Interestingly, during the public process a number of interesting proposals were raised, and some were incorporated into the final legislation, such as:
... steering half the annual naming rights, $250,000, to Pawtucket to help keep up with the city’s share of bond payments. The bill also added an assessment on premium tickets for the same reason. And DiPalma liked the team’s added pledge to build 50,000 square feet of commercial development near the park.
Plus, the original deal negotiated by the Governor and the Mayor of Pawtucket got the team up to providing 54% of the cost of the stadium + any overruns, which according to Senator Conley, was significantly higher than was typical for other minor league stadium deals.

With the disagreements among elected officials and a reticence to advocate for it, especially when political opponents criticized support, the legislation wasn't moving in Rhode Island.

Not unlike how I argue that Bilbao was prepared and seized the opportunity, "pouncing" on the Guggenheim when the Austrian city that they approached first backed out ("Why can't the Bilbao Effect be reproduced?"), during the process Worcester approached the team's ownership with a proposal and relatively speaking, unanimous support. From the article:
When the Worcester City Council voted in December of 2016 for Ed Augustus to try to lure the PawSox, he was sure there was no chance.

But as city manager, he was Worcester’s CEO, and his “board” had just given him a mission.

So Augustus chatted about it with Joe Petty, the part-time mayor, and the two were soon wondering if it was worth the time. “Long shot” was an understatement.

“Well,” said the mayor, “give it your best.”
Postcard produced by the Worcester Canal District Association promoting support for moving the Pawtucket team to a new minor league stadium in Worcester.

Once Pawtucket's period of contract exclusivity ran out, Worcester moved forward.  As did many other communities.

But in Worcester, residents favored a stadium as a way to utilize 18 acres of land that was vacant and an eyesore and even developed a postcard campaign to communicate their support ("PawSox move to Worcester started with Gene Zabinski's postcard," Worcester Telegram).

And in the face of the death of the Rhode Island deal, Worcester eventually succeeded ("Worcester and PawSox sign letter of intent to build $90M stadium," Worcester Business Journal), in part because they started more than one year before all the other cities that contacted the team after it was clear that Rhode Island wouldn't provide bond loan guarantees.

One element of the proposed Pawtucket deal needs to be adopted by other communities, charging a higher tax on premium tickets, suites, etc.

Downtown Durham, NC before the addition of a minor league baseball stadium
Downtown Durham, NC before the addition of a minor league baseball stadium

Downtown Durham, NC after the addition of a minor league baseball stadium
Downtown Durham, NC after the addition of a minor league baseball stadium

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DO PEOPLE OBJECT TO DEVELOPMENT—OR MOSTLY DEVELOPERS MAKING MONEY? A UCLA study shows that a desire to punish developers drives anti-homebuilding attitudes.

Back decades ago when I was involved in business, I read the book How I Raised Myself From  Failure to Success In Selling by Frank Bettger.  (He sold insurance.)

He made the point that when people say "no" about buying, they have a "public" objection that sounds good, but a deeper objection that doesn't sound good that they don't want to state.  He always would say in response, "Yes, but what is the real reason you don't want to buy?" and that would usually lead into a deeper conversation.
“Regardless of whatever you’re selling, you must get to your prospect’s true objection.“ 
Sightline Institute calls our attention to this paper from researchers at UCLA, "Opposition to Development or Opposition to Developers? Survey Evidence from Los Angeles County on Attitudes towards New Housing."

It reminds me of the arguments made by Frank Bettger.

Granted, lots of new projects are poorly designed, don't fit in well with historic architecture, etc., but plenty of new projects are decent enough, providing new amenities that help to build stronger commercial districts and more interesting neighborhoods.

(The problems with many projects are really about failure of planning systems to provide better requirements and oversight to produce as a matter of routine better projects, instead of value engineered aesthetically-challenged projects.)

Excoriating developers is a form of misdirection and an attempt to hide self-interest.  I believe that people arguing against a project because greedy developers are the beneficiaries making profits, and benefit extra-normally is a form of mis-direction, of making palatable their opposition to projects, opposition that they would have anyway in all likelihood, even if the project was of high quality, even if it were constructed on a nonprofit basis.

I have to read the paper but I think that people seize on the “developers making money” trope merely as a way to criticize a project that they oppose generally, regardless of “developers making money.” This is capitalism after all.

1.  In LA, transit activists who say rail is for whites fought against Measure J calling it "corporate welfare” for the companies that design and build rail systems ("Foes of transit sales tax extension face uphill battle," Los Angeles Times; Bus Riders Union: Transit Justice, Not Corporate Welfare – No on Measure J," Streetsblog LA

Note the photo in this LA Times article, showing a “corporate welfare” check from LA MTA (Metro) to Parsons Brinckerhoff:
Protest against rail transit in Los Angeles
Lisa Korbatov, right, of Beverly Hills joins Rosa Miranda of the Bus Riders Union holding blank checks highlighting Measure J's corporate sponsors and beneficiaries during an October rally. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / March 31, 2013)

2.  In Suburban Maryland outside DC, saying that the light rail program exists merely so “developers can make money” has been mentioned by opponents in letters to the editor in the Washington Post and the now no longer published Gazette suburban newspapers.

3. In my own community, “developers making money” has been used to criticize proposals for a multiunit housing building on the Metrorail station property, etc.

I think in all of these cases, concerns raised about developers, construction companies, and engineering consulting groups like Parsons making money is misdirection.

They’re just seizing on that trope to provide what they think is an argument that doesn’t appear to be self-serving.

Years ago, Dan Malouff, an area resident, planner, and blogger made a good comment about opposition to conversion of no longer needed schools to housing or other worthy uses, when people would say no, they'd rather have a park--for example opposition to construction on a "park space" on Georgia Avenue ("DC residents: Plan to replace public housing will jeopardize popular popular," Washington Post), is ironic because the park replaced a demolished building and was specifically termed temporary.

He made the point that opponents to such adaptive reuse projects seize on a park use as the least worse alternative (not his language) to any form development whatsoever.

I think he's right.

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

September 22nd is DC Historic Preservation Community Day

Without much notice, DC Preservation League has called attention to a new event it is sponsoring called, "Historic Preservation Community Day." Ironically, just had a water problem in the basement and one of the items that was destroyed was the agenda/handout from a Preservation Expo that I went to in Philadelphia about 7 years ago. I've been advocating for years that the preservation community do such an event in DC.

Capitol Hill Restoration Society has done an expo for the last couple years. I went last year but was disappointed. (One reason is that they had a band playing in the same hall where the exhibits were and the band was too f*ing loud. You couldn't talk to the exhibitors without having to scream. As Suzanne points out, groups have music at events when they aren't confident enough in believing that what they offer on view doesn't need to be augmented by music or something else other than the content at hand.)

We'll see how this one works out. (The space is pretty small, that's a knock...)

Of course, it'd be most logical to do something like this during National Historic Preservation Month in May...

From email:
September 22nd is Historic Preservation Community Day

Morning lectures include architectural history of DC, history of the preservation movement, city regulations for historic districts and historic landmarks with information on the homeowner grant program.

Afternoon technical discussions include how to research your house history and historic window rehabilitation, maintenance and replacement.

Afternoon preservation stations will feature vendor consultations and local and neighborhood preservation organizations. Sample stations include: restoring historic windows, repointing, roof repair, and more!

ASL and Spanish Language Interpretation Provided!

Saturday, September 22, 2018
10:00am – 4:00pm

All Souls Church
1500 Harvard Street NW
Washington, DC
(Columbia Heights)

Free and Open to the Public!

Registration is not required, but encouraged to assist us with planning for the day!

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The "business community" in DC is not unitary, it's segmented and different segments have different, often non-local interests

The four necessary elements of a successful election campaign:

1.  Get on the ballot.
2.  Fundraise.
3.  Create and implement a campaign
4.  Get a majority of the electorate voting to vote for you.

Even if you can do (1), (2) and (3) successfully that doesn't mean you'll win.

It's even harder if you run on a "pro-business agenda," rather than a "pro-citizen agenda," especially in a large center city that has strong progressive leanings politically.  For example, in the 2016 Presidential Election, in DC, 97% of the votes cast were for Hillary Clinton.

Another attempt to elect a "pro-business" Councilmember fails in DC. The Washington Post has an article, "Collapse of council candidate's campaign marks latest defeat for DC businesses," about the failure of the DC "business community" to get a more business-friendly representative on the ballot for At Large Councilmember in DC, with the obvious aim of getting her elected.

S. Kathryn Allen was put forth by ex-Mayor Anthony Williams, who is now the leader of the Federal City Council, DC's major business group, and ex-Councilmember David Catania.  But her ballot petitions were successfully challenged because of forged signatures and other irregularities, and the DC Board of Elections ruled she didn't have enough valid signatures to get on the ballot ("At-Large Council Candidate S. Kathryn Allen Is off the Ballot," Washington City Paper).

This kind of thing has happened for years and years since I've been more involved and a more keen observer of local politics and civic affairs.

I can think of past candidates like A. Scott Bolden (lawyer and fixer), David Bowers (affordable housing production), and Marie Johns (former PEPCO executive) all being put up as candidates in the past--the first two against the Council's then most progressive member, Philip Mendelson, who is now Council Chair. (Note that PEPCO lobbyists have been elected to office in DC, Sharon Pratt Dixon as mayor--she was formerly married to an ex-Councilmember, and Vincent Orange.)

They don't win and often their candidacies don't even make it through the full election cycle.

I have been heavily influenced by the Growth Machine thesis that local political and economic elites are united on a pro-growth agenda focused on real estate and real estate intensification.

-- "City as a Growth Machine: Toward a Political Economy of Place," Harvey Molotch, American Journal of Sociology, 1975
-- Urban Fortunes: Towards a Political Economy of Place, 1987, new forward, 2007
-- "Minneapolis Growth Machine," 2015

The organization of DC's business community is somewhat convoluted.  First, the primary "business" is the federal government, and they have different interests not malleable by local actors.

Second, much of the business activity based in the city is federally-focused--contractors, trade associations, law firms--and they aren't much impacted by local political affairs.

Third, the biggest decidedly local industry is around real estate development, ownership, construction, and management, and for the most part--given the reality of how "the Growth Machine" is organized--they are served fine by the way the political system is working now, especially real estate, excepting the pesky problem of civic opposition to various projects getting in the way of construction. (Note though that many of the firms involved in this sector are regional, national, or international actors.)  They aren't going to rock the boat when pretty much all the Council goes along with their wants and needs.

The abstract from the "Growth Machine" paper:
A city and, more generally, any locality, is conceived as the areal expression of the interests of some land-based elite. Such an elite is seen to profit through the increasing intensification of the land use of the area in which its members hold a common interest. An elite competes with other land-based elites in an effort to have growth-inducing resources invested within its own area as opposed to that of another. Governmental authority, at the local and nonlocal levels, is utilized to assist in achieving this growth at the expense of competing localities. Conditions of community life are largely a consequence of the social, economic, and political forces embodied in this growth machine.
Fourth, what we would think of then as the local business community most affected by local politics is small businesses, and they are the ones most likely to be impacted by new laws concerning high minimum wage, family leave requirements, etc.

This community is pretty diffuse, not likely to be members of the DC Chamber of Commerce, and also has mixed politics and even though it can have deleterious effects on costs, some business owners for reasons of values and politics, aren't likely to be against "living wages" and other pro-people political positions.

What is a compelling pro-business/pro-citizen agenda?  As a former commercial district revitalization manager, I'd say it's almost impossible to organize a group of business and property owners operating at the scale of a small commercial district to come together in a coordinated way, working on a broader agenda for the business district that transcends the interests of any one business.

I can't imagine that this works better at the scale of the entire city.

And thinking of the failure of S. Kathryn Allen to get on the ballot and the movie "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight," I can't help but think of my old joke that "DC and college towns are the worst places to find books about business for sale in used bookstores."

The kind of people who are attracted to DC aren't necessarily the kinds of people interested in or good at business, or in thinking about business in the terms that we associate with small business advocates like the National Federation of Independent Businesses--low taxes, no taxes, no regulation, low regulation, low taxes, no taxes, etc.

If "the business community" wants to have successful candidates, they need to be able to express an agenda that is pro-business in a manner that also is pro-citizen.

There are successful Republican elected officials in cities.  There are or have been successful Republican mayors in communities like Oklahoma City, Dayton, and Indianapolis.

I have been remiss in not writing about Jim Brainard, the Mayor of Carmel, Indiana, a growing suburban community in Greater Indianapolis.

He's a Republican, but he is committed to what is called "New Urbanism," which promotes sustainable mobility rather than automobility, he believes that government needs to address the threat of climate change, etc.

-- "Mayor Jim Brainard on Carmel, Indiana's Arts and Culture District," Americans for the Arts
-- "This Republican mayor is bucking his party to stand up for climate action," ThinkProgress

From the Indianapolis Business Journal article "Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard to seek 7th term":
Since Brainard has been in office, Carmel has grown and changed tremendously. The population has increased from about 25,000 residents to about 91,000, and Brainard has overseen the redevelopment of what have become some of the suburb’s most prominent areas, including the Arts & Design District and City Center.

But Brainard is arguably most well-known for his efforts to replace traditional intersections with roundabouts throughout the city. Carmel has more than 100 roundabouts now—more than any other city in the U.S. Brainard argues that roundabouts are better for the environment and for safety.

At times, Brainard has been criticized for his spending on projects including the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, the redevelopment of Keystone Parkway and the proposed carousel that he wanted to bring to the city.

But Brainard has repeatedly defended the spending by saying it’s necessary to continue improving the quality of life in the northern suburb, and he says, high quality of life helps attract corporate headquarters.
The former Mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, Rick Baker, wrote a book describing a pro-city Republican local government agenda, The Seamless City: A Conservative Mayor's Approach to Urban Revitalization that Can Work Anywhere.

It sounds anathema to say now, but I would have voted for Mitt Romney as Governor of Massachusetts. He had a great "smart growth" agenda. He expanded health insurance access to low income residents of the state. He wasn't against transit. He wasn't against the environment.

What's the compelling message for such an alternative in DC?  In DC, for a time there was a push to revive the local Republican Party, and they put a bunch of people up for election.  But they primarily pushed for "low taxes" and various positions that progressives wouldn't be that interested in.

(Ironically, they started the push with a purge of the only Republican on Council, a very progressive Carol Schwartz, because she wasn't conservative enough.  But the person who replaced her got trounced in the general election.  By being pure, they ended up losing the only access they had.)

They didn't make a compelling case for election, other than that there needs to be "more competition" or a counter party because of the overwhelming dominance of Democrats as the city's elected officials.

While I agree that the dominance by one party means a lack of vetting and that people get elected without much of a platform ("New Year's Post #1: Defining mediocrity up and the 2014 elections in DC"), the local Republicans failed to make a solid case for why they would be a good addition to the mix.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Back to School #1: Thought-provoking articles about K-12 education issues

1. Last year, the New York Times Magazine ran two particularly searing articles about K-12 education issues.  Segregated schooling increasing in the South. "The Resegregation of Jefferson County."

Relatedly, the Memphis mayor's stratagem a few years back of merging the city's schools into the better funded county system ("Memphis Makes the Nation's Most Ambitious Effort to Fix Failed Schools," Governing Magazine) has backfired as communities in the suburban county are de-merging from the countywide public system ("Memphis-Shelby County spotlighted in national report on school district secession," ChalkBeat).

2.  The s***show of charter school oversight and creation in the State of Michigan, courtesy of Betsy DeVos, now US Secretary of Education.  The article is astounding.  Way worse than DC, where the public charter school board is independent of public oversight and schools are not required to consider demand before being created.

-- "Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost."

I am sure glad I am not in Michigan now, although I'm sure that the traditional school districts that were already high quality remain so.

3. Singapore and education best practicesThe Economist has an editorial about the success of schooling there.  A lot comes down to investment in teachers and teaching, including relatively high salaries.  There are larger class sizes than is typical in the US, but as the article says, is it better for a small class to be taught by a poorly qualified teacher, or for a student to be in a larger class taught by an excellent teacher.

-- "What other countries can learn from Singapore's schools"
-- "It has the world's best schools, but Singapore wants wants better"

The article also has some important things to say about the adoption of best practices.

4.  NYT Magazine back to school issue.  Sunday's NYT Magazine's article section focused on the schools, including:

-- "Can Good Teaching Be Taught"
-- "Teaching in the Age of School Shootings"
-- "What Teachers Are Doing to Pay Their Bills"
-- "Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry"

5.  Teacher diversity and student achievement.  Yesterday's NYT has an article, "Does Your Teacher's Identity Affect Your Learning?," discussing findings that non-white children do better in classes taught by people of the same ethnicity and race.

6. The Constitutional Right of Children to a Quality Education. A great article in the New Yorker discussing various legal holdings on this, touched off by the recent publication of The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind.

-- "Is Education a Fundamental Right?"

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Better safe than sorry: Southern California Edison rate increase proposed for fire protection activities

Electricity distribution reliability. In the DC area, the PEPCO electricity utility is in the midst of a $1 billion infrastructure upgrade program in DC and Maryland aimed to reduce the number of outages.

DC proper has two different types of electricity distribution infrastructure. In the core of the city it's underground to not have "unsightly" wires.  In the outer city, it's above-ground.  The program is focused on addressing primary vulnerabilities in the system.

2.  Protecting watersheds from fire. Flagstaff, Arizona is one of a few jurisdictions to look at management of the potential for wildfires as an element of watershed and water quality management. In 2012, they passed a bond issue to pay for mitigation. It was particularly noteworthy because much of the watershed lies outside of the city borders.  Santa Fe does this too ("Got water? Thank (and save) a forest," Santa Fe New Mexican).

-- Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project: Home

But 8 years later Flagstaff has discovered that $10 million turns out to not be enough, even though other property owners are matching this with funds of their own ("Flagstaff watershed protection reason to celebrate," Arizona Daily Sun).

3.  California changes locality master planning requirements to include protection from wildfires.

-- Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) | Planning For Hazards
-- Wildland Urban Interface toolkit: planning, FEMA
-- Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan

4.  Electric utility wildfire hazard mitigation requirements.  At least 10% of wildfires are caused by contact with electric lines.  Uninsulated lines are particularly susceptible.

Separately,  utility companies fearing lawsuits from wildfires caused by electricity line problems have been seeking liability protection from lawsuits from the California Legislature, which so far has not agreed ("The Dueling California Wildfire Bills That Could Decide PG&E’s Financial Fate," GreenTech Media).

So it makes sense to me that because it has been determined that electricity line problems have contributed to the development of wildfires in California, SCE should aim to address the problem ("Southern California Edison Proposes Grid Safety and Resiliency Program to Address the Growing Risk of Wildfires," press release).

All of the state's other utilities are now required to so based on new legislation passed last month ("There's a better way to pay for California's wildfire costs," Los Angeles Times).

Because these kinds of programs typically are funded by customers, through rate increases, that seems like a logical way to go.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Facilities planning" for special communities: Cuties LGBTQ coffee shop in Los Angeles

Last week, I wrote a piece ("Revisiting stories: cultural planning and the need for arts-based community development corporations as real estate operators") updating earlier writings with recommendations about discipline-specific planning for the arts.

You can make the same general points about all types of communities.

Cuties Coffee co-owners Virginia Bauman, left, and Iris Bainum-Houle, right, founded the shop a year ago as an LGBTQ community space. (Nick Agro / For The Times)

The Los Angeles Times has an article, "Can L.A.'s only LGBTQ-focused coffee shop survive?," about Cuties, a coffee shop in East Hollywood, and how financial difficulties threaten its continued existence.

Interestingly, it's not unlike the discussion about "rent metrics" and business models that I made in other pieces as cited in "New York Times special section: The Empty Storefronts of New York." The running costs for the coffee shop are $12,000/month including rent, labor, and supplies. They aren't generating that much revenue.

The article mentions Bluestockings bookstore and cafe in NYC, which is a collective, run on more of a volunteer basis, so that its labor costs are much lower. But the organizers don't want to do that, because they want to provide decent wages in a community where some find it hard to find decent jobs.

From a business model standpoint, Cuties needs to be open to other ways of organizing.  Especially if they want to survive.

It seems like they have some options:

(1) organize more like a membership group, with a monthly fee in addition to revenues generated by purchases;
(2) organize as a community co-operative/collective, with a mix of employees and member volunteers (food co-ops do this).

From the article:
... the pair wanted to create a casual hangout that’s welcoming to all members of the LGBTQ community, regardless of age or gender identity.

Such spaces are scarce.

In most cities, the lion’s share of LGBTQ-centered establishments are bars and clubs that primarily cater to gay men who are cisgender, meaning their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. Greater L.A. is no exception. Although West Hollywood is nationally renowned as a mecca for gay men, that’s not necessarily the case for lesbians or transgender people.

Given this void, Cuties has quickly become the daytime darling of L.A.’s queer social ecosystem. But despite a loyal customer base, Cuties — the only LGBTQ-focused coffee shop in L.A. — is fighting to stay open.
Community planning for community maintenance.  It's possible to apply the same kind of approach I espouse in cultural planning to LGBTQ and ethnic communities.  From the LAT article:
The importance of casual gathering spaces for LGBTQ people should not be underestimated, even in a largely progressive city such as L.A., said Petra Doan, a professor of urban planning at Florida State University who studies the development and demise of LGBTQ neighborhoods.

“If you’re trans or a butch lesbian or a femme gay man, you’re going to have experiences of discrimination no matter how accepting in general California is,” said Doan, who is a transgender woman. As a tall person with a deep voice, she said she gets misgendered by every third or fourth person she meets.

“After a while, that begins to eat away at my sense of self,” Doan said, “and I need to spend time somewhere I can process and talk to people who understand what that’s like.”
Although I did write about this in April, "Community associations, centers and hubs: organizing at what scale." One of the examples in that piece is organizing to create an LGBTQ community hub in Austin, Texas.

As special communities become deconcentrated, extra-normal planning assistance to maintain the existence of community anchors, including businesses, is likely necessary.

This comes up a lot in terms of maintaining community culture and identity in the face of significant community change, such as that associated with the demographic changes that come from "gentrification."

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This week is Bike Week at the University of Utah

In the draft plan I did for Baltimore County, I did discuss specific measures to work with large organizations such as college campuses, to develop in systematic ways programs to support bike commuting, but discussion about programming and promoting cycling in specific ways was for the most part deleted from the plan.

During my time there I made a couple presentations at Towson University, and a few years ago, I served as a special lecturer for an online segment on bicycle and pedestrian planning for a course at the New School.  So I have some presentations on focused planning for bicycling at universities.

And while I have written from time to time about the need for focused transportation demand management planning at universities, one of the best ways to increase bike use at universities is to promote it.

In my assessment of where we are with bike planning ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1," 2017), recommendation #3 is:
In the DC area specifically, there needs to be greater focus on the opportunities to work with large employers, especially the federal government, and college campuses.
I did have a section on biking for transportation in the 2016 post, "Back to School #3: College."

The advantage of promoting biking to college students is that they are "impressionable" and it's a good time to develop sustainable behaviors as routine ("College towns of a certain size as an opportunity for sustainable mobility nirvana," 2018).

This leverages the interest that many universities and their students have in sustainability more generally.

-- Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

The university in Davis, California was a leader in promoting biking when it opened in the early 1960s ("Davis, California – the American city which fell in love with the bicycle," Guardian) and most University of California campuses are national leaders in transportation demand management.

The League of American Bicyclists has the "Bicycle Friendly University" program. Among exemplary best practice examples, Ripon College provides free bikes to students who commit to not bringing a car to campus ("Ripon College gives freshmen free bikes for no-car pledges," Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel).

A basic set of steps related to promoting biking on campus include:
  • an intra-campus bike route system, with links to the community bike lane network
  • lots of bike parking
  • including high quality secure parking, especially in dorms
  • programming to facilitate bicycling for transportation
  • an on-campus bike shop including repair activities
  • support for community bike sharing systems (paying for stations serving campus and discount membership programs)
  • creation of "bike provision" programs to rent bikes to students for low or no cost, for the term or year, including helmet and lock [At UCLA they call it the Bike Library, "Bikes all rented out at UCLA Bike Library," Daily Bruin) while at North Central College in Illinois, use of a "rental" Cardinal Red Bike is free, but they have a small number of bikes.]
  • discounts for bike purchasing, especially for staff (could adapt the British program of payroll deduction programs to buy bikes), but students too
  • including e-bike purchase discount programs for staff
  • anti-theft programs.
Schedule of events, Bike Week 2018 at the University of Maryland College Park (poster).

I think it was 2011, when I went to a Bike Day promotion at the University of Maryland College Park but it was in April, pretty much at the end of the school year.

To its credit, the UMCP has kept up and significantly expanded what they're doing to a full-fledged Bike Week.  But it's still in April, at the end of the school year, rather than in September.

That's incredibly poor timing.

Instead, cities should get universities to hold "Bike Week" or "Bike Expo" programs during the first month of school in the fall.

That's what the University of Utah does, where this week is Bike WeekThe campus is located uphill in Salt Lake City.  One of the events will be a bike expo this Thursday, which is something that should be part of a Bike Week promotional calendar at all college campuses.

Earlier in the year the University had a special promotion to provide discounts on purchases of electric bikes.  I'd argue that's a program that should be offered to staff especially on a year-round basis.

Interestingly, the SLC bicycle sharing program doesn't seem to be a sponsor of the University Bike Week.  Students are eligible for a discount of about 1/3.  Then again, there aren't any bike share stations at or near the University.  That's something that should be addressed as part of a wider range of bike planning there.

One cool thing about the B-cycle programs is that many of them offer cross-usage privileges without an additional fee.  That ought to be a member benefit attractive to college students, especially those visiting Denver and Boulder.

Davis, California as an important lesson for other college towns.  Davis was pathbreaking in that when the university campus was created, it didn't allow cars, and specifically promoted biking.  It led to the City of Davis becoming an equally committed proponent of bicycling("Davis, California - the American city which fell in love with the bicycle," Guardian)..
Bicycle racks at the University of California, Davis, 1963, by Ansel Adams
Bicycle racks at the University of California, Davis, 1963, by Ansel Adams

But this was in the period of widespread biking use, before automobility superseded other forms of mobility in the US.  Plus, because new student cohorts need to be educated and trained each year as other cohorts graduate, transportation demand management programming needs to be constant and rigorous rather than trickle down.

Over time, biking for transportation has significantly declined, both on the campus and in the city, and other cities, which developed more advanced practices, have leapfrogged Davis ("Fifty years of bicycle policy in Davis, CA," Ted Buehler).

The lesson is that promoting sustainable mobility practice needs to be constant.

And timed properly.

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Clock on streetlight in Lubyanka Square, Moscow

Note the clock on the streetlight at the right in the photo.

From the NYT article, "A Spy Story: Sergei Skripal Was a Little Fish. He Had a Big Enemy."

Caption: The Federal Security Service, the successor to the Soviet-era K.G.B., in Moscow. Mr. Putin once ran the agency. Credit, Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times.

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Parking isn't "the third rail" of local politics, it's the car and automobility

In the past, I've made the point that car parking "is the third rail" of local politics, in discussing various proposals concerning "parking," be it the price of residential parking permits, taking parking spaces for other uses such as bike lanes or car sharing vehicles ("Car-Share Companies Get Coveted Parking in New York City," New York Times), closing streets for pedestrian-centric activities, double parking/parking for churches on Sundays, or in the suburbs, free parking at libraries (but no co-equal advocacy for transit subsidies for patrons). Also see "Flip flop on Dyckman Street: Anatomy of a bike lane debacle," Streetsblog NYC.

But it's not really so much about parking as it is the primacy and the privilege of automobility.

This comes out in fights against tolling, congestion pricing, automated speed camera enforcement (Maryland Drivers Alliance: Arguments Against Speed Cameras), automated red light camera enforcement ("Gov. Greg Abbott has a solution for anyone who hates red-light cameras in Texas: Ban them," Dallas Morning News), increases in gasoline excise taxes (Top Five Reasons Not to Raise the Gas Tax | Americans for Tax Reform), etc.

Amanda O'Rourke, the executive director of the 8-80 Cities initiative, makes a good point in a recent article, "Smart cities are making us dumber," that cities are far more invested and continue to be more invested in supporting automobility. She writes:
I don’t have a problem with the term “smart city” per se. Embracing evidence-based, data-driven decision-making and using technology to capture that data is a laudable goal. My problem with the idea is that it’s often presented as a panacea. There is an underlying assumption that technology is the key to unlocking the smart solutions our cities most desperately need. To believe this is to completely miss the plot. ...

graphic from IOT Agenda 
We already have overwhelming data on what makes cities more engaging, vibrant places for people and what doesn’t. For example, when it comes to our streets—the largest public space in most cities—the solutions are simple when you put people at the center.

By building safe and connected walking and bicycling infrastructure, lowering traffic speeds, mixing land uses and investing in public transportation and a more welcoming public realm—including amenities such as street trees and comfortable seating—cities can promote and encourage physical activity, social engagement and higher quality of life.

However, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies, 108 cities around the world are either working on or preparing for autonomous vehicle pilot projects. Billions have been invested in AV technology alone.

Jan Gehl, the world-renowned Danish architect, famously said that cities “measure what they care about.” For decades, cities have collected extensive data on car traffic—making their priorities clear. Mr. Gehl was one of the first to systematically measure people in the public realm, using that data to make the case for inviting public life back into public spaces. A truly smart city has to be one that works for people. Currently, the data smart cities are collecting is distracting us from the data we already have and the reforms that are truly important.
This comes up to in Annapolis, Maryland, where a bunch of people have written letters to the editor in response to an article about a "bike lane experiment" on Main Street, to which they are against ("Letters: Readers react to the Main Street bike lane experiment," Annapolis Capital-Gazette). Most of the writers argue that the loss of parking spaces--36--will have extranormally negative impacts on business, tourism, etc.

This even though Annapolis has an extensive network of parking garages. Annapolis has four city-owned garages, 12 other public and private lots and garages, and a circulator bus system connecting these facilities to destinations in the city.

And they've even kept up to date on parking planning, with a Parking Utilization Study having been released in 2017.

In DC, I've written about how a majority of the city's elected officials live in the "Outer City," where the car dominates, rather than in the core or inner city, where sustainable mobility modes cover a preponderance of trips overall and a majority of commuting trips.

-- "DC makes the Wall Street Journal twice in one week," 2013
-- "Understanding why Upper Northwest DC residents don't buy into the sustainability mobility paradigm," 2013
-- "DC as a suburban-agenda dominated city," 2013

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