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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Car Sharing round up

Car sharing continues to experience growth, new entrants, and service and amenities options change concomitantly. Here are some recent developments.

1.  Split shared ride service launches in DC.  Split is a new service that allows for shared or combined rides in a taxi-like service for people traveling in the same direction.

It's not quite car pooling, but allows for multiple users and trips to particular areas to be served in "one trip."

DC is the pilot launch city for the service and currently the service is limited to the city's core-Georgetown University on the west, Capitol Hill on the east, Columbia Heights on the north, and Constitution Avenue as the southernmost point, with expectations that the service area will expand as the user base and demand grows.

Unlike taxis, the service will have designated pick up and drop off points, more like bus service.   From the company:
A key component to Split’s technology is the addition of minimal walk time to designated pickup and drop-off points throughout the service area. Riders will walk about a block and are expected to be at their pickup point at the designated time to ensure minimal wait time for drivers and other passengers. Split used DC’s open data to identify points in legal stopping areas, avoiding crosswalks, bike lanes, and other disruptive locations. Clear and expected meeting points reduce wait time and increase safety for riders, drivers and other people on the street.

Through a network of Split contracted drivers, specific vehicle types will differ, but will each carry prominently displayed Split branding. That identification, combined with Split’s real-time routing technology and point network, means increased efficiency as riders and drivers can quickly and easily connect.
In response to problems with other ride hailing services, the company has rigorous hiring protocols, including in-person interviews and has put strong insurance coverage in place.  Because of the shared ride approach, Split will use fewer vehicles--reducing traffic instead of increasing it.

Also, because each trip involves multiple fares, drivers should make more money compared to the single-ride approach of other services, making the service a stronger income generator for otherwise independent contractors (cf. Emily Guendelsberger's take down of Uber income claims in the Philadelphia City Paper, "I was an undercover Uber driver").

Note that in the old zone pricing system for DC taxis, taxis could pick up additional fares while traveling on a trip.  That capability was disallowed when traditional taxi metering was instituted, and this change likely accounted for a fair amount of the loss of income on the part of taxi drivers, plus making the use of taxis as transit less efficient.

2.  BMW DriveNow: upscale car share with an all electric fleet.  BMW has entered the car share game too.

It strikes me that they are marketing their program to people who see the car they drive as an extension and reflection of their personality and self-image versus people who see a car as a conveyance, and use car share in terms of utility.

The cost is $12 for the first 30 minutes, and the price per hour is as much as double compared to Zipcar.

Right now the service is in San Francisco, and in 7 cities in Germany, Austria, and the UK (London)--only SF and London are all electric. But because they can't get a master permit for street parking, the cars can only be parked in specific areas.  From Automotive News ("How BMW cracked the streets of San Francisco"):
DriveNow allows its cars to be parked on the street in just five neighborhoods of San Francisco, and achieving that took a level of work that would be impractical, and unprofitable, to repeat in every corner of every city across the United States.

The far reaches of San Francisco, and the highly regulated, $3.50-per-hour spots of downtown, are still off-limits except for designated parking lots. The parking rules are too complicated; the risk of a car being towed is too high.
The neighborhoods are Bernal Heights, Haight-Ashbury, Mission District, Noe Valley, and Potrero Hill/Dogpatch.

When the system launched in Europe, they used Minis.  By contrast, the car used in the US is more upscale, the ActiveE, an electric demonstration vehicle based on the BMW 1 Series of smaller cars. The company is looking to Seattle as its next market.

3.  Car2Go, the one-way car sharing service owned by Daimler Benz, featuring SmartCars, and operational in 16 cities across Europe and 15 cities in the US and Canada, is particularly successful in Seattle according to the Seattle Times ("Car2Go expands to cover all of Seattle"). From the article:
Car2Go has added 250 vehicles and stretched its Seattle territory, into the far north and far south areas of the city, the company announced Tuesday.

That brings the total number of petite, white-and-blue vehicles to 750, roaming 83 square miles. About 63,000 people have enrolled in Car2Go here and taken some 2 million trips during two years through the close-in Seattle neighborhoods — the highest use in the U.S., according to Michael Hoitink, location manager for Car2Go Seattle.
This is significant because I remember Harriet Tregoning, former planning director of DC, chortling in a presentation about how DC had the highest take up rate for Car2Go when it was introduced, and high membership for bike share. The reality is that after early take up for both, membership has hit a plateau.

Although according to online data presented within the website, DC has 421 car2go vehicles to Seattle's 233.

Photo from Greenpoint Gazette.

Car2Go launched in Brooklyn last fall, and as of last month, had 26,000 members, and recently expanded from its original 31-square mile footprint to 36-square miles, covering almost 40% of the borough (Brooklyn is about 97 square miles).  See the Brooklyn Daily Eagle story, "Car2go expands its home area in Brooklyn."

4. Zipcar DC loses spaces at Metrorail stations.  In DC, Flexcar had the original "franchise" to have cars in Metrorail station parking lots, which helped to spread the acceptance of car sharing in the DC market.  They became Zipcar spaces when Flexcar was acquired.  But WMATA put out the contract to bid, and Zipcar was outbid by Enterprise Car Share.

Whether or not this will help Enterprise build market share is an open question, since at least in the core, Zipcar tends to have a fair number of cars placed around Metrorail stations anyway.

5.  Ford launches car share in London. The Detroit News reported earlier in the week that Ford launched half electric/half conventional car share, called GoDrive, in London.

It's one way, but each use is combined with parking at the end of the trip, at a designated hub.  More like bike share.  This is necessary because of the difficulty of finding on-street spaces, and the inability to have a "master use permit" comparable to how car2go or Zipcar work in cities like DC.

Ford is exploring other types of car sharing services in the US, Germany, and India. In Germany, the expanding program is offered in conjunction with car dealerships and in Dearborn, the experiment focuses on Ford employees, who can use different cars according to their trip need and purpose.

6.  It's always worth re-mentioning that Hoboken, New Jersey is particularly advanced in utilizing car share as a way to manage demand for scarce on-street parking spaces.  See "Cars at Curbside, Available to Share" from the New York Times.

Consideration of car sharing vehicles as a transportation demand management tool as well as a means of support for residents who use cars but don't own them--mostly local policies and practices concerning car storage on public streets privilege car owners--justifies the "use" of "public space" for "private interests" (cf. "With Car2Go, questions on private use of public space," Brooklyn Daily Eagle).

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

WTF: Murder in the city comes close

I generally scoff at concerns about the city's murder rate, because it doesn't affect me much.  Most murders happen in the poorer parts of the city, and involve people I don't know.  I joke that since murders happen mostly between people who are acquainted, just don't have any friends...

But that isn't a helpful way of thinking about it (although I research and write about equity, crime, and public safety issues in deep and thoughtful ways).

(Last year, a nephew of a work colleague of Suzanne's was hit by stray fire in a high profile random shooting.)

Last night, Charnice Milton, a reporter for the Hill Rag, the community newspaper focused on Capitol Hill, was murdered, within a half hour of her covering the monthly meeting of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee, which I sit on.  She was quiet during the meeting, attentive, sitting in the first row.

From email:

Last night, the District's press corp lost one of its own. Capital Community News (CCN) reporter Charnice Milton was tragically gunned down in an apparently random shooting near Good Hope Road at 9:40 p.m.

Charnice Milton was born on June 19, 1987 to Franice Milton. She lived with her mother in Benning Heights in Ward 7. A graduate of Ball State, she earned a Master's from Syracuse.

Charnice began working as a reporter for CCN in August of 2012. Her first assignments involved the nuts and bolts of community journalism. She reported on activities of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and other public meetings. She soon branched out to profiles and reviewing museum exhibits.

Charnice was a talented reporter with an engaging manner that endeared her to her sources. She was a valued member of the CCN news team completing several assignments a month. This organization will miss her contributions as will the communities of Wards 6, 7 and 8.

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Not being a Democrat isn't a compelling argument to vote Republican in municipal elections (in DC or anywhere)

The Washington City Paper Loose Lips column has a piece, After a Leadership Shake-Up, the D.C. GOP Tries to Get One Council Seat," about the local Republican Party gearing up again in a bid to be relevant.

I think they are misguided and misread the situation, not unlike what Janan Ganesh's recent piece ("Labour's analysis paralysis blights a party of clever fools") in the Financial Times discusses, ripping the Labour Party for not understanding why they failed in the recent election, believing that it was lack of big ideas, rather than being "too left" with an inadequate candidate for prime minister, even though for the most part he rallied during the campaign, doing better on the stump than what was expected.

Just being "a Republican" isn't enough of a difference to be meaningful to DC voters, even if we aren't happy with the agenda-less dominance of the majority party. Most of us living in cities are "progressive." We aren't looking for "oppositional politics" out of some theoretical position that favors "competition." We do want alternatives, hopefully. It's just that being anti-government isn't the kind of position that is likely to have much relevance.

Plus, Congressional Republicans have little interest in the kinds of issues that matter to cities--their brand is sullied as far as municipal politics are concerned--so I don't see how local Republicans working with crazy Congressional Republicans is a useful alliance for Republicans desiring success at the local level.

It's tough to be successful against "the hegemon," but for Republicans to be successful running for City Council, they have to have a stellar urban-appropriate agenda. Catania proved in a special election, running against the old guard, that a non-Democrat could have a chance.

These days an urban-appropriate conservative agenda might not be John Lindsay, who was quite liberal and would be completely out of place in today's Republican Party, but maybe someone like Nelson Rockefeller. But practical city focused issues aren't what interests the kind of people who call themselves Republicans now, in all likelihood--the kind of people who want to pursue political office at whatever level.

Rep. Mike Turner (Dayton), a Republican, is former mayor of Dayton, Ohio. I heard him speak about 10 years ago. I was impressed. He seemed to have a good sense of the issues present in cities. And as a mayor in a Rust Belt city that was losing headquarters companies (like NCR), industry (GM had a bunch of plants in the area), and military functions (Wright-Patterson AFB), he couldn't be ideologically driven, he had to address the facts on the ground and respond appropriately.

Local Republicans ought to reach out to people like him if they want to come up with a path for success in municipal politics in DC or most other big cities. Similarly, Greg Ballard, Mayor of Indianapolis is Republican too, and another potential resource, if local Republicans really want to make a valiant, knowledge-infused effort.

Similarly, the Tories in the UK--the government is incredibly centralized--have a devolution agenda giving more power to cities/localities. (It's interesting, there, because they don't have a history of elected mayors, the left is against this kind of devolution, in many cases, like Manchester.)

I haven't gotten around to reading The Seamless City: A Conservative Mayor's Approach to Urban Revitalization that Can Work Anywhere by Rick Baker, the Republican former mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, who won with 70% of the vote in a city predominated by a Democratic electorate, but it's around the house somewhere.

The webpage says the approach covers:

  • How maintaining basic amenities, like running water, requires constant vigilance—and sometimes tough decisions on the part of city leadership
  • Why a vibrant downtown is essential to attract businesses and create jobs · Why the most effective leadership is servant leadership
  • How to find and implement the most effective solutions to a city's most challenging problems
  • Why city government needs to regard the city as a seamless whole, with no section underserved or overlooked

Even so, it'd have to be an incredibly compelling candidate to be successful as a Republican in Washington, DC.

Comparable to how David Clarke could be city council chair when the city was majority black. He had great civil rights credibility (Clarke was a Democrat but the analogy is relevant).

2004-11-11-cover, The StrangerThe 2008 local Republican agenda was decent.  FWIW, the 2008 urban agenda proposed to the National Republican Party by the DC Republican Party is an acceptable read, even if I am not hyped on the emphasis on choice, cutting taxes (e.g., Tax Holidays are mostly stupid, property taxes are low, sales taxes are about the same as other jurisdictions), rather than making existing governmental institutions highly functioning.

Fred Siegel's ideas about the three ways cities go back also provides grist for a Republican agenda for local government.  Fred Siegel is the author of The Future Once Happened Here, which I think is an important book on the decline of major cities.  He's considered to be conservative, although he describes himself as a "small government Democrat."  From "3 ways cities go bad," Arizona Republic, 2009:
Siegel believes there are three fundamental ways in which big cities go bad. The first is to lose control of order and civility in their public space - the streets, sidewalks and parks. This was an essential part of New York's deterioration and subsequent crime epidemic and the primary element of its recovery. ...

The other two ways big cities go bad, according to Siegel, are interrelated: control of city politics by municipal unions and an economy that becomes too much government-driven and too little privately-driven ...

All municipal politics tend to be an insiders' affair, characterized by small-turnout elections dominated by groups with a stake in the outcome - neighborhood associations, the cultural community, downtown-development interests and city workers.

When municipal unions dominate the mix, in essence choosing their bosses, fiscal discipline becomes impossible. And once government overhead passes a critical point, the only way to create space for private-sector growth is to shrink government, a virtually impossible task once city unions dominate elections.

The result is what Siegel has called an "entitlement economy," where opportunity depends on political decisions, not private initiative
In tight economic times, I think any thinking progressive is going to be concerned with these issues, and will be responsive to candidates who offer alternatives.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One big idea: Getting MARC and Metrorail to integrate fares, stations, and marketing systems, using London Overground as an example

MARC is the railroad commuter system for Maryland.  It's based on historical services offered by B&O (Brunswick and Camden Lines) and the Pennsylvania Railroad (the Penn Line). But the service footprint is based on history and hasn't been updated much to reflect today's circumstances.

Because many of the stations are exurban, they don't have the kind of "transit oriented development" potential that many elected and appointed officials believe.

But there is enough service there to serve as the foundation for a wider system.  Dan Malouff, who grew up in Montgomery County, and is now a planner and has been the photographer and writer behind BeyondDC for 15 years or more, laid out a vision for this which I glommed onto about 10 years ago.
Proposed map of a Washington-Baltimore regional rail system
His map doesn't show railroad service to Charles County, Maryland because at the time the State was looking into light rail.

It does show new service to Annapolis from both Baltimore and Washington, and to Central Maryland and Pennsylvania (the old Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad and North Central Railroad served these areas).

This particular map doesn't show an extension of the Penn Line to Newark, Delaware, where it would connect to SEPTA, but the potential for it is shown in a different map Dan also produced.  This map also shows the possibility of service extension to Maryland's Eastern Shore from Annapolis, which ought to be popular in those precincts.
Railroad system Washington-Baltimore region

We are a long way in the Baltimore-Washington region from the integrated railroad-subway-bus systems in cities like Berlin, Hamburg, London, and Paris, although in the US, legacy services in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia have railroads and heavy rail systems under a common organizational hierarchy.

I mention Hamburg, Germany a fair amount, because like DC, it is a city-state, although Hamburg is much bigger.

In the early 1960s, they figured out it made sense to organize transit under a common system, and over the decades, they've developed a fully integrated system that extends out of Hamburg to the adjoining states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, where dozens of different operators provide service that appears to be seamless to the end user.  The Hamburg system includes bus, subway, railroad, and ferry service, with a common fare media system.  They claim to be the first transit system to do this anywhere in the world.
Hamburg, Germany, map of integrated transit system
This map shows Hamburg's rail network, with ferry connections.

The Hamburg map is different from rail maps in DC or Baltimore, which show either the WMATA heavy rail system, the MTA heavy rail and light rail system in Baltimore, or the MARC services across DC, Maryland, and West Virginia, but not MARC+WMATA or MARC+MTA, like in Hamburg.

MTA Maryland/MARC commuter railroad Map
MARC system map.

WMATA map with the Silver Line
WMATA map with the Silver Line extension.

MTA transit map for Baltimore
MTA transit map for Baltimore.

Similarly, in Paris, the transportation authorities have responsibility for regional railroad as well as heavy rail and tram and bus services, and they have built an incredible system of integrated transit, arguably the best in the world.

Taking a lesson from the London Underground and Paris, Transport for London has taken on marketing responsibility for a set of commuter railroad lines serving London, which it has rebranded and marketed as the London Overground, with a common visual identity, using the same fare system as for the London subway and bus systems.

This has resulted in a significant increase in ridership.  Note that in New York City, Transport Politic made similar proposals for expanding LIRR and Metro-North service and utility within New York City:

-- Regional Rail for New York City - Part I
-- Regional Rail for New York City - Part II
-- New York Regional Rail: A Coda

Later, Capital published an article, "Beyond local," making the point that LIRR, Metro-North, and NJ Transit need to be shown as an integrated system (not unlike the point I make about DC-Baltimore), like Hamburg.  The Capital article shows the importance of great graphics as a way to communicate a simple but complex idea.
Regional Rail Map for Greater NYC
The one thing that's clear from comments in the GGW thread is that MARC needs a re-boot in marketing.  Most people in the area don't really understand it.  Most people in the area don't know that they can take it more cheaply to get to BWI Airport.  Etc.

Maryland Transit Administration is the parent of MARC and MTA subway, light rail, and bus service in the Baltimore area, and handles Maryland's responsibilities concerning WMATA service in Maryland's DC suburbs.

MTA has already contracted with WMATA to provide an integrated fare media system for MTA, where the CharmCard is basically a branded SmarTrip card, and users of either card can use both systems.  (Note that in the Puget Sound/Seattle region, the ORCA transit fare card can be used on light rail, railroad, bus, and ferry systems, although I've never ridden Sounder, and therefore never used the ORCA card on it.)

Why not consider a London Overground approach for rebranding MARC and integrating fare media systems?

This could be a first step towards my proposal for merging MARC and VRE into one service for DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, with service also to parts of Pennsylvania and Delaware.  DC would have to buy into the system--right now we don't pay into it.

London's Overground.  London is more akin to New York in that the services are offered by a variety of operators, whereas in Paris and Berlin and Montreal and Toronto there is one primary railroad passenger provider, and there are multiple stations throughout the city.

Image of the Shadwell station from Wikipedia.  Note how the logo identifying the Overground is a derivation of the roundel logo of the Underground.

The "Overground" is a service integration and branding program by Transport for London that focused on reconfiguring surface railroad passenger service in a manner that operates comparable to "the Tube," the Underground subway system.

Another comparable example for London Overground would be the S-Bahn system providing suburban commuter railroad services in most major German cities.

The payment system has been integrated into the Oyster card transit fare payment system, using the transit system's zone payment system.  From "London Calling" in Mass Transit Magazine:
The London Overground is an urban and suburban rail network that was  established in 2007. The six lines cover 53.4 miles and has 83 stations.  Though a TfL-branded service, the Overground is part of the National  Rail network, operated by London Overground Rail Operations (LOROL). TfL sets fares, procures rolling stock and determines service levels.
“The Overground was originally two or three lines which are orbital  rather than radial so they go around London in the suburbs,” Hendy  explained. “We were originally given them I think really because nobody  knew what to do with them. 
“So we did up the stations, we have new trains and we’ve had an  enormous upsurge in patronage.” To the extent that they’ve had to extend the length of the train to accommodate ridership.  He said they’ve proved that part of the national railway network  could be turned into a good urban railway by applying metro principals  to it: very frequent train service, attractive stations and new trains.
-- "London's new train set," London Overground brochure

As service improved so did ridership. By 2011, usage increased by almost 300%, from 33 million to 120 million (("In the loop: How one railway line helped change the way Londoners commute," Economist), although there were some line extensions that also boosted usage.
London transit map with subway and London Overground railroad services as of 2015
London transit map with subway and London Overground railroad services as of 2015.  Granted, it's quite complicated.

Interestingly, property values have increased significantly as transit service improved, for many of the areas served by the London Overground, compared to predecessor railroad services.

Again, Transport Politic had an article proposing a similar kind of idea, how the Long Island Railroad could operate as more of a local service as it travels through Queens--the service is focused more on bringing commuters from Long Island to the city and not so much on providing "transit" equivalent service within the city.  See "Expanding Transit Access to Southeast Queens."


Well to be honest, it's mostly about maps and fare media systems.  MARC can reboot its marketing on its own.  (WMATA's marketing isn't that great, but its maps are top-notch.)

Integrating the maps.  A first step could be doing new transit maps for Baltimore and DC that integrate railroad service with local premium transit services.  It's something I've been meaning to depict for the DC area, if I can find a good graphic designer willing to do it. (Although I'm about to take some InDesign classes...)

Integrating fare media systems.  The SmarTrip card is already used by MTA for local service in Baltimore, but is branded as the CharmCard.  How about adding railroad services to the mix?

WMATA has contracted to use the Canadian PRESTO fare media system.  The newest version is slowly being rolled out in Greater Toronto, and like the ORCA card, will allow payment for Go Transit rail and bus, the special railroad service between Downtown Toronto and Pearson Airport, the TTC subway, streetcars, and light rail in Toronto, and local bus services across the metropolitan area.
Metrolink Weekend Pass promotion
Metrollink marketing promotion, Southern California.

Stations, signage, wayfinding and transit wayfinding systems.  Stations where railroad and subway services inter-connect need overhauls and significant marketing upgrades.  For example, Union Station is a perfect opportunity to create seamless transit information services and marketing programs.

-- "Union Station Intermodal Transportation meeting," 2008
-- "More on Union Station DC and the need for innovative master planning," 2011

Especially if my proposal for a streetcar service for the National Mall (more on this in a day or two) and visitor service system were to come together.

-- "A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is a way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall"

Better MARC service, using London Overground as a model

Rebooting the brand.  Well, I like my RACER proposal, which stands for Railroad Authority of the Chesapeake Region, and allows for the exchange of an identity that unites Maryland and Virginia rather than dividing it.  Ideally, this presupposes that VRE and MARC merge.  But there is no reason that MARC couldn't rebrand as RACER now, and work with VRE.

MARC railroad sign, RiverdaleMarketing.  I know about MARC because I lived by Union Station.  But other than some signage on the roads, how do people to find out about it?

 Caltrain and Metrolink in California are particularly good at marketing and promotion and could teach East Coast systems a lot about marketing, although MTA in Greater NYC does a pretty good job too, given its financial constraints.

(FWIW, MTA does do outreach for local transit in Baltimore, exhibiting at festivals, etc.)

Adding reverse commuter service from DC to Germantown/Frederick. Historically, there wasn't reverse commuting service on the Brunswick Line, because in those days, cities like Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Germantown weren't significant business districts.   Now, transportation demand management planning means it makes sense, especially with a new infill station for the White Flint (I mean Pike) District.

But my first response, reading this Dr. Gridlock response to "What a haul: Commuter starts D.C. to Rockville trek," (Post), was "what about reverse commuting on MARC?"  Of course, wrt a query like that, Dr. G deals with the here and now, not far off possibilities.

Such a service would help reduce congestion in the Rockville Pike corridor, which is a good thing.  It would also help those of us in DC who think about working in Montgomery County from time to time, but are put off on the idea, because of the difficulty of commuting, especially beyond the Metrorail catchment, but also from the east side of the city, because we have to go around 3/4 of a circle to get to the western leg of the Red Line.

More stations in the city on the current service footprint.  I do think there are opportunities.  I have warmed to the idea put forth by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie of Ward 5 that there could be an infill station at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, providing rail transit service to a corridor otherwise devoid of it.

In fact there could be two stations in this area (see "Greater New York Avenue Gateway Revitalization") on the Penn Line, and maybe somehow one on the Camden Line too (there used to be service by train in the Langdon neighborhood long ago (south of Rhode Island Avenue and west of Bladensburg Road).

But service to old stations like Takoma or Brookland probably doesn't make much sense.  (Brookland could as part of broader TDM programming for Catholic University, Howard University, Washington Hospital Center, a future research park--maybe--etc.)

Service expansion in the Washington region based on the BeyondDC proposals.  If there were to be new service to Charles County, there could be a station or two in Southeast DC. But of course, it'd be good for Prince George's County as well, not just via a line to Charles County, but also to Annapolis.  Anne Arundel County and Annapolis would be big winners as well, with railroad service to Baltimore and DC.
Promotion by the Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis Electric Railroad, 1912.

MARC expansions outside of the Washington region, in north of Baltimore in Central Maryland and to Pennsylvania, and connecting "local" service on the Penn Line to Delaware are another discussion, outside the scope of this entry.

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Mushy vision won't yield great transit

Oops.  Forgot the Purple Line points, which are just added to the last item.

David Alpert, founder-editor of Greater Greater Washington, the area's leading "smart growth" blog (which has long since supplanted this one) has a piece, also will be printed in the Washington Post I expect, responding to Aaron Weiner's--the Housing Complex columnist for the Washington City Paper--valedictory on "what Washington should do" written as Aaron leaves WCP to bring neoliberalism to Mother Jones Magazine, says "where are the big transit ideas?" which he says are:

- Build new Metro lines
- At the very least, add some infill stations
- Stop building streetcar lines in mixed traffic

WRT the last point, these days, even building streetcar lines, let alone in mixed traffic, seems to be a "big idea."

-- "A Man, a Plan, a Canard: Panacea," Washington City Paper
-- Beyond Metro, there's no big idea for transit in DC anymore," GGW (lots of comments)
-- same piece in the Washington Post but with almost no comments

First I'd say, read my blog. Although most of my big ideas are pretty old by now.  (My criticism of GGW, as the area's leading "urbanism blog" is that it doesn't push theory and practice and vision very far forward.)  But I just did an update a few weeks ago, based on a query from Will Handsfield, Transportation Director for the Georgetown Business Improvement District.

-- "Transportation Wish List, 2015: part two, new ideas
-- "Transportation Wish List: 2015 edition, part one," (the original list, from entries in 2007 and 2008)
-- "What it will take to get WMATA out of crisis"
-- "Making the case for intra-city (vs. inter-city) transit planning"
-- "A National Mall-focused heritage (replica) streetcar service to serve visitors is a way bigger idea than a parking garage under the Mall"
-- "Night moves: the need for more night time (and weekend) transit service, especially when the subway is closed"
-- "Transit, stations, and placemaking: stations as entrypoints into neighborhoods"
-- "Making bus service sexy and more equitable"
-- "NCPC study on height limit: hearing, comments"

Second, having a brief period working for an executive branch in local government, in Baltimore County, in FY2010 (my ability to stay there was scotched by the fact that the incoming County Executive, after the November 2010 election, didn't retain the planning director, who was trying to find a way to bring me back) was my searing experience learning about how things really work in government, something that most advocates don't appreciate.
WMATA farecard
In short, only the elected officials really have power, and staff are circumscribed by what is allowed by the executive (or their legislative bosses, if they work for the legislative branch)--you do what you're told.

So to do anything "bold," there are some fundamental and foundational requirements, which are mostly missing in action from the metropolitan area and its jurisdictions:

(1) having a robust regional planning agency, the Metropolitan Planning Organization--in the DC area it is the Transportation Policy Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments -- but DC's is not considered a best practice leader nationally, and has limited vision. By default WMATA is the area's transportation planning agency, and they only care about subway and regional bus services.

(2) great elected officials who understand the value of transit and its centrality to quality of life and commerce both, with an ability to think very long term, about the future, rather than just for today, make hard decisions and "lead" rather than merely follow.

Under the Gray Administration, the heralded "economic development plan" didn't even mention transit as one of the city's key competitive advantages. The DC Chamber of Commerce's leading agenda item concerning mobility is better timing for traffic signals. AAA rails against the city for speed and traffic camera-based ticketing, and bike lanes, which to their way of thinking, takes away vital road space from the automobile.

(3) the ability to pay for transportation infrastructure expansion without relying on the federal government--in a time when the federal government is disconnected and uncommitted to making extra-normal investments in infrastructure for the Washington region of any kind, let alone transit, coming up with money is tough. The areas are poor--not DC because we are a city-state, but we are wasting money big time on unnecessary capital projects, which makes such forward investment very difficult. 
Critical Mass 20th Anniversary Ride, San Francisco, streetcars on Market Street
Critical Mass 20th Anniversary Ride, San Francisco, streetcars on Market Street.  SF Chronicle photo.

Virginia added some financing capacity to Northern Virginia, but it still isn't enough. Maryland has encumbered a lot of their state transportation monies on roads.

I've suggested a transportation withholding tax--they have this in certain counties in Oregon, and in the transit catchment area for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York State.  France's version is called the versement transport.  In the Paris region, this tax covers 40% of the operational costs of the area's transit systems.

(4) to pay for significant transit expansion, DC would have to authorize an increase in allowable height in Downtown buildings, which would significantly increase the city's commercial property tax base, which would then increase the city's capacity to issue debt without over-taxing the budget
Proposed map of a Washington-Baltimore regional rail system
Dan Malouff's proposed map of a Washington-Baltimore regional passenger railroad system dates to the late 1990s.

(5) great planners and leaders of transportation and planning agencies across the region, to push for and make the case for integrating transportation and land use planning, and to take the heat from residents for doing it -- look at the strife over light rail in Suburban Maryland and over streetcars in DC and Arlington County.

E.g., DC has failed to lay out next generation urban design for the Rhode Island and Fort Totten transit catchment areas, which bobbles the opportunity to fully leverage the power of transit to transform communities.  Some of the new development at Brookland and Takoma does a better job with this, but has been opposed by the community.

The Monroe Street Market, otherwise a collection of tall, multiunit buildings redefining the core of the Brookland neighborhood, will devote most of a block to rowhouses, when it should have also been multiunit to fully reinforce the new center.

(6) citizens who care about the future and are willing to objectively analyze the reality about mobility -- but with all the problems we've had lately concerning the Purple Line and streetcars, I don't have a lot of confidence... especially because most area residents are imprinted with an automobile centric land use and mobility paradigm, even if they live in the city, even if they think they are progressive (see "DC as a suburban agenda dominated city").
Tom Toles editorial cartoon, 2/10/2012, federal transportation bill
Tom Toles editorial cartoon, 2/10/2012, federal transportation bill.

Off the top of my head transportation ideas to improve quality of life and commerce in DC and Metropolitan Washington

This list is mostly focused on DC, but is extendable to the metropolitan area with appropriate tweaks.
1. Besides building more Metro lines, including the separated blue line, a Yellow Line out Georgia Avenue, and another "Yellow Line" from Fort Totten to White Oak, etc.

2. and infill stations (e.g., I wrote about the Pepco site, bringing back the Oklahoma Avenue station, etc. years before Aaron Weiner)

3. merging MARC and VRE into one regional railroad passenger service I call RACER (Railroad Authority of the Chesapeake Region), which would include electrification of the tracks between DC and Richmond, contra-flow services between DC and German on the Brunswick line, and services to Pennsylvania and Delaware as well as to DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, which are served by the systems now.

This is how it used to be...

4.  and integrating all modes of transit into one comprehensive planning system

5. with high capacity funding (versement transport, new building heights and bonding capacity, etc.)

6. making bus transit sexy including converting major routes to double deck buses (BRT isn't really it, but it is a start)

7. creating an intra-neighborhood transit system so that residents can move between home, commercial districts, supermarkets, schools and transit stations without having to drive
Hamburg, Germany, map of integrated transit system
Since the early 1960s, the City-State of Hamburg, Germany has had an integrated planning, scheduling, and fare system for all of the transit services (bus, subway, railroad, ferry) serving the city and neighboring provinces.  The organization, HVV (Hamburg Transport Association), does all of the transportation planning for the city-state of Hamburg, and the two adjoining states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.  Various operators provide services, although Hamburg Hochbahn (subway and bus in Hamburg city) and the Deutsche Bahn suburban commuter railroad system provide the bulk of the services.

8. that is free of charge (like the Tempe Arizona Orbit system)

9.  Lower fares, transit passes that are fairly priced, and discounted fares/passes for lower income residents

10.  Creating a Night Owl bus service running along the subway station network, when the subway system is closed.
Exterior lit, with train, Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center station

Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center station.  LA Times photo.

11. doing amazing things with Union Station (also see next item), that are more amazing than the current plans including the integration of a major visitor center and transportation museum

12. Create a National Mall streetcar-based transit system integrated with visitor (tourism) services.  Many European cities have transit lines that double as tourist conveyances.  In SF, the Market Street Railway is a great example of what I am thinking about.
The National Mall and Smithsonian Museums, map
Map of the National Mall and Smithsonian Museums, National Park Service.

13. recognizing that transit stations (subway, railroad, and major bus transfer points) are major entrypoints-gateways into neighborhoods and upgrading them appropriately including artistic elements to Metro station bridges and canopies
Tunnel of Lights, Railroad Park, Birmingham, Alabama,  "Light Rails" by Bill FitzGibbons
Tunnel of Lights, Railroad Park, Birmingham, Alabama,  "Light Rails" by Bill FitzGibbons.  Photograph by Jenna Nicole Photography.

14. Making arterials integral civic architecture including multi-modality (my "Signature Streets" concept)

15. having more "commuter stores" and making them centers for the promotion and adoption of sustainable mobility modes

16. creating dedicated surface transitways (busways) Downtown and on key arterials

17. relatedly, adding a busway from National Airport to the proposed Long Bridge reconstruction to provide 24 hour transit service to the Airport and to provide redundancy for 14th Street Bridge

18. HOV2 requirements during rush hour on some major arterials
HOV-2 sign, Alexandria
HOV-2 sign, Alexandria, Virginia.

19. an annual regional transit advocates-vision conference

20. undergrounding the through traffic elements of certain commuter-centric arterials in the city to speed their movement and take the traffic off the streets, which has debilitating impacts on abutting neighborhoods

21. and this point, resurrected from Mark Jenkins' original article proposing the Purple Line in the 12/4/1987 issue of the City Paper, of having Purple Line-Metrorail-passenger rail intersection stations (like New Carrollton or Silver Spring), potentially in Rockville, Alexandria, etc., become much better "train stations." Rather than the Silver Spring Transit Center being an example of what is possible, look at the new Anaheim Regional Intermodal Transportation Center.

But speaking of the Purple Line.  Build it.  And create the bi-county authority and transportation renewal district to offload state financing, to get the current Administration to approve it.

-- "To build the Purple Line, perhaps Montgomery and Prince George's Counties will have to create a "Transportation Renewal District" and Development Authority"

And start planning right now for the segment from Alexandria to New Carrollton, with service including National Harbor.  Ideally the same could happen from Bethesda west to Tysons.
Purple Line Map  DC Metro

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Public access to building tops in the vertical city: cinemas, parks, and plazas

House & Garden UK has a feature on "LONDON'S MUST-SEE LATE NIGHT EVENTS," and one of the items listed is the Rooftop Film Club, which screens films in four different places across London (they are planning a NYC operation as well).

Many of the office buildings in DC's core do provide rooftop access to tenants as an amenity.

Some of the buildings provide access on 4th of July, to see the fireworks, which is pretty cool.

While I've written about how neat it is that the Salt Lake City Central Library's green roof and patio is open to the public and offers majestic views (Image at right from Utelitesoil).

The San Diego Central Library roof is open to the public and isn't so majestic as SLC but it is set up better for film presentation.

Showing movies on a library's downtown roof top would be an interesting extension of public access and use, given that most such access is otherwise privatized.

Image of the patio at the San Diego Central Library by Natalia Robert for Connect San Diego.

2.  As part of receiving approvals to build a skyscraper at 20 Fenchurch, in London, the developer offered to construct and operate an indoor park on the top three stories of the building.  See "Walkie Talkie park opens to public amid row over public access" from the London Evening Standard.

The space includes restaurants--one decidedly upscale offers a caviar plate for £325--but visitors are limited to 90-minute visits by timed appointment and must bring photo identification in order to get in the building.

The building, designed by starchitecct Rafael Viñoly, is 34 stories tall, and the fifth tallest in the city.
Sky Garden at the top of the "Walkie Talkie" building, London
Sky Garden at the top of the "Walkie Talkie" building, London.  Photo by Alex Lentati, for the London Evening Standard.

The building is notorious not just for its shape, which led to its nickname, but because concentrated light beams emanating from the glass curtain wall "melted" parts on a Jaguar parked on the street, so the building has been fitted with an awning to diffuse light bouncing from the building.

3.  Separate is the issue of access to "privately owned public spaces" which have been created as part of planning approvals, usually in return for variances, density bonuses, etc.

There is a book about such spaces in New York City (Privately Owned Public Space: The New York City Experience), and awareness of the issue came to the fore during the Occupy Wall Street movement, because Zuccotti Park, home to the protests, is such a space.

In San Francisco, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association has published a public access guide to such spaces there, Streets of San Francisco.

4. SF' privately owned public spaces include rooftop plazas on a privately owned building, at One Kearny, pictured at right (Photo by Liz Hafalia, SF Chronicle), and the San Francisco Federal Building.

See "Privately owned public spaces: Guidance needed" from the San Francisco Chronicle.

SF's spaces came about as a result of the 1985 Downtown Plan, which called for 1 s.f. of public space for 50 s.f. of private space.

John King argues that it is time for the regulations to be updated, in part to deal with access issues, as many of the spaces, as pointed out by SPUR, are not promoted as being open to the public, as well as design issues, since many of the spaces aren't outfitted in ways that promote use, activation, and lingering.

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle. The 11th floor Skygarden in the Federal Building has a remarkable view of South of Market, but there's no sign announcing it on 7th Street and there's a security checkpoint at the building's entrance.

I don't think that the SF Federal Building will start screening movies in its Skygarden, but it would be cool.

At least one of the House Office Buildings in DC has a nice terrace space overlooking Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

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The opportunity to create a DC Municipal electric utility: presentation tonight

Frankly, I don't care one way or the other if PEPCO is acquired by Exelon.  I don't think it will have negative consequences on my ability to use electricity.

I don't see Exelon as being much of a hindrance, depending on the effectiveness of the DC Public Service Commission, to increasing renewable sources and the creation of district energy systems here and there across the city (such as at the Walter Reed site, which already has a power plant, or the proposal for the Southwest Eco District, although to do so there, Congress will have to change some laws).

In terms of reliability of the grid, if anything, Exelon's presence, being a better managed company, will likely have positive impacts.  Plus, Exelon is not opposed to the integration of bicycle access in transmission corridors, which is much different from PEPCO, which for the most part is obstreperous.  So that's a benefit too.

But some residents think this is a good opportunity to consider the acquisition of the transmission infrastructure for the creation of a municipally-owned utility.

I agree, but rather than having such meetings towards the tail end of the process, this possibility should have been raised in the beginning, or even before, such as what was proposed for some time by Councilman Roger Berliner in Montgomery County, Maryland (see "You can't wish away the need to upgrade aging utility infrastructure" and "Press piling on Montgomery County's utility dreams").

I still need to read Thomas Hughes' Networks of Power, a comparative history of the development of electricity generation and transmission systems in the US, UK, and Germany.

The one thing that concerns me about local control of utility infrastructure is the opportunity for political patronage and corruption or misuse of funds.

For example, Philadelphia Gas Works, owned by the City of Philadelphia, is a mess.  The mayor tried to get it privatized, to get money and the capital to fix the system, but the City Council didn't even schedule a hearing, and the offer expired.

Seattle Public Utilities (garbage, water and sewer, not electricity) is supposed to be pretty good, but some people complain that the agency pays for certain kinds of infrastructure projects that should be paid for from other funds, leading to higher rates.

And certain business interests pressed for a referendum separating control of Portland's water system from the local government using similar arguments.

While LA's Department of Water and Power has big misuse of funds issues now, during the Enron electricity manipulations in the California market, they were heroes, because LA residents were immune because their power needs weren't subject to the same kinds of market tampering.

Portland tried to buy the local utility, when it was pushed into bankruptcy as part of the Enron debacle, but business interests prevented that from happening, somewhat similar to the machinations by business interests to get the City of Cleveland to sell its local utility interests to the local utility company--something that pushed Dennis Kucinich out of office, but the City still owns its streetlights--something that Detroit, having gone into bankruptcy, no longer does.

Closer to DC, the City of Manassas runs a number of well respected utility services, including electricity, and another great example of excellence in publicly owned utilities is EPB (Electric Power Board) in Chattanooga, which has implemented fiber to the home via the electricity infrastructure, with Internet speeds as fast as 1GB.

It's too late, but it would have been interesting for DC and Montgomery County to have gone in together on a bid.

There is a presentation Wednesday night (from email):
An Exelon-Pepco Merger Does Not Work for DC Ratepayers
An Independent, Consumer-Owned Electric Utility Does

Recent news that utility regulators in Delaware and Maryland have approved the proposed $6.8 billion Exelon-Pepco merger, puts major pressure on the final body left to vote -- the three-member DC Public Service Commission. It is expected to decide by late August. However regardless of what the Commission decides, DC residents and ratepayers will be better off with an independent consumer-owned utility in DC, than with an Exelon-Pepco merger.

An Exelon-Pepco Merger will:
--Increase energy rates for consumers and businesses
--Shift control of DC’s energy distribution and interconnection to Chicago
--Undermine the District of Columbia's renewable-energy initiatives

An Independent, Consumer-Owned Utility will:

--Decrease rates for consumers and businesses
--Maintain local control of DC's power supply and distribution
--Accelerate the adoption of renewable energy in DC

Join us as we discuss:
Beyond Exelon-Pepco -- Taking Charge of Our Energy Future and Creating the DC Electric Utility We Want

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

University of DC (UDC) School of Law
4340 Connecticut Avenue, NW (west side), 4th Floor

5 pm Hors D'oeuvres
6 - 8:30 pm Program, Discussion
8:30 pm Reception


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National Endowment for the Arts Creative Placemaking initiatives

I decided to extract this from the Arts roundup piece because I meant to make some additional points.
From email:
Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work—placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. The NEA's programs support local efforts to enhance quality of life and opportunity for residents, increase creative activity, and create a distinct sense of place.

The arts are an integral component of building vibrant communities and as part of its commitment to supporting arts-based community development, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is posting information on funding opportunities and a new creative placemaking resource. These are:
Since Our Town's inception in 2011, the NEA has awarded 256 grants totaling more than $21 million in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition, the NEA has created the online resource Exploring Our Town, with more than 70 case studies and lessons learned from organizations working in communities large and small, urban and rural across the country. In July, the NEA will announce the 2015 grantees, including projects from the new project type of supporting knowledge-building in the field of creative placemaking.
2.  There are some tensions within "arts-based revitalization." The first has to do with how artists are the pioneers who "pacify and improve" disinvested areas to the point where people less comfortable with chaos are clamoring to move in.  It ends up being a real estate play.  Prices go up and artists end up being crowded out by even newer entrants.

See the discussion in "Art, culture districts, and revitalization," "More thoughts on suburban hipness (it's really about commercial hipness generally, not urban vs. suburban)," and "Naturally occurring innovation districts | Technology districts and the tech sector."

Lights Out! but somebody's home: art is the vanguard of gentrification
I took this photo in Baltimore, in a neighborhood where half the properties were empty.  If someone moves into an empty house, or builds on an empty lot, is that gentrification or inward investment?

The second is how people see arts-based revitalization as a specific strategy to displace the less well off.

I suppose that can be true over long periods of time.  But that's only in the strongest of markets, mostly Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Western Los Angeles County.

Loads of Fun Gallery, North Avenue, Station North Arts & Entertainment District.  Panoramio photo by Avagara.

Generally, the places I've witnessed this kind of revitalization initiative tend to be places with a lot of vacant property, so I have a hard time seeing the displacement element, when the biggest problem is absorbing un-used and under-utilized properties.

The third has to do with arts as consumption vs. arts as production.  Imbalances in how arts are promoted and consumed and the place of working artists can make it difficult for such initiatives to succeed.  Examples in the DC-Baltimore area illustrate the problem. That I think is a problem with a lot of the creative placemaking efforts in the arts, although there are some great examples of a better mix of production and consumption including:

- Gordon Square Arts District, Cleveland
- Penn Avenue Arts Initiative, Pittsburgh
- Playhouse Square, Cleveland ("The Howard and Lincoln Theatres: run them like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/Playhouse Square Cleveland model")
- Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore

(Also see "Culture districts in Europe."  Some examples would be Arabianranta in Helsinki, Cable Factory in Helsinki, The City of the Book in Aix-en-Provence, and La Friche in Marseille.)

It's difficult to do "arts-based revitalization' in DC because even in bad times, property values are comparatively high. That's why Baltimore has so much more opportunity compared to DC. Not only does it have lots of big buildings, which DC doesn't have, but they're cheap, and Baltimore is convenient to DC, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Brentwood Arts Center, Prince George's County
Brentwood Arts Center, Rhode Island Avenue, Brentwood, Maryland (Prince George's County).

It's difficult to do "arts-based revitalization" in certain places even if property costs are low, if there isn't much center or core to the area.

The Gateway Arts District in Prince George's County is a good example of that. despite the great intentions and efforts of residents, artists, the local governments, and other stakeholders. (See "More on arts districts.")

3.  Anyway, I wish the NEA would create a national Cultural Capital program comparable to that in the European Union, with large and small city participation.   I wrote about this idea in the Europe in Baltimore blog:
The European Capital of Culture program is also a great model, where, with the support of national and state-regional governments, city revitalization efforts and the development and realization of a wide range of new cultural and physical infrastructure are fostered and accelerated. 
Cities like Liverpool have had tremendous success in leveraging these events to rebrand and reposition and expand their tourism promotion efforts on a multifold basis. The US could do a similar program, just as the UK is doing with its new City of Culture program, with separate tranches for large cities and smaller towns and rural areas. In some respects, the “heritage areas” programs at the state and national level do some of this, but in the US these programs do not receive the kind of attention and funding accorded to the European Capital of Culture program. 
Other Pan-European programs could be adapted to the US as well with the aim of achieving similar impacts, not just for economic development and best practice adoption, but on community building, sustainabilitly, and social inclusion dimensions also. These programs include the European Green Capital and European Youth Capital programs by the EU and the EuroScience Open Forum “Science in the City” festival.
E.g., for creative economy approaches in rural areas, see Greg Baeker's piece, "Building a Creative Rural Economy" from Municipal World, Canada's leading magazine for local governments.  Mr. Baeker is now at the consulting firm Millier Dickinson Blais, and they have a great resource page on this and related topics.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Changing times for US arts museums

Museum Mile street sign, New York City Museum Mile street sign, New York City. Photo Credit: Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post.

The Economist reports in "Onwards and upwards" that more than 33% of the directors of major arts museums are at retirement age, and opines that there are three major issues facing museums that the next generation of directors should address.

 From the article:
The impending influx of new blood at the top offers museums an opportunity to rethink the job and question many of the assumptions that underlie traditional museum operations: the emphasis on splendid buildings, the primacy of curatorial authority and the balance between rich donors, for whom museums are often personal vanity projects, and the public, who see museums as shared common goods. ...

Refashioning museums to appeal to future generations means devising a new vision. Up-and-coming directors face three major challenges: engaging more imaginatively with audiences, addressing America’s changing demographics and negotiating the ever more delicate balance between rich donors and the public.

Audience engagement has to do with a museum’s relevance and its impact on its community. The simplest measure is attendance figures. Engaging younger audiences is key, though; the National Endowment for the Arts reports that in the decade to 2012 the only age group that saw a marked growth in attendance was those aged 75 and older. his must change. ...

If museums are to make any headway in engaging with audiences they must also work on broadening their appeal. Last month the AAM annual conference was told that the three Ws of traditional museums are white, Western and “womanless”. ...

The biggest challenge facing new directors, though, will be keeping true to the idea of what a museum should be: a plaything for rich collectors whose philanthropy comes with an increasing number of conditions, or a precious centre of public education. In her speech Ms Cole reminded AAM delegates that baby-boomers still control 70% of the nation’s disposable income, and that wealth is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Navigating successfully between these competing visions will separate the best art-museum director from the rest.
I do think that a kind of community history-art museum hybrid has a better chance at dealing with some of these issues.  There was a lot of hand wringing on the part of the next generation of museum professionals about art and protest in the face of Black Lives Matters protests, starting in Ferguson, Missouri.

I had made a similar point in "Local history museums and critical analysis opportunities for communities."

But there is a tension in museums, as art was probably the first sector ever truly "globalized," between the collection and presentation of art by the great artists and civilizations vs. the presentation and collection of historical and contemporary work by local and regional artists. This can make it difficult for locally-based museums (as opposed to "national" museums like the big ones in New York City) to accomplish what The Economist suggests they must focus on.

The Museum of the City of New York addresses the concerns expressed by The Economist, although they could probably do a better job on diversity elements (although the city also has the Museum of El Barrio and one of the nation's premier collections of African-American materials at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library system.

MCNY presents historical and artistic works in the context of the city's history and contemporary issues.  Recent exhibits featured Mac Conner, an illustrator for magazines and ads during the heyday of illustrations (versus photography) and contemporary digital composite photographs by Jeff Chien-Hsing Liao's New York.

 An earlier exhibition on "the decorative arts" presented the development of Colonial Revival as a style of architecture and interior design as well as an element of building national identity. Plus that great exhibit on "local" protest in New York City mentioned in the above-cited blog entry.

I seem to recall that the Montreal Fine Arts Museum successfully works the balance between presentation of globally- and regionally-relevant art.

In line with the challenge posted by The Economist, the Brooklyn Museum of Arts has appointed a new director ("Brooklyn Museum Picks Anne Pasternak as New Director," New York Times), who has been president and artistic director of Creative Time, NYC's leading force for public art and for visual and performing arts presented in the public realm.

In addition to the thousands of works commissioned and presented, Creative Time sponsors an annual conference, the Creative Time Summit, addressing key issues in public art. While most of the events have been held in NYC, last year's was in Stockholm and this year it's being held in association with the Venice Biennale, in August.

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Arts roundup

1. The Art Newspaper is published monthly.  Every year they publish a special report on museum attendance, this year's special section was published in April. This article ("Visitor figures 2014: the world goes dotty over Yayoi Kusama") summarizes the findings and conclusions.

2.  World Cities Culture Forum "is a collaborative network of world cities that share a belief in the importance of culture for creating thriving cities"and was initiated by the City of London. (Another example of Charles Landry's point that "world cities don't just take, they give to the rest of the world.") .

The organization's 24 members include four North American cities: Los Angeles; Montreal; New York City; and Toronto.

-- World Cities Culture Report 2014
-- Transformational Cultural Projects Report has case studies organized by the following categories: Resilient Communities; Social Inclusion; Urban Revitalization; Distinctive Identity; Participation; and Innovation.

3.  Public Art Review is a journal published by Forecast Public Art, an organization focused on linking artists and communities. There is a one to two year lag, but full issues are accessible online. Content of the magazine focuses on artists, public art projects, community practices in public art, book reviews, and notices.  The advertisements too are interesting, often featuring artists and firms doing large scale works. (The publication is included in the Arts Index database, see below, with a one year lag on full issue content.)

Forecast Public Art has compiled and presents a Public Art Toolkit.resource on the website too.

Aerial Rendering of cSPACE King Edward.

4.  The Toronto Globe & Mail story, " Calgary’s King Edward School to be reborn as creative hub cSPACE," discusses the creation of an arts hub created by the organization cSpace Projects, which will be located in a deaccessioned school in the Marda Loop neighborhood.

I argue these kinds of spaces are essential to the strengthening of artistic disciplines and organizations, as well as the cultural offer, and if done right, achieve community revitalization objectives as well.  From the article:
... a 47,000-square-foot creative hub and arts incubator for a diverse group of artists and arts organizations. It will have studios, offices and production facilities, as well as exhibition and performance spaces – including a 130-seat theatre built in a new glass wing.

The idea is to bring artists, non-profits and creative entrepreneurs together “to collaborate, feed off each other’s energy and create new work,” cSPACE president and chief executive Reid Henry says. “I’m very interested in this building being a place where every facet of the cultural and creative sector come together, so whether you’re working in community projects or non-profit, performance art or commercial art, even, … we want to be a space for them to incubate their ideas.”

The building is scheduled to open in late 2016 with tenants such as the Alberta Craft Council, the experimental company Theatre Encounter and the collaborative arts centre Studio C.

Outside the LEED Gold project, an arts-infused park will have four art cubes for pop-up works of public art and tiny exhibitions.
As it happens, Calgary's mayor, Naheed Kurban Nenshi, is considered to be one of North America's most innovative and thoughtful mayors ("'Canada's Mayor' sees the city positively," Toronto Star), including on creative economy matters.

5.  Note that in the Europe in Baltimore project blog, I argued that a similar kind of space placed in the border area between Baltimore's Bromo Tower and Station North arts districts could have a similar kind of knitting and building effect, tying together those two districts, and leveraging the civic and cultural assets within each district to achieve a greater whole.
Development of additional and bigger anchor institutions to support artists and the development of artistic disciplines and arts production.  Baltimore has at least two formal arts anchor institutions that are comparable, albeit on a much smaller scale, to La Friche in Marseille and Cable Factory in Helsinki–the Creative Alliance in Highlandtown and the School 33 Art Center–plus a variety of ground up independent facilities such as the Load of Fun Gallery on North Avenue and others throughout the city.

The development of a big arts center facility like those in Helsinki and Marseille in the core of the city could be a way to physically and spatially link the Station North and Westside arts initiatives, which are roughly adjacent.

If the “Europe in Baltimore” initiative continues, perhaps it could include a more focused exploration of these kinds of arts facilities that operate in many European cities.  Many of these centers are members of the Trans Europe Halles network.
6.  Arts Index is an articles index and database of major arts publication.  Most university and public library systems have this database on-site and available to registered users for remote access.  It's a good reason to either have a library card for your local public library or to be a member of your university's alumni association, which often includ library access.

7.  MoMA in New York City has launched an initiative called "Prime Time," a free program for seniors, offering gallery presentations film showings, online courses, and other events.

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