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Urban Design

Towards Democratic And Ecological Cities

Cities are an integral part of human history. With their creation a public space emerged, which allowed their inhabitants to experience true political freedom. The city gave birth to direct democracy and the concept of the polis – both based on the idea that citizens can and should collectively and equally self-manage their common urban life, in all its spheres. Such free cities networked with each other into democratic confederations. Their relation with the countryside was one of symbiosis and mutual aid. With the expansion of empires, nation-states and capitalism, cities were submitted to the paradigms of political oligarchy and unlimited economic expansion.

What Paris Can Teach Other Cities About Removing Roads

Can removing a road make it easier to drive more freely elsewhere? A major study of 63 roads and squares closed to motor traffic in various European cities (mainly in Britain and Germany) suggests that it does. In many cases, cars disappeared altogether, rather than being displaced into parallel streets, lessening the dreaded congestion. Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, made the same claim, but the court disagreed, holding that the research was inadequate. However, actual measures of traffic levels before and after the road closure along the Seine, announced the week the court handed down its decision, indicated a reduction in motor traffic in nearby areas.

Lessons From A Downtown District That’s Bucking National Trends

While many urban downtowns around the country are continuing to be plagued by office and retail vacancies, a 2.6-square-mile area in Memphis’s downtown is bucking the trend. In Memphis’s medical district, eleven new businesses opened last year — 10 of them owned by women and people of color, and supported by almost $150,000 in targeted grants. More and more district residents are now supporting these businesses, thanks to over 400 new housing units coming online. With dozens of events activating the district’s many public spaces, these new neighbors are welcoming tens of thousands of visitors: The Juneteenth Festival in Health Sciences Park welcomed about 12,000 guests alone.

Science Denial Group Behind Attacks On Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

More than a quarter of online posts attacking low traffic schemes last year came from a science denial group which campaigns against climate policies. A new report by cross-party think tank Demos found that 27 percent of online posts attacking Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) in 2023 were posted by the right-wing Together Declaration. The group, originally set up to oppose COVID-19 policies such as lockdowns and mandatory vaccines, is backed by some of the UK’s most prominent climate science deniers, including blogger Ben Pile, Reform UK candidate Howard Cox, and UKIP leader Lois Perry.

Essential Voices For The Turn Away From Car Dependency

In forward-thinking municipalities across North America, elected officials and staff members can learn important lessons by taking on the Week Without Driving Challenge. As Anna Letitia Zivarts describes it, “participants have to try to get around for a week without driving. They can take transit, walk, roll, bike, or ask or pay for rides as they try to keep to their regular schedules ….” In most municipalities, the challenge leads to a difficult but eye-opening week. That’s because in most areas getting around without driving is inconvenient, dangerous, very time-consuming, or next to impossible. As Zivarts writes, Even for participants who might already bike, walk or take transit for some of their weekly trips, we’ve heard that the experience has helped them comprehend the difference between taking the easy trips and taking all trips without driving.

The Fight To Reclaim Texas’ Highways For People

Freeways rip apart neighborhoods, displace primarily Black and Brown people and increase greenhouse gas emissions — so why do we keep building them? According to a new book from Austin-based journalist Megan Kimble, “​​City Limits: Infrastructure, Inequality, and the Future of America’s Highways,” it doesn’t have to be this way. Right now, a new generation of freeway fighters is battling freeway expansion across the country. Kimble’s book profiles three campaigns in Texas to build places for people, not cars: Stop TxDOT I-45 in Houston, Rethink35 in Austin and the campaign to remove the I-345 highway in Dallas.

Sponge Cities Are The Future Of Urban Flood Mitigation

“When it rains, it pours” once was a metaphor for bad things happening in clusters. Now it’s becoming a statement of fact about rainfall in a changing climate. Across the continental U.S., intense single-day precipitation events are growing more frequent, fueled by warming air that can hold increasing levels of moisture. Most recently, areas north of Houston received 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 centimeters) of rain in several days in early May 2024, leading to swamped roads and evacuations. Earlier in the year, San Diego received 2.72 inches (7 centimeters) of rain on Jan. 22 that damaged nearly 600 homes and displaced about 1,200 people.

What If Non-Drivers Helped Plan Our Transportation Systems?

In the fall of 2021, I was invited by Roger Millar, the head of the Washington State Department of Transportation, to speak to the board of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials at its annual meeting. Before the meeting, Secretary Millar explained that I’d be presenting to the heads of each state department of transportation, and I started to get nervous. I am not a civil engineer. I don’t have a degree in urban planning. I have never worked for a transit agency or department of transportation. What I had was my lifetime of experience as a disabled nondriver and stories from the hundreds of other nondrivers from every corner of Washington State.

St. Louis’ Turn-Of-The-Century Transit Renaissance

Heartland Urbanist, Columbus-based organizer Matt Caffrey digs into the story behind St. Louis’s light metro system. In the mid-1980s, while many other transit agencies were moving toward developing trams – slow street-running light rail – St. Louis made the bold choice to build a light rail system on dedicated right of way. Opened in 1993, it’s now a 46-mile light rail system with two lines and 6.7 million riders in 2022. It’s also, he explains, a massive driver of private investment. Part of the reason why residents and visitors are able to take advantage of this system was local organizers with a St. Louis nonprofit, Citizens for Modern Transit.

A Radical Vision For The Housing Crisis In The West Of Ireland

Transit-oriented development is a land use planning approach that concentrates high-density, mixed-use development – housing, groceries, retail, employment, childcare – within walking distance from rapid transit services. Centering development around transit hubs helps create vibrant, active, affordable and accessible neighbourhoods where both businesses and people – residents, workers and tourists alike – can thrive. Polysee chose a 32-hectare parcel of land by Oranmore station, just outside Galway City, to model what this could look like.

How Montreal Became A Year-Round Cycling Success Story

The average daily temperature in February is 26 degrees Fahrenheit, with overnight lows at 12 degrees. There are 12 days of precipitation (primarily snow). There’s a massive, 764-foot-high hill (locals call it a Mont) smack dab in the middle of the city. Who would go cycling in such conditions? Montrealers, and the city’s bikeshare program has the stats to prove it. Montreal’s bikeshare program, called BIXI, has grown exponentially since launching in 2009. With over 10,000 bikes, it has the largest fleet in Canada and one of the largest in North America.

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Created A ‘Climate Time Bomb’ In Black Neighborhoods

Nearly 45 years ago, the Acres Homes area north of Houston was the largest unincorporated Black community in the South, a thriving 9-square mile area  where homeownership was the norm. That was until the city of Houston annexed it, and the Interstate 45 highway was built through its heart. In the aftermath, the community’s poverty rate has jumped to almost double the city’s average, and health ailments from pollution  have increased. President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, one of the nation’s most significant investments in curbing climate change, was supposed to consider the history of areas like Acres Homes in an attempt to make communities whole again.

Stillmeadow Peace Park Is Baltimore’s Tale Of Urban Reinvention

In the woods next to the Stillmeadow Community Fellowship church in Southwest Baltimore, Pastor Michael Martin has another sanctuary he eagerly shares with visitors. The church leaders poses meditative questions—”What do you hear?” “What do you see?” “How does it make you feel?”—as he walks parishioners, neighbors, and other participants in Stillmeadow’s “daytime retreats” through the 10 acres of once-neglected, church-owned property overlooking busy Frederick Avenue. Here, freshly planted and fast-growing saplings, carefully carved-out walking trails, and streamside sitting areas invite each person who passes through to pause.

Individualism Is Making Public Transit Worse

When you complain that transit doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end, and doesn’t go all the time, you’re describing inadequate public transit. With adequate funding and in the context of good city planning, public transit can do all of these things for vast numbers of people, though not for everyone and possibly not for Elon Musk. But Musk’s other point is fundamental. Public transit does expose us to a bunch of random strangers, and this is its superpower. In the most effective public transit, different people with different purposes and destinations find the same vehicle useful at the same time. At its most successful, a transit system’s ridership is as diverse as the city or community it serves.

In Chinatown, A Community Envisions Alternatives To Sixers Arena

Joy. While it’s been a contentious 18 months of protests, marching, and debating about a proposed new basketball arena in Philadelphia’s Center City, for at least one Saturday morning, an urban planning and design discussion about the proposed arena location brought some joy to the conversation. At the Center for Architecture in Philly, just a few blocks from the site of the proposed arena, about a hundred people gathered on Jan. 27 to brainstorm alternative uses for the site. The public workshop was organized by the Save Chinatown Coalition, an alliance of 245 organizations from Chinatown and around the city who oppose the new arena because they fear its proximity to Chinatown will disrupt and displace the community.
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