Cities Improve Parking by Removing Parking Spaces

Car culture greatly damaged urban centres the world over and now cities are trying to undo the damage. Smart cities are banning cars from certain areas, installing bike lanes, more sidewalks, and now are removing parking. Cities built too many parking spaces for cars and now they are reclaiming that space. It’s important to remember that most of the time parking spaces are empty – and you can improve parking by managing the supply.

Sometimes, the supply of parking goes down because nobody needs it. Since 1990, the city of Philadelphia has conducted an inventory of parking every five years in the downtown Center City neighbourhood, counting publicly accessible parking spaces and analysing occupancy rates in facilities with 30 or more spaces. Because of plentiful transit options, a walkable environment and a high downtown residential population, Philadelphia is finding that it needs less parking. Between 2010 and 2015, the amount of off-street parking around downtown shrank by about 3,000 spaces, a 7% reduction. Most of that is tied to the replacement of surface lots with new development, according to Mason Austin, a planner at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission and co-author of the most recent parking inventory.

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Toronto’s Green Roofs Keep Growing


Back in 2006 we first looked at how green roofs were becoming a development issue in Toronto, in 2009 Toronto implemented that green roof bylaw. Then in 2014 we took a look at how North America’s green roof industry is growing.

This year, Toronto has become the hub for green roofs! Torontist took a look into what made this happen and why green roofs are perfect for cities.

There are approximately 500 green roofs, big and small, in Toronto. This is thanks to a 2010 bylaw [PDF] requiring all new developers to cover between 20 and 60 per cent of their buildings with vegetation. It’s the first (and, for now, only) regulation of its kind in North America, making Toronto uniquely positioned for environmental design.

The bylaw is why the 41-story RBC WaterPark Place [PDF] at Bay Street and Queens Quay has three green roofs that together could fill a NFL football field.

Developers can opt out of installing anything remotely grassy for a fee. But Jane Welsh, City Hall’s project manager for environmental planning, told Torontoist only five per cent of buildings choose to go sans-green roof.

Welsh also says municipally-owned buildings install a green roof anytime there’s a repair or replacement to the top of the building, when feasible.

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Thanks Delaney!

Trams Win For Moving People

Traffic is a problem in every city, and more and more people are concerned with the most efficient way of getting people from A to B. It turns out we already know the answer: mass transit. The issue in traffic planing is slowly changing from how much space should cars get to how much space should the car give up. Bicycling and mass transit are the most efficient way to move people through cities and now urban planners are thinking of how to divide up space that the car once dominated for those modes of transportation.

Cars, as you’d expect, came dead last, taking over four minutes to move just 200 people over the line. In the city, the superior acceleration and speed of a car give no advantage. Busses and trams come first—no surprise, they’re called “mass” transit for a reason. But bikes come in far behind pedestrians, taking two minutes to get 200 people over a line, compared to just 38 seconds for walking. Obviously, over longer distances, things change a lot, but it’s interesting nonetheless, as much city travel is stop-start.

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Walkable Streets Solve Nearly Every Problem


Anybody who lives in a city knows that walkability of neighbourhoods is a key reason they live where they do. The attraction to mobility options, safe places, cultural and economic diversity is what keeps cities growing. Walkable spaces makes all of that happen and more!

What smoking was to the 20th century car driving is to the 21st, and people are starting to realize we need to kick the car addiction. Car culture kills people through increased obesity, awful urban planning, and pollution (not to mention collisions). Over at Fast Co. Exist they put together a list of 50 reasons why everyone should want more walkable streets.

“The benefits of walkability are all interconnected,” says James Francisco, an urban designer and planner at Arup, the global engineering firm that created the report. “Maybe you want your local business to be enhanced by more foot traffic. But by having that benefit, other benefits are integrated. Not only do you get the economic vitality, but you get the social benefits—so people are out and having conversations and connecting—and then you get the health benefits.” A single intervention can also lead to environmental and political benefits.

Here’s numbers 25 & 26 from the list:

25. It shrinks the cost of traffic congestion
The more people walk and the fewer people are stuck in traffic on roads, the more that benefits the economy. In the Bay Area, for example, businesses lose $2 billion a year because employees are stuck in gridlock.

26. It saves money on construction and maintenance
While building and maintaining roads is expensive—the U.S. needs an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 to repair existing infrastructure—sidewalks are more affordable. Investing in sidewalks also brings health and air quality benefits worth twice as much as the cost of construction.

Read all 50.

Incremental Design to Address Housing Inequality

Basically every nation has basic housing problems that need to be addressed. Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won this year’s Pritzker Architecture Prize because of his work on community housing. It wasn’t just the buildings that got him the prize, it’s the fact that he and his team worked with locals to bring change to the community in a new way. Instead of centralized planning, they went with talking to the the people who lived in the community housing and brought positive change to the structures incrementally.

Thailand’s Baan Mankong Program also offers lessons in incremental housing through a decentralized, community-led process. Launched in 2003 by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), the program directs small but flexible government subsidies and loans to community-level lending and savings groups, with a strong emphasis on an inclusive, collective process. Receiving input from all members of the community, these resident-led groups decide how they’d like to invest the money—from reconstructing or upgrading individual homes to reblocking or relocating entire neighborhoods. Additionally, the Baan Mankong Program provides technical and financial support from government staff, community architects and planners where needed, enabling residents to address complex tenure security needs, land redistribution, housing improvements, service delivery and more.

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Thanks to Delaney!