6 Cities Where Highway Removal Made the City Better

Car culture has ruined cities with never ending traffic problems and made the streetscape untenable for modern living. Smog from cars kills too many people every year. Yet, we still see places looking backward and ensuring that this regressive car-focussed planning continues. Toronto is one such place with it’s obsession on keeping a decaying highway running right through it’s downtown.

Gizmodo has collected six examples of cities that are actually doing something about their traffic problems: the highways got torn down. One example not included in their list is Maastricht which is presently in the process of removing a highway.

Let’s hope that even more places learn that the best way to deal with urban traffic planning it is to make it urban and not for cars.

Looking at San Francisco now, it’s hard to believe that a massive, stacked freeway ran right along what is now one of the most scenic views of the bay. But there it was, State Route 480, until the 1989 Loma Prieta quake damaged it. There had been talk about removing the freeway since the early 1980s, but the earthquake spurred the conversation along, and demolition began in 1991.

The result was a triumph for downtown San Francisco, which now had miles of public space, walking and bike paths, plus new transit routes where the double-decker freeway once was. The city also helped prove to the rest of the world that freeway removal was not only possible but could be an economic boon for the city, since San Francisco both saved money on construction—installing the wide boulevard was cheaper than fixing the freeway—and the new development increased property values. San Francisco actually got two great removal projects out of this earthquake: The city’s damaged Central Freeway also became Octavia Boulevard.

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Detroit to Have the Largest Urban Farm in the USA

Detroit was once a great city, then the economic collapse of car-dominated industry in the city happened. Because of the prescence of Ford and GM in Detroit the city’s urban planning focused on cars; this led to poverty and neglect of needed infrastructure.

The collapse of Detroit occurred, and now they are rebuilding. One aspect of remaking Detroit is to bring it into the 21st century by focusing on people instead of cars. An example of this is the recent announcement that Detroit will host the largest urban farming setup in America.

One surprising growth industry in the city is urban farming. Recovery Park, a nonprofit, confusingly runs a program called Recovery Park Farms, which is a for-profit. Anyway, Recovery Park and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced last week an ambitious plan to create a 60-acre urban farm (35 acres of which comes from the government, through the Detroit Land Bank Authority) to be settled not with new houses for people but greenhouses and hydroponic systems for specialty produce. Recovery Park already operates a pair of smaller urban farms, growing vegetables like radishes, greens, and edible flowers and selling them to restaurants in the city.

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The Slow City, The Good Life

Cities are often associated with the hustle and bustle of life and commerce. Whereas the countryside is associated with stillness and slowness. One author, William Powers, decided to see what life is like when you treat the city as a slow place akin to the countryside.

Just like Thoreau, he wrote a book about it. Unlike Thoreau, Powers actually practiced what he preached.

My favorite sanctuaries: Pier 45’s tip, where the West Side Highway fades to a hum; a back seat in the cathedral of St. John the Divine in late afternoon; the High Line, a new park sanctuary created from unused urban infrastructure; a silent, little-touristed third-floor corner of the Met reached via a concealed stairway in the Asian wing (it houses imaginative Chinese decorative arts).

Moongazing on Tar Beach after dinner, we muse on two other urban sanctuaries: Washington Square and Madison Square Parks on warm days, when we love to kick off sandals and lie back to savor that sensual press of our bodies to the Earth. Gravity’s eros. I can feel that attraction now — and it’s mutual, since our bodies exert a tiny gravity on the Earth — as my wife and I touch hands, the Milky Way invisible against Manhattan’s illumination, with only Venus, the moon, and a handful of stars perforating through.

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Light Rail Bringing Massive Change to American Cities

Let’s face it: driving sucks.

Car traffic is bad for everyone and a lot of American cities have caught on to this. As a result, more light rail is being built throughout the USA, recently Pheonix residents voted to back more light rail with a tax hike.

What’s pushing this? It turns out that the awfulness of the commute, more cities adopting good public transit policy, and increased urbanization.

The future of light rail looks bright!

“Light rail” is a broad term that means a passenger rail system with tram-style cars—as opposed to “heavy rail” subways, as in New York and Washington, D.C.—that runs on its own right of way, usually at street level. Light rail cars typically run at 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed, much less than a heavy rail subway.

In many cities, the building of light rail lines represents only one aspect of broader efforts to solve the public transportation puzzle. Cities are increasingly connecting light rail lines with major nodes of activity and other transportation modes such as expanded express bus services or bike lanes. Phoenix’s light rail connects downtown with Arizona State University in Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport. Charlotte has a light rail system and is now adding a streetcar. Atlanta and Miami have traditional heavy rail transit systems but are investing in other technologies such as streetcars and bus rapid transit. Las Vegas has a monorail along the Strip but is talking about a rail line to the airport.

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Why Urban Areas Are More Efficient Than Suburban Areas

It’s been known for years that urban centres have a lower carbon footprint than the lands of urban sprawl. This is a for a variety of reasons and it’s rather complex, sure most of it comes down to density, but the exact know how is still being figure out.

Over at Alternatives Journal they looked at how building sustainable cities makes better cities overall. This is how and why people make resilient cities.

FOR EXAMPLE, existing low-density suburban developments “actually increase the damage on the environment while also making that damage harder to see and to address,” wrote Green Metropolis author David Owen. Although Forbes ranked Vermont as the greenest US state in 2007, Owen’s 2009 article revealed that a typical Vermonter consumed 2,063 litres of gasoline per year – almost 400 hundred litres more than the US national average at that time. This vast consumption is primarily due to single-use zoning and the absence of a comprehensive public transit system. Contrary to popular belief, dense cities such as New York City typically have the lowest carbon footprints. NYC emits 7.1 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person per year, or less than 30 per cent of the US national average. This is due to its extreme compactness. Over 80 per cent of Manhattanites travel to work by public transit, by bicycle or on foot. Population density also lowers energy and water use, limits material consumption and decreases the production of solid waste. For example, Japan’s urban areas are five times denser than Canada’s, and the consumption of energy per capita in Japan is 40 per cent lower.

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