A Good City is an Environmentally Friendly One

The urban environment can benefit from more, well, environment. More research is coming out that proves something that many urbanites already know: where there is green there is more peace. Cities with good access to nature and have more trees spread throughout the urban space are better places to live.

Urban neighbourhoods with more green space have lower crime levels and interpersonal violence, according to research from the University of Washington. The study shows that public housing residents with trees and natural landscapes nearby reported 25 per cent fewer acts of domestic violence and aggression, as well as roughly 50 per cent fewer total crimes than other buildings with sparse green space.

Green space doesn’t just help people shake the blues: According to a major British study, people who live near forests or the ocean live longer than those in urban centres, even adjusting for other factors.

Prof. Ellard, who is working on a book on place and psychology, recently conducted a set of experiments in New York, Berlin and Mumbai. People were asked to walk a specific route while giving self-assessments of their moods and feelings, while their heart rate and sweat levels were measured for signs of stress.

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A Call to Think Bigger About Transit

The way we get around in North America is changing from a work-home orientation to a node based network with multiple destinations. At first cars were used to fulfil this but as traffic worsens we need to rethink how we all get around. The solution, of course, is to kick the addiction to owning cars.

This raises bigger questions about the role of TOD in shared transport networks. One of the reasons services like Uber and Lyft, not to mention autonomous cars, make some planners nervous is because they don’t have a fixed node associated with them. So how do we continue to plan around them and for them? What is their relationship to transit? And, by extension, to transit-oriented development?

To answer these questions we need to re-think what transit is, just as we’re re-thinking what TOD is. If a chain of autonomous vehicles with vehicle-to-vehicle communications operate in a train-set type format, is that functioning just as transit would? Is that more or less efficient than the current local bus systems in some cities? I know this scares some people to talk about, and the answer often seems to be some sort of litmus test as to whether or not you really support public transportation, but I think to have an honest conversation we have to get rid of the sacred cows.

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Doctors Say Healthy People Come From Good Urban Design

A new report written by a handful of doctors titled Improving Health Care by Design concludes that in order to have a healthy populace we need cities designed for health. There is nothing startling in the report but it does provide one more reference and tool for people to use inspire positive change in their own communities.

The results: if we want healthy people, we need to build healthy communities. This means, the doctors suggest, that our communities need to made more conducive to walking, cycling, and public transit. The report concludes with calls for “major changes” in community design across the GTHA.

These are not perhaps particularly novel observations, few would argue that more opportunities for physical activity leads to better overall health. But the report, written as it was by doctors, adds leverage to these ideas by attempting to quantify more specifically, the health effects of good community planning.

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San Francisco Fluctuates Parking Prices, Reduces Wasteful Driving

Car culture in North America has led to massive subsidies for car drivers that go pretty much unnoticed. One of these subsidies is in the way of “free parking,” which is anything but free. Cars occupy space during the day that could be used for productive means or green space, instead cars sit unused with nobody inside of them most of the time.

In San Francisco they have changed their municipal parking system to reflect market demands for parking space. The result is a drop in people who “cruise” looking for parking spaces. Therefore, car drivers have become a little less destructive in the city.

According to a study published last month in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, the program has worked. San Francisco’s occupancy goals have been met, and “cruising” for parking — driving around and clogging up streets after you’ve already reached your destination — is down by 50 percent.

The group of researchers — who represent the University of California, Santa Cruz, Carnegie Mellon and transit consultancy Nelson\Nygaard — analyzed the 256 blocks subject to SFpark and compared them to a 55-block control group. With access to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s data, the team had a total of more than 2.4 million data points during metered hours to analyze.

Using a model to simulate a driver looking for parking (the model “cruises” down a street and, if it doesn’t find any open spaces, takes a series of random turns until it does), the researchers estimated that the blocks under SFpark saw a 50 percent reduction in cruising. They also found that the program met its goal of a 60-80 percent occupancy rate for spots. Under the program, if occupancy was below 60 percent, parking rates were cut by 25 cents. If more than 80 percent of spots on a block were occupied during metered hours, rates were hiked by the same amount.

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TradeCity: A Game That Shows You Your Own City

TradeCity

TradeCity: Toronto is a new expeirmental art game made by Golboo Amani that begins April 1st (no fooling’) and runs to the 12th. The game is set in Toronto and you need to physically traverse the city to play the game. TradeCity will expose players to really cool organizations in the city that they may have previously been unaware of.

I’ve had the chance to help Golboo on this project as an advisor so it’s really exciting to see the game about to start. You should sign up soon as space is limited and it looks like it’s going to be a some bizarre fun!

TradeCity: Toronto beta is a live reality game that takes place from April 1st to 12th 2014, throughout Metro Toronto. TradeCity is an experimental art project by Toronto-based artist Golboo Amani. Amani has partnered up with various co-operative communities to design an exciting game that is both fun and challenging!

TradeCity:Toronto is an adventure based game that explores Toronto by asking Players to compete in site-specific as well as virtual challenges. There are dozens of chances to win prizes by demonstrating your gaming skills!

To play you must register in person on April 1, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm at TradeCity: Toronto beta Headquarters, University of Toronto Art Centre, 15 King’s College Circle. Players can register as a team or as individual players. You must be 18 years or older to play.

Registration is FREE! For more information visit tradecitygame.com.

Originally posted on Reality is a Game.

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