It’s Time to Argue for Better Modes of Transit

The video above The Guardian explores the costs of subsidizing cars in cities and looks at alternatives to car-focussed design. In the UK Nottingham raised the price of parking to reflect the actual land costs. They then took that increased revenue to spend it on public transportation, which is a more effect way to move people in urban spaces. Which brings us to an important aspect of the video: argue for more efficient transit instead of arguing against the car. Car drivers get really defensive when you tell them they are traffic. It also turns out that in Nottingham the cost of parking didn’t negatively impact business at all.

Investing in Walkable Communities Saves Cities Money

Having multiple forms of transportation improves how people navigate the world. When people are provided with mobility options they will more likely leave behind a car. It turns out that not only is that good for people it’s also good for the finances of cities. If you’re sick of high taxes then start electing politicians that want to get rid of monolithic car culture.

Investing in walkable cities, whether through allocating funds to repaint pedestrian walkways or building affordable housing close to downtowns, also attracts diverse populations and creates jobs. According to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, 63 percent of millennials and 42 percent of boomers would like to live in a place where they don’t need a car. And according to the National Association of Realtors, 62 percent of millennials prefer to live in a walkable community where a car is optional. If cities seem less automobile-dependent, chances are they are more appealing to a range of ages.

Walking also costs the city very little, unlike cars and even public transit. According to Speck’s book, if a resident takes a bus ride, it may cost them $1 but costs the city $1.50 in bus operation. If a resident decides to drive, it costs the city $9.20 in services like policing and ambulances. When a resident walks, the cost to the city is a penny.

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Ways to Cool Cities

The urban heating effect is a very real threat to how we cool our cities. The concentration of cement and machinery generates and stores a lot of heat that natural systems can’t see cool. Unless we purposefully design our cities to incorporate natural cooling techniques. The video above explores three ways that cities can start to cool their local environments.

Over at Reddit user megalomania summarized the video:

Method 1 – White asphalt emulsion on pavement
Method 2 – Rooftop Gardens
Method 3 – “Placement of buildings” to create shady canyons block not to block natural wind corridors.

For Happier Cities get More Cyclists

a couple, bicycles

Cities where people cycle regularly are happier than cities in which cycling is rare. The evidence continues to mount that building good cycling infrastructure will improve the life of everybody in a city – regardless if they ride or not. Urban planners already know that designing cities for pedestrians and cyclists make for better environments and now the on the ground happiness can be traced to it too. Get out there and ride a bike or ask your local politicians to make riding safer.

In Bogotá in 2017, for the first time, there were more survey respondents using bicycles than cars – 9 percent vs. 8 percent – with a satisfaction rate of 85 percent for bicycles against 75 percent for private vehicles. Only 19 percent users of the city’s bus rapid transit system, TransMilenio, reported being satisfied with its service.

The data from Colombia is consistent with international evidence.

A survey of 13,000 people in the United States by researchers from Clemson University in 2014 showed that cyclists were the happiest commuters.

Similarly, a survey of 1,000 people in London showed that 91 percent of the respondents bicycling to work found it satisfactory, while only 74 percent of bus commuters and 73 percent of Underground users were satisfied with their daily travel experience.

In the Global Happiness Report 2017, countries with high bicycle use tend to among the happiest overall, like the Netherlands (ranked sixth; daily bike use: 43 percent), Denmark (ranked third; daily bike user: 30 percent) and Finland (ranked first; daily bike use: 28 percent).

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Thanks to Delaney!

Green Vacant Land to Regrow Neighbourhoods

Falling apart houses, patches of unused land, and generally neglected residential spaces can be found throughout American cities. These urban blights not only look ugly but cause societal problems as well since it’s a neglected space that nefarious activities can easily take place. Cities have found success in converting vacant lots into community garden spaces to address these concerns; however, in some cities there are too many vacant lots and not enough demand for more gardening space. Philadelphia found that just greening vacant lots by planting some sod and trees they’ve been able to improve neighbourhoods and help the city in other ways like local temperature cooling and water management.

The PHS LandCare program recognizes that while vacant lots in legacy cities greatly outnumber the organizations or individuals willing or able to turn them into gardens, vineyards, or parks, allowing those lots to remain derelict condemns their surroundings to continued blight. To address this, PHS developed an inexpensive, low-maintenance approach to vacant lots that involves only basic sodding, tree planting, and erection of simple split-rail fencing on the lot. Today, PHS, with support from the city of Philadelphia, has installed and maintains LandCare treatments on more than 7,000 vacant lots across the city.

Facing this problem, cities realized that their vacant land inventories offered an alternative. Instead of using the traditional method of channeling stormwater runoff into the sewers, the water could be channeled toward green spaces, where it could gradually filter through the ground and refill the aquifers under the city. Such a strategy would be far better environmentally and would also reduce the need for massive holding tanks and allow cities to comply with EPA requirements at lower cost. Philadelphia was the first city in the United States to turn the idea into a reality by developing a detailed plan and a 25-year implementation strategy, which was approved by the EPA in 2012.

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