Transit saw some big ridership increases over the past few years, but maybe not where you'd expect. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the top ten metropolitan areas where transit use has increased the most.
Since the 1950s, public transit hasn't exactly been the primary focus of most American cities. But it's out there, in pockets. New York City's subway system carries 1.5 billion riders per year. Washington D.C.'s metro sees a little more than 200 million annually. Chicago's carries about the same. By U.S. standards these systems are well-used and extensive. But the big boys of American transit aren't the whole story. Transit use is growing in many U.S. metropolitan areas, and the strongest growth is occurring where you might not expect.
You don't know how you get there, but you're there. And you can't leave. You're a prisoner among hundreds of other prisoners, but you're the only one who knows it. Or at least you think you know it. Are you really still a prisoner if you forget you're being held against your will? Existentialism aside, what if it's your environment that's taking away your sense of individualism?
In 1967 and 1968, there was a British TV show called The Prisoner that supposed these questions, and painted a very dark and dystopian picture of possible extra realm beyond commonly experienced society, where unseen powers oversee and control the existence and limits of all those within their grasp. People are taken there, against their will, and not allowed to leave. People who knew something. Something they shouldn't have known. It's messed up to the point of inducing a deep state of paranoia or even schizophrenia.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is both a local challenge and a global imperative, says Rohit Aggarwala, the director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for New York City. Nate Berg caught up with Aggarwala to talk about his office's sustainability plans and the possible dangers posed by federal intervention.
New York City is America's most iconic metropolis. It's the biggest, the most famous and in many ways the most exciting. Beyond the glitz, New York is also exciting because it is instituting some very forward thinking programs and policies like the city's long-term sustainability plan, PlaNYC. New York's leadership on environmental sustainability has been a model for the nation.
It's almost Halloween, and that means it's time to celebrate America's most important holiday by dressing up in a silly costume. But what's that? Tired of culturally relevant costumes? Don't want the general public to have any idea what you are? Prefer a drawn-out, interest-losing explanation of an obscure and wonky costume concept? Then you're in luck, because I happily present the second edition list of the best urban planning costume ideas.
One way to celebrate Halloween is to dress up like a city. This costume could rely heavily on stereotypes, but can also be influenced by current affairs. For example, get yourself a black eye and put your arm in a sling, and bam, you're Detroit. Or block some traffic and set up lawn chairs on a local street and you're New York City. Or you could get Brad Pitt to follow you around and be New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.
New communication and interaction technologies are dramatically changing the way the public understands and participates in government. The emerging openness of data and information at the city level is broadening the urban policy conversation, but challenges and questions lie ahead as the open city develops.
For many people, it's information overload. Email every day, billions of websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, RSS, a hundred blogs a minute -- there's a seemingly endless stream of information and seemingly no way to keep up. Sure, it's hard for people, but imagine what it must be like for a city.
That's what some guy said to me late last night as I waited for my tacos at a typically busy taco truck. He was talking about our Los Angeles neighborhood, Echo Park, which was recently named by the American Planning Association as one of the "10 Great Neighborhoods of 2008". It's a nice honor for the 'hood -- and I think they're right -- but I'm with that random taco dude: don't tell my landlord.
I've lived in Echo Park for just over a year, and while I'm relatively new there, I've gotten pretty familiar with its pros and cons. Walkability, access to good and services, proximity to open spaces, access to transit, and a diverse population are some of the best aspects of this neighborhood, and many of these are cited in APA's commendation. One of the bad parts is rent.
Strip malls are in virtually every American city, but they're rarely an important part of those cities. Ava Bromberg says they can be. Her idea is to turn strip malls into community-owned hubs that generate capital within their neighborhood and keep it there.
Strip malls probably don’t fit into the definition of progressive urbanism for most people, but maybe they should. Well, maybe after a little organizational tweaking.
Traffic is essentially "an engineering issue," says author Tom Vanderbilt. "But there's also a layer of culture." That layer of culture determines, to a large extent, how traffic can become a problem. This idea is explored in Vanderbilt's 2008 book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), a Planetizen Top Book of the year. He recently expanded on that idea for a discussion about traffic put on by Zocalo Public Square in (where better?) Los Angeles.
People in L.A. love these sorts of discussions. We've got a mess of a traffic problem in this city -- from intense congestion to freeway domination to a late-blooming public transit system. Something about events focused on transportation and traffic just seems to pull people together here, almost like a support group. "Hi, I'm Nate, and I have a problem with traffic congestion."
The human impact of traffic is easy to see, but less apparent is the human cause -- a point made crystal clear by Vanderbilt's work.
To fight homelessness, some cities provide services, some build housing, and some arrest people. Often it's a combination of the three, but now many critics are calling on officials to de-emphasize the law enforcement element. Los Angeles is Ground Zero.
On any given night in America, there are about 664,000 people sleeping on the street. On that same night in Los Angeles, there are more than 40,000 -- the highest concentration of homeless people in any American city. Many of these homeless people can be found in downtown L.A.'s infamous 'Skid Row' neighborhood. This 50-square block area has been called ground zero for homelessness in the U.S. and one of the most-policed areas in the world, but the thousands bundled in sleeping bags and tents on its sidewalks every night call it home.
Urban planning is one of those things people don't realize they can relate to. Everybody understands cities, so why can't they understand how they are planned? Well, there's really no reason. Urban planners -- steeped in the inner workings of the urban world -- probably aren't the best to try to communicate this idea. So bring in the artists.
Art has an incredible communicative power, especially in regards to concepts that are otherwise hard to verbalize or explain. In the world of urban planning, art could be a great way to improve public understanding of projects, acceptance of new ideas, or simply to expand the idea of the city from a place to an evolving and interactive experience.