Columnist Neal Peirce Discusses the Past and Future of the Metropolis

July 28, 2008
Planetizen talks with journalist and syndicated columnist Neal Peirce about the trends he's seen over the course of his career and the future of America's metropolitan regions.

For more than 30 years, Neal Peirce has written and reported about cities, metropolitan regions and urban issues. He is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group and is chairman of the Citistates Group, a network of journalists, speakers and civic leaders focusing on urban and metropolitan issues. Together with fellow Citistates Group member Curtis Johnson, Peirce has authored 25 editorial projects focusing on the challenges and opportunities in individual metropolitan regions.

The L.A. River, Navigability, and the Future of Watershed Development

July 21, 2008
A look at the impact of recent court decisions on the Los Angeles River, and how it may affect development on the watersheds of rivers and waterways across the country.

For the federal government to protect waterways like rivers and streams, they have to ask one basic question: Is this water navigable? It seems simple enough, but hidden in this straightforward question is a jungle of nuance and intricacy. For waterways, how this question is answered can literally make or break them. But more likely, it will just make things kind of fuzzy, which is exactly what happened when the Army Corps of Engineers set out to determine how to regulate the Los Angeles River. ...

Bike Language: the Wave, the Yell and the Nod

July 14, 2008
City cycling can be hectic. Let's be realistic: most American cities are not meant for cyclists. It would be great if they were, but for now, our city forms are primarily designed for the movement of cars.

Because cities are made for cars, it's understandable that car drivers tend to disregard the fact that somebody might be riding a bike out there. (Interchange blogger Mike Lydon recently wrote an excellent piece about planning for bicycle networks.) Until our urban forms and public policies encourage the use of roads by a variety of transportation types, the burden is on cyclists to assert their role in the transit jungle. Communication is key to achieving this goal. Safe cycling (and safe transportation in general) relies heavily on communication.

Act, React, Repeat

June 19, 2008
Adaptation is a way of life. But we humans have been building our habitats and cities in pursuit of permanence. This is an unreachable goal. Making our cities and communities and lifestyles adapt to outside influences is typically an afterthought. We do tend to react, and we often react very effectively. But solving problems before they happen has never been a strong suit when it comes to urban development. This is especially true with regard to our impacts on the environment. A recent and bizarre example illustrates this point.

The example revolves around water, and takes place in Los Angeles. The city is geographically a desert where water is naturally in low supply -- but because of the marvels of modern engineering and science it is now plentiful enough to meet the staggering demand of 4 million residents.

Yes or No: Evaluating Public Transit

May 5, 2008
On the bus this morning I was handed a survey asking me to detail my satisfaction with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's public transit system. As a daily bus commuter, I was more than happy to spend my two cents, but I'm a bit skeptical that those two cents will really do anything.

The survey included 29 questions, mostly of the "Yes or No" variety. They asked about things like the relative safety of the bus, its timeliness, its quality, the courtesy of the driver, and other general questions about my personal preferences for and opinions of the system and its service.

Best Ideas of the Week - 3

April 18, 2008
From public transit to public parks to public space, this past week brought a lot of interesting and innovative ideas in the world of urban planning.

-El Paso on Fast Track to Transit

-Keeping Construction Projects From Blocking Sidewalks

-A New Era Of Urban Parks?

-A Holistic Approach To Planning For Traffic Impacts

-Creating A Bicycle Commuter System

-Youngstown Plans For A Smaller Future

-Creating A New Vision For The Nation's Transportation System

There's a National Train Day? In America?

April 11, 2008
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Amtrak Train 715. We're expecting a smooth ride today and should be moving along right on time," said the voice of the train conductor over the loudspeaker. He then continued, "And thanks for joining us for National Train Day". The loudspeaker then turned off, and was followed instantly by the voice of an incredulous woman a few rows behind who said "What?"

What indeed. National Train Day?

Apparently there is such a thing. The first National Train Day took place May 10, 2008. It was held in honor of the "golden spike" that was driven to connect the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railways on May 10, 1869, in Promontory Summit, Utah – creating the cross-country rail system so few of us use or even consider today...

Best Ideas of the Week - 2

April 4, 2008
Another week has passed, and some more exciting and interesting ideas have taken root in the world of urban planning.

-Using Fees On Motorists To Fund Public Transit

-Sales Tax for Transit Catching on in Twin Cities

-Cities Putting Officials in Charge of Sustainability

-Japan Unveils Its First Dedicated Bike Lane

Best Ideas of the Week - 1

March 21, 2008
We all know there's a lot of planning going on around the world. Much of it is poor, short-sighted and generally just no good. But there are also some really great ideas being developed and adopted, and they should be considered by cities and communities all over the world as instructive examples of good planning. Here are what I think are some of the best ideas in urban planning from the last week.

-Miami Parks Plan Looks Beyond Parks

-Fueling a Town's Future

-Traffic Calmed

-Public Pianos Beckon Musicians in Suburban England

Blight in Full Color

February 27, 2008
Every city has blight – the unsightly, derelict, abandoned, disheveled, and under-utilized spaces of our urban areas. It drains the life out of neighborhoods, drives down the values of surrounding properties, and just looks really bad. So what do cities do about it? Some seize it through eminent domain for redevelopment and others offer incentives to developers to replace it with something better. Many of them, though, don’t do anything at all. But removing blight from a city is not impossible, and it doesn’t have to be an elaborate multi-party scheme or a drawn-out political process. It can be as simple as a coat of paint.

In most cases blighted properties are left to rot on their own, below the eyesight of city officials and politicians. But blight out of sight is still blight in the end, and it is a situation that not only feeds on itself, but feeds on its surroundings. Stopping the blight monster from swallowing up entire neighborhoods does require effort, but maybe not as much as some would think...