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D Magazine
Cities around the world are trying to adopt new measures to ensure that everything their residents need is available within a 20-minute walk or bike

Many of Dallas’s urban challenges can be summed up in a single term: land use. Whether we are talking about affordable housing or public transportation, income inequality or fixing streets, quality public schools or walkability, at its core, we are really always talking about land use.

Our massive investment in light rail doesn’t work? That’s because the city has developed with insufficient density around stations to make them useful. We can’t afford to fix the streets? That’s because our low-density development model means we have more street surface area than tax base to pay for it, and our highway system has made it easy for new investment to continually seek-out cheaper, under-developed locations outside the city. Our schools are underfunded? That’s because for 70 years land use decisions have allowed urban neighborhood to erode and an endless succession of competing suburbs to spring up to siphon off students, teachers, and taxes from the inner city. At the end of the day, all of Dallas’ urban problems are land use problems.

Which is why a new trend that is being adopted by a number of cities around the world caught my eye. It’s called the “20-minute neighborhood.” The concept is incredibly simple, and yet it promises to solve many of these problems listed above in one fell swoop. What if everything you needed from the city during your day-to-day life was located within a 20-minute walk or bike of your front door? We’re talking groceries, job, social centers, schools–everything. Twenty minutes away, tops. Sounds pretty convenient, right? It would be nice to walk to the grocery store, walk to pick up your kids from school, bike to a concert on a Friday night. But while 20-minute neighborhoods sound, at first, like convenient, fun places to live, their implications are much more profound.

That’s because the idea of 20-minute neighborhoods strike directly at the cause of so many urban issues: land use. What if cities began to regulate their land use so that every corner of a city was measured by their ability to ensure that basic daily needs could be met via a 20-minute walk? That’s the goal in Portland, which has set out to make it so 90 percent of Portland residents live in “20-minute neighborhoods” by 2030 as part of its climate action plan. The concept has been bouncing around for a long time. Back in 2010, The Atlantic looked at the effort not long after it was first introduced and pointed out that the idea was being tasked with taking aim at a whole host of urban challenges:

The 20-minute neighborhood plan is a part of Portland’s long-term strategy to manage the challenges that face many urban environments across the country, including rising energy costs, population growth, roadway congestion, and demand for expensive public transit to connect more and more distant suburbs.

As cities around the world create their own climate action plans to respond to the existential threat of global climate change, we’re seeing 20-minute neighborhoods pop up as part of that solution as well. Melbourne, Barcelona, London, and Paris all have some version of the 20-minute–or 15-minute, or “superblock”–as part of their short- to mid-term development goals.

What would such places look like? The Parisian plan sketches out a vision that would promote a hyper-local approach to all city planning:

Paris en Commun’s manifesto sketches out some details for what this future walkable, hyperlocal city would look like. More Paris road space would be given up to pedestrians and bikes, with car lanes further trimmed down or removed. Planning would try to give public and semi-public spaces multiple uses—so that, for example, daytime schoolyards could become nighttime sports facilities or simply places to cool off on hot summer nights. Smaller retail outlets would be encouraged—bookstores as well as grocery stores—as would workshops making wares using a “Made in Paris” tag as a marketing tool. Everyone would have access to a nearby doctor (and ideally a medical center), while sports therapy facilities would be available in each of the city’s 20 arrondissements.

To improve local cultural offerings, public performance spaces would be set up, notably at the “gates” of Paris — the large, currently car-dominated squares around the inner city’s fringe which once marked entry points through the long-demolished ramp
urbanize.LA
Wider sidewalks and new street trees are in the works for the iconic 1.3-mile corridor.

A new website offers a look at design concepts for the Hollywood Walk of Fame's new master plan - a core component City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell's Heart of Hollywood initiative.

The Walk of Fame, established nearly 60 years ago, spans approximately 1.3-miles along Hollywood Boulevard and a short stretch of Vine Street. Though the corridor is one of the biggest tourist draws in Southern California - evidenced by throngs of pedestrians, street performers, and costumed characters - its built environment has often underwhelmed visitors.

“The Walk of Fame Master Plan is the signature project of my ‘HEART of Hollywood’ initiative, and the concept plan is just the first step,” said O’Farrell in a statement. “We are working to update the Walk of Fame in a balanced, holistic, cohesive way. As this evolves, we will keep building a sense of consensus and collaboration around various ideas. I encourage Hollywood stakeholders to view the concept plan in its entirety, provide feedback, and join us throughout this process.”

O'Farrell, who represents much of Hollywood, has pushed to use the remainder of the 13th Council District's allocation of CRA/LA excess bond proceeds to fund the new master plan for the Walk of Fame as well as a first phase of improvements. Architecture and planning firm Gensler has been tapped to lead the effort, with also includes civil engineering firm DCA, landscape architecture firm Studio MLA, and various city departments.

The Walk of Fame serves as the central pedestrian spine of the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District, comprised of 102 historic Spanish Colonial and Art Deco buildings - many of which maintain a high degree of integrity on their upper floors. But the corridor is best known for the thousands of terrazo stars which commemorates luminaries of the entertainment industry.

While the Walk of Fame's architecture and its iconic stars remain a draw, its streetscape has worn down over the decades, and repairs to its sidewalks have lagged. Among various shortcomings, the project team has noted that the Walk of Fame suffers from a lack of unified signage, tree wells, and street furnishing along Hollywood Boulevard. And while a new guide published by the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering provides direction for future repairs, the Heart of Hollywood takes the effort a step further.
An "enhanced complete street" concept has emerged as the favored alternative for the project, which, if implemented, would remove street parking and some automobile travel lanes to allow for wider sidewalks along the Walk of Fame. The reclaimed space could be used for new amenities such as sidewalk dining, performance areas, seating and other furniture, playgrounds, and areas for street vendors. Plans also call for five new event plazas located at key sites along the Walk of Fame - including the Pantages Theatre and the Hollywood Highland Center - which could temporarily be closed to automobile traffic with removable bollards.

These improvements would be supplemented by the addition of new curb bulb outs - shortening the distance of street crossings - and raised scramble crossings to make pedestrians more visible to approaching vehicles.

The "enhanced complete street," concept is one of several alternatives considered for the master plan. Other options include a similar, but less ambitious sidewalk expansion, or in the most modest concept, selective street extensions near major landmarks such as the Pantages Theatre. Planners also considered closing the street to cars entirely, converting the Walk of Fame to a pedestrian promenade, but feedback garnered through a series of focus groups and open house meetings favored maintaining vehicle access.

Hollywood Boulevard's Art Deco heritage is also set to be expressed in the new master plan in the form of unified signage and potentially decorative patterns in crosswalks, as seen in conceptual renderings.

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership
The Downtown Brooklyn Partnership wants to make bold streetscape improvements akin to the recent redesign of 14th Street in Manhattan.

While parts of Brooklyn are famous for their human scale and walkability, the borough’s downtown is not among them. Much of its street design dates back to the Robert Moses era: Broad arterial roads move cars swiftly to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, public plazas can feel bleak and unsafe, and the collision of three different street grids makes wayfinding difficult.

Yet the neighborhood is one of the fastest growing in New York City. Its population increased 31 percent between 2010 and 2016; the number of jobs also increased between 2010 and 2015, by 26 percent. The neighborhood’s population is expected to double over the next decade.

“The action plan seeks to re-knit, at a pedestrian and bike scale, many of the streets that were widened or cut off,” said Claire Weisz.

The first phase of the plan would link those pedestrian oases via shared streets, known in the Netherlands as woonerfs, where curbs would be eliminated to make room for landscaping and street furniture. A 15-foot-wide winding traffic lane would be retained in these streets, although vehicle speeds would be severely restricted.

The second phase would extend the shared streets through much of the neighborhood, expand sidewalks along Fulton and Livingston Streets and Boerum Place, and add improved pedestrian crossings along Flatbush Avenue.

All of that space reclaimed from cars would make room for some serious greenery. The plan calls for 950 new trees to add to the existing 1,500 in the neighborhood, and a 230 percent increase in permeable surfaces. Planters will do triple duty, not only as homes for trees but also as benches and as barriers protecting people from cars.

Cyclists would get new protected lanes along Boerum Place, Schermerhorn Street, and Fulton Street. To make room for bike lanes and expanded sidewalks on the Fulton Mall—a corridor that sees higher peak-hour pedestrian traffic than Wall Street—eastbound buses would be diverted one block south to Livingston Street.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro
The first phase of an elevated green walkway in London designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro will open this summer

To be named The Tide, the 5km-long ‘linear park’ near the O2 Arena in Greenwich reprises the practice’s much-loved High Line in New York.

The US practice is collaborating with London-based designers Neiheiser Argyros and landscape architect Gross.Max and a raft of artists on the first phase of the scheme.

Forming part of developer Knight Dragon’s Greenwich Peninsula neighbourhood, the first 1km section is set to open in July. This will consist of a walkway 9m above the ground, winding through trees and past giant sculptures by Damien Hirst and Allen Jones. Other features will include sunken gardens, a jetty garden surrounded by the river and a 27m-long picnic table on the Thames designed by Studio Morison.

Like the High Line – designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in conjunction with James Corner Field Operations and Piet Oudolf, and opened in 2009 – The Tide will be free to use.

Greenwich Peninsula director Kerri Sibson said: ‘The Tide brings to London an unrivalled outdoor experience in the city. This bold 3D landscape opens up the river, brings people together, gives us art to absorb, nature to enjoy and space to escape. Most importantly, it’s a place for everyone.’

Diller Scofidio + Renfro partner-in-charge Benjamin Gilmartin added: ‘The design of The Tide seeks to embed a new public realm into the daily rhythms of Greenwich Peninsula by layering together its currents of activity into a thickened landscape.

‘Visitors will experience the park from varying vantage points, from street level up to 9m-high elevated paths that weave through the site to plug into the existing network of leisure, art, and social life across neighbourhoods.

‘Diverse programming along the way will act as islands that welcome the surges of commuters, visitors, cyclists and runners while providing intimate places of pause for contemplation, conversation and people watching.’

The final 5km route will adapt to each new Peninsula neighbourhood as it is built, weaving among buildings. The developer said its ‘distinctive black and white stripe pattern creates a bold visual experience and sense of pace’.
Cloe Poisson
In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

A dirt field overgrown with weeds is the incongruous entrance to one of America’s wealthiest towns, a short walk to a Rodeo Drive-like stretch replete with upscale stores such as Tiffany & Co.

But this sad patch of land is also the physical manifestation of a broader turf war over what type of housing — and ultimately what type of people — to allow within Westport’s borders.

It started when a developer known for building large luxury homes envisioned something different back in 2014 for the 2.2 acre property: a mix of single- and multifamily housing that would accommodate up to 12 families. A higher density project is more cost efficient, he said, and would allow him to sell the units for less than the typical Westport home.

But the site was zoned to hold no more than four single-family houses, so he needed approval from a reluctant Westport Planning and Zoning Commission, which denied his plan. Residents erupted in fury each time he made a scaled-back proposal, and it took the developer four years after purchasing the property to win approval to build two duplexes and five single-family homes.

“You are selling out Westport,” one resident yelled out as the final plan came up for a commission vote last spring. Other residents picketed commission meetings with signs reading “Zoning is a Promise.”

The commission’s discussion was couched in what some would regard as code words and never directly addressed race or income. Chip Stephens, a Republican planning and zoning commissioner, voted against the plan, declaring, “To me, it’s too much density. It’s putting too much in a little area. To me, this is ghettoizing Westport.”

Now under construction, these two-bedroom duplexes and single-family homes have a price tag of $1.2 million, the going rate for a home in this swanky village just outside Bridgeport and Norwalk.

“We spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get this through. Would I do this all over again? No. Probably not,” said the developer, Johnny Schwartz, of Able Construction.

Welcome to Connecticut, a state with more separate — and unequal — housing than nearly everywhere else in the country.

This separation is by design.

Westport is only one example of a wealthy Connecticut suburb that has surrounded itself with invisible walls to block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

In a liberal state that has provided billions in taxpayer money to create more affordable housing, decisions at local zoning boards, the Connecticut Capitol and state agencies have thwarted court rulings and laws intended to remedy housing segregation. As far back as data has been kept, Connecticut’s low-income housing has been concentrated in poor cities and towns, an imbalance that has not budged over the last three decades.

Many zoning boards rely on their finely tuned regulations to keep housing segregation firmly in place. They point to frail public infrastructure, clogged streets, a lack of sidewalks and concerns of overcrowding that would damage what’s often referred to as “neighborhood character.”
National Transportation Safety Board
On the morning of last year’s Florida International University pedestrian bridge collapse, when the engineer of record assured project team members that there were no safety risks related to cracks propagating across a part of the unusual single-truss structure, other project team members voiced mild concern, but no alarm. In hindsight, considering that the bridge had no inherent structural redundancy as it sat, incomplete, straddling a busy highway—and would suffer a sudden, catastrophic and deadly collapse just hours later—the team’s lack of urgency remains puzzling, say engineering experts contacted by ENR for comment.

Minutes of the meeting in the contractor’s field office recently released by the Florida Dept. of Transportation show that attendees offered modest suggestions and questions to FIGG Bridge Engineers.

Bolton Perez & Associates, the project’s construction engineering and inspection contractor, asked, “Do we need temporary shoring?,” for instance. FIGG officials responded that it was not necessary. Instead, the minutes show that FIGG staff suggested that steel channels and post-tension bars would “capture some of that force which is better than vertical support. The diagonal member is what needs to be captured.” To the suggestion that another engineer should peer review the bridge’s cracks, FIGG concurred.

An official with FIU asked a representative with Bolton Perez their opinion of FIGG’s presentation analysis. Bolton, Perez said they could not comment at the moment, but would “expedite” a response in 2-3 days, according to the notes.

An FDOT representative asked FIGG to supply a copy of the presentation for the agency’s records.

Engineers asked by ENR to review the meeting presentation and minutes for this story don’t believe that it shows exactly what errors or mistakes precipitated the sudden collapse.

Designed with a single central, open truss, the pedestrian bridge structure featured a narrower top chord. The top chord was to serve as a canopy over the wider bottom chord, which would be the walking surface. Cables from a 109-ft-high central pylon, not yet built at the time of the collapse, would add stability, according to the design-build proposal. The concrete deck was designed with two-way post-tensioning tendons.

At the time of the collapse, contractors were apparently adjusting a tension rod in one of the diagonal struts between the chords at one end of the bridge. It is possible that the project’s prime contractor, MCM, and its post-tensioning subcontractor, in attempting to fix the problems, made an error that caused the bridge’s single truss to crack and give way. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, crews reportedly had been re-tensioning diagonal member 11 at the time of the collapse. Lacking redundancy, the truss failed at that end and fell to the ground, smashing autos and claiming six lives.

Just days before the meeting, the truss structure cast alongside the road was loaded onto its permanent supports and inspections showed no distressed members. But two days before the collapse, MCM emailed FIGG about cracks. FIGG responded by instructing MCM to install temporary shims in the base of a pylon directly below the portion of the bridge with the cracks, between the permanent support shims.

Then, on March 15, 2018, engineers, contractors, consultants, state DOT representatives and officials with FIU, the project owner, gathered to hear why the bridge designer thought cracks were occurring around part of the structure’s walking surface. The section in question was the bottom chord of the concrete truss comprising the bridge, at one of the diagonal web members at the structure’s north end.

Meeting notes indicate that it was known that cracks were “growing daily.”

Despite that, FIGG Bridge Engineers assured project team members that they saw “no safety concern” due to the cracking. According to the meeting notes, FIGG’s lead technical designer Denney Pate—who led the presentation, according to FIU—and bridge engineer Eddy Leon were on site for the presentation. Dwight Dempsey, FIGG’s design manager, joined by phone.

Team members in attendance probably held Pate’s opinion in high regard that morning. FIGG-MCM’s design-build proposal lists numerous accolades for Pate in support of its description of him as
Shutterstock
Think of a formal yard or garden, and you likely envision rows of neatly trimmed bushes along meandering walkways and sitting areas. Homeowners spend a ton of money, time and resources in an attempt to recreate that image. But another equally beautiful option for your home is a wild garden.

What is a wild garden?

A wild garden can carry a variety of definitions. For some, it means limiting the amount you tame your plants, letting them become what others might define as overgrown and unsightly. Others might associate wild with the types of plants you choose for your space. If you think about your walks in the fields or forests where Mother Nature is the only landscaper, plants are “overgrown and unsightly” around every corner. So, it might be time to change your definition of what makes a desirable garden space. The idea of a wild garden is to create a more naturally flowing space with less rigid lines and rules.

Reasons to set it free

There are many benefits to allowing your garden to go wild. Consider the nature of the plant and remember that pruning is something we do in our backyard, but it is not the norm in a plant’s natural habitat. We feel we need to confine plants, because that’s what the magazines show. Allowing your plants to become shaggy around the edges means a whole lot less maintenance for you, which is a huge advantage if you prefer not to spend every waking moment tending to your garden.

Another benefit of a wild garden is that it becomes a more natural garden. We spend time in nature because we connect with the sights, smells and surroundings that nature provides. Somehow, we lose those same feelings when we bring plants into our yard and then contour them into something they’re not. Instead, allow your plants to take a more natural growth pattern and retain the essence of nature in your yard.

The benefit of native plants

Plants that are native to your area are going to grow the best. Careful selection of your plants in the beginning will allow for a worry-free space as your garden grows. Talk to the local nursery owner. Stop by the garden center. Read books and scour the internet. After you hunt down the plants indigenous to your area, create a plan on paper or using a graphic design program on the computer. Be sure to allow for the maximum growth of the plants, so you don’t have to continually trim them back. In addition to low-effort growing success, native plants also do not require chemicals to fight off insects and disease. Plus, they often don’t need fertilizer, because they are naturally suited for the native soil.

You can even source your native plants directly from nature by selecting seeds or small plants. Check with your local authorities before harvesting from forests or other areas. If nothing else, observe the plants in your area and purchase the same type of ferns, sunflowers or wildflowers that you see growing naturally.
LAWA
According to a new environmental review document, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is poised for a large expansion that could add up to two new terminals and nearly two dozen new gates to help handle the influx of travelers headed to the city for the 2028 Olympic Games.

Urbanize.LA reported that the plans call for attaching the new Concourse 0 terminal and its 11 passenger gates to the east of the existing Terminal 1 structure along the northern end of the LAX complex. A second new terminal, Terminal 9, will bring 12 new gates to the southern end of the airport, where it will be met by an extended run of a forthcoming automated people mover (APM) that is currently under construction.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the expansion plans include reconfiguring existing airplane runways, including on the northern end of the airport, where earlier plans to retool runway facilities produced outcry from neighboring communities concerned about noise, pollution, and other negative impacts. The proposed runway changes involve reconfiguring the airport’s road network while maintaining the current distance from those communities.

The plans come as Los Angeles World Airports, the entity that runs LAX, works to complete a $14 billion facilities upgrade plan for the airport’s existing roads, terminals, and associated transportation facilities.

That plan includes a $1.6 billion Gensler and Corgan–designed terminal that will bring 12 new gates to a mid-field site capable of handling new “super-jumbo” airplanes for long-haul international flights. The project, known as the Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) will connect to the existing and recently-expanded Tom Bradley International Terminal via a pair of underground tunnels that will feature moving sidewalks.
Aly Song/Reuters
Cities have a key role to play in confronting climate change, and it starts with shared mobility—and taking back the streets from the private car.

Today, hundreds of thousands of students from over 100 countries are walking out of their schools to join a Global Climate Strike, part of a wave of youth protests around the world aimed at demanding immediate government response to the climate crisis. “I don’t want your hope,” said Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student who initiated the movement, in her quiet, eloquent demand at Davos in January. “I want you to act. I want you to act as if you were in a crisis … as if the house were on fire. Because it is.”

The demand? That governments acknowledge the crisis, and move with commensurate speed and action.

In an urbanizing world, the transportation sector is a major generator of climate-altering gases, contributing as much as 60 percent of a city’s emissions. It’s also a profound influence on the lives of the children who grow up amid fossil-fuel burning behavior: Air pollution from transportation leads to lower birth weights and higher incidence of asthma; traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers.

To hold warming to a 1.5 degree Celsius rise, as urgently laid out in the most recent IPCC report, we must reduce CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. There are a suite of transportation-related actions that can be taken in cities that could achieve this goal.

Two years ago, I convened eight of the world’s largest city and transport NGOs; together, over seven months, we hammered out a vision for resilient, sustainable, and thriving cities and a set of clear principles to guide execution. This framework, the Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities, has been adopted by more than two hundred companies and city advisors. If put into practice worldwide, they would not only dramatically reduce emissions in cities, but would also dramatically improve the quality of life for those who live in them. And they could do it without expensive and time-consuming infrastructure investments. Here’s how:

How cities spend their money

Right now, too many transportation investments take us further away from a carbon neutral world, rather than closer. We need to stop investing in new automobile infrastructure and put that money into improving the quality and service of more efficient ways of travel, such as public transit and segregated bike lanes. Not only have these been typically underinvested in, the investments that have been made are not commensurate with the fraction of travel that should be made by these means.

It’s also time to recognize how heavily subsidized private automobile travel is—and remove those subsidies. At the local level, that starts with removing free parking, and pricing this limited resource properly. We should unbundle parking spaces from residential and office buildings, and make residents feel the true cost of that not-free parking. We must recognize the price we pay from local car-generated pollution and integrate those costs into actual transport prices.
Swiftmile
Cities are desperate to tame the sidewalk chaos of the e-scooter industry. One startup offers a solar-powered parking solution.

To understand the promise and peril of dockless scooters, look at Austin, Texas. This week, at least 9,000 of the zippy rentables are scattered on the capital city’s streets during this year’s South by Southwest festival. Nine different operators are vending cheap car-free transportation for the roughly 200,000 festivalgoers that have descended upon the city.

That might be great in theory, but mixed with big crowds, car traffic, a general lack of bike lanes, and a ton of free booze, the reality is cluttered sidewalks, tripping pedestrians, and some brutal scooter crashes.

Austin, in other words, is experiencing a Class 5 scoot-nado—a particularly intense variation on the shared-mobility disruption that cities nationwide have seen over the last two years. Which is why there’s a growing demand to bring scooter-sharing back to its roots, at least partly: Cities want docks for the dockless.

“We’ve all seen the problems associated with these things,” Colin Roche, the co-founder and CEO of Swiftmile, told me as he packed up his company’s booth at the National Shared Mobility Summit in Chicago last week. “But we also know the promise. In high-impact areas, they need to bring some order to the chaos.”

Swiftmile makes parking stations for e-scooters and bikes in support of what it calls a “semi-dockless” operating model. Their docks can pack in up to 24 Birds, Limes, Spins, and Skips in a space the size of a standard parking spot, using individual holsters equipped with anti-theft locks. More than glorified bike racks, the stations also use solar power to charge scooters while they’re tethered. They accommodate virtually all scooter models, and can gather data about vehicle use and condition.

The idea isn’t necessarily to bring all dockless scooters in from the wild. In high-scooting cities, Roche thinks the sweet spot is making parking available for about 25 percent of the total fleet, especially in areas with heavy foot traffic where sidewalk space is limited and vehicles tend to get carelessly dumped. With the rest roaming untethered, providers can still reap what are seen as the economic advantages of a dockless system, Roche explained: When rentables are freed from their expensive docking infrastructure, companies can invest in the volume and scale that may be needed to grow ridership. For the sake of comparison, docked bikesharing programs generally cost about $4,000 to $5,000 per bike; electric scooters retail for between $100 and $500.
Tony Gutierrez/AP
Cities could get more people walking, biking, and riding transit, according to a new report, if they just know where to look for improvement.

Each year, the U.S. Census releases an update in “commuting mode shares” in its American Community Survey. This is an annual accounting of the share of people in every U.S. city who bike, walk, or ride public transit to their jobs, as well as drive. Mostly the latter: Nationally, about 75 percent of the country is sitting alone in their cars every morning. About 10 percent carpool, 5 percent ride transit, and the last 10 percent either walk, bike, or work from home.

If you peruse this data-dump every year, you’ll probably notice something: Despite the tireless efforts of transit planners, bike-lane boosters, and other actors in the mobility arena, the mode-share percentages don’t seem to budge much in the any given growing city as they add more people, despite massive investments in transit infrastructure. Take Dallas, Texas, for example: In 1996, that city opened the first stage of its light-rail network, which has since grown into the largest system in the U.S., at a total cost of something around $5 billion. But the share of commuters in the city who ride transit has remained below 6 percent since 1990.

This can be exquisitely frustrating as cities task transportation leaders with tackling some of the country’s most daunting challenges, from reducing climate change to alleviating economic inequality. But a new report and interactive tool from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy wants to make the leap to a low-car future feel less enervating by breaking the numbers into smaller chunks. They’ve developed a suite of “indicators for sustainable mobility,” aimed at helping cities measure their transit systems for better outcomes by taking a closer look at where and how they reach jobs and people.

To do that, the report digs deeper in the 2015 ACS data to get a more complete picture of how cities can improve their share of sustainable transport—that’s public transportation plus walking, biking, scootering, and any other means of moving around that doesn’t involve a car. No matter if this category makes up the majority of commuters, as it does in New York City (66 percent) or the extreme minority (Nashville, 4 percent), there’s more to say about how it reaches people, housing, and jobs in any given city. (For a wider comparison, the report also looks at mode share in four Canadian cities and transit access in four cities in Mexico)

Philip Langdon
Last week Common Edge recirculated in its newsletter Alex Marshall’s 2017 essay, “Why Can’t We Create Brand New Walkable Communities?” The essay stirred up considerable debate online. Since Marshall used a dual review of my book (Within Walking Distance) and Richard Florida’s The New Urban Crisis as the jumping-off point for his larger argument about walkable neighborhoods, I think it’s important to address aspects of his piece.

As I see it, there are two misunderstandings that Marshall has about my book. First, he categorizes the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon—the subject of a substantial chapter in Within Walking Distance—as an “old” place. I agree with him that the Pearl is partly a collection of old buildings (converted to new purposes). Warehouses from decades ago have been renovated for use by artists, advertising agencies, and others. A former brewery has been embedded in a sophisticated mixed-use complex. Other old buildings now house the famous Powell’s bookstore and other functions.

But that’s only one part of the story—and in some ways the less important part. I regard the Pearl as the best large, walkable neighborhood created in the core of any American city in recent decades. Until the 1990s, much of the district was a gigantic railyard. On that rail land, the Portland Development Commission, a local developer (Hoyt Street Properties), and others set out to create a new neighborhood consistent with New Urbanist ideals.