Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bike Boxes in Action

Boston has bike boxes!

These boxes allow cyclists to pass up and get in from of automobiles when stopped at intersections.  It helps prevent cars from making turns unaware a cyclist is to the side and clipping them.  Cyclists pull to the front of the line of stopped cars so they are visible and get a head start once the light becomes green.  They also allow cyclists to make turns easier without having to maneuver across traffic lanes.  They pull into the box and move across in front of stopped vehicles to make a safer turn.

The picture is from Comm Ave in the Back Bay part of Boston near where the APA Conference was being held last weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Planners take Boston

I returned yesterday from the American Planning Association National Planning Conference in Boston.  It was a great time hanging out with fellow students and professionals learning about what is going on in planning.  My tweets cover some of the highlights, but a rundown of the sessions I went to are as follows:

  • "City Planning 360: GIS for Intelligent Cities" showed some of the power of the new ArcGIS 10 platform.
  • Adapting and using Dedicated Port Areas
  • An opening keynote from Michael J. Sandel
  • How to evaluate "authentic" features of suburbs and how they can be used during suburban retrofits
  • Turning a small town train station into a transit village
  • "LEED Guidance for Neighborhood Development" where speakers called out Grand Rapids as an excellent example and case study for writing 'green' standards into a comprehensive plan.
  • Green preservation and economic growth in the North Loop area of Minneapolis
  • Transportation and climate change
  • Using social media as a means of public participation
  • Regional food systems planning
  • "Leveraging the Value of Older Buildings"
I can talk in greater detail in person.

I also went to a Boston Red Sox game against the Tampa Bay Rays, which was pretty cool.  Fenway Park was neat and being able to sit up on the green monster because the game turned into a 16-5 blowout by the Rays was awesome.

Fenway Park
From the Green Monster

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Faux Urbanism?

New Urbanist principles are great things, but what happens when you build away from normal areas and start anew?  Places like Celebration, Florida are knocked because they are built in places without previous development and are essentially suburbs.  I guess a New Urbanist suburb is better than a regular suburb, but it's something to think about.  When I was in Boulder, Colorado for spring break I ventured to North Boulder.  North Boulder is a rapidly developing part of town, and there is quite the New Urbanist style to it.  I really like the architecture and it's not as far away as normal suburbs, but the public space seemed unused and more of a ruse than anything.  It is also expensive.  A 2-bedroom, 1.5-bath condo was for sale and advertised at $174,338 - a lot for something similarly sized to an apartment I lived in for a couple years.  Then again, it's Boulder.  More integration with downtown is probably needed, but I could see myself living here if the opportunity presented itself.  What do you think?
Unique Architectural Styling
Homes oriented to shared space.
Garages and parking behind the buildings.
Eyes on the street.
Looking toward the Flatirons.
Barren Public Space.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunday Drive takes on Michigan Avenue - Detroit

This past Sunday afternoon I decided to take a drive and ended up driving from Ypsilanti to Detroit along Michigan Avenue.  I took some pictures along the way.
Wayne and Inkser - a fairly desolate landscape.
Entering Dearborn.  Road narrows. Not too shabby.
Road re-widens - the typical Detroit area 4-lane.
 These wide roads have always confused me.  Detroit was built on the automobile, I get that, but these roads still suck.  I don't think they are really even hospitable for driving on with the width, speed and intersection design, let alone anything else.
Ford Taurus driving by a Ford building.
Some vacant land and whatnot.
Skyline - and yes, that is a bike lane to the right.
Michigan Central Station - abandoned and iconic.
It is really interesting to drive from the suburbs into the city and see changes along the way.  This one was different coming from the west instead of previous trips coming in from the north.  Going through the industry in Wayne and Inkster is a lot different than rolling through Pontiac, Bloomfield Hills, and Royal Oak.

I think this was a good engagement of the region for me, and hopefully I can get out to see places in the future.  Maybe even stopping for more interaction.  In any case, I think I might try to continue making "Sunday Drive" posts just as incentive and to share what I see.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring Break Connections

I survived the first week back from break! It ended yesterday with an assignment that had a due date of 5pm on a Saturday.  Ridiculous, but I survived.  Now, to recall what I spent my time doing over break with Boulder County.

I have already explained the first day, but on the second day I attended a meeting for the EnergySmart program in the morning. It is an energy efficiency program that was recently awarded some federal money to help homeowners and businesses to increase efficiency by providing rebates on certain things.  The simple parts are replacing light bulbs, but it moves up from there to tune up HVAC systems, insulation, roofs, and appliances such as industrial refrigerators.  Check out a press release here.

Later in the day, I met one of the county land use planners and talked about land use planning and things like the urban growth boundary system the county and municipalities have set up, and site plan review.  Boulder also has a transfer of development credits (TDC) program that is pretty neat.  In the county, a home cannot be larger than 6,000 sq ft, which is a decent size, but with development in recent years (pre-housing crash) it was normal to see larger than 10,000 sq ft homes in rural areas.  The TDC program allows owners of smaller homes give up the ability to expand their homes up to a certain amount in exchange for money and the footage given up can be used by the purchaser to build a larger home that would normally not be allowed.

Finally, I ended my Tuesday by meeting with a couple of county transportation planners.  We briefly talked about the push for alternative modes of transportation in the county, and then onto a specific project - the Eco Pass.  The Eco Pass is a bus pass that a business or neighborhood can purchase for employees or residents.  What we talked about more was the community Eco Pass.  The county has done this with Lyons where the county pays RTD the projected cost of the route that runs into town, and every resident gets a pass to use.  As ridership increases the cost would presumably increase, but it allows every person in the small town to get on a bus and not drive into Boulder or wherever else they go.  The county was working on setting this up for Nederland as well, and this is where I come in.  In order to figure out how much money they owed RTD, they needed some data about how people paid for their bus fare, so they were not paying double for those people who already had a free fare.  So, I rode the bus up and back 3 times over the rest of the week to get some preliminary data, talk to some drivers to maybe get them interested in helping out, and just to see the beauty of Boulder Canyon.

On Wednesday I had a meeting with another person in land use talking about the response to the Four Mile Fire and what is being done to help affected homeowners and some more about Boulder, like the 50ft building height limit in the city, rising property values, and what is "sustainable" in the different municipalities.

On Thursday I had yet another meeting in land use with a forestry person, again talking about the fire.  We discussed how if progressed, what actions were taken, and how better control of trees could have prevented much of the damage.  Growth was allowed so the forest was all trees instead of a more natural grouping of trees with open grass spaces between that could have allowed the fire to burn itself out easier.

I also attended a transportation master plan meeting.  Finally, on Friday morning I was a part of a meeting to revise a set of maps showing different social welfare programs across the county.

It was a great week, and I learned some valuable things about planning from it.  Maybe I need to move there next...