February 23, 2014
Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Book Review: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston by Michael Rawson

Author: Michael Rawson
Title: Eden on the Charles: The Making of Boston
Publication Info: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, c2010.
ISBN: 9780674048416
Summary/Review:

This wonderfully researched and well-written history, explores the making of Boston by focusing on the social and environmental factors that shaped the city, its human ecology.  There are five sections of the book:

1.…

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February 12, 2014
Four reasons US business leaders want to import Danish-style cycling | Guardian Sustainable Business | theguardian.com

January 20, 2014
"It seems to me that if we are repeating the struggle of the 1920s between motoring interests and city interests, then we should take heed of the lessons of the twentieth century. Grade separation does not work for city streets. The promotion of vehicle speed, over the safety and access of pedestrians, only leads to desolation and abandonment of the city. The police cannot be trusted to judiciously apply “pedestrian law” and it doesn’t make sense anyway: nobody was ever killed by a speeding pedestrian. The more appropriate path is the one that was unwisely abandoned in the 1920s: the recognition that on city streets, speed is anathema to safety. Socially, many people are coming to realize that the old way is the best way forward: the proliferation of safe street, complete street, livable street movements is testament to that. However, the law still enshrines the dangerous twentieth century dalliance with speed at the expense of safety, and the slur “jaywalker” is still considered valid jargon for use by public figures. It may be the only such slur. Changes in concrete take time, but changes in terminology need not. Police resources should not be used as a weapon against walking. For one thing, it strikes at the heart of the city, which is the vitality of its walking population. For another, pedestrians have enough danger to contend with already: protecting themselves from heedless motor vehicle drivers who cannot be bothered to respect even the little scraps of street space the law grants to people on foot. Deploying police action against pedestrians is radically unjust, and an all too tempting case for abuse, as the NYPD demonstrated yesterday. After all, catching pedestrians is a lot easier than catching speeding motorists, because pedestrians pose no threat to anyone’s safety. The penalty for misjudging the speed of a vehicle is already quite steep—-injury or death—-and a citation is simply heaping insult on top of that. On the other hand, everyone knows that the vast majority of reckless driving goes unpunished, and the penalty relatively toothless in comparison with the potential devastation wreaked. Boston, in particular, has a major difference from many other counterpart cities: the extensive usage of “beg buttons” and the very poor programming of pedestrian signals and infrastructure. The status of Boston as a “walking city” is despite the infrastructure: because people have learned to routinely dismiss the signals as untrustworthy. Even BTD Commissioner Jim Gillooly has admitted that he does not really expect pedestrians to wait for the signal, and he personally does not either. So, Boston’s status as a good walking city is largely dependent upon the choice of the powers-that-be not to enforce the anti-pedestrian regulations on the books. New Mayor Marty Walsh has had a mixed record in his former job, the state legislature. While he has promoted bills which would reduce speed limits in urban areas, he has also pushed for doubling of penalties upon pedestrians, quite a regressive measure. Going forward, I hope that he chooses to distinguish himself from Mayor Bill de Blasio, by choosing methods of bringing safety to our streets that do not include pedestrian discrimination: walking should not be a crime, and making it so will only lead to conflict and disaster."

The Walking Bostonian: The term “jaywalker” is a slur

December 29, 2013
Book Review: Walkable City by Jeff Speck

Book Review:

Author: Jeff Speck
TitleWalkable City
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c2012.
ISBN: 9780374285814
Summary/Review:

A city planner by trade, Speck is aware of what works and doesn’t work in creating and maintaining thriving…

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December 16, 2013
"A comprehensive new analysis of government data demonstrates that Americans are driving less per person, and taking transit more, both overall and in a strong majority of our large metro areas. Especially because the new report is consistent with a multitude of information showing changes in living patterns and lifestyle preferences, we should shift more public resources into transit, to keep up with and strengthen the trends toward more sustainable modes of transportation. This is not to say that a majority of Americans don’t drive (including yours truly, to an extent), of course; we’ve built so much sprawl that many people have little choice. But we are becoming more multi-modal every day. We need to evolve our communities so that they become more suited to alternative modes, including walking and bicycling as well as transit, so that more Americans have more choices. And, where options do exist, we need to support and maintain them better in order to reduce carbon emissions, other forms of pollution, and automobile-dependent land uses."

Transit Investment and Changing Urbanism | Sustainable Cities Collective

October 15, 2013
"There are lots of reasons to charge city drivers for street parking. Street space belongs to everyone, competition for spots causes congestion, underpriced parking encourages driving — the list goes on. As private car owners benefit from these curbside subsidies, it’s the public welfare that suffers. Things aren’t so bad on commercial streets, where drivers have been perfectly willing to pay for a spot. Several U.S. cities have started to charge market-rate street prices in business districts with great success. But commercial parking makes up only a sliver of all city street space; in New York, for instance, commercial meters account for just 2 percent of the street-parking stock, whereas residential spots account for most of the rest. That’s a problem, because city drivers are traditionally unwilling to pay for a spot on a residential street. Some cities do require residential parking permits, but the fees tend to be nominal (the U.S. high is about $100 a year) and don’t reflect proper value of the space. Public officials tend to view residential street parking charges as a political poison. This conventional wisdom stops most cities from raising residential permit rates. But while it may describe the mindsets of many city drivers, it doesn’t apply to all of them. In an upcoming issue of Transport Policy, transport researchers Zhan Guo of New York University and Simon McDonnell of the City University of New York report that roughly 53 percent of New Yorkers are willing to pay something for residential street spaces — and this something averaged about $400 a year:"

Why Drivers Should Pay to Park on Residential Streets - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities

September 18, 2013
"1) Protected bike lanes increase retail visibility and volume. It turns out that when people use bikes for errands, they’re the perfect kind of retail customer: the kind that comes back again and again. They spend as much per month as people who arrive in cars, require far less parking while they shop and are easier to lure off the street for an impulse visit. 2) Protected bike lanes make workers healthier and more productive. From Philadelphia to Chicago to Portland, the story is the same: people go out of their way to use protected bike lanes. By drawing clear, safe barriers between auto and bike traffic, protected bike lanes get more people in the saddle — burning calories, clearing the mental cobwebs, and strengthening hearts, hips and lungs. 3) Protected bike lanes make real estate more desirable. By calming traffic and creating an alternative to auto travel lanes, protected bike lanes help build the sort of neighborhoods that everyone enjoys walking around in. By extending the geographic range of non-car travel, bike lanes help urban neighborhoods develop without waiting years for new transit service to show up. 4) Protected bike lanes help companies score talented workers. Workers of all ages, but especially young ones, increasingly prefer downtown jobs and nearby homes, the sort of lifestyles that make city life feel like city life. Because protected bike lanes make biking more comfortable and popular, they help companies locate downtown without breaking the bank on auto parking space, and allow workers to reach their desk the way they increasingly prefer: under their own power."

Four Ways Protected Bike Lanes Benefit Businesses | Streetsblog.net

August 7, 2013
"Grounding Storrow Drive and the Bowker Overpass could achieve many things: Rid us of a festering sore under the overpass.
Restore a ton of parkland currently cordoned by ramps.
Connect the Esplanade more closely to the city, increasing accessibility and safety.
Connect more of the street grid to Storrow Drive, easing access for all modes.
Save a boatload of money not rebuilding the $300 million separation structures.
Reduce construction nightmare that rebuilding the Storrow tunnel would entail.
What’s the catch? Well, it might take a little bit longer to drive to your destination via the same route you used in the past. On the other hand, you might also save a lot of time by not having to go around and around in loops on one-way streets. I know that some traffic engineers will be screaming that this represents a “downgrade” but they can take that attitude back to the 1950s where it came from. For the rest of us, this would represent an upgrade: a better city. Plus, $300 million saved! Heck maybe more. I suspect that any attempt to replace the Storrow tunnel will quickly turn into it’s own “little Big Dig” with rapidly inflating costs. That’s a lot of money that could be put into so many other, better, actual improvements. Like making the MBTA an attractive option for people who currently feel like they have no alternative but to drive along this way. How MassDOT approaches the impending dilemma of the Bowker Overpass and the related Storrow Drive tunnels will tell if they are really serious about their “GreenDOT” proposal or not."

The Walking Bostonian: The Bowker Overpass and Storrow Drive

August 4, 2013
thisbigcity:

Over 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, this is widely expected to reach 70%. Cities are undergoing unprecedented change and urbanism is one of the most crucial issues of our time. 
Here at This Big City we think the important and exciting issue of urbanism should be brought to the attention of Tumblr users by promoting the urbanism tag to featured status.
Featured tags are selected based on volume of content and engagement with content, which is why we need Tumblr’s fantastic urbanism community to support this campaign. Please reblog this post and add the urbanism tag whenever you share content related to the topic!
This is no short-term goal. It will take a consistent increase in the level of content for Tumblr to promote the urbanism tag.
Together we can build an engaging catalogue of content on the crucial issue of urbanism, hopefully resulting in the promotion of the urbanism tag to featured status. If we achieve this, the crucial issue of urbanism will land in the dashboard of millions of Tumblr users across the globe. 
If you want to back our Urbanism Campaign and be added to the list below, reblog this post then drop us a message including your email address. We’ll be in touch! Most importantly, add the urbanism tag to all relevant content you share. 
Supporters of This Big City’s Urbanism Campaign:
GOOD | The Atlantic Cities | This City Life | Sound Bite City | City Breaths | Failed Architecture | 3Space | Secret Republic | Fuck Yeah Brutalism | In Public Space We Trust | Studio630 | Aeon Magazine | Future Cape Town | The New Urbanist | Urban Funscape | Human Scale Cities | Urban Bricolage | Small Spaces | Urban Launchpad | Reinforced Natures | Urbn Futr | Cairobserver | Fuck Yeah Urban Design | ATL Urbanist | Urbnist | Megalopolis | Urbalize | Citymaus | Office for Urban Scenarios | Yurbanism | Transatlantic Urbanism | Berlin Farm Lab | Urban Excursion CPH | Urban Resolve | Transicoesurbanas | The Urban Blueprint | Imagining Cities | | DeeAnn Marie | The Green Urbanist | Mass Urban | Arch Atlas | Modernizing | Voyagings | Ryan Panos

thisbigcity:

Over 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, this is widely expected to reach 70%. Cities are undergoing unprecedented change and urbanism is one of the most crucial issues of our time. 

Here at This Big City we think the important and exciting issue of urbanism should be brought to the attention of Tumblr users by promoting the urbanism tag to featured status.

Featured tags are selected based on volume of content and engagement with content, which is why we need Tumblr’s fantastic urbanism community to support this campaign. Please reblog this post and add the urbanism tag whenever you share content related to the topic!

This is no short-term goal. It will take a consistent increase in the level of content for Tumblr to promote the urbanism tag.

Together we can build an engaging catalogue of content on the crucial issue of urbanism, hopefully resulting in the promotion of the urbanism tag to featured status. If we achieve this, the crucial issue of urbanism will land in the dashboard of millions of Tumblr users across the globe. 

If you want to back our Urbanism Campaign and be added to the list below, reblog this post then drop us a message including your email address. We’ll be in touch! Most importantly, add the urbanism tag to all relevant content you share. 

Supporters of This Big City’s Urbanism Campaign:

GOOD | The Atlantic CitiesThis City Life | Sound Bite City | City Breaths | Failed Architecture | 3Space | Secret RepublicFuck Yeah Brutalism | In Public Space We Trust | Studio630 | Aeon Magazine | Future Cape Town | The New Urbanist | Urban Funscape | Human Scale CitiesUrban Bricolage | Small Spaces | Urban Launchpad | Reinforced Natures | Urbn Futr | Cairobserver | Fuck Yeah Urban Design | ATL Urbanist | Urbnist | Megalopolis | Urbalize | Citymaus | Office for Urban Scenarios | Yurbanism | Transatlantic Urbanism | Berlin Farm Lab | Urban Excursion CPH | Urban Resolve | Transicoesurbanas | The Urban Blueprint | Imagining Cities | | DeeAnn Marie | The Green Urbanist | Mass Urban | Arch Atlas | Modernizing | Voyagings | Ryan Panos

July 17, 2013
"There is no better place to start than with our streets, our most plentiful and visible parts of the urban commons. And I would offer as a first principle that a street is not just a “street”; a road is not just a “road.” We have come to think of streets and roads as conduits, particularly for motorized vehicles: viaducts for getting us from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. Anything that slows us along the way is viewed as a detriment. There are probably some roadways (inter-city freeways, perhaps; but not city streets, I would argue) for which vehicle travel efficiency is still a supreme goal. But that objective should not be allowed to define all streets, particularly in urban and suburban areas. My friend and street-design mentor Victor Dover, in an excellent essay on the subject for the just-published second edition of the Charter of the New Urbanism, reminds us that streets have historically been regarded differently: Our society once created many different types of streets. A street was not just a conduit for moving cars and trolleys through, but also a place in its own right for socializing, entertainment, commerce, and for civic expression. Pedestrians (and their natural allies, the cyclists) ruled.
The recent and important “complete streets” movement has made a terrific contribution to getting our streets right, by insisting that they be designed so as to accommodate all users, from motor vehicles to pedestrians to transit users and bicyclists. Thanks to the movement’s efforts, this is now the law of the land in an increasing number of jurisdictions. It’s an important start."

Streets Can Be Public Spaces Too - Kaid Benfield - The Atlantic Cities

Streets are by definition public spaces.

July 3, 2013
THE NEXT MAYOR’S BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Creating Prosperity by Lifting the Basement Instead of Raising the Roof | Steve Miller's Blog

June 11, 2013
"The Federal Highway Administration classifies roads as either “rural” or “urbanized.” But the “urbanized” label is deceptive, because it applies suburban street design standards to any street that isn’t rural. So if you live in, say, downtown St. Louis, the FHWA applies the same standards to your streets as to the streets in Orlando’s most distant suburbs. This contributes to a horrendous mismatch: Many city streets where walking should take precedence are in fact designed for moving massive amounts of traffic. Now there’s a petition drive underway to change that. John Massengale, Victor Dover, and Richard Hall — a team of planners and architects that are involved with the Congress for New Urbanism — are circulating asking U.S. DOT to develop more city-friendly standards. The trio recommends establishing separate standards for urban and suburban streets, introducing new priorities that place pedestrians first on city streets. From their letter to U.S. DOT: The new standards for Urban Areas would be fundamentally different than the current Urbanized standards. Two-way streets, narrow traffic lanes, bicycle sharrows, and a prohibition on slip lanes and turn lanes would be the norm. In large cities, faster urban routes might be limited to broad boulevards and parkways. Small-town residential streets and Main Streets would be similarly transformed, according to their context. The team calls their proposal a “simple but powerful idea could transform America’s streets and make our neighborhoods, cities and towns more walkable.” As of this afternoon, the petition needs only about 60 signatures to reach the goal of 500 supporters."

Petitioning U.S. DOT to Recognize That City Streets Should Prioritize Walking | Streetsblog Capitol Hill

June 11, 2013
"BOSTON DOESN’T build tall buildings very often, so any proposal to erect a cluster of them is an anomaly. The towers slated to rise above the Government Center Garage and the old Boston Garden site stand out even more because developers are clamoring to erect some of the city’s highest buildings in a neighborhood that was, until recently, a backwater. The proposed 600-foot towers will put multiple exclamation points on the Bulfinch Triangle’s emergence from its pre-Big Dig shadows. Seen from the harbor, the two mega-projects will extend the Financial District’s cluster of towers out of downtown, and to the foot of the Zakim Bridge. But the towers — which are using height as a tool for advancing the streets around them — don’t represent an extension of Boston’s downtown, but rather, the triumph of its Back Bay. With the towers, the mixture of significant height and fine-grain neighborhood streets that enabled the Back Bay’s success now spreads to the rest of the city. The High Spine saved the old Back Bay from the wrecking ball. City planners had seriously considered bulldozing large sections of Commonwealth Avenue, and inserting modern apartment towers among the historic brownstones. They flirted with demolition because they were desperate to pump new life into what was, in the 1960s, a shabby, deteriorating neighborhood. The Back Bay’s towers — led by the Prudential Center and the the John Hancock Tower — represented a way of investing in the Back Bay while preserving the old neighborhood. The line of new Back Bay towers lifted destructive development pressures from the Back Bay’s historic brownstones, while the enormous investment that created the city’s architectural spine spilled over into the shops and restaurants that sprang up in the blocks around the towers. Massive office towers and low-slung residential neighborhoods now sit cheek-to-jowl. The result on the street is a jumbled mixture of residents and office workers and shoppers that create a vitality the downtown can’t match. Related
6/6: Boston embraces age of the skyscraper
The Garden and Government Center garage mega-projects are ambitious variations on the same theme, at sites that have long held wasted potential. It’s the High Spine extended into North Station. The Causeway Street site that Boston Properties and Delaware North are now teeing up for redevelopment has been a fenced-off parking lot since the old Boston Garden came down 15 years ago. The property, once the center of a dark, beer-stained, part-time corner on the edge of town, is now teeming with activity. The Big Dig, the demolition of the elevated Green Line, and the expansion of North Station have combined to open up a neighborhood penned in by hulking transportation systems. New residences and offices are now springing up on three sides of the Garden site. The proposal for replacing the old Garden with 1.7 million square feet of new homes, offices, hotel rooms and shops — punctuated with towers that could match the tallest buildings in the Financial District — would anchor all this new development. The Government Center Garage project is even more ambitious. It would transform a nine-story, 2,300-car garage that spans Congress Street into a five-acre, six-building complex. The garage is the last of a number of urban renewal-era parking structures that the city sold in the 1970s and 1980s to be slated for redevelopment. It has deadened the surrounding city blocks and walled off the downtown from the Bulfinch Triangle for roughly half a century. The garage’s developer, the HYM Investment Group, wants to cut the garage in half, wrap its blank sides in shops, offices, and homes, add new structures along the Greenway and Haymarket Square, and top the garage’s western half with a pair of significant new towers. The garage redevelopment and the Garden project are both large, expensive, and unusually tall for their part of town. In each case, the height isn’t an end to itself, but a way of paying for the retail and street level improvements below. And the shops at the base of the developments are aimed at reinforcing the activity that’s already happening in the low-slung neighborhoods next door, in the North End and Beacon Hill and the emerging Bulfinch Triangle. It’s the High Spine extended into North Station — height, density, and low-rise neighborhoods all working in harmony."

Towers rise from Big Dig shadows - Opinion - The Boston Globe

This plan looks awesome.  I hope NIMBY’s don’t nibble it to death.

May 6, 2013
"To my eye, and as a neighbor who has chosen to live in Jamaica Plain for its great diversity and abundant greenspace, the plan to eliminate the bridge is a huge opportunity for my community. The city of Boston will get a more rational street layout and a reconnection between Jamaica Pond, the world-class Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park. We’ll get a tree-lined boulevard instead of a massive and unnecessary fly-over for transitory drivers. We’ll get blue sky and open space, an inviting network of bike paths and pedestrian ways where bridge abutments and ramps now stand. Commuters heading for the Orange Line at Forest Hills Station from northern Jamaica Plain will get a new Head House for the subway station that eliminates the need for many to cross the East-west flow of traffic. And Jamaica Plain will get a newly redesigned plaza where the buses currently idle that may serve as valuable community space. Forest Hills and Jamaica Plain have the potential to become a showcase gateway for southern Boston, a more functional transit hub and potentially a recreational mecca for the residents of the city and beyond. I’m hopeful that the evolving plans will continue to be informed by the rich history of the area. Though I believe it is unrealistic to wish for a return to an idyllic 19th century vision of parkland in the midst of this very real 21st century transportation dilemma, I believe that the local heritage can and should inform the decision making. Where a large, ugly overpass now stands, a beautifully landscaped parkway once existed - and, in adapted form, it may well exist again:"

500 Monkeys With Paintbrushes

Part of a brilliant blog post by a Jamaica Plain resident on the history of the Arborway in Forest Hills and a bright vision of the future.

May 1, 2013
BICYCLING SAFETY: Preventing Injury Requires Multiple Strategies | Steve Miller's Blog — II

This terrific post on Steve Miller’s Blog is a long read but worth reading for it’s compilation of strategies for making bicycling safer and desirable for everyone.  Check it out!

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