Every once in a while, I try to remember that currency is the currency of the internet — and therefore that quick blog posts are just as worthy as detailed thoughts — but I still get hung up on doing justice to good ideas. Anyhow.
1. Good riddance, Olympic mania. A prime example of the worst possible “project planning” (to use Roberta Brandes Gratz‘s term) — for a temporary event, no less. What annoyed me most was that the organizers not only suckered local corporations and foundations out of millions of dollars (which did not, btw, fall from heaven but was ultimately taken from the pockets of other local charities), but that they sold some magical expectation that the Olympics would somehow magically solve the CTA’s woes. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Not only did the Bid Book explicitly state* that no transit improvements were planned (and you can’t get what you don’t ask for!), but even the most optimistic figures about what sort of money could indeed fall from the sky (i.e., the feds) fell far, far short of the region’s eye-popping $50 billion in unfunded transit capital needs. (If the broad outlines of what’s being discussed in Congress for TEA4 happen, we might have a good start on getting that funded — without the hassles of the Olympics.) Besides, if there really is money falling from the skies, let it fall upon Brazil — they need it more than we do.
* the comments on that story are actually pretty on-topic. Too bad that disillusionment didn’t spread as far as the implied lies did.
2. Proposition 13 really is a tax on newcomers and the young, according to research by Dowell Myers. Senior homeowners get an average of $1,000 a year, paid for by homeowners under 45.
3. Daimler’s car2go offers one-way car sharing, which sounds like an intriguing concept. That’s possible for bike sharing systems only due to their ubiquity; is that also the intent here?
4. Phoenix wants to be carbon neutral? “Dementia.”
5. Most of the examples of “circle lines” (circumferential rapid transit lines) that I’ve seen distribute passengers through sprawling downtowns from commuter rail terminals that, due to imperial dictate, have been located outside the CBD. (This is the pattern in Buenos Aires, London, Moscow, Paris, and Tokyo.) As I’ve argued before, the proposed CTA Circle line does not fit this model, and thus becomes “an expensive solution in search of a problem.” Even the Illinois Medical District isn’t that focused an employment center (the Longwood Medical Area packs twice the employees into half the space, and the Boston Urban Ring is projected to be a BRT project. It also won’t work as a Metra connector, since most Metra trains will never stop at the Circle Line — most Metra customers will continue to the downtown terminals. (The line also has limited TOD potential since it runs through many built-out neighborhoods; arguably, the Clinton subway has greater TOD bang for the buck.) The line also wouldn’t serve many circumferential trips well; changing from a single bus-rail transfer (or a single rail-rail transfer one mile down the line) to a double rail-rail-rail transfer wipes out any potential time savings.
One exception I found: in Santiago, L4/L4A (which require a transfer) link the Providencia-Las Condes business district, via a peripheral freeway median line, to the high-density southern suburbs — laden with Pinochet-era public housing. Not a great example.
6. Two impressions that I gathered from a quick look at Dallas:
– Ample illustrations of the problem with putting the right thing in the wrong place. Victory and West Village might have looked fine on the drawing boards, but in practice they’re difficult to reach from anywhere else (except by driving, of course). West Village, in particular, would be exactly the sort of development to place next to DART — not a few blocks away.
– The boom/bust cycle of Texas development results in some interesting half-built stuff. Local developers hitch on to the latest planning fads with great enthusiasm (and the local “BEAN: Build Everything, Anywhere, Now” planning culture encourages it), but the market collapses before anything actually gets completed. With proper phasing, you could have a few good blocks here and there, but no.
7. A scale comparison: HOPE VI spent $6 billion in total. The Livable Communities Act bill introduced by Sen. Dodd authorizes over $4 billion over the next 3-4 years. This could have a significant impact.
8. Filed under “fun endeavors that I wish I’d thought of”: Will Cycle For Charity, creators of events that exercise people and brains, while building goodwill for cycling and raising charitable donations.