Recently attended a presentation about the Sustainable Sites Initiative and I-LAST, two new attempts at green rating schemes developed largely by (respectively) ASLA and Illinois highway engineers. Ultimately, I’m certainly glad to see that other groups are paying attention to the need for sustainable practices, and appreciate the challenges that many areas face in taking just the first step in that direction. However, I can’t help but feel that these efforts will result in unfortunate greenwashing, at the expense of more rigorous systems like LEED-ND. SSI awards more points for native plant use than for infill and transit-oriented locations; I-LAST allows project managers to skip over sustainable practices (even basics like complying with local comp plans or doing perfunctory public involvement) that “aren’t applicable” without even trying. FHWA is rumored to be creating its own sustainability rating scheme; let’s hope that it not only sets a rigorous standard but also can make or break a project’s funding decisions.
“Farmers in Northern Illinois who only a few years ago were making plans to move their operations Downstate or closer to Iowa now have a rare opportunity to reclaim land sold to developers, at a fraction of the price the homebuilders paid… With a resumption of exurban homebuilding years away, corn and soybean farms will continue to dot the outer fringes of metro Chicago, making the woes of homebuilders and banks a source of opportunity for local farmers who want to bulk up and cheering critics of suburban sprawl.” [Steve Daniels in Crain’s]
“Holiday Inn… commissioned less than a dozen of these circular high-rise hotels in the 1960s.” [Jefferson City, Missouri – Landmarks] Strange, I could have sworn there were more — or maybe they just figure prominently in my memory, owing to what’s now the Clarion Hotel in downtown Raleigh.
Alan Durning notes in “the parable of the electric bike” that a transformative electric vehicle boom has been underway — only it involves bicycles in China, not cars in the USA. (Indeed, you really have to be careful to look both ways when crossing either road or footpath in China, since electric bikes will quickly and silently whip out of nowhere.) Citing Chi-Jen Yang at Duke, he notes that this phenomenon was a market reaction to a policy stick: a crackdown on motorcycle pollution displaced demand over to e-bikes. Systems don’t change, markets don’t adapt to gentle pressure. New inventions for urban mobility won’t change the way we get around overnight, unless there are equally huge changes in how we build the places we get around. (He also makes a good point that we cyclists shouldn’t turn up our noses at e-bikes in our quest to human-power everything; we’re just falling for the same “our vehicles, ourselves” trap that makes drivers thumb their noses at cyclists.)