Today’s briefs

More briefs. Also, this is published post #1200!

1. Tomorrow’s Census 2010 initial data release will add a new column to this here table. 11AM EST.

2. Some notes from a recent book talk by Peter Calthorpe (book review).

Two laundry-list formulas that shape VMT:
VMT = location, density, demographic, transit, policy
VMT = policy, design, investment, intent

Percent of CO2 from built environment (transportation & buildings)
USA: 62%
California: 50%
Global: 37%

Think about how the world has changed in the span of 40 years — since we will have 40 years (2010-2050) to reach the -80% CO2 target. That might seem unthinkable, but much does change. From 1960-2000:
Cars per household doubled, 1.0 to 1.9
VMT per capita more than doubled, 11K to 24K
Meat consumption doubled, but grazing land per American fell from 1.35 acres to 0.16 acres thanks to feedlots

Each of these techniques will halve transportation CO2 emissions:
55 MPG standard
30% biofuel content
Smart growth
All are needed.

Regarding a slide about some silly building: “we need design as if pedestrians existed… instead, we see design as if magazines mattered”

Chris Leinberger: in recent survey, 25% of people said they considered walkability in their current house. 60% say they’ll consider it for their next house! (That’s a lot of demand chasing a little supply)

[Look up in Economist US GDP as % of GGP over past 10 years, very striking decline, overall decline narrative from Friedman and Tom Paine]

How do we talk to Republicans about these matters?
– libertarian rebuttal: drivable suburbia is “a coercive, dictatorial set of circumstances”
– sustainability measures that resonated in Utah: health impacts of air quality on children; land(scape) consumption, housing choices for children and seniors, fiscal conservatism
– my thought: are there low-carbon streetcar suburbs that vote Republican? Can’t point to Brookline or Oak Park or Bethesda or Rockridge or even Houston Heights with these people since it’s all culture war, all the time with them. Sure, “small town America” images might work, but more specific examples are needed.

3. Hath hell frozen over? “The 801 New Jersey Avenue [Wal-Mart] store would cover 75,000 to 80,000 square feet of the ground floor of a five-story mixed-use building. The remainder of the floors would be made up with 315 apartments as well as additional retail. The site is currently a parking lot.” [h/t Urbanturf]

4. One key way in which the #7 extension would be operationally superior to an additional NJT tunnel [adapted from comment at Market Urbanism]:
The two proposal’s “dead ends” have quite different contexts. The ARC tunnel’s Herald Square dead-end would still have to figure out how to distribute a huge stream of passengers within the already overwhelmed Penn Station area. Instead, the #7 extension’s Secaucus dead-end is at the Lautenberg station — making use of an already-built white elephant built to distribute passengers between the various NJT lines. A subway, with its higher-frequency and higher-capacity service, probably also activates greater TOD opportunities in the intervening areas, between the West Side Yards and Secaucus. The result is more balanced access improvements for more people — and all the better if it is indeed cheaper.

5. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s recent physical move to the northern suburbs is only the most overt manifestation of a metropolitan daily newspaper chasing readers in the city’s affluent suburbs. Even though most of these papers are locally stereotyped as liberal, they really reflect the tastes of their city’s favored quarter suburbs, long taking a cluck-cluck view of city government and banning anything that could possibly offend the business elite.

6. Oh, speaking of which, here are some maps (with commentary) of some cities’ “favored quarter,” as illustrated by where the highest proportion of advanced degree holders live in various metros. Atlanta, in particular, has a very clear 90-degree arc of northern neighborhoods and suburbs which have considerably higher levels of education and income. Historically, these favored quarters have been able to use their outsized political clout — with vehicles like newspaper editorial boards — to demand better infrastructure, which consolidates the area’s advantages. This theory, which is an extension of sociologist Homer Hoyt’s “sector model” of urban development, doesn’t necessarily play out in all cities (e.g., the Twin Cities have a halo of wealth and a bit of a southwesterly tilt), but it’s interesting to see how prevalent it is.


(Why focus on graduate degrees? These are the people who theoretically have the highest levels of capital and therefore the greatest locational choice. Interesting to note, per the recent Brookings “State of Metropolitan America”, that the best educated parts of metropolitan America are the dense suburbs — what Claritas, the demographics firm, has long called “Money & Brains.” The least educated part of America’s metros, with half as many college grads, are the exurbs — now riddled with foreclosures, but once key to Karl Rove’s 2004 realignment. I mentioned this over on Kaid’s blog recently.)

Data from 2005-2009 American Community Survey, generated using the NYTimes’ “Mapping America.”

7. Two interesting themes from the new Michelin Guide to Chicago:
A map of starred restaurants shows that the highest density is in the near north side — not surprising, given that it’s also the densest area for dining (between its high population density and near-monopoly on hotel rooms). However, it’s quite fascinating that Logan Square and Lincoln Park are tied among the neighborhood community areas, with 3 restaurants apiece, and that there’s nothing of note from Lakeview north — confirming my long-held suspicions about the bland north lakefront.
– Strange to see “street team” guerilla advertising for the Bib Gourmand honorees, but that is indeed quite an impressive array of $20 dinners on offer. It’s this kind of creative but casual restaurant that’s sorely missing in DC.

8. Wow: Vancouver’s Olympic Village [my photos thereof] just went into receivership — and since the city fronted much of the cost ($740M), they now take ownership. Assuming that the city settled for $40M in cash plus ownership, that’s still $1.2M in debt on each of the 580 unsold/unrented residential units. No wonder that they were asking at least $1000 per square foot on the units.

An interesting affordable housing experiment is underway a little bit north, where removing parking is seen as key to affordability: “Not providing parking has two benefits. It lowers the cost of the units, since a single parking stall typically costs $30,000 to $40,000 to build downtown; that saving will be passed on to the buyer. As well, Mr. Gillespie believes the lack of parking will act as an automatic filter to keep out better-off households.” The land is essentially receiving a writedown, since it’s bank-owned by the progressive Vancity credit union; the projected unit mix is 45% workforce ($29-36K income), 4% Habitat, and 7% community workers. Yet “The Downtown Eastside’s most vocal advocacy group says it is opposed to the project because, even though its ownership is geared to low-income households, it will still bring gentrification and increased property prices to the neighborhood.”