Unpredictable, High Risk, High Cost: Planning for the worst is the worst

So here we go again.

Flood waters rise in southern Louisiana, displacing tens of thousands — some temporarily,  others permanently — and potentially costing billions.

The familiar narrative cycle has cranked up. Right now we’re emerging from the stage where we celebrate the heroism of citizens, volunteers and emergency responders and question the competency of the feds. Next comes the rough accounting of damages and the fights over  funding, then the agonizing slog towards a recovery unlikely to ever be complete. Finally will come a lessons-learned wrap-up that could be copied and pasted from reports post-Camille, post-Andrew, post-Katrina, post-Sandy and post a bunch of other recent calamities without a name.

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Aging, Self-Driving Cars, and How We Suck at Predicting Doom

As a species, we like to keep on keepin’ on. We’re predisposed to favor continuity and resist change. Which includes not wanting to be held accountable for any less-than-stellar choices we might make along the way.

For years we’ve had various prophets of doom telling us that dispersed suburban living is one of those less-than-stellar choices and that reality — in various forms — is poised to soon intervene, forcing exactly the types of change we’re so prone to denying.

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CNU24 Detroit: Summary and celebration

You know how the sweet spot for blogs is 500 words? Well, this isn’t one of those. It’s the geek’s guide to the 24th Congress for the New Urbanism in Detroit. Feeling grateful for the food for thought, and wanting to keep the ideas fresh. This blog compiles city planning tweets from June 8 through 11 on the subject, grouping the ideas into categories of Community, Equity, Lean Urbanism, Transportation, Infrastructure, Suburban Retrofit, and Architecture, along with inspiration from Detroit and Charleston.

Here’s a shout out to all the Twitter-using urbanists in Detroit who used the hashtag #CNU24 to share this wealth of ideas, and I highly recommend following the credits list at the end, along with many others using that hashtag, whose rich content would require an encyclopedia to truly do it justice. Check out the Twitter feed for the ideas I wasn’t able to cover.

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The Next Frontier for Compact Walkability? It’s gotta be the burbs

This weekend in Miami, the Congress for the New Urbanism is staging one of the periodic Councils it uses to focus perspectives and best practices on topics of growing concern to CNU members and fellow travelers. This one is all about building “a Better Burb.”

The idea, says CNU CEO Lynn Richards, is “to leverage the momentum from the revival of the city.”

Local and regional governments in outlying areas, says Richards, are beginning to recognize the advantages of reversing sprawl — and the risks of not acting. “And they’re asking for tools and strategies to start or accelerate their suburban transformation. That’s what we’ll be focusing on this weekend.”

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Fortunately, Unfortunately: A children’s primer on urban evolution

Not so long ago I was reminded of a book my Mom used to read me as a child: “Fortunately,” by Remy Charlip (briefly renamed “What Good Luck! What Bad Luck!” for a few years as well). It tells the tale of a young boy invited to a party and the series of misfortunes he experiences on his way there.

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Fix Housing Supply, Save the City: Is it really that easy?

Planning wonks might have felt all warm inside when they noticed zoning topics wedging their way into broader conversations about community affordability and equity. Bring it on. Finally.

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Walkability: Good money after bad

Let’s talk about dollars spent. Millions of dollars. 7.2 million dollars specifically, of which 5.5 million came directly from the local economy. The goal? At least according to local leadership, it was to increase quality of life via improved walkability.

First, a caveat: This isn’t going to be one of those pieces denouncing government spending as inherently bad. But neither will it be one that suggests all is well when spending gets characterized as an investment rather than a mere expenditure.

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