Step Away from the Vehicle (And take back the journey)

Leading into the Thanksgiving weekend, a video of holiday traffic on Los Angeles’ 405 Freeway hit the Twitterverse.

Kinda hypnotizing, but probably not as fun to experience if you were in one of the cars “stuck in traffic.” (Smart Growth transportation planners couldn’t resist tweeting one of their favorite jabs: “If you find yourself in this situation, you’re not “stuck in traffic.” You ARE the traffic.”)

Continue Reading

The City as NORC: It’s the people thing

When The New York Times used my wife and me as examples in a story about retirees’ growing preferences for urban life, it was a chance to literally walk the talk.

I’ve been writing about my Baby Boomer cohort for all my career, first in the ‘60s alternative press, then in newspaper and magazine stories as we aged through what is probably the longest adolescence in world history. The chance we’ll grow up before we die? Even money. But here’s something you can bet on:

The generation that moved markets at every stage of our lives is likely to have something left for a finale. And maybe it’s a walk-off nudge in the direction of neighborhood and community design.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

Word Eating Time: Here’s today’s menu

Whatever skills I developed in manipulating language were shaped by two decades on the staffs of newspapers and magazines. In my first interview for a newspaper job, a managing editor lectured me on the transition I should be prepared for. I could forget all that fancy writing stuff I may have learned in college. I was about to become a reporter serving customers with middle school reading skills and a lot of impatience with nuance.

Bottom line: Get to the friggin point, preferably no later than the second paragraph. So here it is: The broader you try to apply that advice, the worse it makes things.

Continue Reading

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.”

Continue Reading