This blog has been neglected for about a year now because Ive been in the Peace Corps and have started a new blog.
I wrote a post recently about what I love about living in an Albanian City: how urban places in Albania look and feel different because of their population density and their walkability.
Let’s talk about the population density. My little city in the middle of nowhere is roughly one square kilometer yet holds14000-18000 people. To put this into perspective, this is half the population density of Manhattan, 5x the population density of the City of Los Angeles, more than double the population density of the City of San Francisco!
How did this happen? Almost all housing is apartment blocks which were built under the communist era. People had no choice of owning a new single family home because the only builder was the government and the only thing the government was building was apartment blocks. The lack of government control that followed the fall of communism only lead to greater population densities because people filled in spaces left “empty” (parks, gardens, yards, pedestrian paths) with new, taller apartment buildings.
Car-free life here in Albania is the default, rather than in America where it is impossible except for some exceptions. Why is this so? Not just because at these population densities the rates of car ownerships in America would be physically impossible, but because personal cars were illegal under communism and Albanian cities were simply not at all built with cars in mind which is a legacy of the built environment that persists. Until 1991 there were an estimated 2000 cars in the country of 3000000 people. Even today, it is fair to say most Albanians have no need for a personal car, given such high densities of both housing and employment, and most are simply status symbols for men.
Check out the rest of the post at Albanian Urbanism, A Love Story
This video basically sums about half of urban planning in graduate school
Whats funny to me is how they mention suburban clustering around culdesacs as a means to limit rampant, wasteful growth. It seems that the benefits to cluster developments mostly benefit builders (they have to build fewer roads, can avoid much earth moving, can fit in a few extra homes) but comes at a cost of everyone else when they cant walk anywhere directly, including across the subdivision.
As a child I grew up in a subdivision of 3 culdesacs. The subdivision was surrounded by older subdivisions that were not culdesacs but were far from a rectangular grid pattern. No streets from any 2 subdivisions met. They all emptied out onto a large, fast road. So, although I lived less than a mile from my school and only residential neighborhoods were between my house and the school, walking to school was only possible by walking along this 4 lane road where people went 40mph with a very skinny sidewalk. Had the streets aligned into something similar to a rectangular grid or if there were pedestrian paths, I could have walked to school every day.
Its stuff like this that turns mild-mannered suburban kids into urban planners.
The New York Times published an exciting article about the town of Saranac Lake, NY that suggests that communities that work together can both revive their downtowns and find alternatives to bigbox stores such as Walmart. Continue reading ‘No Walmart, No Problem. A Small Town Opens Its Own Department Store’
Published November 13, 2011
Tags: BRT, bus, Bus Rapid Transit, Muni, public transportation, san francisco, SFCTA, traffic, traffic congestion, transportation planning, urban planning, Van Ness Avenue
Imagine how fast your bus would travel if it had its own lane, passengers paid before boarding, and traffic lights adjusted themselves to make sure your bus almost always had a green light. Pretty awesome, eh? Well, such systems already exist around the world. San Francisco may have its first such “Bus Rapid Transit” along Van Ness in 2016.
Currently, San Francisco has one of the lowest Continue reading ‘Is San Francisco Ready for Bus Rapid Transit?’
Published November 12, 2011
Tags: bus, busmeister, chinatown game boston, fix my transport, public transportation, see click fix, transit, transportation, transportation planning, video games
part simulator, part game, part lesson in transportation planning. busmeister needs you to keep those passenger faces happy but within a budget. this city isnt made of money, you know.
In an creative attempt to leverage new information technology to bring about change in public input in public transportation planning, Vienna Transportation Strategies has released a video game about just that, transportation planning. In this game, BusMeister , the players adjust bus frequency, stop lights, urban design, bus stop placement, etc, to maximize speed and efficiency of buses along routes that are increasingly difficult to serve as they vary in number of lanes, amount of traffic, and densities. Continue reading ‘Transportation Planning: The Video Game’
Published October 26, 2011
Tags: carbon, carbon emissions, cities, climate change, co2, externalities, farming, free market, global warming, local food, urban planning, water, water rights
Water is the newest cash crop for some farmers in California, with cities eager to buy it. Image from Moffett Field, CA (flickr)
In an increasingly dry American west, water management organizations have started engaging in sales of this wet resource to local communities because farmers earn more money selling the water to cities than they would using the water to farm. From the NYT article:
With water increasingly scarce in the West, some other communities are allowing farmers to sell their allotment of it for whatever price they can find, in some cases thousands of dollars for the amount it takes to grow an acre of a crop. But Continue reading ‘Water Cities or Farms: Should the Market Decide?’
Published October 14, 2011
Tags: brookfield properties, freedom, law, new york city, NYC, NYT, occupy wall st, Occupy Wall Street, OWS, parks, privately owned public spaces, protests, Public spaces, seattle, zuccotti park, zucotti park
The NYT published a new article today detailing Zuccotti Park’s legal status and NYC’s privately owned public spaces. It seems that Zuccotti Park’s being open 24 hours is a accident of its age and that newer spaces are allowed to have schedules. Also, the legal grey area around these spaces means that, likely unintentionally, protesters have more freedom in them than Continue reading ‘For Now, More Freedom in Privately Owned Public Spaces’