Published Aug 13 2008 by Energy Bulletin
Archived Aug 13 2008

Housing & urban design - August 13

by Staff

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Australia: Rising costs fuel economic stress
(housing pain)
AAP, Sydney Morning Herald
Economic stress caused by rising fuel and mortgage costs is creating the need for massive investment in public transport systems, according to research undertaken by Griffith university.

The VAMPIRE (Vulnerability Assessment for Mortgage, Petroleum and Inflation Risks and Expenses) index identifies the relative degree of socio-economic stress in suburbs in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

Researchers Dr Jago Dodson and Dr Neil Sipe said fuel and mortgage stress had crept steadily inward from the fringes.

"In our earlier study, areas of stress were largely located at the outer suburban mortgage belts where car dependency is high," Dr Dodson said.

"In this study we have seen the number and geographical range of vulnerable households creep inwards as fuel costs and interest rates rise."

Dr Dodson said this resulted in a highly regressive pattern in which the impacts of higher fuel costs and increased interest rates fell on those with least capacity to absorb these impacts.
(11 August 2008)

What our cities could be

Colin Beavan aka No Impact Man, No Impact Man
I always go on about how the current crisis in the habitat we depend upon for our health, happiness and security is full of opportunities for an improved way of life. What's good for the planet is often what is good for the people.

This principle is illustrated in the simple example of home care products. If the products, once they get washed down the drain, are non-toxic for the fish who end up swimming in them, then they are also safe for our kids who are exposed to them when when we use them in our homes.

Another example is the inevitable fact that we need to use the internal combustion engine--which burns fossil fuels to power our cars--much less often. This might sound like a hardship, and as our culture is currently structured, it might be...

...For three consecutive Saturday mornings (and potentially much more often if this test is a success), no cars or trucks will be allowed on Park Avenue. New Yorkers, in other words, get a glimpse of a world without cars. And it ain't half bad. Look at the pictures below and read this article in the New York Times...
(11 August 2008)
No Impact Man is the blog of Colin Beavan. He and his family are trying to spend a whole year living without power, garbage, motorized transport etc. in New York City.-SO

Smart Growth: The good news about high gas prices

Editorial, Washington Post
THE LAST item on the last page of Sen. Barack Obama's "New Energy for America" plan -- build more livable and sustainable communities -- sounds like the standard feel-good political boilerplate that generally shows up in the back of policy papers. But it shouldn't be dismissed. This proposal from the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president is part of a larger policy push to foster smart growth. The effort puts a premium on residential and commercial development that minimizes fuel use and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by maximizing density and transportation alternatives that get people out of their cars.

The silver lining in the spike in gasoline prices is that it has focused the public on the links among global warming, sustainable communities and transportation alternatives.
(11 August 2008)

They took away all the cars in NYC - Summer Streets 2008

Clarence Eckerson, Jr., Street Films
Feeling remarkably similar to Bogota's Ciclovia, the New York City Department of Transportation held its first Summer Streets event on Saturday by opening 7 miles of city streets to pedestrians and bike traffic only. From 7 AM to 1 PM, roads were car-free from 72nd Street to the Brooklyn Bridge with Park Avenue serving as the backbone of the route. Our Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan is the real deal - she spent the entire day riding a bike around the course (and even said some nice things about me to my mom.)

We'll spare you the 200 adjectives we could list about how transformational it was, for it was beyond anything on the printed page. The general consensus was that the event succeeded beyond even the most hoped for expectations and would pass even the most pessimistic of measuring sticks. A page has been turned, clearly there is no doubt: the future will hold many more large scale street openings for pedestrians, cyclists, runners, children, dog walkers, dancers, and any other reasonable livable space use.

The swarms of people and happy faces made for much positive energy. Around noon, some blocks were getting very crowded, but there was a general courtesy that existed between pedestrians and cyclists. The city built it - and the people came. And they smiled alot.
(11 August 2008)
Original has a light-hearted and upbeat video of the event. -BA

Atrios Rules

Duncan Black, Eschaton
As Yglesias suggests, our current development patterns exist due to some combination of rules and consumer demand. Changing the rules in some places has long been desirable, and now changing consumer demand might force those changes to happen.

Since no matter how much I write about this stuff there are still people who misunderstand me let me spell out my radical plan to convert all of America into Manhattan:

1) More money for mass transit, including, where appropriate, subway, light rail, better bus systems, commuter rail, and high speed medium haul trains. In development corridors, right of ways should be preserved for future rail lines, with strong commitment to build them when the population moves in.

2) Changing land use rules especially around transit stops and stations, encouraging higher density and mixed used zoning.

3) Better pedestrian integration between nearby lower density development and higher density development near transit stops.

4) Reverse trend of construction of single access road development.

5) Within existing urban areas, a reversal of the car-centric planning which damages the urban streetscape.

... I imagine more people than currently do would like to live in a world where they don't have to have one car per driving age family member, where their non-driving teens have some independent mobility, and where they can walk to get a cup of coffee or a beer occasionally. And, yes, their yards too.
(12 August 2008)
Duncan Black (Atrios) has been writing more about walkable cities. Perhaps he's found his calling! -BA