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Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Who Needs Cars? Smart Mobility Can Make Cities Sustainable.

We can either continue to build car-oriented cities that lock in these unsustainable patterns, or we can scale up existing models for creating more inclusive, accessible and connected cities. Pursuing smarter urban mobility options can help growing cities leapfrog car-centric development and adopt strategies that boost inclusive economic growth and improve quality of life.

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When a group of high school juniors signed up for a shop class, they didn’t realize they’d be building real buildings that their community desperately needs.

How Bertie County Teens Built A Farmers Market Pavilion

The Windsor Super Market ©Studio H

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Ever wonder how really affordable your house or apartment is? So have I and the Housing and Transit Affordability Index will show you the numbers. Based solely on rent cost, my apartment is fairly affordable, at 17% of my income. However, if you add in transportation costs, it more than doubles, to 40% of my income.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Housing Costs, % Income for Renters to Housing + Transportation Costs, % Income for Renters

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

If I compare the annual cost of driving to work versus the annual cost of transit, I find that I’m saving a ton by working from home and taking the bus whenever I can. The difference is amazing: $51 for transit a year, versus $2,048 for a car per year. The cost of transit is spread out across all riders, while the cost of operating your car is solely in your hands and your pocketbook. It costs more to own a car than to take the bus.

H+T Affordability Index: Seattle–Bellevue–Everett, WA: Comparing Annual VMT Cost ($) to Annual Transit Cost ($)

The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index is an innovative tool that measures the true affordability of housing based on its location.
© Copyright 2003-10 Center for Neighborhood Technology
2125 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 · Tel: (773) 278-4800 · Fax: (773) 278-3840

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The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome:
Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream

John F. Wasik
Bloomberg, 2009

207 pages
US$24.95
ISBN 978-1576603208

John Wasik, a columnist for Bloomberg News and the Huffington Post, has written a book that examines the recent period in our history when homeownership actually made many people poorer. They have been forced to tap their home equity, go into debt to finance their unsustainable lifestyle, and contributed little to retirement investing because of the misguided assumption that home appreciation would fund their future years. Basically the period of time when homes stopped being a place to live and raise family, and became a temporary abode for a migrant family that changed residences every 5 to 7 years.

As John Wasik himself has said on his Cul-De-Sac Syndrome website:

After a lifetime of research and observation, an agonizing decline of the housing market, publication delays and collapse of the stock market, my Cul-de-Sac Syndrome has braved all odds to be published.

Why should you care about this book? It’s about our homes and communities and how we need to re-invent, re-envision and re-build the American Dream if we want to survive in this contentious century. Economics meets ecology in this radical new look at what we’ve taken for granted as a birthright.

The plight of the housing market writ large. The unsustainable “spurbs”, Wasik’s name for car-dependent sprawling urban areas, dot the land. I lived for a time in Colorado Springs and had friends who lived in one these spurbs. They had a twenty minute drive to get to the nearest grocery store, and the neighborhood was more a fenced-in plots of anonymous neighbors, than a community.

The City of Kenmore has a chance to make itself a more livable city, a more walkable city. It also needs to make itself more attractive to more manufacturing and office jobs, since retail and other service oriented businesses just isn’t enough.

Decide for yourself, you can pick up a copy of his book from my Sustainable Living Store.

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In the GreenTech section of CNET news is a story about how the Solar Trust energy company has acquired the rights to Solar Millenium’s agreement with Southern California Edison and plans to offer a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development:

Solar Trust’s strategy is to offer what it calls a “turnkey solution” to thermal solar energy development. It says it will be a company that can provide not only the design, development, construction, and installation of a thermal solar plant, but also the running and management of the plant once it’s functional.

A parabolic solar array unit.

A parabolic solar array unit.

These solar plants are different from from photovoltaic solar cells in that they use parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a working fluid. This fluid is heated up into steam or run through a heat exchanger to create steam, and then the steam is used through a traditional steam turbine to generate power.

What does this mean for the future of solar power? Well, if this new company succeeds in producing power to California residents, similar projects could be build in Eastern Washington State. So we’ll be keeping our eyes on how this develops.

Read the full story here.

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Yesterday on KUOW’s Weekday program, Thomas Sieverts and host, Steve Scher,

Northland Shopping Center – overgrown parking lot and neon sign. Photo by Lost Tulsa.

Northland Shopping Center – overgrown parking lot and neon sign. Photo by Lost Tulsa.

 talked about the Zwischenstadt, or intermediate city/sprawl/in-between places that exist in communities. They’re a mix or the city and country, the natural and man–made. And they are a growing trend in many places. 

“[As an architect,] I was taught to make a place functional. In the future, we must learn simply to build a place. A place as open to different functions as possible–a place whose use can change while maintaining its architectural qualities. Experience shows us that the beautiful building is the longest lasting, not the most functional.”

 –Thomas Sieverts

Zwischenstadt means sprawl: the patchwork proximity of unconnected and highly disparate elements which vary in function, scale and use. It describes the hotch-potch on the margins of the metropolitan landscape – shopping centres alongside family homes next to a motorway, for example – but it also denotes a more general structure which is “undermining” the historical norms of city life. In historical terms, the Zwischenstadt is a newcomer, an interim stage in the transition to an uncertain future.

To learn more, listen to the KUOW.org podcast:

Hi quality

Lo quality

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In the online Atlantic Magazine’s The Daily Dish article Taking Up Space, writer Richard Florida posted the following photographs which illustrate the amount of space taken up by different kinds of transit – bicycle, bus and car:

Image via SUNY Stonybrook Department of Geosciences (h/t: Ian Swain, Martin Prosperity Institute).

 According to the article each transportation footprint is:

  • Bicycle – 90 sq. m for 71 people to park their bikes.
  • Car – 1000 sq. m for 72 people to park their care (avg. occupancy of 1.2 people per car).
  • Bus – 30 sq m for the bus.

Some food for thought…

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