This is a thread for general discussion about urban planning and architecture. I’l try to focus on issues in Hawai’i, and I’ll use this thread as a repository for links. To start off, here’s a video on the effects of parking.
Parking lots now take up enough space in the US to cover the entire state of West Virginia. How did we get here? pic.twitter.com/efGYECJKPO
— Vox (@voxdotcom) July 8, 2018
16 thoughts on “General Urban Planning Thread”
Interesting video, but take away the government regulations for parking and apply supply and demand. Who would move into a residential building that does have sufficient parking? That goes for double for businesses. A business will struggle to survive without sufficient parking.
I just read How Parking Destroys Cities from Michael Manville in the Atlantic, and it may provide some answers to your question.
For one thing, parking requirements can make development more expensive:
It can also make transit and walking more difficult and unpleasant:
I think if the you removed mandatory minimum parking requirements it could possibly hurt existing businesses and owners of apartments and condos. However, here are some things that should be considered:
1. The negative effect to these groups is a function of the popularity for driving cars. But driving is partly attractive because of drivers don’t have to pay for parking (when they can find parking spaces that resulted from the government policy). If you take away that policy, and replace manage on street parking using appropriate pricing, the appeal of driving would likely diminish. At the same time, the demand for other modes of transportation might increase. If more people walk, bicycle, or use mass transit, then businesses and those who own or live in apartments/condos may not suffer so much. I think this is basically applying the supply and demand principle. If parking is free and relatively plentiful, then the demand for parking and driving will be high. If parking is not free or plentiful, then demand for driving will decrease.
One question to ask: To what degree do we want to accommodate (subsidize) and encourage driving? Currently, a lot of people like driving, but this is partly a function of policies we choose. Take away those policies and driving may lose some of its appeal. What’s the cost of accommodating and encouraging people’s desire to drive? There are health, environmental and even economic factors.
With regard to the latter I’ll mention two things. The video mentions that the minimum parking requirements add costs to developers and sometimes prevent development. In terms of housing this is crucial as housing prices are function of supply and demand, and my understanding is that in many places like Honolulu, the supply is far from meeting the demand. The cost of having a car (or two) can be quite substantial for individual or family. Expenditures going to car and insurance payments as well as gas and maintenance could be used for other things.
2. Removing mandatory minimum parking policy and finding appropriate on street parking could change the way we develop communities–building buildings closer together, making walking more attractive and practical, which will allow businesses to be viable without a lot of parking spaces.
I think social infrastructure is underappreciated. It’s super important in my view. It is a difficult issue to address, but I think if more people understood it’s importance, this could create political momentum to bring about necessary changes.
I’d love to live in a good urban place with minimal or no cars. I feel like doing something like this would also appeal to people in Hawai’i, depending on where it was done.
One interesting thing in this article. Businesses complained about not being able to receive deliveries from trucks. A solution seems to be that during certain early hours in the day, delivery trucks are allowed into the city where cars are normally prohibited. (Emergency vehicles are also allowed.)
Interesting. Are there other cities that you know like that?
In terms of deliveries they could do what they do for Tokyo Station, which has hundreds if not thousands of stores. Every delivery is done to a central location and from there one company does the distribution to each individual shops. How does that help? The one company could schedule when trucks come into their facility and then organize how the deliveries are then sent out to each shop. I guess it does add another level of delivery cost, but it should be minimal because the original wholesaler would have to charge less since they are not delivering to the doorstep of the store.
I think there are others, but I can’t think of them off hand. (There might be another in Spain.)
I think that could work, but it seems like most deliveries are done in the morning, at least for supplies that businesses would need. For deliveries by Fed X, that’s another story. But I would think that wouldn’t really cause much of a problem.
Interesting way of extending the sidewalk in Kaka’ako on Auahi Street
Here’s another angle:
Don asked about other cities that were eliminating (or reducing) cars from certain sections of a city. Here’s a story on the way Barcelona is doing something similar:
Thoughts and comments about this article:
One of the main goals for the superblock was to prohibit through traffic, which I understand as vehicles traveling through an area rather than stopping at some destinations within it. I believe planners modify or create paths that cars, bicycles, and pedestrians share. I would expect doing things like this will lead to less use of cars and different modes of transportation to increase, and that’s seems to be what happened. Also, people seem to like this. For example,
Some lessons and takeaways from the article
The government didn’t clearly communicate their plan to convert Poblenou into a superblock.
The implementation was also radical and abrupt, and it seems this stemmed from a disconnect with urban planner spearheading the project and the government.
This lead to organizing by some people to oppose the superblock. Here’s the thing, though: I’m uncertain that better communication and planning would have eliminated protests. The change was going to be quite significant, and anytime that happens, some people will resist this.
I think one way to mitigate this is if a project like this has already occurred, and people like the results. (This seemed to eventually happen.) The trick, of course, lies in starting the first project and making it succeed.
Takeaways: 1) It will take time for people to get accustomed to the changes and find a ways to make the spaces work; 2) Once that happens, I would expect a growth in social capital. To wit, interactions with people living in the area lead to building of relationships and positive behavior, including political and civic engagement.
Takeway: great architecture and urban design aren’t always about building a great work of art. Instead, something simple, mundane, and unsexy can make a place come a live and really resonate with people, creating a strong emotional bond. When this occurs through design and planning, that should also be considered great architecture and design.
By “ideological,” I take them to mean that the decision to create a superblock in Poblenou fufilled a broader vision of the ideal city, which didn’t really solve specific problems.
My reaction is that this kind of project should be pragmatic as well. (The politics involved can also interfere with this process, too.)
The article goes on to mention that the tactical changes can lead to push back (which I suspect might be unavoidable).
It also mentions that consulting residents at a later point and then implementing some of their requests helped. The question is, why didn’t this happen sooner? One possible reason is that if they asked citizens earlier a group would form to oppose the changes, regardless if their concerns had merit or not. While the tactical approach has pitfalls (some will react negatively), it does allow changes to be made quickly. This is important because if the changes have merit, the people will get to see and experience this right away, or at least see potentially good outcomes. My sense is that good architecture and planning has to be experienced–lived in, so to speak. Knowing both through images and language is very difficult, if not impossible. It’s something you feel as much as you appreciate through your eyes and intellect.
These two paragraphs make me think of both Christopher Alexander and Jane Jacobs. The creation of blank public space, plus tactical urbanist moves, makes me think of Alexander’s use of mock-ups when he designs and builds structures. Alexander doesn’t draw up architectural plans. Instead, he goes to a site and uses string and other cheap material to layout where everything will belong and how it will look. By actually being in the space, building with cheap materials that can be easily adjusted, he can create a structure that is a better fit for the environment and for people. This is consistent with the idea that architecture and planning is about feeling and experience, not just something visual and conceptual.
Alexander also compares architecture to morphogenesis (I think that’s the term). When mammals start developing after the fertilized egg occurs, the organism begins in a “soft state” and eventually hardens. For example, bones are soft in the early stages and later hardens. Alexander applies this concept to building. This also makes me think of the transition from tactical urbanism to structural urbanism.
This soft-to-hard process also has merit in another way. I believe both Alexander and Jacobs believe that great cities or spaces generally aren’t created whole cloth from the mind of an architect or planner. Instead, a great place isn’t just built instantly but finds its way over a long period of time, growing and changing, and this process is informed by the space and people who live and use that space. Again, I go back to Alexander’s way of building a structure. In some ways, one doesn’t know what is good architecture (for a specific place) util one actually sees and lives in it. There’s a trial and error element to this. (Alexander also uses universal patterns and principles to guide this process as well, but talking about this is beyond the scope of this post.)
I mentioned this earlier, and this resonates with me. This is the type of reaction I’d expect. I think if we built one place like this in Hawai’i, and we did it well, we could see the same reaction here.
This new book looks interesting.
This is a better bike lane, then the ones that are essentially made by painting lines on the road. I would be a little concerned if there is heavy bike traffic, though.
Interesting illustration below;
Why Can’t We Build Infrastructure Cheaply, Quickly and Well? from Governing.com.
Reason #1: Cutting the size of government
The authors attribute to Republicans’ desire to save taxpayer’s money, and they cite two effects of this:
1. The reduction in government staff, hinders the government’s ability to function well. This leads to farming out work to expensive private sector companies and consultants;
2. Funding projects in a gradual way, saving money in the immediate term by paying for a project in installments–which, the article claims, is more expensive versus spending all or most of the money upfront.
By the way, I would guess this includes paying repairs in a timely manner, even if forgoing this will save money in the short time, if these repairs will lead to savings in the long run. The same applies to paying more for better supplies or better service that actually save money because they last longer or don’t require services so quickly.)
Reason #2: Emphasis on environmental protection
This leads to a more extensive and lengthier review process, which can delay infrastructure projects. I think delays also lead to greater expense to these projects. (The authors, here, put the blame on Democrats.)
In Hawai’i, we can also add concerns for preserving a certain lifestyle as well as respecting culture, specifically Native Hawaiian culture. Evaluating to determine a project’s effects on the environment and culture–and then mitigating negative impacts–is very important. However, it’s possible the process and mitigating factors can be unreasonably stringent, long, and costly. The goal is to find the right balance, and a thoughtful public discussion about this would be very welcomed.
Reason #3: Inefficient use of Labor
According to the authors, the U.S. isn’t paying workers more than other developed countries, but we are requiring more workers to do a job than other countries. They attribute this to inflexible unions, mentioning that Europe is more unionized.
Reason #4: Coordination between State, Local, and Federal Governments
The authors don’t write much about this, but I believe they’re referring to situations where infrastructure crosses over multiple jurisdictions. For example, some sections of a road may be on all three. This requires coordination from all three governments to build or maintain the road. The authors also claim that we have more trouble at this than other developed countries, but they don’t cite any evidence.
Reason #5: Common-Law Legal System
It’s easier to quote them:
This was probably the most disappointing part of the article. In essence, the authors recommend examining and imitating developed countries that build infrastructure more efficiently. They also mention the following:
They mention co-ops as a possible model to use, but I’m not familiar enough with co-ops, especially in the context of building and maintaining infrastructure to know grasp the way this would work.
There is one problem that comes to mind with regard to imitating other countries. The system and processes we have for building infrastructure is highly complex. To make the changes to make our system more like another country’s may be too impractical. Our healthcare system makes me think of this notion. I think many health care experts understand the many of the problems and know solutions. If they had a chance to start from scratch the system would look really different. But how do we get from point A to Z? The problem isn’t just the cost, but the politics that is so difficult. I imagine something similar with changing the process for infrastructure.
Having said this, like health care, we can still make incremental, but meaningful changes, and we should.
Part I of a Governing article on the reasons building more roads isn’t a long-term solution to traffic congestion. (The article includes new research supporting this.)