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Ericorozco
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I must note that with just three levels of differentiation within routes added to Seattle's map it would communicate more information (actually much more) than just three kinds of routes. Why? Because it gives folks more handles to milk more information from the map through inference. While the Minneapolis map uses color to communicate route overlap, such information could be inferred by the careful reader of the Seattle map with the line type strategy Jarrett mentioned. I appreciate the Seattle mapmaker's insistence on visual simplicity to keep the layer of interest all one color, because of the reticulated distribution of the network (a good problem for a transit agency to have I must say). The deficit is we can't really follow the branching of the individual routes from one another (hence the profusion of numbers). Where does Route 1 going south head to after it intersects with other routes...who knows? That kind of information could probably be communicated through visual inference if we saw the other layer of indirectly related information of route type/frequency put on the Seattle map. You could still spare the mapreader visual chaos by keeping it all one color, but that extra level of information of basic route type would do a lot actually! In order to communicate route overlap I often see a bad habit of differentiating routes with very subtle gradations of color using very thin lines placed side by side. Now that is visual chaos to me because it begins to bleed out geographic information. It takes away points of inference (which are actually critical for navigation). What's more, you really can't tell colors apart using thin lines often, even if you zoomed in really close and even if they are different primary colors of the same tone (think of your colorblind passengers!). I realize in some instances it is necessary to communicate transfer opportunities between stops, but I too am not a fan of adding too much color differentiation to the primary layer.
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Don't restrain the designer! Styles quickly fade ...and come back. Even brutalist apartment blocks are known to invoke nostalgia nowadays. I'd rather the design express the spirit of its age. Cities with dated infrastructure and buildings have a nicely layered, well-lived order. To me dated things are endearing. They express a city's Wanting to Be at a spirited moment in its history. What makes things "timeless", after all, is the context of history and good use. As far as style goes, I'd rather designers were bolder about celebrating the journey...that they get the need for zoom and whoosh and translate it for the modes of expression in their age. Of course, it is more important for me that they accomplish acts of urbanism using the draw of the service. Even with bad design! For example, my favorite activation of urbanism where it is not expected is a roundabout island transformed into an inhabited public space. Its design is an example of bold contemporary transit architecture which to me is beautiful but is using the draw of the service to achieve greater elegance in removing the barriers of access as a motif throughout. Subarquitectura's Alicante tram stop celebrates destinations, both local and implied ones, both earthly and fantastic ones.
Toggle Commented May 22, 2010 on does busway architecture matter? at Human Transit
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Hey Peter that would not have been a problem, especially in an environment where sharing parking use was the law. Stores would have understood the value of having cashiers at both entrances if the visiting the street was a draw. Next time you see a Dicks sporting goods store built outside an old but still active mall, check it out. There is typically a mall side entrance and a parking lot entrance, and folks that park in front pass through the store. That gives the store plenty of chances to show off its merchandise to folks that are just passing through. At least one of the virtues of our aging indoor malls we should keep and try to transfer while it is not too late: Mall parking is shared parking. We should build the same expectations into our mixed use districts! But I notice the fencing and towing and name-stamping on the parking spaces behind our new mixed use developments. And it is catching like wildfire. It is sad, sad, sad.
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If you want to encourage people to see buses as alternates to streetcar, it will take more than simply improving the vehicle and stop infrastructure. I would suggest taking cues from streetcar projects (or build off them). The streetcar's examples for city imaging and life-style identity, for legibility/wayfinding/information advantages (which the tracks undeniably help provide), and their integration with land and streetscape development, would transfer great into bus corridor planning, if you could somehow get the transit authority to see it that way. :) Urban corridors with enhanced bus service should be treated more like streetcar projects, IMHO. As in streetcar corridors, enhanced bus should also be allowed to argue for creating ped overlay districts. These ped overlay districts are just as critical as the actual streetcar in helping create those walkable, bike-able urban districts we hope to see. For one, streetcars allow planning entities to argue for lessening parking minimums, allowing developers to develop/redevelop tighter (corridor) parcels and not depend on land assemblage so much to park their use. What streetcars do with codes is important. The code is also a necessary tool in creating "short-trip" environments, and it should be transferable to bus transit if you can demonstrate that the enhanced service will replace enough car trips.
Toggle Commented Apr 23, 2010 on is speed obsolete? at Human Transit
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That rendering above has some cheek, hah! At the very least, the AIA's protest should bring a good early focus to the urban design quality of what does get built. The preliminary design of the Waipahu transit center is at least more inspiring. But some functional advantages just aren't worth it in the end. Is it sad that we have come to the point where urban design and urbanism matters to folks? Hmmm? Shoot...I'd be firing renderings like the one above if I lived in Honolulu. Miami Miasma ...not in my backyard! I'm assuming that Honolulu's geographic issues and existing streets may be leading to this option. Still, to be convinced, I'd love to see more street sections to go with Craig's report. If they haven't studied boulevarding options and tinkering with the network, who knows how many other things you could potentially improve by going back to the drawing board? This could be a great opportunity. A chance for a hard rethink (however inefficient) may pay off more for posterity than initially bargained for in any heretofore studied solution. I'm just saying...Who knows?
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...Ah... Those metrics always a special cause of concern. To me they are starting points to a discussion. Which is not to say that I feel an iota of angst to defend Portland's case against critics. Maybe I'm afforded the insulation by the relative successful introduction of rail transit in cities following Portland's lead (including my own). I think the example matters, and that's where I'll keep gazing at Portland. I'm in no hurry. I'm by nature patient. As a consultant, Portland's lead matters, and worth even more than that is Portland's failures. Frankly, they are gold to me.
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I think Aaron's insight linking Portland's regional/global "under-performance" to a tendency to devalue commercial enterprise and the global advantage of Portland's draw is key. He has in mind the true value of cities in creating global economies of scale. Yet, that emphasis on local sustainability and prickly non-commercial attitudes is what creates the civil values in Portland that powerfully lead to the lifestyle draw to begin with. Part of Portland's lifestyle vitality is hinged on it's purposeful "under-performance" in normative areas of commercial vitality, an interesting catch-22. Yes, the streetcar is slow (c'mon, it's an urban circulator!) and the light rail network still young (Portland's TOD's are still too nascent for us to begin to see the full benefits of the system yet), but I would argue that establishing the precedent has made more impact by being an adoptable example to cities that will realistically never morph into Manhattan...which is where the vast majority of cities in the U.S. are. Maybe Portland is manifesting its global capital simply by being an exporter of "green lifestyles". Aaron's point is brilliant, Portland should try to make a return on that investment. I will note that Portland still has a lot of work to do remove the last mile problem (by creating better links to its light rail suburbs and employment centers). Has Portland done a good job integrating commercial enterprise to its light rail system? I think that is still an open question that only time will tell. I think we need to keep in mind that the transformation is still work in progress, and early under-performance in systems implementing significant transformations is more typical than rare.
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@Alon I realize that subway lines can indeed constitute a special hybrid. I have in mind primarily the surface options of less dense cities in my neck of the woods, where rail transit of any kind is still young and hardly understood (esp. insofar as the particularities and virtues the two types were discussing here are concerned). I know that in the South especially this can be a confusing matter for planners, because both streetcars and LRT lines will cross through segments where they are interchangeable. Our centers and corridors in the South are just too dispersed and ad hoc. Planners kind of want a bit of both, and don't understand the trade-offs. In Charlotte, for example, there are long sections of the streetcar route that will have to function as what we call "Light Rail Lite" until the arrival of LRT on an adjacent (and inert edge) arterial, which will be simultaneously converted to an expressway. The streetcar corridor is already an "active edge" in spite of its heavy volume of vehicular traffic (in fact, many of our most diverse and vital districts are along it). But right now, we have to keep moving commuting traffic on it as a priority. We have to build up first the capacity of the surrounding transit/commuting network before we begin to put more frequency on the streetcar route (although we are exploring options using express bus service on the streetcar corridor as an interim solution). It's an interesting balancing act.
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When I begin my first explorations of a city, I like to categorize its corridors. A "streetcar" street is distinguished immediately to me by a small-grain commercial corridor immediately abutting neighborhoods on either side. The corridor is an "active edge" between distinct residential subareas. These streets, while they may be heavily traveled thoroughfares, serve in a non-arterial capacity and have direct access to a well-connected street fabric. Interestingly, sometimes I discover that these active edge routes where at one point in their history actual streetcar routes. Rapid transit corridors, on the other hand, are functionally best when they connect active nodes (that can be existing neighborhood centers or planned TOD's) but when they travel primarily along inert edges between these nodes. That Toronto paradigm is very useful. Central Toronto has beautiful examples of streetcar corridors. I envy how long these active edges are and how perfectly the abutting dense single-family neighborhoods serve them, in their extent and vitality. I consider downtown Toronto to be the ideal paradigm for a streetcar-served urban fabric. In short, I think of two kinds of urbanisms with regards to streetcar and light rail service. The former is Richard Sennett's liminal edge and the latter is a concentric strategy, creating "transect" centers. These urbanisms can blend and interact with one another, so yes, both modes can serve the blended topography of a city adequately. It's just that streetcar should be associated with the former, the LRT with a centripetal strategy to concentrate activities in centers. Really, the best urban design strategy would find a way to balance/reinforce these two urbanistic conditions that urban areas love to create almost without guidance. You have to ask the city first what it has been creating already and what it wants to create first ...then you choose your mode. The patronistic strategy to first chose the mode and make the city bend to it is probably going to resist all your good intentions.
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I personally found Damascenes inviting, approachable and remarkably ...er... human-like. :) Why we should find their mundane reactions to changes in daily conveniences a little surprising is amusing! Sadly, my Arabic is still at the tourist level so sorry I can't help you with the translation question. I think it's important to understand that the Old City of Damascus is a relatively tiny area in proportion to the surrounding urban center, and that the Old City already is pedestrianized to an extent, so we're not talking grave changes here. Surrounding the old walls are also bustling market areas where a lot of business is dependent on foot-traffic. Having lived nearly 3 years in Jerusalem's Old City I always found it remarkable the complete variety of carrier strategies that tight old world fabrics develop: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdelriccio/3996951286/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/30387493@N08/3987776380/ Here by the way is how trash pick up is done: http://is.gd/aqj1a Damascus' Old City, for its part, is a little spoiled for enjoying its relatively wider streets, but it is not to say that it can't adapt. Nonetheless, you are right, I think form and economics, rather than governmental acts, should regulate vehicular access. No one completely bans cars from the streets in Jerusalem's labyrinthine Old City, if they are wide enough (and level enough) to accommodate them. I note that the busiest pedestrian street in Damascus' Old City, the Souk El-Hamidiyeh, is wide enough for cars, but the reason it is pedestrianized has probably a lot to do with the fact that it is a busy shopping street. Whereas the other streets that the article mentions are quieter. Unless the street is lined on both sides with active storefronts that cater to foot-traffic, no reason to ban traffic from the street. The city will find its natural equilibrium and it gets to that point by reasons that are probably beneficial to it.
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I've noticed how some rail advocates are almost do or dies about that radial scheme...to the extent that they almost seem to think that the city breaks down if there are too many centers in it with too many options for connections between. These kind of arguments betray an assumption that multi-polarity is just wrong, and in fact, harmful for cities. Nothing could be further from that fact. Another thing I've noticed is how some rail transit people are almost oblivious of the need to travel laterally in a city. Buses, for example, effectively do not exist in their hub and spoke view of the world... or they are just not a relevant part of the system. A perfect example of all the above can be found in an editorial written by an architect to our local paper. Recently, he excoriated our local "transit experts" for mucking up his perfect hub and spoke proposal for our transit corridors. He was chapped over the fact that the future commuter/HSR rail hub does not connect with the existing light rail line: "The experts don't seem to understand what it would mean if people could board a rail system in any of five corridors, switch routes at the Transportation Center and end up at the airport - or Davidson or UNC Charlotte or Pineville. That would dramatically enhance ridership." He was completely oblivious of the fact that the planned line to the airport would in fact connect with both transportation centers. It's funny that he has such hub and spoke view of the world that he misses the fact that a single-transfer option will effectively exist for both transportation centers. Then he mocks the "transit experts" for totally missing the power of synergies. ...Uhhhh..... (Of course, let's not mention the fact that TODAY the light rail line here already connects to the airport with the frequent service hybrid Sprinter, which is already attracting ridership from the light rail corridor, ...but of course that's a bus, not an option in his mind.) Folks, Jarrett's point, I think, is that there is an aesthetic in logic. The aesthetic of logic is also a teacher and can be employed to create richer environments. We can certainly employ larger patterns and the logic of networks to even create, yes even, beautiful, crooked and whimsical streets...far from boring, messy environments that are nonetheless part of the synthesized, multi-polar, and always changing organisms that are our cities (which, boring or not, always have their own quirks and peculiar beauty and rich identities).
Toggle Commented Feb 24, 2010 on the power and pleasure of grids at Human Transit
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Great concluding point. It would be great to represent Day-Night transit coverage areas in a city and compare it with your second and third shift employment locations geographically. With a few cities mapped out we can then compare their service sector employment rates to prove the thesis. Could be some great data there to take to Capitol Hill at this opportune time. You can maybe map transit coverage areas up to 5 mile buffers around the transit line (for long walkers) and pick the times in the shift transitions. By the way, Anonymouse, as someone who was a security guard one carless period of my life, I know that operations extending 11pm-1am were critical so that you can cover the second-third shift transition.
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The invigorating experience we soak up at places of connection is something urban designers need to key in to better. Koolhaas suggests that a multiplicity of signifiers in the urban realm promotes the value of choice but he also points out that a subtly disorienting ambiguity of design intent ("open specificity") can do as much. We feed on what feeds our imagination. It's so hard to communicate to non-designers why the illogical and visceral fascination we have as social animals for environments that present us with constant flow and change is important. But all people know what Koolhaas speaks about because we all know that empowering feeling we get walking in airports. Marketers of wares targeting disposable income (signifiers of empowerment) know the value of the "whoosh" and know why they need to peddle in sky mags. Ever notice how the best ads muddle meaning? See they want to empower you to make the choice. One book that was really valuable to me in applying these social insights to urbanism was Snooze by Studio Sputnik (a Rotterdam-based architecture firm). I think all urbanists should read Snooze. (Actually, I wish I could get engineers to read it...would make my life a little easier; thankfully, I can use Hans Monderman as a midwife.)
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2010 on transit's zoom-whoosh problem at Human Transit
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The Southeastern cities that make this list (and don't) seems especially compelling to think about for me. Relative to other nearby cities, Savannah and Richmond don't necessarily have a disproportionate concentration of poverty, which tells you part of the reason their gently compact urbanism may be successfully pulling them into the top fifty is their walkable and porous blocks. This brings middle-class and wealthy folks into the percentage of the sans car crowd. Charleston's walkable core, in contrast, is isolated geographically, so it is dominated by sprawl-type car dependency all around its historic peninsula. Savannah and Richmond spread out more evenly with more tightly-linked consistency. Their cores are also highly accessible all around. Interestingly, Savannah's low-income communities are within easy access to the core (in relative contrast with Charleston)...could diversity at the core be a factor? Only the very wealthy can benefit from Charleston's urbanism. Savannah, Norfolk, Richmond...These are cities where a greater proportion of the otherwise car-happy middle class benefits from walkable streets.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2010 on three paths to a low-car city at Human Transit
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