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Posts Tagged urbanism

The Case For Mass Transit

train
Recently one of the hot topics for our local political race for Mayor of Charlotte, NC has been what we call our light rail.  It has been debated heatedly on both sides and recently had some wins for it.  The big issue with the light rail and street cars is that it has been historically not very well managed.  Charlotte’s sprawl is pretty insane for the population it has roughly 1.8 million people in the “city” of Charlotte.  I put The word city in quotes because it’s about the looses use in terms of a densely packed city as you can get.  Our city or downtown area is no more than 10 block by 10 blocks, where everyone lives outside the city.  The sprawl is immense, going over a hundred miles in any direction.

It’s pretty funny when you are in Fort Mill South Carolina and you ask them where they live and they reply “Charlotte” but that is the mentality of the Charlotte area, we all want to live in Charlotte, but we want a full on house with a 2/3 acre lot.

I found these great videos about Cincinnati’s push for mass transit and it sounds like our own here in Charlotte in a way.  Now being from Charlotte, not Cincinnati I can’t really speak on house close these two scenarios are, but they do share some similarities and makes a case for mass transit in general.

First up is a viral marketing ad they made about their street car which is pretty funny.

What impact did/does mass transit have?

Here is a news report about the street car

A Dialogue Of Hope

So the other night I had just went to see a movie and soon afterwards ran into some other folks from my high school years.  We started talking about what everyone was doing when one of my friends chimed in that he was writing a thesis about New Urbanism.   We started talking about all these issues surrounding this topic: gentrification, neighborhood schools, the need for anchors in the community and how Charlotte, NC has approached the issues surrounding new urbanism.

two houses and shared space

Later we talked about how the Tiny House Movement fits into this notion of urbanism.  My friend noted that when he reads this site, he gets the notion of building the Tiny House in the woods, away from it all.  It’s true, I tend to focus on this, which I am at odds with.  The fact is to truly maximize sustainability in the highly populated world we live in today, we must come together and live in a more dense area.  I know that to truly usher in my way of living, one that is green and ecofriendly, one that is sustainable, one that focuses on local, one that focuses on community I must live in an area that is more densely packed.  The issues of course is how do you live in close proximity to others, while still having room to roam, to connect with nature and ensure a high quality of life.

Today’s urban centers are as my favorite author/speaker  James Kunstler “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world, you can call it a technosis externality clusterfuck and it’s a tremendous problem for us, the outstanding problem is that there are places no one cares about”.  And that’s the rub, the urban manifestation is a place that no one cares about, that pushes out the poor, the minorities or if that isn’t possible, we turn to the phenomenon of “white flight”.  We talked about how we need to create places that are local, have your anchors (schools, stores, grocery, churches, living, office space and a non-salient parking plan for double the intended capacity), how these need to be with in walking distance to each other, but where you can go to other centers via mass transit that people actually want to ride.  Preferably we want a place where cars aren’t allowed in the main pedestrian areas, so long as you have lots of parking underground that allows the area to be permeable.

Main Street Spring2

As we discussed all these huge issues I realized that this was a really extraordinary event happening, I was in awe!  Each person standing in that circle, talking about these huge issues, these progressive issues, these ideas that I feel will change the world in an impactful way, we were from such wildly different backgrounds.  I am the only self described “eco friendly” person, the others were not a polar opposite, but represented many different sects of society.  I was astonished, not that I think of them as stupid, but that they don’t have a logical reason to know this much about new urbanism and surrounding issues.  That essentially regular people had their finger on the pulse of such progressive and important issues was amazing.

It gave me a glimmer of hope that this dialogue that we were having about new urbanism, environmental issues, sustainability and community/local focus might be happening as a whole with people my age, that this generation, which has been sometimes labeled as useless, might be growing to inspire a new age of responsible and progressive thinking.

ScreenHunter_02 Nov. 21 11.38

Now before I get too excited I took a step back to really look at the group and who we were.  I am seeking a PhD, working for Americorp and running a Tiny House blog, my other friend is a researcher at Duke University, the next girl is a social psychologist pursing her masters at Columbia, finally my friend who is a politician/going to Davidson College, who lost while running for a major office in Charlotte by only 3% at the age of 22 with no money.  These are admittedly not normal people.  But I hope that this dialogue is happening outside of these circles.  That my generation is talking about these issues with their friends, so that when we start taking hold as the baby boomers slip into retirement, that we can usher in a new age of socially and environmentally responsible corporatism in all areas of our lives.

small houses close to each other

The New Age Of Cities

Over at GOOD they have an interesting brainstorm initiative about how to rethink our cities and the way we live.  If you click on each heading, it will bring you to a brainstorm/discussion starter.   To see the full list of ideas you can go here

What other ideas have you all seen/heard/thought about how we can bring cities to their full potential and minimize their impact?

Ideas for Cities: Decentralized Design Hubs and Work Centers

office

Ideas for Cities: Wide-walks

walk ways

Ideas for Cities: Street Activity Stimulation

city activity

Ideas for Cities: Learning Jobs

learning jobs

Cage Homes

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I found this story over at CNN, its about cage homes in Hong Kong.  If you haven’t heard about these, they are essentially bunkbeds that are sealed off with cage wire so that people can lock them when they aren’t there.  They are the size of a single bed and are about 4 feet tall for each “unit”.   You have to share a bathroom with everyone, but the kicker is this, guess how much it costs for one of these in Hong Kong?  $167 a month!

There has been recent outcry about the deplorable living conditions which a large number of people live in.  Above is a photo of one of these cage homes that was used in an art exhibit to raise awareness of the growing trend.  Among the cage homes, cubical farms have been cropping up where people pay to live in, about the same rate.  In a city where houses have sold as much as $9,200 per square foot, no wonder why people go to these extremes.  The questions is, what is the solution?  With such densely populated urban centers, space is getting less and less accessible.

Read more about it at Reuters

Parking Day Slideshow

park

I found this over at Treehugger, many of you are aware of Parking Day, where people reclaim urban spaces for a single day to bring awareness to many issuses such as urban development, dependencies on cars etc.  Check out the slide show here

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