Currently viewing the tag: "compact development"

In the April 3rd-9th 2010 issue of the Economist, the conservative British periodical ran a special report on Rebalancing the American Economy. In the article titled “Time to Rebalance” the Economist had this to say:

America’s economic geography will change too. Cheap petrol and ample credit encouraged millions of American to flock to southern states and to distant suburbs (“exurbs”) in search of big houses with lots of land.  Now the housing bust has tied them to homes they cannot sell. Population growth in the suburbs has slowed. For the present this rise of knowledge-intensive global industries favors centers rich in infrastructure and specialized skills. Some are traditional urban cores such as New York and some are suburban edge cities that offer jobs along with affordable houses and short commutes.”

Just to clarify, by “rich in infrastructure”, the Economist means diversified infrastructure and that includes public transit. FDOT District 6 may interpret “rich in infrastructure”, to mean “expensive” such as the nearly $5 billion dollars we are spending on 3 megaprojects in South Florida; none of which really includes public transit.

If South Florida is serious about becoming a knowledge-intensive region, we need to build proper infrastructure to attract a populace with specialized skills, which also happens to be educated. Educated people are usually more mobile, and therefore can be more selective when choosing a city to call home. Most will choose a city that provides a good quality of life for their families and that includes cities that have good public transit, short commutes, and compact development.

On another note, Miami 21 was officially implemented today. Implementation of Miami 21 is the first step in the right direction.

For the past couple of weeks I have been eating, drinking, and biking my way through France. My wife and I spent a week honeymooning in Provence and another week in Paris.

Provence

We spent the first week of our honeymoon cycling through the heart of wine country in Provence. Our tour was organized by Headwater and was truly epic. When you travel on a bicycle you get to fully experience your surroundings.  You smell the country side, you feel your environment and you interact with the locals. There is something about traveling on a bicycle; for those that have done it you know what I’m talking about. For those of you that haven’t, you should really consider it. You can find our itinerary here.

Arriving in Cotignac

Elevated crosswalk in Carces used to calm traffic

Bollards used to protect pedestrians and calm traffic. Notice how the street and sidewalk are the same grade

No sidewalk? Not a problem, just create a space for pedestrians by striping

Paris

I can’t say enough about how wonderful this city is. Unlike Miami, most motorists actually yield to pedestrians. All intersections are clearly marked with wide zebra crosswalks.  I also noticed that the pedestrian crosswalk signals are much lower than the pedestrian crosswalk signals here in the United States. Placing the pedestrian crosswalk signal closer to eye level makes it easier for both pedestrians and motorists to notice them.  Also, traffic lights are placed before the crosswalk and not in the middle of intersections.  By placing the traffic lights before the crosswalk it forces motorists to stop before the crosswalk, giving pedestrians the right of way they deserve. Another feature I also observed was the pedestrian fences.  In areas where pedestrians should not cross the street, tasteful pedestrians fences have been erected to corral the pedestrians towards the large zebra crosswalk.  Sidewalks, for the most part, are wide and inviting.

Notice how motorists are forced to stop before the crosswalk when traffic signals are not located in the intersection.

Traffic signals are placed before the crosswalk and not in the intersections.

Sidewalks are wide, making the public realm more inviting to walk

Tasteful fences are used to guide pedestrians to the crosswalks where it is safe to cross.

The Velib bicycle share system in Paris is absolutely spectacular. Because Paris is so walkable, I only used it once, but the system is very easy to use and is well connected to mass transit.  I was amazed to see Parisians from all walks of life using the Velib bicycles. I saw stylish women and men using the bicycles, as well as businessmen, businesswomen and the elderly using the Velib.

A fleet of Velibs

Bicycles lane were clearly marked and in many areas were allowed to share the bus-only lanes. Buses are equipped with an electrical horn that sounds like a bicycle bell.  Bus drivers use this electrical bicycle bell to politely warn cyclists and pedestrians that the bus is coming.

Bike boxes give cyclists priority in the transit queue

Chevron arrows through an intersection

Chevron arrows across an intersection into a protected bicycle path

Bicyclists can share the bus lane

The metro and the bus system are easy to use.  At the metro stations and bus stops there are electrical boards advising transit users when the next train or bus will arrive.

The next bus arrives in 2 minutes

Next train arrives in 3 minutes

Most crosswalks have provisions for the blind and I even found a train station that had a textured path that could be felt with a walking cane.

Textured path to help guide the blind in a train station

Most crosswalks have provisions to help guide the blind

Parks are scattered throughout Paris. The parks I entered were active and drew a wide array of people of different ages.

Children playing in one of the many park of Paris

Lounging in the warm afternoon Paris sun

Paris recycles; Miami does not.

I just finished reading the 2010 Emerging Trends in Real Estate.  Now in its 31st year, this report is jointly produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute (ULI). This is the first time I have read this report, but I am very impressed. According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers webpage this report:

is the oldest, most highly regarded annual industry outlook for the real estate and land use industry and includes interviews and survey responses from more than 900 leading real estate experts, including investors, developers, property company representatives, lenders, brokers and consultants.”

The report is downright bearish on real estate development for 2010.The report goes on the say that real estate developers are “largely dead” and that “builders can leave on long sabbaticals”. They don’t foresee construction picking up until 2012, but when it does, most construction will be focused on urban infill development.

This is great news for those of us that believe that our cities are our future. Below are some of my favorite excerpts from this report:

Next generation projects will orient to infill, urbanizing suburbs, and transit-oriented development. Smaller housing units-close to mass transit, work and 24 hour amenities-gain favor over large houses on big lots at the suburban edge.  People will continue to see greater convenience and want to reduce energy expenses, shorter commutes and smaller heating bills make up for high infill real estate costs.” (Page 12)

Infill vs. Suburbs. Road congestion, higher energy costs, and climate change concerns combine to alter people’s thinking about where they decide to live and work.  ‘It’s a fundamental shift.’ The lifestyle cost-of-living equation starts to swing away more dramatically from bigger houses on bigger lots at the suburban edge to great convenience and efficiencies gained from infill housing closer to work. These homes maybe more expensive on a price-per-pound basis, but reduced driving costs and lower heating/cooling bills provide offsets. And time saved avoiding traffic hassles moderates stress and enhances productivity. ‘Two-hour commutes reach a tipping point with higher energy costs’ and ‘near-in suburbs will do well especially if they link to business cores by mass transportation.” (Page 32)

Investors tend to favor the following:

  • Global gateway markets on East and West coasts- featuring international airports, ports and major commercial centers.
  • Cities and urbanizing infill suburbs with 24-hour attributes-upscale, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, convenient office, retail, entertainment, and recreation districts; mass transit alternatives to driving; good schools (public and/private); and relatively safe streets.
  • Brainpower centers-places that offer dynamic combination of colleges and universities, high paying industries-high tech, biotech, finance, and health cars (medical centers drug companies)- and government offices.” (Page 27)

Denver metro area wins points for building out its light-rail network, encouraging transit –oriented mixed-use projects around stations.” (Page 35)

So what does this mean for Miami’s future?

  • We should hold the Urban Development Boundary, this report confirms that 2 hour commutes are out of vogue.
  • Miami 21 should be implemented immediately and not delayed any further.
  • A large scale light rail system, including Baylink, is long overdue
  • If Miami wants to become a competitive city we need to diversify our economy as much as possible in order to become a brainpower center. A service economy based predominantly on tourism will not attract educated people seeking high paying jobs.

A new report from the National Research Council shows that compact development, if done correctly, can result in reductions of VMT’s of up to 25% - over the next 40 years.

Requested by Congress and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Special Report 298: Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions examines the relationship between land development patterns and motor vehicle travel in the United States.

According to the committee that wrote the report, the most reliable research studies estimate that doubling residential density in a metropolitan area might lower household driving between 5 percent and 12 percent. If higher density were paired with more concentrated employment and commercial locations, and combined with improvements to public transit and other strategies to reduce automobile travel, household driving could be lowered by as much as 25 percent.  By reducing vehicle use, petroleum use and CO2 emissions would also be lessened.

You can read the full report here. The long time horizon means that while compact development will play an important role in mitigating our carbon footprint in the long term, it will not be enough to slow the brunt of climate change in the short term.

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