Two-Way Streets More Efficient in Getting to a Destination

The state Smart Transportaion Initiative (SSTI) posted a story by Chris Spahr, One-way or two-way streets more efficient? It depends on what you measure. Chris tells about the work of Vikash Gayah of Penn State that makes the case in a Transportation Research Board paper that the concept of “trip serving capacity” is a better metric of transportation netowrk efficiency than current transportation engineer measures of vehicle moving capacity, a measure of cars going fast to no particular destination. It is so time for a change in how transportaion planning is accomplished. The following is an excerpt from the story.

“The debate over one-way versus two-way streets has been ongoing for more than half a century in American cities. Counter to prevailing engineering wisdom, a new study finds two- way streets may be more efficient, if one is measuring getting people to their destinations.

Many cities have recognized that two-way streets provide substantial benefits to downtown neighborhoods for a variety of reasons:

  • Two-way streets are better for local businesses that depend heavily on their visibility to passersby.
  • Two-way streets have been found to be safer than one-way streets. One-way streets correlate with higher speeds and decreased levels of driver attention. Pedestrians prefer crossing two-way streets since drivers tend to travel more slowly on them, and vehicular conflicts are more predictable.
  • Two-way streets are much less confusing for downtown visitors than one-way streets.  Visitors driving in a two-way grid network can easily approach their destination from any direction.”



Infrastructure Cost Savings through Smart Grwoth

Here is a September 2012 report from the Victoria Transport Policy Institue, Understanding Smart Growth Savings. Todd Litman provides information that helps better understand how commumity development patterns impact the quality of place. Sprawling patterns reduce the ability of a community to make investments as the cost of infrastructure is not supported by public revenues. More compact development patterns improve the sustainability of communnities at lower cost with the ability to invest in higher quality. Here is an excerpt from the abstract of this paper.

Land use patterns affect various costs to consumers and society. Many of these costs tend to increase with sprawl (dispersed, urban fringe development), and can be reduced with smart growth (more compact, mixed, multi-modal development). Smart growth tends to reduce the costs of providing public infrastructure and services, and by improving accessibility and reducing per capita vehicle travel, tends to reduce direct and indirect transportation costs. Current development fees, utility rates and taxes fail to accurately reflect these location-related cost differences, which encourages consumers to choose more sprawled locations than is optimal. This paper summarizes estimates of smart growth savings, and critiques analyses which claim that such savings are insignificant.

Barriers to Distributed Renewable Energy (ILSR presentation)

A presentation by ILSR Senior Researcher John Farrell to a Disaster Law class at William Mitchell Law School on 9/17/12.  It examines the five major barriers to the expansion of community-based and conventional distributed renewable energy, including the tradition of utility control, raising capital, cash flow, legal, and utilities themselves.

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> Barriers to Distributed Renewable Energy </strong> from <strong>John Farrell</strong> </div>

Oklahoma City Revitalization Success Threatened by Highway Planners

Oklahoma City is joining the growing list of communities that are aligning to block highway planner attempts to build elevated limited access highways. Boulevard fight represents divide between traditional road design, modern urban planning is a July 31, 2012 NewsOk post by Steve Lackmeyer. This story shows another instance of highway planners being stuck in old ways that no longer work. Here is an excerpt from the article that captures that sentiment:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is in the business of building roads and bridges. By nature, these engineers seek to expedite traffic so that roads can handle a large volume of motorists driving at high speeds. This is how it has been since the advent of the Interstate Highway System in 1956. When the state’s highway engineers sought in the mid-1990s to rebuild Interstate 40 south of downtown, they approached the project with the same concerns and forcefully pushed for relocating it a few blocks south of the central business district along an old rail line.

Times, however, were changing. City leaders…fought against the new alignment, arguing roads are about more than moving traffic — they can help, and hurt, development of the inner city… The city lost that fightState highway engineers, in particular, note they’re only proceeding with plans promised to the public in 1998.

But let’s go back to 1998. Lower Bricktown did not exist. Devon Energy Center did not exist. The Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and the Bricktown Canal did not exist. There was no Chesapeake Energy Arena, no plans for a new convention center, no plans for a “Core to Shore park,” and what we now know as Film Row was then the city’s skid row.

The improvements to Oklahoma City began with the strategy developed by Ed Morrison where he utilized principles that are now recognized as Strategic Doing to work with a core team that guided Ok City to the propsperity that exists today. Let’s hope they prevail over the highway planners that are attempting to drive them into the past.

Here is a city council meeting where the current proposal was presented and discussed.

Here is another post on this story in Planetizen, Plans for Elevated Roadway in Oklahoma City Encounter ‘Buzz-Saw of Criticism’.

Here is a previous post, Reinvesting Cities by Undoing Urban Expressways, a document published by the Institue for Transportation & Development Policy, The Death and Life of Urban Highways, makes clear the negative impact that inner-city limited access roadways have had on cities around the world.


Tactical Urbanism as a strategy to better connect Planning and Doing

As we continue to develop Agile Planning it is encouraging to find other groups that are experimenting with strategies to align resources more quickly and better connect planning and implementation. Here is an artcile from The Architect’s Newspaper that colleague Ed Morrison forwarded today, Talking Tactical Urbansim. Here are some excerpts from the article:

…A lot of these efforts are not expensive. Really, $2,000 can help people envision change.What’s difficult about the traditional planning process is that it’s behind closed doors. It can be intimidating for people to get involved, but if you’re experimenting with change in real time on the street, on your block, or on your sidewalk, people get a real understanding of what that means. Especially when it’s part of the larger planning process. You can mock it up, and it becomes a type of rendering in real time. People can say, “This really works for me. I like it.”…

…The planning process is not going to be replaced by tactical urbanism. Following up on comprehensive planning efforts, the neighborhood-wide or city-wide planning process can use tactical urbanism to take some of the most popular ideas and really do things quickly rather than have them wait on the shelf for the million-dollar funding stream. Tactical urbanism is a tool for the more formal planning process.

Here is a video posted with the article:

<p>A New Face for an Old Broad from American Grapefruit Media on Vimeo.</p>

Lessons from Cleveland

Cleveland’s inner city neighborhoods are seeing steady growth. For the last 20 years the inner city is growing faster than the suburbs and the surrounding  5 counties. While this shift to smarter more compact more sustainable living patterns is good news, Cleveland has lost 17% of its population in the past decade. Here is a Rober L. Smith article on, Cleveland’s inner city is growing faster than its suburbs as young adults flock downtown. Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

Not to say anyone will mistake downtown Cleveland for Chicago. Even after two decades of unprecedented growth, the population within walking distance of Public Square approaches only 10,000 people (compared to 29,000 in Chicago’s Loop). Many urban planners see 20,000 to 25,000 residents the threshold for creating a natural, self-sustaining downtown neighborhood, one that attracts grocery stores and schools.

…the current rate of churn indicates twentysomethings will replace the departing thirtysomethings…the city needs to offer a broader range of amenities, including a quality elementary school and safer streets, to create a stable neighborhood.


Re-Inventing Cities

The challenges that cities face are daunting. Even prosperous cities are encountering problems that stem from development patterns and economic systems that are not sustainable. In a previous post about smart decline we saw how some communites are developing strategies for how to grow smaller. In April 2011a group of 80 from around the globe were convened in Detroit by The American Assembly of Columbia University to examine the challenges cities face. The focus was on “Legacy Cities” like Detroit that have experienced significant population loss that exacerbate the problems that already existed. The following paper describes recommendations resulting from the meeting.

As part of this project 17 leading thought and policy leaders will author papers that will be assembled into a book, Legacy Cities, that will be available at