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Kaid Benfield's Posts

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A closer look at Siemens' green cities rankings

San Francisco won for overall greenest city.Photo: aufmkolk Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. I may as well start with the caveat that any attempt to measure, score, or rank places with respect to almost anything will be incomplete at best and can be wildly misleading at worst. First, rating systems tend to assign numerical grades to things that are partially or entirely subjective. Which city has the "best" transit service is not just a matter of coverage and service frequency, for example, but also of passenger comfort, convenience for riders' destinations (which vary from one to another), and whether …

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Car costs may make it harder to save

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. This study [PDF], based on 2001 data from Canada, isn't new. But it is telling, and I suspect the only distinctions between its findings and what we might learn from more current data would be of degree. Look at the amounts spent in various categories of expenditure, and the difference between those households whose total expenditure exceeds income (spenders) and those whose total expenditure equals or is less than income (savers): While savers had higher incomes, as would be expected, overall the spending habits of the two categories were remarkably similar. The one …

Read more: Cities, Transportation

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Five provocative ways to think about cities and neighborhoods

Photo: Chuck WolfeCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. One of the tenets of Buddhism is mindfulness: being fully present and aware. Although I am far from a religious person, I get that, at least in theory. If one is fully committed to something, even a task as simple and familiar as eating a meal, one is more complete, more alive, or so it seems to me. (Bear with me. The philosophical part of the post doesn't last too long.) When we are less than fully mindful, however, as we tend to be all the time in today's hyper-multitasked world, we …

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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Which part of Detroit really needs to be ‘right-sized’?

Photo: Trey CampbellCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. At the bottom of this post are two short videos about Detroit, both featuring architect and planner Mark Nickita, principal of the city's Archive Design Studio and a lifelong Detroit resident. In a very refreshing change from the mind-numbing negativity one usually hears about the city, Nickita is upbeat and hopeful. His point of view, emphasizing revitalization, is much closer to my own than much of what I read, which effectively takes the approach that the city has somehow been abandoned beyond redemption, leaving the only question how to manage its more-or-less …

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A Seattle development that is greener than green

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Leave it to a city famous for coffee and rain to produce possibly the best example of transit-oriented urbanism, natural public space, and green stormwater infrastructure I have ever seen. This Seattle redevelopment is green in so many ways that it is hard to know where to start. Maybe we should start with the parking lot, because that's what the whole nine-acre site was before redevelopment began. Ugly. Horrible for the environment. A complete waste of urban space: Before.Photo: Landscape Architecture Foundation The site is in an area that is transitioning from automobile-oriented …

Read more: Cities, Urbanism

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How smart growth reduces emissions

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rob Steuteville has posted a terrific analysis on the New Urban Network rebutting the claim by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) that "the existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and greenhouse-gas emissions." Rob responds with Todd Litman's excellent research and writing [PDF] on the subject, along with the great mapping from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) of CO2 emissions per household for every metro area in the U.S. As Rob points out, CNT's research shows a very consistent geography in just about every region: The …

Read more: Cities, Smart Cities

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Suburban corporate campuses are going out of fashion

Is the corporate suburban stampede finally reversing? Photo: KevinCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In the late 1990s, when Don Chen, Matt Raimi, and I were researching our book, Once There Were Greenfields, we lamented the flight of business from America's central cities to increasingly outer suburbs and farmland. In that book we frequently turned for data to metropolitan Chicago where, for example, Ameritech had built a half-mile-long "landscraper" near O'Hare Airport far from the Loop, Motorola had set up camp in Schaumberg, and Sears had fled the iconic Sears Tower for Hoffman Estates. Now, just as the tide …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl, Urbanism

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The man who thinks Manhattan isn’t dense enough

New York City may not be the best example of a place that hasn't lived up to its potential for greater density.Photo: Randy von LiskiCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. New York County, which comprises all of Manhattan, is the densest county in America at 71,166 people per square mile. It is twice as dense as No. 2, Brooklyn (which, incidentally, is followed by two more New York City counties, Bronx and Queens, at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively). Manhattan is over four times as dense as No. 5 San Francisco. This makes me wonder about Ed Glaeser, a …

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Bringing a dead public plaza to life in Dallas

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. Although it sometimes makes "ugliest building in the world" lists, I rather like I.M. Pei's iconic Dallas City Hall, featuring his trademark architectural triangles. Photo: Chris Zúniga But I'll grant that it is imposing. What I don't like is the vast, forlorn "plaza" and pool that separates the city's most important civic building from its citizenry and from the street. By all accounts, it's six acres of dead space, except perhaps when various protests need a place to gather. "A concrete desert," wrote Ryan Jones on the FrontBurner blog, hosted by DMagazine. "Almost …

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11 U.S. cities honored as ‘walk-friendly': Seattle ranks first

Seattle got the "platinum" ranking for its efforts to make the city more walkable.Photo: chrissudermanCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. After evaluating applicant communities in several categories related to walking -- including safety, mobility, access, and comfort -- the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) last week announced the selection of 11 Walk Friendly Communities across the U.S. They are ranked in categories of achievement, as follows: Platinum Level Seattle, Wash. Gold Level Ann Arbor, Mich. Arlington, Va. Hoboken, N.J. Santa Barbara, Calif. Silver Level Charlottesville, Va. Decatur, Ga. Bronze Level Austin, Texas Charlotte, N.C. Flagstaff, Ariz. Wilsonville, Ore. …