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Tim De Chant's Posts

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Put your money where your miles are

Going Dutch: Drivers in Holland will have to pay a tax on how many miles they drive.Photo: Patrick PhippsGovernments are in dire need of infrastructure money: Backlogged repair bills run in the billions of dollars, and mounting traffic volumes are only making the problem worse. To add insult to injury, revenue from gasoline taxes is dropping around the world, whether that be from political inaction (bad!) or increasing fuel efficiency (good!). Either way, the problem has to be dealt with. The Netherlands has begun a brave experiment to tax motorists not on how much gas they use, but how much …

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Trying to make China's planned cities livable

More livable? A vision for Chengdu Xiqi town center.Courtesy IMC OctaveFew countries are urbanizing as rapidly as China, and all that growth has placed tremendous strain on existing cities. There are 171 cities in China that currently have more than 1 million inhabitants, and that number is expected to rise to 219 by 2025. Such drastic growth requires building at a frenetic pace. The result, for the most part, has been block after block of apartment towers, most of which appear to lack any soul or connection with Chinese architectural heritage. Enter two brothers, Calvin and Frederick Tsao, architect and …

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When 'starchitects' build art you can't escape

Boston's I.M. Pei-designed plaza, with a city hall by Kallman, McKinnell & Knowles.Photo: Mr. NixterPity Frank Gehry and I.M. Pei. Their works are hailed for being imaginative and original. Their star power is in demand the world over. And their buildings are derided by planners and urbanists (Grist's own Sarah Goodyear ragged on Pei's Dallas City Hall). What's a starchitect to do? Put it in context, says Chris Turner over at Mother Nature Network. Turner argues that a lack of context sullies a building's image. He's right, in a way: Every time I walk past Boston's city hall (designed by …

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No vacancy: Empty lots are full of promise

Bennett V Vacant lots are the scourge of cities around the world, and the recession has only exacerbated the problem. The pattern is one oft repeated: A person vacates a house or an elderly individual dies. Their survivors, if they have any close by, may not pay the outstanding property tax bill, either by choice or lack of financial options. Eventually the house falls into disrepair, until one day it's either bulldozed or burns to the ground, either by accident or arson. Regardless of the exact process, the outcome is always the same -- an empty lot overgrown by weeds. …

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PhillyTreeMap: Crowdsourcing the urban forest

PhillyTreeMap helps Philadelphia's urban forest grow.Photo: Danny FowlerTrees do a lot for cities. They soften hard, lifeless spaces with a bit of green, reduce the urban heat island, scrub pollutants, filter dust and dirt from the air, and more. They are, in other words, an incredibly valuable resource, and one we should be keeping a close eye on. But cataloguing the trees within a city -- tens or even hundreds of thousands of them -- can be a gargantuan and expensive undertaking. Enter PhillyTreeMap. PhillyTreeMap is a web mapping application that solicits citizen input, similar to the successful OpenStreetMap. Robert …

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Bank of America is now paying to tear down foreclosed homes

Abandoned in Chicago.Photo: ChicagoGeekBank of America has a new approach to dealing with foreclosed homes: Tear them down. With a record number of American's facing foreclosure, that might make your blood boil at first. But if you look into the plan a bit closer, there might be something to it. These homes are the worst that Bank of American has on its hands. The company has selected a relative handful of its most decrepit, derelict homes in Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago and will pay up to $7,500 to local agencies toward demolition costs. That's more than many of them are …

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More density equals less driving: just an urban legend?

Vehicle miles traveled only decline substantially at density levels similar to Chicago's.Photo: Doc Searls Cross-posted from Per Square Mile. Pushing high-density living may seem like a good way to get people out of their cars -- saving them money, curbing emissions, and reducing oil dependence -- but densification may not be a silver bullet, according to one recent study. The authors dug into the National Household Transportation Survey to examine per household vehicle ownership rates, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and fuel consumption. While the results are by no means comprehensive or conclusive, they suggest that only the steepest increases in …

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