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Conservatively speaking

William Lind makes a conservative case for public transit (just not buses)

William LindFor supporters of public transportation, William Lind, the director of the American Conservative Center for Public Transportation, is a complicated case. On the one hand, he articulates very cogently the reasons that free-market Republicans should vote to fund public transit (you'll find those reasons in the interview that follows). It's an unusual position -- most Republicans are in the highways camp -- and so Lind's book, Moving Minds: Conservatives and Public Transportation (co-authored by the late Paul Weyrich), has been welcomed by many on the other side of the political fence.  But Lind's views on race and public transit …

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Haven it all

We’re tearing this highway down, Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood says

It's one thing to talk about designing cities and towns for people instead of cars, as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has done. It's another thing to make good on that pledge by tearing down elevated highways that prevent foot traffic and isolate neighborhoods from each other. LaHood's Transportation Department announced support for three such projects in a major funding announcement Wednesday. The department made $600 million in TIGER II grants, funding 42 construction projects and 33 planning projects around the country. Perhaps the most eye-catching winner is the New Haven, Conn., Downtown Crossing, which gets $16 million to remove the …

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Guerrilla habitat

Roll up your sleeves, get out on the street, and make a Better Block

A few weeks back, we wrote about the Better Block Project in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, where residents pioneered a guerrilla street improvement action. They showed just how easy it can be to take a traffic sewer lined with empty storefronts and transform it into a vibrant, walkable, commercially viable space. Now the Better Block Project has its own website to help spread the word, and it features this video (above) that shows the very awesome Jason Roberts, the originator of the concept, explaining how it works. It also has a video (below) about a Better Block inspired …

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Across the great divide

Is there a war between cities and suburbs? Does there have to be one?

Photo: IdiolectorCongested, dirty, dangerous cities. Soulless, dull, alienating suburbs. This old pair of stereotypes has fueled countless debates, not to mention movies. And the sides have become increasingly entrenched over the years. (Does Escape from New York validate your world view? Or American Beauty?) But as the rate of suburban poverty increases in the United States and those suburbs become more racially diverse, and as the nation's most prosperous cities become more expensive to live in and more dominated by typically suburban fixtures like chain stores, it may be time to ask whether the dichotomy needs to be revisited. This …

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Young people in Canada, anyway

New study says young people want apartments, not houses; iPhones, not cars

Would you like to live in iVancouver? There’s an apartment for that.Photo: Duane Storey It is a theme on Treehugger that walkable communities and dense cities use less energy per capita, and that the auto-centric suburb is perhaps the worst of all planning models if we want to reduce our energy and particularly our oil consumption. But do people really want to live in high-density apartments if they have the choice? A new Canadian study indicates that for a number of reasons, more and more people do. The study by GWL Realty Advisors comes to some interesting conclusions about how …

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Do the locavore motions

The future of urban agriculture is not about the 10-mile diet

Grist's Feeding the City series began by exploring how the history of urban agriculture should inspire its future, then went on to spotlight the farms, governments, businesses, and people who're skillfully planting new ideas alongside the old. Here, as the series draws to a close, planner Daniel Nairn untangles how smart growth can include city farming. The ’garden block’ concept embeds pockets of food growing within the urban fabric.Rendering: Daniel Nairn Urban agriculture is a movement in transition. And it's happening fast. Just a couple of years ago, we started hearing about Detroit's guerrilla gardeners, reclaiming patches of vacant land …

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Notable quotable

Woman prizes car over skull

"She is feeling more concerned about the chip in her car windshield than she is about her head. That car is her pride and joy." -- Terri Charles of Cornish, Maine, on her mother's reaction to being struck on the head by a stray bullet that also hit her 2008 Hyundai Accent.

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Hot Kokomo

Stimulus money brings an Indiana city back from the brink

Photo: davitydaveEighteen months ago, the city of Kokomo, Ind., was one of those American Rust Belt towns that looked like it was clanking toward irreversible decay. Today, according to a story on CNN Money, the city of some 45,000 people is revitalized and renewed, thanks to an infusion of federal stimulus money and a variety of economic strategies. The unemployment rate has gone from over 20 percent to 14 percent. Stores have moved from the dying mall to a newly vibrant downtown. And the mood is cautiously hopeful. What makes the Kokomo story particularly interesting is that the revival illustrates …

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CARTISTRY

'The car is a kind of shield that deflects empathy'

Texas, 2006, from the series "America by Car," 1995-2009. Photo: Lee Friedlander, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco. Our mode of transportation shapes our experience of the world. When you move on foot, you interact with people -- Sarah showed as much in her tribute to Brooklyn street life the other day. And when you drive, a glass-and-steel barrier separates you from the landscape. "Lee Friedlander: America by Car," a new series by the accomplished photographer at New York's Whitney Museum, portrays that phenomenon with striking effect: Mr. Friedlander took his black-and-white, square-format photographs entirely from the interior of standard rental …

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Rail people

In Illinois, rail passengers stand up for trains [VIDEO]

Trains. People love them. People use them to ride to work, to school, to visit friends and family. This in spite of the years and years of neglect and underfunding of our nation's rail system. Not to mention the current political atmosphere, in which many Republican politicians are opposing the Obama administration's plans to build more railroads. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association recently launched a campaign called Stand Up for Trains, and made this little video asking riders in Illinois what they wanted to say to government officials about funding rail service. It shows a pretty sweet cross-section of …

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