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British prime minister aims to build even more eco-towns

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to build 10 "eco-towns," doubling his original vision of five. We like a man with ambition!

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Portland: Cool after all

New report debunks libertarian attack on Portland city planning

A while back, a guy named Randal O'Toole at the libertarian Cato Institute put out a report "debunking" Portland, Ore.'s efforts to encourage dense, transit-oriented development. As Portland is at the forefront of such efforts, the report was taken as a debunking of New Urbanism in general and got lots and lots of press. The Congress for the New Urbanism asked urbanist expert Michael Lewyn to take a look at the report. Not surprisingly, it doesn't hold up well. The result is "Debunking Cato: Why Portland Works Better Than the Analysis of Its Chief Neo-Libertarian Critic." Here are some highlights: …

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L.A. building schools close to freeways

More than 60,000 students in Los Angeles attend school within 500 feet of a highway, and seven more traffic-spooning campuses are in the works, despite health experts' warnings that such pollution-proximate students are at increased risk of asthma and other illnesses. All of the schools will be built with air-filtration systems, but such systems do not reliably remove the smallest, most dangerous particulate pollution. So long, sick days; c'mon in, sick year.

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Traffic report

How much does congestion affect society?

The big story this week was congestion: the Texas Transportation Institute released its annual Urban Mobility Study to the typical fanfare. See, e.g., stories here, here, here, here, here, and here. The headlines, as always, are gloomy: congestion's on the rise just about everywhere, and is wasting our time, gas, and money. The word from the researchers isn't particularly hopeful either. Sure, there are things that can be done to slow the increase in congestion. But they can be expensive -- and, worse, there's no guarantee that they'll actually work. I dipped into the numbers a bit. And to the …

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Sprawl and global warming

Land-use and development decisions are crucial in the fight against climate change, says new report

Living closer to where you work will do more to fight climate change than buying a Prius and living in the 'burbs. We'll never beat climate change until we change the way we structure our communities. That is the conclusion of a new report out from the Urban Land Institute: The report, "Growing Cooler: Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change," analyzed scores of academic studies and concluded that compact development -- mixing housing and businesses in denser patterns, with walkable neighborhoods -- could do as much to lower emissions as many of the climate policies now promoted by state …

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PARK(ing) Day

Parking lots transform into parks for one day

There are two kinds of public demonstrations. Those that attract people to the cause and demonstrate new possibilities, and those that just piss people off and make enemies out of potential friends. Here's a beautiful example of the former. "Parking" can either mean leaving an expensive hunk of climate-changing steel to cool on greasy asphalt, or it can mean sitting on the grass with friends, drinking wine in the fresh, clean air. These guys have an elegant way of getting people to think about which definition of "park" should get more city space. If you are in SF, NYC, LA, …

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Land-use decisions a key factor in emissions reduction, says analysis

How to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions? Building compact, mixed-use neighborhoods would be just as effective as much-touted policies like boosting fuel economy, cleaning up power plants, and building green, says a new analysis from the Urban Land Institute. The U.S. population is expected to grow 23 percent by 2030; under the sprawl-encouraging status quo, driving is expected to increase 59 percent in the same time period. But it doesn't have to be that way, says the ULI: some two-thirds of homes and other buildings expected to be needed by 2050 have yet to be built, and they don't have to …

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Condos do not have agency

Does anyone choose to live in a condo?

One of the curiosities of language is that our usage can sometimes inadvertently reveal our underlying beliefs. Consider how condos are often described as if they are conscious actors who perform actions, such as "packing people together." One example comes from the Seattle P-I: "Now, condominiums are building upward, packing people into to what used to be inexpensive property." According to this way of writing, it's the condos, not the owners, that have what we philosophy majors call "agency." This is just weird. Admittedly, I don't get out a lot, but I've never seen condos roaming the streets, rounding up …

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Sept. 22 is World Carfree Day

Tomorrow is World Carfree Day. You know what to do.

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Utility will pay for solar on Habitat for Humanity houses in California

Recognizing that solar electricity is a good investment in the long run but a bit spendy up front, utility Pacific Gas and Electric has agreed to pay for solar power on some 65 houses built by Habitat for Humanity in northern and central California next year. PG&E will donate about $1.2 million for panels and installation; low-income residents will see radically reduced electric bills. "For us it's not so much an environmental thing -- it's a cost issue," says Mark Crozet of Habitat. "It's a piece of their income that these families don't have to spend on electricity. It's a …

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