Category Archives: Transportation

Land Assembly Improves Neighborhoods, May Serve In-Commuters

January 25, 2014

When asked how to find out what in-commuters would buy or rent in order to live in Boulder and avoid their daily  commute, I suggested that we should ASK them. Radical notion, but I’m glad the City has finally decided to do it. Continue reading Land Assembly Improves Neighborhoods, May Serve In-Commuters

Chautauqua Parking Test Program

April 21, 2012

The beatings will continue until morale improves — or should I say, parking tickets will be issued until we leave our cars at home. Motor vehicles are considered a suspect class in Boulder, so driving disincentives abound. However, our land use patterns require most people to drive almost everywhere to do almost anything.
Continue reading Chautauqua Parking Test Program

State of the City of Boulder

February 18, 2012

Boulder’s great, but it could be better. Drive through most older neighborhoods in Boulder and one can’t help but wonder why we don’t have “affordable” housing. More than 50% of Boulder’s dwelling units are for rent. Many owners have little incentive to upgrade while their tenants slowly buy their properties for them. Selling the lot as a scrape-off yields a reliable return.
Continue reading State of the City of Boulder

Safe Streets Begin Between Your Ears

February 11, 2012

“The last time I should speed is when I’m in a hurry.” “While waiting to make a left turn, it’s not what I see, but what I don’t see that could kill me (look for blind spots, not semi-trailer trucks).” “If I’m on a bicycle, I’m invisible, but if a driver sees me, he may try to kill me (eye contact does not equal awareness).” “If I ride a bike at night without a light, I’m an idiot.” At one time or another, but more frequently towards the end of my career as a prosecutor in Boulder’s municipal court, I often suggested to drivers and bicyclists that the above thoughts just might save their lives some day.
Continue reading Safe Streets Begin Between Your Ears

Need for a Longer Planning Horizon (2012 City Council Retreat)

January 14, 2012

It’s time to dramatically extend our planning horizon to anticipate a future where carbon-based energy resources become so expensive that market-based assumptions are irrevocably altered and to protect ourselves and our beloved community from the negative consequences resulting therefrom. This means more renewable energy sources, better energy storage technologies, more robust year-round agricultural productivity, and strategic primary resource planning.
Continue reading Need for a Longer Planning Horizon (2012 City Council Retreat)

2011 Boulder Election Results

2011 Boulder Election Results
November 5, 2011

More than 26,000 people voted, 48% of those receiving ballots. During our last off-year election (2009), only 18,353 (29%) city residents voted. Direct mail worked this time. Give PLAN-Boulder, the Sierra Club, New Era, and Renewables: Yes credit for turning out their supporters, winning a close fight over 2B and 2C, while also electing their preferred city council candidates: Suzanne Jones (ran a near-perfect race for a newcomer), Lisa Morzel (best showing by an incumbent) and Tim Plass.
Continue reading 2011 Boulder Election Results

B-Cycles: A Solution in Search of a Problem?

May 21, 2011

Not long ago, the Boulder Convention and Visitors’ Bureau determined that there are about as many bicycles in Boulder as residents. 7 of 10 residents own a bike, but enough have more than one to reach parity. However, 50-60,000 employees commute into Boulder every work day. Many of them leave their bicycles behind. Therefore, a demand for “rentable” bikes would seem to exist. Creating a critical mass of bike stations and bikes where they are desired – to transport customers where and when they wish to go – is B-cycle’s nonprofit challenge. Will 12 stations and 100 bikes suffice?

Bike renting seems to be working well enough in Denver (and Paris), but it remains to be seen whether Boulder has sufficient demand for point-to-point bicycling in our charming, but not very large or dense downtown. The cost of parking and length of commute cause many downtown Denver employees to leave their cars behind. 400 bicycles and 55 stations increase the likelihood that one-way bike trips between popular destinations in Denver will occur with sufficient frequency to have enough bikes where and when they are needed for round trips.

I want B-cycle to succeed. Many civic-minded supporters have pooled their resources to give it a chance. Will the numbers ever pencil? Time will tell. We buy EcoPasses every year and rarely ride buses. I wonder, though, why some in Boulder want urban amenities and services while opposing changes that might allow Boulder to have enough people living here to sustain them?

Gas Price Increases Won’t Persist

March 12, 2011
The law of supply and demand does not apply. Speculators rule. We (literally) pay the price.

Is $3.75 per gallon the new normal, or will this be just another bump in the road? Experts are attributing half the price increase since last fall to competition with India and China. That is unlikely to change. The price increases during the past couple of weeks are harder to explain.

The situation in Libya is very troubling from a humanitarian perspective, but Saudi Arabia has committed to replace Libya’s 2% share of world oil production. Experts have indicated there is no shortage of oil or gasoline in the supply system, so emotions and potential profits, not market principles, underlie the recent price spike. This, too, shall pass.

U.S. consumers have shown a remarkable ability to rapidly reduce gas consumption in response to historic price hikes. The result has been clogging of the distribution system, which has often lead quickly to price decreases to clear out the excess inventory. Thus, in ordinary circumstances, we profligately waste gas, but we know how to conserve when that matters.
The gas price roller-coaster rides we have taken in the past have braced us for a future that is not built upon a cheap energy foundation, but it hasn’t lead to widespread industry retooling, business model revision, or personal behavioral adjustments. We have, however, sold our clunkers, greased our bikes, and identified trip-combining opportunities – our personal transportation “Easy” buttons. The future is likely to demand more.

Regional Planning, Smart Growth, Architectural and General Reading List

prepared by Ed Byrne, President, Regional Planning Services, updated, 3/10/2011

LAND USE PLANNING

Urbanism In The Age of Climate Change, Peter Calthorpe, Island Press, Washington, DC (2011), Calthorpe proves again that he is the master of lifestyle/urban/planet-saving synthesis, describing succinctly what we must do to create sustainable human settlement patterns through smart planning before it’s too late.

The Original Green: Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability, Stephen A Mouzon, New Urban Guild Foundation, Miami, FL (2010), an easy to read, thoughtfully illustrated compendium of planning techniques based upon historically successful patterns and practices. One of the best books in this genre.

Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, and Heather Boyer, Island Press, Washington, DC (2009), inefficient transportation systems and poorly designed buildings waste fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases; this book shows us how to save our cities and species before it’s too late.

The Regional City – Planning for the End of Sprawl, Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton, Island Press (2001), the latest Calthorpe text, his critique of auto-dependent planning continues to evolve, but now there are more examples showing solutions which are making a real difference in people’s lives today.

The Geography of Nowhere, James H. Kunstler, Touchstone (Simon & Schuster, Inc.), New York, NY (1994), the first howl against sprawl as a lifestyle-destroying development pattern and the beginning of the end of Western civilization.

The Next American Metropolis — Ecology, Community, and the American Dream, Peter Calthorpe, Princeton Architectural Press (1993), great general discussion, with very creative and inspiring examples of “transit-oriented development,” by the leading proponent of New Urbanism (but see Transit Villages for NIMBY reality check).

Crabgrass Frontier — The Suburbanization of the United States, Kenneth T. Jackson, Oxford University Press (1985), the history of urban/suburban development in the U.S. from the 1860’s; Jackson details how transportation options and federal housing policies have influenced community development patterns.

Toward Sustainable Communities, Mark Roseland, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BD, Canada (2005), social equity demands that we balance the needs of the biosphere with the needs of the vast majority of the human population, the urban and rural poor.

Managing the Sense of a Region, Kevin Lynch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA (1976), an early take on how the sensory quality of regions is driven by architecture first designed for kings and land management designed for large landowners, not ordinary people.

The Fractured Metropolis: Improving the New City, Restoring the Old City, Reshaping the Region, Jonathan Barnett, IconEditions (HarperCollins Publishers), New York, NY (1995), a how-to book on controlling sprawl, improving urban centers and edge cities, and fitting new buildings in with the old.

Atlas of the New West, William E. Reibsame, James J. Robb, Center of the American West, University of Colorado at Boulder, W.W. Norton & Company (1997), a remarkable collection of data, maps, and prose examining what trends and philosophies have shaped and are shaping the Rocky Mountain West.

Redesigning Cities – Principles, Practice, Implementation, Jonathan Barnett, Planners Press (APA), Chicago, Illinois (2003), is an accessible review of urban redevelopment strategies with a partic­ularly strong chapter on “Sustainability: Smart Growth versus Sprawl.”

Green Urbanism: Learning from European Cities, Timothy Beatley, Island Press (2000). A fascinating, exhaustively annotated first-hand study of dozens of European cities that have adopted and are currently implementing Agenda 21, a detailed action agenda from the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Conference on Environment and Development.

Sustainable Communities —A New Design Synthesis for Cities, Suburbs, and Towns, Sim Van der Ryn and Peter Calthorpe, Sierra Club Books (1986), fascinating series of essays by some of the leading planning, environmental, and economic theorists in the U.S.; led to creation of New Urbanist planning movement.

The Smart Growth Tool Kit – Community Profiles and Case Studies to Advance Smart Growth Practices, David J. O’Neill Urban Land Institute (2000), a compendium of specific guidelines and relevant case studies that delivers on the promise of its title.

Charter for New Urbanism, edited by Katherine McCormick & Michael Leccese, McGraw Hill, New York (1999), is a comprehensive look at the underlying principles of the New Urbanism movement. The elegance of New Urbanism is its ability to create attractive neighborhoods within sustainable communities that make sense in a regional context that sell to the ultimate consumer. The best thinking of the movement’s most respected leaders all in one place.

The Practice of Sustainable Development, Douglas R. Porter, Urban Land Institute (2000). A practical guide to envisioning, locating and building commercial, residential and mixed-use projects that can conserve resources while improving our quality of life.

ARCHITECTURE & THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Suburban Nation:: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zybek and Jeff Speck, North Point Press (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), New York, NY (2000), how the Orwellian world of suburban planning has shaped our built environment and diminished the public life of our communities.

Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, Robert Fishman, Basic Books (Perseus Books Group), New York, NY (1987), an exhaustive review of the social history of the suburb, beginning in 19th Century London and searching for new, effective urban forms.

Designing The Future, Vernon D. Swaback, AIA, AICP, Herberger Center for Design Excellence, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, (1997), from a former Frank Lloyd Wright student, a beautifully designed and written examination of the challenges overcome by Scottsdale in its search to become a great desert city.

Design With Nature (25th Anniversary Edition), Ian L. McHarg, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY (1992), is a beautifully illustrated attempt to synchronize design with nature’s forms and biological imperatives.

It’s a Sprawl World, After All, Douglas E. Morris, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada (2005), demonstrates ow suburban sprawl has fractured social relationships and twisted the American Dream into a nightmare.

True West: Authentic Development Patterns for Small Towns and Rural Areas, Christopher J. Duerksen & James Van Hemert, Planners Press (American Planning Association) Chicago, IL (2003), a well-illustrated and researched examination of the building forms and community plans that have survived the test of time in the West.

The Creative Community: Designing for Life, Vernon D. Swayback, The Images Publishing Group, Victoria, Australia (2003), dedicated to all “who harbor visions of a better world while working to make incremental improvements in the here and now” (features hundreds of images of what works, and what doesn’t).

Design for Mountain Communities: A Landscape and Architectural Guide. Sherry Dorward, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, NY (1990), an evocative examination of the design challenges and solutions unique to mountainous environments with rugged terrain and harsh winter climates, including the Rocky Mountain West.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

The Transit Metropolis: A Global Inquiry, Robert Cervero, Island Press (1998). Includes extensive analysis of effectively designed and operated transit systems from all over the planet (Curitiba, Brazil; Copenhagen, Denmark; Melbourne, Australia; Tokyo, Japan; Munich, Germany, Stockholm, Sweden, etc.).

Transit Villages in the 21st Century, Michael S. Bernick and Robert B. Cervero, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., (1996), An excellent exploration with concrete examples and imagery of the conflict between placement of regionally significant transit centers and local neighborhood opposition (NIMBY).

Stuck In Traffic — Coping with Peak-Hour Traffic Congestion, Anthony Downs, The Brookings Institution and the Lincoln Land Institute (1992), Very readable discussion of the prospects for various traffic reduction alternatives, based upon current development realities and commuting practices.

End Of The Road — From World Car Crisis to Sustainable Transportation, Wolfgang Zuckerman, Chelsea Green Publishing Company (1991), obviously written from a point of view, but entertaining reading and very informative, particularly concerning what other countries are doing about traffic congestion.

GENERAL

Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawkin, Amory Lovins, L. Hunter Lovins, Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Co.) New York, NY (1999), an economic prescription for our future, honored in the breach, that remains the best road map out there for retooling industry to save our species.

PLAN B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute, W.W. Norton & Co. New York, NY (2009), on how to restructure our economy, eradicate poverty, and reverse environmental destruction one step at a time.

The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, Peter Senge, et al., Doubleday, New York, NY (2008), on how systemic thinking provides a toolkit for redirecting our economy to produce meaningful change in how corporations, working with governments and NGOs, do business.

Common Wealth: Economics For a Crowded Planet, Jeffrey D. Sachs, The Penguin Press, New York, NY (2008), describes how, if we act quickly, we can reap huge benefits for shared and sustainable prosperity and peace worldwide by addressing the needs of the world’s poor and the global environment.

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, Mark Lynas, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC (2008), discusses in a carefully researched and cited, but engrossing read how each degree of global warming will inexorably change our current way of life.

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better, Christopher Steiner, Hachette Book Group, New York, NY (2008), explores how gasoline price increases will ripple through our economy, forcing a restructuring of our lifestyles, for better, not worse.

Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization, Jeff Rubin, Random House, New York, NY (2009), our economy, built as it is on cheap energy, is about to be transformed, reversing globalization and requiring local manufacturing and agricultural capability to secure economic resiliency in the future.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay Books (Little, Brown & Co.) New York, NY (2002), complex theories made simple with clear, elegant prose, explaining why human begins influence change through social behavior that far exceeds that produced by technological innovation.

Reinventing Government — How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, PLUME (division of Penguin Books) (1992), provides great examples to use with bureaucrats who profess that “it can’t be done.”

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke The World, Liaquat Ahamed, The Penguin Books, New York, NY (2009), Pulitzer Prize winning story of how a handful of central bankers inadvertently caused the Great Depression, setting the stage for WW II.

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power, Daniel Yergin, Free Press (Simon & Schuster), New York, NY (2008), Pulitzer Prize winner, more than you ever wanted to know, but less than you need to know about how the oil industry has shaped the twentieth century and still threatens to destroy the twenty-first.

An Empire Wilderness: Travels Into America’s Future, Robert D. Kaplan, Vintage Books (Random House, Inc.), New York, NY (1998), a glimpse of how America, fractured along lines of race, class, education and geography may appear in wealth-stratified, transnational world.

The Death of Common Sense, Philip K. Howard, Warner Books, Inc., 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 (1994), It’s such a good read, full of horrifying examples of bureaucratic brain death (in thrall to the rules), that the last person I lent it to didn’t give it back, so I can’t give you more details.

Management For A Small Planet — Strategic Decision-Making and the Environment, W. Edward Stead and Jean Garner Stead, Sage Publications (1992), worth it for the Bibliography alone, exhaustively researched, easy to read, hard to put down.

The Ecology of Commerce — A Declaration of Sustainability, Paul Hawken, Harper Business (division of Harper-Collins publishing) (1993); Preface and Chapter I are truly inspiring.

Material World – A Global Family Portrait, Peter Menzel and Charles Mann, Sierra Club Books (1994), a classic work featuring photographs of families from all over the planet, shown with all their worldly possessions. The contrasts are startling, and the message is one anyone struggling with resource conservation and social justice issues will appreciate.

New Year’s Resolutions, circa 2011

January 2, 2011

Let’s take ourselves less seriously, set aside our historic community feuds, extend our planning horizon, and begin the process of saving our species. Mother Nature doesn’t care about us all that much. At this point, Mother Earth can support microbes and cockroaches more easily than humans. Where is Plan(et) B? The dinosaurs had it done to them, but we’re doing it to ourselves; and we think we’re the intelligent ones?

We hope we can save ourselves by tinkering around the margins (i.e., buy a Prius, install solar panels, insulate, grow your own vegetables, install low flow shower faucets [been there, done that]), but what we really need to do is restore turn of the last century streetscapes. You know,: the walk to work, bike to school, say “hi” to the neighbors at the corner grocery store, take a train to the big city once in a while world that is the definition of nostalgia now, but was all we needed to survive without cheap oil in its day.

We need modernity’s antibiotics, birth control and Internet, but we also need to wean ourselves off of outsourced manufactured goods and 3,000-mile salads in favor of home-grown food and home-made stuff that isn’t dependent upon $50/barrel oil for its creation or $3.00/gallon gasoline for its transport. We can expect those prices to double or even triple in the next 5 years, but so what if they don’t? What makes you happy? Less driving? Shopping closer to home? Follow your bliss in 2011.