Category Archives: Transportation

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.

End Boulder’s Auto-Dependency

December 18, 2010

In 1994, the City began its first “subcommunity” plan in North Boulder. The notion was that the best way to unwind Boulder’s auto-dependent, post-WWII human settlement pattern was to focus on discrete areas of Boulder that could become “primarily self-sufficient” – places where residents would be able to work, shop and play closer to where they sleep without having to drive their car everywhere to do almost everything. Sixteen years later, the automobile still reigns supreme.

We keep kicking the tough decisions down the road (literally). How can we establish walkable neighborhoods? The City should inventory and map residential rental housing. Unlike owner-occupied homes, these investor-owned dwelling units are “in play” for land assembly purposes — an essential first step in the neighborhood and subcommunity center development process.

Transferable residential development rights (TDRs) need to be re-calibrated so that a development right in the County can be traded for 5-7 affordable dwelling units in Boulder. TDRs can then be used to support development of walkable mixed use (WAMU) centers within our existing, sprawling residential areas. The TDR concept should be evolved further to include transferable commercial development rights. This would allow commercial development potential existing in remote areas to be concentrated along transit corridors, nodes, and neighborhood and subcommunity centers. Ultimately, zoning maps need to be created with water colors, not highlighters and sharpies. Interface areas should “bleed” into each other. Large tracts of homogeneous single use zones are inherently auto dependent, the cartographic antithesis of a truly sustainable future.

BVCP Misses Opportunity to Embrace Positive Change

December 4, 2010

Our economy and quality of life are dependent on cheap energy. However, people in China and India want what we enjoy, too. Congress will now ignore this competition for resources. Therefore, the ongoing BVCP 5-year update ought to have special significance and a sense of urgency. Instead, staff’s time and resources are being used to tweak land uses around the margins of only those areas within the City likely to develop in the next five years.

The BVCP identifies the need to reconfigure sprawl by adding mixed-use neighborhood and subcommunity centers along transit corridors and at transit nodes, but then yields to political expediency by embracing “areas of stability” and “areas of change” concepts that leave most of Boulder’s residential neighborhoods off the table. It is high time we acknowledged that much of the residential development added to Boulder since the 1950s is neither walkable nor primarily self-sufficient, and has only limited, inconvenient access to transit.

The BVCP’s current geographical focus needs to be expanded to include the North Metro region’s commuter-shed. We need to make local planning decisions in a regional context and create a forum where regional stakeholders can meet regularly to better anticipate and coordinate them. Our human settlement patterns must be adapted to nurture greater social and economic resiliency, particularly with respect to workforce housing and local agricultural and manufacturing capability. Held captive by past zoning decisions and philosophies, we are squandering an important opportunity to stretch our vision into the future and embrace positive change.

Conservation Is a Conservative Value

April 10, 2010
By Ed Byrne

When an addict wants to threaten his dealer, “I’m looking for a new supplier” has no where near the impact as, “I’m clean and sober, and I intend to stay that way.” For the good of the planet and to strengthen our economy, we have to kick the carbon fuel habit. That such a commitment would rattle a few cages in the Middle East, Venezuela and West Virginia is just a side benefit. Such a commitment will also evidence a willingness to sacrifice to secure a better future, a quality noticeably lacking in the U.S. since WWII.

Our “burn” rate is alarming enough by itself, without bending environmental laws or incurring additional human and ecosystem health risks to feed our energy-consuming beast. We must create economic resiliency in our towns and cities, while hedging our generation’s GHG/Post-Peak Oil bet. Let’s plug every hole, insulate every wall and roof, calk every window (after replacing the porous ones), retire every gas guzzler, ride every bike and bus we can, build new walkable neighborhood centers, add multi-family homes along transit corridors, etc.

We know what needs to be done, but we’re whistling past the grave yard, hoping to put it off another day. Instead, let’s reduce our leaks and our profligate use of carbon fuels, before opening up the supply spigots further. Expensive, hard-to-find, environmentally risky oil and coal production should wait until our entire energy system has been fine-tuned to waste none of it. Conservation is a conservative value, isn’t it?

South of Downtown Area (SoDA) Needs a Facelift

March 24, 2010
By Ed Byrne

Robb’s Music may have been robbed, but that’s no reason to micromanage the south block face of Canyon Boulevard between 14th and 16th.. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Boulder’s land use staff is preparing an “area plan,” but their focus is on one thin slice of an area that really is worth a closer look: 14th to 17th from Canyon Boulevard to Arapahoe Avenue. This larger area is actually deserving of close scrutiny. The slice selected neither deserves the sobriquet, “South of Downtown Area (SoDA),” nor the special attention.

“Being Green,” no offense to Kermit, means carefully targeting future residential development to meet the needs of our 50,000 in-commuters, securing local food production for future generations in a $6.00/gallon world, and attracting sustainable businesses that will increase Boulder’s resiliency in the face of mounting Green House Gas and Post-Peak Oil challenges. That means mixed use, walkable subcommunity centers and cascading density along transit corridors. We need to say “yes” to every project that moves us closer to true sustainability – the sooner, the better.

This may finally be the tipping point. We can’t move closer to a sustainable future with a less is more approach. More is more – provided it is in the right place. Body count logic is no substitute for time-tested, community-enhancing, urban planning principles. Some want “planning” to be simple: fewer people = better plan. How could more people make things better? Well, if they’re housed in the right place for the right reasons, and it means they aren’t commuting into Boulder everyday to work, that’s an improvement, isn’t it? They’re already here, driving on our streets; they just don’t have a place to sleep close to where they work.

Yes, Boulder is a wonderful place, but it is not even close to sustainable in its current form. 50,000 in-commuters every day, doing jobs that must be done, are the most important part of Boulder’s most daunting future challenge: reducing our environmental impacts and carbon footprints. We can’t reduce either in any significant way unless we can create housing types our in-commuters desire, in places they want to live

Who will do our work when the price of gasoline heads over $4.00 per gallon and our workforce starts looking for jobs closer to where they sleep? And what about our aging Boomers? We are losing our wisdom and our youth. The elderly can’t afford their property taxes on a fixed income, so they’re looking to downsize. $1,000 per square foot units are not their answer either.

Who’s building the kind of multiple dwelling unit developments our sons and daughters are looking for, so they don’t have to live in eastern Boulder County and points beyond forever? The Baby Boomers (1946 – 1964) and their children, the Baby Boomlet (1978 – 1995), will drive housing markets for the next 20 years because there just aren’t enough Generation X’ers to purchase all the single family, detached homes the Boomers have already built (one of the reasons for the real estate crisis).

As gas prices rise, large carbon footprints empty wallets, and walkable neighborhoods gain traction in the marketplace; we’ll desperately need to build more of them. No-growthers, like Gulliver’s Lilliputians, are trying to tie this burgeoning demographic monster down with a thousand puny ropes, shrink-wrapping Boulder’s downtown neighborhoods. But you can’t fool Mother Nature. Our seniors want to simplify and our youth want to keep it simple. Young people and old people appreciate, need and are willing to buy smaller units for a fair price in a good location.

Other than the Wells Fargo parking lot (north of Walnut between Broadway and 13th), SoDA is Boulder’s next opportunity zone. You can certainly build affordable housing on the north east quarter of the 1300 block south of Canyon – the City already owns the land. The north side of Arapahoe between 13th and 17th should be rezoned to encourage redevelopment of more affordable units over retail and some office uses – the interior blocks in Goss Grove will benefit greatly from the buffer thus created between them and Boulder High School’s intense activity. The south side of Canyon between 14th and 17th (the City owns the rest up to Broadway) should frame the boulevard, which now features: a bank, office building, Robb’s, the Liquor Mart parking lot, a gas station, and another bank.

If you care about your parents, your children and the future, sitting still right now means Boulder is falling behind. We’re also diminishing our legacy as a forward-looking, visionary community that believes the way to secure a better future is to plan for it. We need to prepare for a future that is as close to carbon neutral as we can manage, and as protected from the negative effects of high-priced gasoline as we can imagine.

FasTracks Tax Is Worth Doubling

February 13 2010

The real value associated with FasTracks is only peripherally related to rail lines, guided bus lanes and service enhancements. The value comes from creating an infrastructural transportation armature that is scalable without purchase of additional right-of-way, around which future growth and development can be organized more efficiently.

There are some who want more buses and trains, so all those other people on the road will choose a different mode. That’s not much of a reason to support a doubling of the transit tax. RTD’s representatives want people to vote for the tax in order to personally ride a train or bus. RTD’s trying to sell the wrong product. People take the train when it is convenient to do so (it rarely is here in the West, where most of the rails that might take you where you want to go today were torn up more than half a century ago). People ride the bus when they have no other choice (in Boulder, you’re stuck in the same traffic, stopping every couple of blocks – whoopee . . .).

As the price of gasoline doubles, and then doubles again, people will want to live closer to where they work, shop and play. If we don’t establish and protect efficient connections between our regional communities soon, sprawl will continue to expand in every direction, making connections harder or even impossible to make in the future. Transit oriented walkable neighborhoods are the answer. The value is in the nodes.

2010 Resolution

December 26, 2009

Boulder needs to recapture its “joie de vivre.” As a community, we’ve gotten many things right. We should celebrate them. Even so, some humility is warranted, since there is much left to be done. We are not sustainable yet, but we’re ready to launch. Our success will be a joy to behold! What we need is a renewed commitment to embrace positive change, change that will move us closer to lifestyles we can be proud of because they aren’t borrowed from our children and grandchildren, or taken from others.

Lives with true meaning are consciously chosen at no one else’s expense. It will take us awhile to get there, but we will be very happy to arrive. Walkable neighborhoods are more energy efficient, they waste fewer resources, and they are more fun to live in than what we’ve been building for the past sixty or so years. They are also “dense.” Boulder isn’t. Neither is the rest of the northwest metro region. But we can resolve as a community and region that all our future development will be smarter than what we’ve built in the recent past.

We can construct affordable housing closer to where the jobs are, and, as consumers, we can choose to sleep closer to where we work. The supply/demand curve being what it is, it may cost us more to inhabit less space, but the pay-off in the overall quality of our lives will be well worth it. Sooner is better. Carpe diem!

Historic Preservation & Floor Area Ratio Caps

December 17, 2009

“Our quality of life won’t get better; it will get worse more slowly.” I first heard this comment during a commercial growth cap debate in 1996. I wondered how such an uninspiring vision could gain any traction. Was an oft-cited statistic, 95% of Boulder was already “built out,” undermining Boulder’s self-confidence? How could we fix what was broken with the remaining 5%?

Since then, subcommunity-based, transit-oriented planning has channeled new growth and development to reconfigure land use patterns it had taken us fifty years to screw up. Our next challenge is rehabilitating residential and non-residential structures built more than 25 years ago — when energy was cheap. However, date-driven historic preservation and numeric home size restrictions may work to prevent or unwisely delay such renovation and innovation.

An incentive-based approach is needed because homeowners must make a leap of faith to realize the potential of Xcel’s new Smart Grid system. City Council and Boulder County’s Commissioners seem determined to cram energy conservation and efficiency into every building permit, but their top-down, “our way or the highway” (literally), approach ignores market opportunities better served by the County’s ClimateSmart loan program (renovation costs run with the property, lengthening payback potential).

Architects and developers are not the enemies of positive change. Home size and historic preservation are cost-dependent design challenges. Home expansion caps and overly-aggressive historic building regulation may prevent widespread rehabilitation of Boulder’s housing stock and commercial buildings, just when we need it most. Quality-blind math calculations are still not the answer.

Charter Schools, Planning Nightmare

December 12, 2009

Charter schools may exemplify the phrase, “the enemy of good is perfect?” I’m pretty sure focus schools do, too. Generating a site-specific school identity in order to attract students from other neighborhoods to replace the ones you’re losing is a zero sum game. Competition has, in general, made our public schools better, but niche schools can be, and often are, a transportation and neighborhood nightmare.

In a community where the schools are all performing well above average, open enrollment is enabling helicopter parenting, without the helicopters – school drop-off zones are death-defying and school buses run half-filled, but cost the same. If we truly intend to reduce our collective carbon footprints, devoting our creative educational energies to optimizing our neighborhood schools is a better approach.

We have gifted and talented students in all of our schools now. Perhaps as important, many of the skilled parents volunteer hither and yon in order to enhance their offspring’s educational experiences – their active involvement is one of the BVSD’s greatest strengths.

Charter and focus schools constitute an “easy” out and a temptation our community should resist, for the above societal reasons and many more. Let’s mainstream our geniuses – all of our kids will be better off, including the bright ones. Childhood is fleeting. Let the kids be kids for as long as possible. There may be cities and towns in the U.S. where the best students need rooms of their own in order to thrive, but Boulder isn’t one of them.