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kurtosis

New Urbanism and its Opponents

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Since Providence is such a favorite of the New Urbanists I'm hoping I can drum up

some interest here for an issue I think needs to be discussed more:

http://www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=10183

Basically I think that the more new urbanism, denser development comes along, the more criticism it's going to get from conservatives/libertarians. (that is, if it is to be more than just high rises for the rich) So I think it is very important that in addition to just discussing pragmatic issues of development we pay a lot of attention to setting out a framework for why this should be a goal for society, other than the usual "do-gooder" approach.

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In addition to living in Providence I also live in Portland where the front line of this battle is fought. Even though light rail, new urbanism, smart growth, pedestrianization and downtown Portland are wildly popular with residents, people like Wendell Cox, Randall O'Toole and those damn ultra-far-right wing think tanks love to attack Portland. These people make these absolutely ridiculous claims like that the automobile is vanishing and smart growth is trying to take away your cars.

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In addition to living in Providence I also live in Portland where the front line of this battle is fought.  Even though light rail, new urbanism, smart growth, pedestrianization and downtown Portland are wildly popular with residents, people like Wendell Cox, Randall O'Toole and those damn ultra-far-right wing think tanks love to attack Portland.  These people make these absolutely ridiculous claims like that the automobile is vanishing and smart growth is trying to take away your cars.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's exactly what I mean. As much as this sort of development may seem uncontroversial or apolitical (to people on this board anyway!) there is an ideological faction that is strongly opposed to it. Portland comes in for frequent criticism. It seems that a lot of this is due to the fact that they have some very strong laws promoting smart growth. Do you think these laws have widespread support in the region/state? Providence has not gone that route so far but I think that there are a lot of conservatives who just look to poke holes when they see urban development and renovation. (Any conservatives are free to disagree with me ^_^ ) so we may hear it sooner or later.

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Transit in RI needs to somehow improve its image and get more transit riders who ride by choice not out of necessity. I think a pretty decent number of people from RI who have cars really only consider taking commuter rail to get to Boston. The T commuter rail extension to south county should help a great deal but also if higher density mixed use developments can be built around the stations. Pawtucket should reopen their station and get some apt/condo buildings built nearby for commuters.

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i would consider myself conservative, in an overall sense, and i have no problems with urbanism.

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Whew, this is a big topic I've been trying to avoid until now, but I'm gettin' sucked in :).

I've thought a lot about this, and here's how I see it. First, I don't think the urban/suburban/rural split is based on politics as much as the groups just end up having similar values in common. I also think the Northeast is a particularly poor place to evaluate this, since the region is so dense in the first place that, by the standards of much of the land mass of the U.S., the entire coast from Boston down through Baltimore is one big urban stretch, and that isn't far from the truth.

The best example might be Portland, however, which is an "extremely urban, extremely progressive city in the middle of an otherwise extremely rural, extremely reactionary state" (a coworker's characterization of Portland who's from there, not mine).

Another good example might be much of the midwest. I'll look at the Minneapolis/rural MN model as well as the Madison/rural WI and Iowa City/rural IA example. Here are some gross generalizations:

Rural/suburban midwest

- Community often built around and focusing on the church

- As a result (or related to) this, material focus is on faith and the family

- Biggest desires are safety, security, privacy, and quiet

- Values are self reliance, independence

- Where people live tend to be self selected by faith community, ethnic heritage, or vocation

Urban midwest

- Community tends to be built around a desire for diversity in all spheres

- A more secular group with a material focus on the individual (or the couple) or the larger urban community

- Biggest desires are diversity, variety, activity, and dynamism

- Values interdepence and community links

- Where people live driven more by urban qualities than individual qualities

Now, look at the current orientation of our political parties, and you'll see where things tend to fall.

The problem (in my view) is that the far polarized left and the far polarized right (the right being moreso now, IMHO) see the mere existence of the thought processes of the other group as being a direct rejection of their own way of life, almost an insult in a way. That's what leading some on the right to take up the cause of anti-urbanism:

Can't you hear a right-winger in Congress saying, "We already knew the godless, selfish, yuppie liberals want to take away our bibles and our guns, but all this urbanism stuff is just a code-word for takin' away our cars, our houses, and our land too!"

As someone in the "Why suburbanism" group pointed out, the real X factors that allow (and have allowed) this all to happen are:

- Cheap suburban land

- Ultra-cheap gas

- Relatively cheap automobiles

- A history of huge highway subsidization

People tend to go where their pocketbooks say they should, and we can't ignore that living in Boston proper, NYC proper, Providence proper, etc is much more expensive than living in their outlying areas (and this difference is even more stark in the Heartland, where the difference is orders of magnitude greater). Frankly, taken on a dollar per dollar basis, living directly in a city these days is probably a much bigger pure ideological decision than most people think it is.

The changes that will be wrought on American society when gas prices go through the roof one day will be enormous, perhaps more than anything in our history unless it happens very slowly (which, if China continues its consumption increases, will not be the case). We have an entire society, an entire geography, an entire way of life (suburban/exurban America) based on cheap gas. Can you image the shifts when that goes away? The whole idea of the American dream (an acre with your 4 bedroom, 3 car garage home with the lawns and white picket fence close to a major highway) will have to change. And since many of the cars we drive aren't built here, with the dollar continuing to fall, autos are becoming more expensive. Wow...

In my opinion, the biggest difference between the U.S. and Europe/Canada ideologically of late isn't due to our political differences, it due to the different ways of life (U.S. suburban, Europe/Canada urban) and the values it breeds.

- Garris

[soapbox mode off]

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and we can't ignore that living in Boston proper, NYC proper, Providence proper, etc is much more expensive than living in their outlying areas (and this difference is even more stark in the Heartland, where the difference is orders of magnitude greater).

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

But is that really true? All costs considered. I can tell you if I had to have a car right now, I would be in huge trouble, and if I needed a car, I would need two, since my boyfriend and I don't work in the same place, or the same hours. The need for 2 cars was what sent me to Providence rather than Portsmouth when I decided to leave New York. When I moved to New York I moved from suburban Boston, where I was commuting by car to another suburb. My cost of living plummeted when I moved to New York, even though my rent went up. Look at things like heating costs city vs. suburb. In the suburbs I would have a house with four walls facing the elements that I had to heat, in the city I may only have one wall facing the elements and be stealing heat from the people below me (of course that doesn't answer for what many people would consider the disadvantages of not having that acre of land and complete privacy). Healthcare in the longterm, I walk a hell of a lot more than I ever would in the suburbs, that is going to count huge in my longterm health costs. There are also the intangible costs like time. If I'm sitting in traffic half my life, what does that cost me? If I need to drive into the city to go to the theatre or a good restaurant as opposed to my 10 minute walk to those things from Federal Hill, what does that cost me?

Then there are the earthy crunchy global costs, that aren't exactly direct to the user, but cost us all. The loss of land, the damage to our water supply by having such vast areas paved over, the increased risk of flooding. The fossil fuels pouring into the atmosphere, you don't have to believe in global warming, acid rain is a fact however...

I think what Garris outlines as the two poles of the debate are the problem with the debate, and with this country in general, everything is so damned black and white. The anti-new urbanists are trying to make everyone believe they would be forced to herd into Manhattan-like monster cities, when the reality is you can have your suburban cake and eat it too, the suburban model really only needs some tweeking, like mixed use, smaller lot sizes, comingling of land use... to make it work better. And it behooves the people who want to live the suburban lifestyle to support the cities, that gives more room in the suburbs for them, we can't all live in the suburbs, we have to have systems and policies that allow the people who want to live in the cities the ability to do so.

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But is that really true? [snip] My cost of living plummeted when I moved to New York, even though my rent went up. Look at things like heating costs city vs. suburb.

I agree that for you and me as single people this might be true, and this is also one of the reasons why the Northeast isn't the best example since both our suburbs and our cities are fairly expensive (see below). I'm also considering this from the perspective of the average American family of 4 with two working parents and 2.5 kids that would probably need two cars. For example, as stauchly pro-urban as I am, with the kind of work my girlfriend and I both do, if we were to marry, the chance we could both find work within Providence's mass transit confines and not need separate cars is incredibly slim, not to mention that both of our families/siblings live in areas of NY and Mass that aren't mass transit accessable either.

Also, if you look at it from the average family's budgeting perspective of spending 28% of your income on housing, for example, where do you get the best bang for your buck? A place like West Warwick or Barrington where great public schools come as part of the bargain, or Providence, where the taxes are sky high, an equivalent house in an equivalent neighborhood is more expensive, and you'll need to pay $15,000 per year per child for private schooling equivalent to what our burbs will give you?

In the midwest, this is really stark... Minneapolis/St. Paul (where you need a car, and the public schools are pretty bad) is priced like Providence, i.e. an acceptable condo to a middle-class couple or a single family house in the city proper is going to be no less than $200-250,000 at stark entry level. I know someone who moved out to a growing distant suburb who bought a brand new huge luxury 2 bedroom condo in a nice community with in-unit 2 car heated garage, central air, walk-in closets everywhere, back patio, wall-to-wall carpeting, gorgeous kitchen, $75 per month association fee (!!) etc. etc. (she opted out of the $10,000 extra fireplace) for $105,000 and scant taxes. She's 3 minutes from the major highway and a quick 20 minute blast to work. That same condo in the city proper is probably $300,000+. If you're willing to go a little farther out of town to a more rural area and commute 30-40 minutes, that same condo will cost you about $60,000-$70,000, and gas is very cheap in Minnesota and public schools are strong.

I'm not defending the suburbs or its lifestyle, I'm just saying that most people go where there are nice communities with low costs, low taxes, and good schools. Those sprawling Los Vegas and Arizona suburbs don't exist because people like cacti. For a long time, that value proposition hasn't been found in America's cities and probably won't be until gas increases make a substantial dent in people's budgets. It sucks...

- Garris

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Also.....

There are also the intangible costs like time. If I'm sitting in traffic half my life, what does that cost me? If I need to drive into the city to go to the theatre or a good restaurant as opposed to my 10 minute walk to those things from Federal Hill, what does that cost me?

I, of course, agree with you, but intangibles are often hard to sell...

Then there are the earthy crunchy global costs, that aren't exactly direct to the user, but cost us all.

This is the "ideologic" decision of living in cities I was referring to before. Real to us, as much fantasy as evolution to a substantial portion of America, unfortunately.

...everything is so damned black and white.

Bingo. How do we make "the right" more tolerant of people's rights to live in a way differently than they would choose?

The anti-new urbanists are trying to make everyone believe they would be forced to herd into Manhattan-like monster cities, when the reality is you can have your suburban cake and eat it too, the suburban model really only needs some tweeking, like mixed use, smaller lot sizes, comingling of land use... to make it work better.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Bingo again. If you look at the "original" suburbs, this is actually how they developed. The sprawl is fairly recent. This is where New Urbanism can really work, kind of like "living at the mall" that we dicussed earlier.

Unfortunately, I think we're past the point of no return on a large scale. Save for New Urbanism here or there, the sprawl already exists almost everywhere and it'll take $5+/barrel of gas for years to change it. All of our infrastructure is designed for it and around it. Who knows, though... Things can change when you least expect it...

- Garris

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Bingo.  How do we make "the right" more tolerant of people's rights to live in a way differently than they would choose?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

And on the other side of the coin, how do we make "the left" realize that new-suburbanism is valid?

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That is a good point as one of the trends that seemed to be missed in the arguments is that an ever increasing number of people do not need to travel to the city core to do their jobs. The idea that everyone moving to the suburbs is doomed to gasoline prices, traffic headaches, etc really is old school and doesn't refect what is really going on.

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That is a good point as one of the trends that seemed to be missed in the arguments is that an ever increasing number of people do not need to travel to the city core to do their jobs.  The idea that everyone moving to the suburbs is doomed to gasoline prices, traffic headaches, etc really is old school and doesn't refect what is really going on.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

True, more jobs are going to the suburbs. But I don't think this alleviates the transportation problem much. Driving between suburban residential neighborhoods, office parks, and shopping malls uses lots of gas and causes plenty of traffic jams in its own right.

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In my opinion, the biggest difference between the U.S. and Europe/Canada ideologically of late isn't due to our political differences, it due to the different ways of life (U.S. suburban, Europe/Canada urban) and the values it breeds.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Canada's an interesting topic. As a whole it's not at all "urban" the way Europe is. Granted its cities (at least the big 3- Toronto,Montreal,Vancouver) are very healthy, compared to the average US city. But the way of life is not so far removed from the US, so why is there less sprawl there? One could argue they have not had the explosion of population we have (perhaps with a higher pop density those rural Canadian areas would fill right up with sprawl), and that Canadian cities avoided a lot of the internal problems that caused American ones to decline in the past century.

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some great points all around. First off, unlike the Mineapolis area, $105,000 buys a 300-450 sq. ft. studio/small one bed very far from the city (Boston) and there is no such thing as a 20 minute ride anywhere within a 10 mile radius of town. I live in a town about 12 miles south of Boston and ride the commuter rail to work for $128 mnthly pass and $2 a day to park. If I left my house at 7:30 to drive to work I would be there about 8:20, that is almost an hour drive for 10 miles- not that I could pay 30 bucks a day to park in town anyway. My point is that nice communities that are affordable to the guy/girl making 30-35k a year don't exist unless you buy a small studio or one bed in my neck of the woods. As for families, well I don't know how people do it... So now I am faced with the option of staying close to my family and friends or moving to Providence to enjoy an urban lifestyle without working 3 jobs to support it. Please don't think that this won't happen to Providence as more luxury high rises go up. I think the future of urban housing availability will greatly depend on the economy and feasability of creating affordable housing for middle class people. Here is an example. I was born in Boston, and grew up in South Boston. My dad bought his place for 75k 20 years ago when nobody wanted to live in "Southie" and now it is worth 500k. Lucky him, but for the most part people who grew up in the area can't afford to live there now as the wealthy are moving in. Lots of new developments have occured since and the nieghborhood is looking great (sound familiar), too bad I can't afford a reasonable condo there. I think Providence and urban areas in general will be facing this type of situation down the road. It won't be a preference for lifestyle but rather what you can afford.

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I think that the most useful way to approach this subject is to try and lay out the most common arguments against New Urbanism/urban development and then think about:

what are the best ways to counter or preempt these arguments in a debate?

what sort of development could one encourage that would prevent these arguments from

gaining much traction?

The main criticisms as I see it are:

1) Politicians love to make "big plans" for redevelopment and wind up sinking lots of money

into misguided projects (convention centers, stadiums, etc) that don't live up to their promise.

(see http://www.joelkotkin.com/Urban_Affairs/LA...nk%20Small.htm)

2) Urban living will remain the province of young singles, empty-nesters and rich people. It is a niche market that will eventually max out and can only have a limited impact.

3) Govt wants to force people to give up their cars, lawns etc. NU is an ideological movement to make people do things they don't want to. (http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/04/03/s...icle_466934.php)

Regarding (1), I think NU needs to be clear in advance about what kind of development it doesn't support (or under what circumstances one would support stadiums, etc.) The alternative is to wait for others to bring it up, and once someone has a compelling case study (i.e. in this city govt wasted lots of taxpayer money to build X) it is all to easy to sway public sentiment against urban development in general.

(2) is something that I think will have to be disproven in practice. Basically people have to start showing that compact, walkable, affordable neighborhoods are achievable. This is important not just because most of us on this board enjoy these kinds of neighborhoods but because it gives our argument a lot more credibility.

On (3), this is an issue where I would proceed carefully. I know little about Portland but it seems like their anti-sprawl laws are a ripe target for a backlash. This is what I mean about thinking about what kind of development to encourage. Portland comes in for regular criticism by libertarians (for driving up housing prices, hurting growth, etc.) and if their approach were to become more widespread I don't know if it would be politically sustainable, whether or not it works practically.

On the whole I think what NU needs to succeed is a narrative that is fairly realist and pragmatic

(not too idealistic or too much griping about the suburbs) so that it doesn't just sound like our little pet project, as well as a large body of evidence, i.e. developments that work and are reproducible.

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Transit in RI needs to somehow improve its image and get more transit riders who ride by choice not out of necessity.  I think a pretty decent number of people from RI who have cars really only consider taking commuter rail to get to Boston.  The T commuter rail extension to south county should help a great deal but also if higher density mixed use developments can be built around the stations.  Pawtucket should reopen their station and get some apt/condo buildings built nearby for commuters.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree. The attitude the state takes toward funding RIPTA is shameful. They need to be funding RIPTA more, not less. The state's attitude toward RIPTA would make Randall O'Toole and Wendell Cox very proud. Recently I looked at one of projo.com's message boards about improving the commute in RI. Many of the messages I read actually stated quite clearly that running trains and/or buses is wasteful, will do nothing and even "anti-American". Of course, there's a chance they could have been posted by trolls looking to start problems, but you have to admit - there are people out there who buy into the beliefs of Cox and O'Toole.

RIPTA needs to be funded better, and part of that should go into marketing the services better. I know that there's been talk of an MBTA commuter rail extension beyond Providence. But wouldn't that be more oriented towards Boston? I think there ought to be one or more rail lines that are oriented towards Providence, perhaps service between Providence and Kingston or Johnston. It would be something different - and unlike the buses, they wouldn't have to deal with the infamously bad RI drivers that I hear about on this forum.

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I know someone in Portland who complains about all the money going to the local transit agency and that it doesnt make money. They also fly down to Palm Springs several times a month on a corporate jet and I can assure you they write-off their trips (and plane).

If transit is so anti-American why then do so many business people working at their corporate headquarters and investment banks ride the subway, bus and commuter rail to work??? I can just think of all those people working on Wall Street (the capital of capitalism) who rode the train and subway to work. Why then does the economy of New York get so badly hurt whenever there is a transit strike if transit is a waste? Why do all the global financial capitals (NYC, Tokyo, London, Hong Kong etc) depend on extensive mass transit systems to quickly and efficiently bring workers to their jobs?

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Transit in RI needs to somehow improve its image and get more transit riders who ride by choice not out of necessity.  I think a pretty decent number of people from RI who have cars really only consider taking commuter rail to get to Boston.  The T commuter rail extension to south county should help a great deal but also if higher density mixed use developments can be built around the stations.  Pawtucket should reopen their station and get some apt/condo buildings built nearby for commuters.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree. Pawtucket should definitely reopen their station and build some dense resddential devlopment around it.

This is actually my first post. (I've been reading for a few weeks.) What a great site this is. It's nice to know so many thoughtful people are disucssing these issues.

I live in Portland, OR and work as a transportation planner for Metro - the regional governemnt. I grew up in Rhode Island (in Newport) and majored in Urban Studies at Brown (1996-2000). I love providence, and it is a place where my urban planning interests were really solidified. I may move back someday. It's hard to say. I love Portland too!

I hope that Providence/Rhode Island is able to muster the political will to grow & improve RIPTA. Portland has been very fortunate to have the political support for its transit system and land use laws.

I definitely think the train line that goes up Aquidneck Island through Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth should be fixed up for light-rail someday. It could connect to the future commuter rail station in Fall,River MA (which will connect to boston) as well as continuing on to Providence via the abandoned rail road bridge over the seekonk river.

Of course this will be difficult without a regional government (like Porltand has.) to focus on getting the federal money necessary. But I'm not giving up hope that transit will improve in RI someday.

I do miss the "One Rate - Ocean STate" deal. Is that still around? You used to be able to take the bus any where in Rhode Island for $1.25. I could bike with friends from Providence to Newport (via EAst bay bike path) end up at the beach - get refreshed, say hi to family and then take the bus back to PRovidence. What a deal for $1.25...aaaah little Rhody....

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Welcome PVDtoPDX, how odd to have two Portland/Providence people here! We're actually hoping to work on boosting the Portland section as one of our next projects here at UP. It'll probably get it's own subforum in the west section in the coming weeks.

Of course this will be difficult without a regional government (like Porltand has.) to focus on getting the federal money necessary.  But I'm not giving up hope that transit will improve in RI someday.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The state itself can serve as a regional government it being so small. There are really very few areas of the state that wouldn't directly benefit from a stronger RIPTA, and even fewer populationwise, since most of the state lives in Providence County.

I do miss the "One Rate - Ocean STate" deal.  Is that still around? You used to be able to take the bus any where in Rhode Island for $1.25.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

One Rate One State still exists, though it's $1.50 now. :( There's also the highspeed ferry for your bike trips down the East Bay. :)

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Welcome PVDtoPDX, how odd to have two Portland/Providence people here! We're actually hoping to work on boosting the Portland section as one of our next projects here at UP. It'll probably get it's own subforum in the west section in the coming weeks.

The state itself can serve as a regional government it being so small. There are really very few areas of the state that wouldn't directly benefit from a stronger RIPTA, and even fewer populationwise, since most of the state lives in Providence County.

One Rate One State still exists, though it's $1.50 now.  :(  There's also the highspeed ferry for your bike trips down the East Bay.  :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

A boosted Portland section would be very exciting. I noticed there was a little something, but not much. Especially compared to the fabulous Providence forum :)

I'm all about bolstering the providence-portland connection. Back in '99 I did a summer internship in Providence's Mayor's office of policy. (I researched traffic calming practices in other other cities - i.e. Portland, conducted some traffic counts to measure success of the traffic calming implemented in Elmwood, did some outreach to Elmwood residents about the traffic calming devices in their neighborhod, and did some preliminary planning work for traffic calming in Fox Point)

By that time I had been reading a lot in school about Portland,OR as an urban planning mecca. With all of the Providence revitalization efforts going on in the 90s I used to joke with a co-worker about Portland being the "Providence of the West."

It's nice to see so many downcity Providence projects coming on line soon. It seemed to be on the brink of happening throughout the 90s. Always on the cusp of reaching the "critical mass"of new housing to make downcity a fully functioning urban neighborhood. A grocery store will certainly be key, once enough of the housing is built.

As for regional government, I know that the RI Stateside Planning Program already function as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Providence region. That's a federally designated agency that coordinates transportation funding issues. The problem is that they don't have land use clout to be able to require density around new rail station. Another problem is the inter-state issue getting Massachussetts to cooperate to plan/fund a rail line that connected Fall River to Providence.

It was hard enough for the 2 states to cooperate in the late 90s to finally add some more MBTA trains between boston and providence...yeesh!

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^

No way!!! Not only do we have a Portland + Providence connection but I too spent a fair amount of time in Newport as I went to high school at St. Georges. I am now studying architecture at RISD. Welcome PVDtoPDX!!!!

That is so awesome that you work for Metro as a transportation planner. That sounds like a great job. Are you involved with planning the new light rail lines to Clackamas & Milwaukie or Streetcar to Lake Oswego???

____

One way RIPTA can improve fairly easily is to get rid of those current bus stop signs which are nothing more than a symbol of a bus and the words "Bus Stop." They should have the route numbers of the buses that stop there along with the bus's destination plus a little schedule posted.

I would imagine we will hear more talk about commuter rail service to Newport (hopefully) once commuter rail service gets to Fall River, whenever that is. I recall hearing something a few years back about a busway proposed along that line but nothing recently to my knowledge plus LRT would be much much better :)

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By that time I had been reading a lot in school about Portland,OR as an urban planning mecca.  With all of the Providence revitalization efforts going on in the 90s I used to joke with a co-worker about Portland being the "Providence of the West."

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I've never been to Portland but, for the sake of argument, I'd like to inject a note of criticism about their policies. It seems like they've take a "smart growth" approach which is very heavy on passing laws and restrictions. As you undoubtedly know, they come in for a lot of criticism over this. In particular I've heard this has made the affordable housing problem worse. The problem I have with this approach is that people can very easily decide certain policies must be good and then put all their efforts to enacting these policies without much real debate over how things affect the city. The smart growth movement seems a bit like telling people "eat your veggies", i.e. it gives the impression most people don't want this but it's good for them. I don't think this tactic will work in many other cities. (see http://www.rppi.org/marketnewurban.html for a free market approach to urbanism)

I'm not necessarily convinced of these arguments but i think they are valid and really need to be debated in this forum.

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^

No way!!!  Not only do we have a Portland + Providence connection but I too  spent a fair amount of time in Newport as I went to high school at St. Georges. I am now studying architecture at RISD. Welcome PVDtoPDX!!!!

That is so awesome that you work for Metro as a transportation planner. That sounds like a great job.  Are you involved with planning the new light rail lines to Clackamas & Milwaukie or Streetcar to Lake Oswego???

____

One way RIPTA can improve fairly easily is to get rid of those current bus stop signs which are nothing more than a symbol of a bus and the words "Bus Stop."  They should have the route numbers of the buses that stop there along with the bus's destination plus a little schedule posted.

I would imagine we will hear more talk about commuter rail service to Newport (hopefully) once commuter rail service gets to Fall River, whenever that is.  I recall hearing something a few years back about a busway proposed along that line but nothing recently to my knowledge  plus LRT would be much much better :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm not directly involved with the rail planning. (That's in the "corridor planning" deivision. I've been only been full-time at Metro since August. (I intered for a year while at PSU). I've been working on lots of different stuff, including updating the regional Bike Map and helping out with the concept planning for the Damascas area. (This area was brought inside the Urban growth boundary a couple years ago.)

We should meet up and chat more next time you're back in Portland (or I'm in Providence).

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Many of these policies were approved by voters (such as Metro) and others were created by elected officials. Portland has for a long time had a strong community spirit and a belief in neighborhood activism.

However in November a controversial measure passed on the ballot, Measure 37 which will change Oregon. "It lets property owners file claims against governments whenever a land-use or zoning regulation restricts how they can use their land and reduces its value. State and local officials can either compensate them for that reduction in value, or waive the regulation and let the owners do what they want." It has a lot of unanswered questions which have to be sorted out. The measure was worded to the voters in a way that made it sound really attractive. There have been many ballot challenges to Oregon's planning and zoning laws since they were first enacted in the early 1970s but this is the first one that succeeded.

Info on Measure 37 in Todays Seattle Times article about a similar measure in WA state: Will property-rights revolt reverberate beyond Oregon?

I dont think the housing situation is any worse in Portland than SF, Seattle or other large and popular cities. Isnt one of the main the reason property values rise because there is a lot of demand? People are flocking to Portland from throughout the country because they like what Portland has to offer.

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I've never been to Portland but, for the sake of argument, I'd like to inject a note of criticism about their policies. It seems like they've take a "smart growth" approach which is very heavy on passing laws and restrictions. As you undoubtedly know, they come in for a lot of criticism over this. In particular I've heard this has made the affordable housing problem worse. The problem I have with this approach is that people can very easily decide certain policies must be good and then put all their efforts to enacting these policies without much real debate over how things affect the city.  The smart growth movement seems a bit like telling people "eat your veggies", i.e. it gives the impression most people don't want this but it's good for them. I don't think this tactic will work in many other cities. (see http://www.rppi.org/marketnewurban.html for a free market approach to urbanism)

I'm not necessarily convinced of these arguments but i think they are valid and really need to be debated in this forum.

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I see your point about smart growth coming across as "eating your vegetables." I think there's need to be a much greater educational campaing regarding the true costs of an auto-oriented society. (economic, social, environmental)

The article that youlinked to is from the Reason public policy institute. You have to remember that they have a political agenda as well. (libertarian and free market to the extreme)

I see your point about smart growth coming across as "eating your vegetables." and I don't necessarily think that Portland's approach would work everywhere. It took a hell of a lot of political will to pass the kinds of laws they did in the early 70s.

But I would argue that these policies/laws have been pretty successful here. For instance, the Portland regional Daily Vehcile-miles traveled per capita has declined between 21.7 to 19.5 between 1996 and 2002. This is the opposite of the national avg for urbanized areas which increased from about 21.5 to 22.8.

As for land use, the region's population grew by 26% in the 1990s and the land area only grew by 8%. On a related note, Northwest Environment Watch did a study that said - "person for person, new development between 1990 and 2000 in greater Portland consumed less than half as much land as the average city in the study." (They studied 15 cities) http://www.northwestwatch.org/scorecard/portland04.asp

Of course, statistics can be found/used to tell whatever story you want...And it's not easy to draw causal relationships between land use policies and transportation impacts. But my sense from living out here for a few years is that the land use system and transportation policy decisions have made a big impact on the region. The options for living in compact neighborhoods and getting around without a car seem much greater here than in other comparably sized metro areas.

As for the affordable housing question, that's a long debate in itself. There is evidence on both side on whether the policies have worsened the affordable housing problem. Affordable housing is a problem in many regions that lack Porland style policies. (SF, Seattle, Boston,NYC, etc.) Portland is a very desirable place to live - that alone will drive up housing prices. Portland's housing was very undervalued during the 1980s (following a catastrophic recession realting to the decline of the timber industry) Much of its older housing stock was not in the best shape. During the 1990s people really invested in these houses and refurbished them. That has caused much of the increase in housing prices.

See the paragraphs under the heading "Casting Further Doubt" at this link:

http://www.newurbannews.com/PortlandMar05.html

Las Vegas - which is about as laissez faire / free-market as you can get, has had skyrocketing housing prices. "Take Las Vegas, for example, where the median home price has increased an eye-popping 54 percent in the past 12 months alone."

http://www.usnews.com/usnews/biztech/artic...41206/6main.htm

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