Tube to walk?

Transport for London has a proposal out to pedestrianize the rail tunnel between Waterloo and Bank stations. The Mayor is looking at it favorably. Hm...new meaning of transitway. Guess it's good for rainy weather...but 1.5 miles, that's a long walk. Wouldn't it be nicer to make it above ground? But if the line is obsolete...hm.


First one down, (hopefully) many more to go


About 30 people came out to the first Planning Corps meeting last Wednesday. The group was really diverse in age, experience, and skills. Really cool to see.

In the spirit of experimentation, we asked people to choose two Transportation Alternatives topics out of four presented that evening, and to choose at least one that they wouldn't typically try. A T.A. staffer facilitated small groups on each topic for 20 minutes, then everyone switched to work on the second one for 20 minutes. The most popular table involved the most tangible project - intersection redesigns of a dangerous arterial boulevard. Across all topics, there were many ideas generated, enough to do another meeting with just one focus.

We also tried out Hot Potato, the results of which are mixed, though with potential (especially if we can get more people to post and respond to questions hot potatoed). It made someone tell me it looked like less than 10 people showed up (he couldn't be there). [Hot Potato! Can you render photos better? And can I grab them to re-post?]

I love geeking out (no surprise) especially with planners, and the best part is that the T.A. staffers all got something useful out of it, something that will push their campaign forward. If you love geeking out planning-style too and want to put those ideas to good use, you should check this out. The next meeting is already in the works.

Planning Corps
April 21, 6:30 PM
The Open Planning Project Penthouse
148 Lafayette Ave (go straight up to the PH floor)

You can find consistent updates at planningcorps.org. Hopefully these will become standing meetings but we'll forge on with the spirit of experimentation and continue to try new things, whether it is project ideas, technology, or structure. Send over ideas if you got 'em.

Walking Men (and Women)

Maya Barkai's
Walking Men 99, up till Jan 2011.
j, for ped exhibit file...

What's up with Fredericia?
NYT on it.


Transit woes guerilla style

A co-worker and I caught this on our way to Union Square; of course being transport geeks we were delighted. Love subtle subversive guerrilla campaigns, took me till this morning to see what the letters spell (ok, maybe too many late nights this week). The campaign is from this place, I think.

BUT, and this is really important - it's not the MTA's fault that service cuts are being made. It's the State elected officials. It's really easy to point fingers at the MTA - so tangible, so much iconography that connotes MTA in our city. The hard part is to connect transit to State officials. We (general public) have to get better at holding the right agency accountable. Ideas on how to connect the message that we need transit to our State politicians?

You should read more about the MTA's troubles, especially if you enjoy this campaign as much as I do. Here's a good Streetsblog piece to start. It's true - there will be higher fares and fewer trains - but let's hold the State politicians responsible. They can actually do something about it.


Update on Planning Corps

Art by Megan Whitmarsh from 20x200

The first Planning Corps meeting is this Wednesday!

Wednesday, March 24, 6:30 in the The Open Planning Project Penthouse. (Thanks TOPP!)
RSVP + location details: http://bit.ly/ahZR2I

More musings about it here with an excellent FAQ where you can join the discussion. Follow us here and here.


Kick-ass Meg

No one is as kick-ass as Megan Charlop was. Check her out in 1981, when she was 29.

''It feels so good when you win,'' she said. ''When people stand up for themselves. When they say, 'I don't have to live like this and I'm going to fight for it.' And then they make it.''
Here she is in 2010.

I'm really going to miss you.

Creating physical networks of social and health benefits

WPA2 : Local Code / Real Estates from Nicholas de Monchaux on Vimeo.

An ideal study to drive policy change in all major cities and regions, and could be funded by new health bill. New York City specifically lacks major developable parcels. Time to move to remnant parcels, those forgotten places that are city-owned and managed, but perhaps do not get the maintenance they deserve. The San Francisco case study in the video shows how the collection of remnant parcels that combined with environmental, social and public health data could become a network of public spaces that is designed to bring a spectrum of benefits. Combine remnant parcels with some street reclamations and wow.

New Fulton Fish Market

I wrote about the Fulton Fish Market a couple of times when I was lucky enough to catch it at South Seaport. Catching up on comments now, someone wrote in to remind me (yikes, back in 2009, sorry!) that the Fulton Fish Market Cooperative is alive and well at Hunts Point, so you should go check it out there.

the farmer have moved to the new fulton fish market they are open for the 2009 season april brings easter flowers flower veggie starts geraniums hanging baskets and more june is the start of local produce for directions www.newfultonfishmarket.com open 2am-8am tue-sat

New Fulton Fish market, from The Paupers Chef

image by Barbara Mensch from her book South Street

Just kinda love this image of a fishmonger from the old South Street Fulton Fish Market. Being a fishmonger is hard work, much harder than this picture makes it seem.


Traffic calming in Downtown Brooklyn

There was a stream of cars passing right before I took this picture. Each one paused as it approached the green light, thanks to the curb extension which pinched the intersection as well as making the walk crossing distance so much shorter. Such a nice treatment for this block, which is actually rather lengthy though residential, with parking on both sides. Cars used to speed up the hill to catch the green light - this pinch point helps to remind them to take it easy.

In the world of transportation, this is really great stuff and part of the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming study, which T.A. instigated ages ago, and is finally coming to fruition. There are more than 100 improvements slated for this spring according to the NYC DDC and above is an excellent example.

An interesting thing about NYC's improvements on the street: though there is an attempt to standardize improvements with the Street Design Manual, there is also a wide variety of applicable treatments. These are the first white ADA-compliant curb cuts I've seen in the city - I've also seen yellow and gray. I kinda like that there is some flexibility and experimentation with this, and not one size (or color) fits all. After decades of one-size fits cars, seeing how things break loose is rather fun.


Planning Corps! aka the work that goes into changing planning

Image by Youngna Park, available via the always wonderful 20x200

Exciting news! T.A. is starting up a Planning Corps, to gather together planners/designers and apply their amazing skills for change on our streets.

This idea was hatched out of numerous conversations with two different groups that only sometimes interact. One set was with T.A. staff who wanted to beef up on technical expertise and stay relevant. The face of advocacy has changed considerably in the past few years, tools are very different, technology development outpaces a small non-profit organization's ability to keep up, and the political climate is very different. Generally, we're pretty nimble, but this is partly because we know when to change accordingly.

The second set of conversations was with planners who had a itch to change the conventions of urban planning. How do we use planning in a way that benefits communities and organizations that really need it, instead of contributing to master plans that sit on the shelf or to EIS's that become a mockery of true environmental sustainability impacts? Not to say that long-term planning isn't necessary, but what can be done now to enable change?

A call was put out for planners (e-mail me if you're in the NYC area and are interested in participating) and a project list from T.A. staff was compiled. But...

As I was trying to come up with projects that people could work on, I realized that I was really grappling with conventions of planning and experiencing how deeply ingrained they really are.

The staff came up with a long list of projects necessary for their campaigns. Most of them are those that are one-on-one with a staffer or small group (aka the "client"), longer-term due to research, data collection, where the planner goes off to do work, whatever that is, and hopefully comes back with a final product. But the ones that the planning group expressed interest in are those that can be done in a group, at once and still end up with something useful. (Charrettes qualify, but few other things do - can you think of any?)

I was really challenged with coming up with "on the spot" project ideas where a group planners could come in and get their hands dirty right away. At minimum, planning projects must have a strong connection to T.A. advocacy - so that there is a high potential for change. That part wasn't hard. What was hard was thinking about re-structuring work so that it had at-the-moment application and was highly productive.

I stopped worrying about how it would happen and embraced the idea that what we needed could be done in many different ways. But, that means that the hard work is really on us, the organizers of Planning Corps, to structure creatively any piece of work on the existing project list so that it can be done in a group, at once and productively. If we get through this though then maybe we'll start to see a shift in how planning can change.

Planning Corps is new with lots of space for experimentation, so if you have ideas and suggestions, please do share. Our first meeting will be March 24, location TBD. People's schedules change quite a bit as job/personal responsibilities shift, so the hope is that the way Planning Corps works - matching planners to non-profits/campaigns for change - will endure.


Yay Transitways!

It's all over the transportation world, but worth posting about here. NYC is getting closer and closer to delivering transitways - first Select Bus Service, especially the designs for 1st and 2nd Aves, now this proposed project on 34th Street. Thanks DOT for trying out another innovative design in CBD Manhattan. This is a huge improvement in terms of prioritizing use on our streets. What do vehicles really need to move? This is a much more efficient use of the public right-of-way, let alone a vast improvement over streets clogged with one-passenger cars.

You can leave comments on the project page and there's a series of public input workshops going on this spring. (I would be curious about handling bicycle traffic, curbside management of drop-offs and deliveries, and timing of projects in other boroughs).

via Streetsblog, which you should visit for a detailed discussion and some interesting comments