Atlanta Millennials Included in Long-Term Regional Planning

ARC_100215The Atlanta Regional Commission has spent the past eight months working with a unique group of people on a the commission’s long-term planning process for future development.

Young adults from 10 counties around the region ─ Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale ─ were divided into eight teams and tasked with developing pitches for eight different policy issues related to future planning for metro Atlanta.

The executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Douglas Hooker said it’s important to hear from millennials.

“It was very clear to me that we’re making plans for a 20 or 25 year future for our community, but the people who are going to be the adults and the leadership roles in the community typically aren’t at the table because they’re early in their careers and some of them are still in school,” Hooker said during an interview on “Closer Look.”

“We felt it was critically important to get more of their vision for the community that they want to grow into as a way of being able to help steer the growth and development of the community as they get older as a way of being committed to living here and growing here and helping the region address its challenges as they grow older,” he added.

Hooker said he was impressed with the ideas the young team members brought to the table and that the ARC has plans to use some of those ideas.

Two of the millennial team members, who worked for almost a year with the ARC to develop ideas for long-term planning in Atlanta, Bee Nguyen and Nicholas Juliano, joined “Closer Look” to discuss their part in the project.

Nguyen worked with the Millennial Advisory Panel group that focused on improving the region’s education system, specifically the disparities in the quality of education at low income schools compared to schools with more resources.

Nicholas’ group focused on improving the region’s transit system and even launched a website called Advance Atlanta.


The Power of Designing with Pedestrians in Mind

Providing more public space for pedestrians is one of the main goals of urban renewal projects taking place in cities around the world. 

By planting more trees, implementing more sidewalks and bike paths and establishing new seating areas, it is possible to design more welcoming places with less traffic congestion and that promote sustainable methods of transportation, such as walking or biking.

With the aim of publicizing urban renewal projects that have made cities more pedestrian friendly, Brazilian group Urb-I launched the “Before/After” project, which compiles before and after photos that show how cities have redistributed their public space.

The project is collaborative so that anyone can use Google Street View, or another similar tool, to raise awareness of the changes taking place in their cities.

Read on to see the transformed spaces.


Regnbuepladsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Image Courtesy of Urb-I


Padre Alonso de Ovalle, Santiago, Chile. Image Courtesy of Urb-I


Griffith Park Boulevard, Los Angeles, United States. Image Courtesy of Urb-I

See more here.

The Benefits of Road Diets for American Cities

Edgewater-Drive-After-660x495-300x225If it can work on Edgewater Drive in Orlando, it can work anywhere.

This road diet — or “street rightsizing” — removed one traffic lane on a four lane road through 1.5 miles of the city’s College Park neighborhood. Since then, traffic collisions are down 34 percent. Pedestrian activity increased 23 percent and cycling rose 30 percent.

Virtually none of the problems opponents predicted have materialized. Immediate property values have held steady with regional trends. Nearby streets haven’t seen a major increase in traffic. And because the project was a simple striping, the road diet cost the city only an additional $50,000 over a basic resurfacing.

So why doesn’t every city in America get busy “rightsizing”? A new guide from Project for Public Spaces seeks to make that possible. PPS’s Rightsizing Streets Guide highlights case studies and best practices from Philadelphia, Seattle, Tampa, Poughkeepsie, and elsewhere to show jurisdictions how they, too, can right-size their streets.

Philadelphia took a unique approach. “The Porch” project outside 30th Street Station removed only parking and replaced it with a wide sidewalk, seating, and public gathering space. This new destination, featured last year on Streetfilms, seats 250 people and is home to regular events like yoga and farmer’s markets, and it is a favorite spot for West Philadelphia workers to eat lunch on nice days.

After-21-660x401-300x182During a seven-month period last year, nearly 25,000 visitors enjoyed The Porch — all the more impressive when you consider the space formerly served a maximum of just 23 drivers. Traffic and parking snags have been nonexistent, PPS reports. In fact, high use of The Porch, coupled with low demand for nearby parking, suggest that further auto space should repurposed for Philadelphia pedestrians and transit users.

Another role model PPS points to is the city of Poughkeepsie, New York. Poughkeepsie’s treatment for Raymond Avenue involved the removal of one traffic lane in each direction and the addition of three roundabouts. The city also added a center median with pedestrian refuges, to facilitate safer crossing.

That project led to a 50 percent decrease in traffic collisions and the opening of several new businesses in the area. Since it was installed in 1999, it attracted the attention of the neighboring town of LeGrange, which is now in the midst of a similar project.

Read full article here.

Teaching Kids How to Build Smart Cities

SMARTstudents2_920_609_80 (1)Some New York middle-schoolers spent their summer vacation building models of smart cities, complete with futuristic cars and clean energy infrastructure. The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Science of Smart Cities program held its fourth annual expo, where the children showed off their designs. During their four-week training with NYU engineering students, participants learned about engineering aspects of sustainable and resilient cities.

Read full article here.

Is Atlanta Taking Advantage Of Its Walkable Areas?

[BLOG}: Curbed Atlanta has a good run down of the changes in Atlanta’s neighborhood WalkScore rankings over the last couple of years – read it here.

I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast…but three of the top five most walkable areas of the city, according to the ranking system, are part of Downtown. The areas are: GSU, Peachtree Center and SoNo.


We need to take all of this with a large grain of salt because WalkScore rankings are significantly flawed. They’re based on criteria that does not include reports of the actual experience of walking the streets of these neighborhoods. You can only judge walkability so well from electronically collected data; real experience matters.

The SoNo district (see a map here), which is “South of North Avenue,” shows the difficulty of WalkScore’s methods. It is certainly easy to walk through here, and there are some key destinations and services – Shakespeare Tavern, Gladys Knights & Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, Emory Midtown hospital, Peachtree-Pine shelter, some apartments and the Bank of America tower. But a quick look at a Google map (along with my own many experiences passing through on foot) shows that a lot of the district’s land use is made up of parking facilities, empty lots, abandoned buildings and interstate infrastructure. It’s a place that needs some added development before I would recommend a visitor take a stroll there.

Read full article here.

Rainbow Art Work Unites a Community

Germen Crew just completed what could be one of the world’s largest murals in a small Mexican pueblo. The colorful mural was Commissioned by the Las Palmitas, Pachuca District municipality in the state of Sinaloa, long known for its role as the “Drug Capital of Mexico.” The Nuevo Muralisimos of Mexico spent five hard months working with the community to realize this ambitious urban revitalization program. A massive public art project comprising 209 homes and over 215,000 square feet, the Macro Mural reveals a hybrid style that leans heavily on the group’s graffiti background, deftly coaxing the country’s most recognizable art form into the 21st century.


The impressive but still limited translation of Planisferio’s interview with the Germen Crew group suggests the people living in Palmitas weren’t necessarily sold on the project right away, so it was necessary to nurture a trusting relationship with residents, and also with the children; it was their houses that were being painted all sorts of colors, after all. The artists think of themselves as providing the Germ of an idea, but much of the design and execution was ultimately a group effort that united a friendly and vibrant community plagued by poverty and mistrust.

All told, 452 families or 1808 people are said to have been touched by Germen Crew, which consists of 10 artists, and their radiant mural visible from afar. They used the highest quality paint to ensure durability and longevity and engaged the community at every juncture. It’s really something for the people to be proud of, and reactivates Mexico’s deeply-layered street culture. And of course, the government deserves serious kudos for recognizing the role that art plays in a healthy urban environment.

Read more here.

Images: 7 Proven Principles for Designing a Safer City

Original article was published here.

Traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people every year, nearly the same amount that die from HIV/AIDS. But there’s an undervalued approach to making the world’s roads safer—good urban design.

While most traffic safety initiatives tend to focus on behavioral approaches—such as helmet- and seatbelt-wearing campaigns—a new publication from the EMBARQ sustainable mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities finds that seven design principles can help cities dramatically reduce road deaths. Here’s a visual look at how local officials and planners can design safer and more sustainable urban environments:

1. Avoid urban sprawl.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-01
Cities that are connected and compact are generally safer than cities that are spread out over a large area. Compact Stockholm and Tokyo have the lowest traffic fatality rates in the world—fewer than 1.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. Sprawling Atlanta, on the other hand, has a death rate six times that, at 9 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Cities should aim for smaller block sizes, pedestrian-oriented streets, and dense housing that allows for convenient, walkable access to transport, entertainment and public spaces. Doing so reduces the need for car travel and ensures a safe space for walking and cycling.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-022.  Slow down road traffic.

Lower automobile speeds, particularly below 25-31 miles per hour (40-50 kilometers per hour) drastically reduce the risk of fatalities.

Cities can implement low-speed zones and “area-wide traffic calming,” including speed humps, curves in the road called chicanes, curb extensions and raised pedestrian crossings. Research shows that speed humps can reduce vehicle speeds from more than 22 mph (36 kph) to less than 15 mph (25 kph). Paris, for example, has been using this kind of tool to design roads citywide to meet 30 kph (19 mph) speed limits.

3.  Ensure main streets are safe for everyone, not just cars.


Avenida Eduardo Molina in Mexico City—an arterial with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, rebuilt sidewalks, and a green central median at some segments—accommodates mass transport, mixed vehicular traffic,bicycling, and walking.

Ensuring safety is particularly important for main roads, where pedestrians and motorists often mix. A growing movement for “complete streets” means that all types of users have safe crossings and dedicated road space.

For example, refuge islands and medians give pedestrians a safe place when crossing the road. Mexico City found that for every one meter increase in unprotected road width, pedestrian crashes increased by 3 percent.  The city recently rebuilt its Avenida Eduardo Molina as a complete street, featuring dedicated transit, bike lanes and a green central median for pedestrians. Similar but less dramatic changes in street design in the city have resulted in a nearly 40 percent drop in fatalities.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-04-box-5.24.  Create dedicated space for pedestrians.

More than 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year on the world’s roads. If pedestrians lack quality space, they are exposed to greater risk. Basic sidewalk space is necessary, but pedestrian-only streets and street plazas can also be effective tools for protecting walkers.

In the past few years, New York City has led a global shift toward eliminating street spaces for cars and turning them into “street plazas,” improved sidewalks and car-free areas. For example, a large section of Times Square is now only accessible to walkers and cyclists.  The city saw a 16 percent decrease in speeding and a 26 percent reduction in crashes with injuries along streets with pedestrian plazas.

5.  Provide a safe, connected network for cyclists.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-05-6.1

Studies from several cities find that injury rates go down and more people bike when there is dedicated infrastructure like off-street trails and dedicated bike lanes.  These cycling networks should also connect residential areas to business and retail, schools, parks and mass transport.

Bogota, Colombia found that adding more than 100 km (62 miles) of bikeways helped reduce bicyclist deaths by 47.2 percent between 2003 and 2013 , and increased bicycle use from just over 3 percent of all daily trips to over 6 percent.

6.  Ensure safe access to high-quality public transport.


Pedestrian access to a median BRT station.

High quality public transport carries more people, and experiences fewer crashes than private vehicle travel. Research shows that a bus rapid transit (BRT) system can reduce traffic deaths and severe injuries by 50 percent.

It’s not enough to just provide this public transit, though—city planners must also ensure safe access for commuters. Belo Horizonte, Brazil recently launched MOVE BRT, carrying an estimated 700,000 passengers per day. The city rebuilt streets in its center and created dedicated bus lanes with clearly marked crossings and easy pedestrian access. This system makes it safe for commuters to ride the bus, as well as to wait for and get onto the bus.

7.  Use data to detect problem areas.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-07-fig-1.3

For example, London used data analysis and mapping to analyze its crash data and learned that a rise in cyclist deaths came from crashes with large trucks delivering goods into the city center. The city has since developed a pilot program to reschedule deliveries for low-cyclist hours.

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world, with cities expected to hold 70% of the global population by 2030. Designing safe cities now can protect current residents as well as those to come.

Cities can use data analysis to identify key streets where all the above solutions can be integrated. This means having good traffic crash data that can be mapped and analyzed, seen here using the PTV Visum Safety software to create heat maps of crash locations.

Where and Why Walking or Biking to Work Makes a Difference

It’s been more than seven years since Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett put his entire city on a diet and invested in wider sidewalks, better bike routes, and a larger park to encourage fitness. For politicians and urbanists alike, the connection between the shape of our cities and the shape of our bodies is clear. Those of us who live in sprawling suburbs and commute to work by car are less likely to be healthy, while those of us who live in dense urban neighborhoods end up healthier because we’re more likely to bike or walk to work.

lead_large (4)

Unless, that is, people in compact urban areas don’t actually walk or bike to work a great deal more, even though it’s a readily available option.

A new study by Timothy Wojan and Karen Hamrick from the U.S. Department of Agriculture takes a close look at the connections between urban form—especially compact cities and metros—and the level at which people walk or bike to their jobs. To get at this, the researchers use detailed data from the American Time Use Survey that collects information on how Americans spend their time, including the kinds of activities in which people engage and what they eat.

Read full article here.

Infographic Highlighting 8 Of the Worl’s Greatest City Parks

Urban parks are one of the most important components of a healthy and livable city. Not only do they sequester carbon and provide respite from the concrete jungle, but parks are also great cultural and historic landmarks. In honor of urban parks, Fairmont created an infographic highlighting eight of the greatest city parks from around the world from London’s Hyde Park to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The infographic offers an overview of each park and their design, random facts, and insider’s tips to give readers a greater appreciation for these landscapes.


Original article can be found here.

Creative Sector Is the Engine of Urban Economic Development.

Read full article here.

Designers, musicians, actors, artists and other creative professionals are a catalyst for growth – creating new businesses, enhancing existing ones and attracting new residents with their performances, designs, murals and other contributions to urban vibrancy. An investment in a city’s creative economy is an investment in its long-term growth and vitality.

New York City is a testament to this virtuous cycle. Recent employment growth has been driven by creative industries, including a 53 percent jump in film & television, 33 percent in architecture, 26 percent in the performing arts, 24 percent in advertising and 24 percent in visual arts. A recent report by the Center for an Urban Future found that employment in New York’s creative economy – consisting of ten industries (advertising, film and television, broadcasting, publishing, architecture, design, music, visual arts, performing arts and independent artists, writers and performers) and 25 occupations – grew by 13 percent over the last decade, from 260,770 to 295,755. Over this period, New York’s share of national creative sector jobs grew from 7.1 percent to 8.6 percent.


Moreover, the city’s creative sector has propelled its recent tech boom, with New York ad-, media-, art-, fashion-, design- and music-tech companies all achieving considerable success over the last decade. From Doubleclick and AppNexus to Buzzfeed and Gawker, from Artsy and Electric Objects to Gilt and Warby Parker, from Etsy and MakerBot to Next Big Sound and Genius—in nearly every creative field, the leaders in e-commerce, data analytics, social media and other tech enabled innovations have launched their companies in New York. These companies have leveraged New York’s pipeline of creative talent to build global enterprises.

Too often, however, the creative sector is a victim of its own success. Gravitating to affordable neighborhoods, creative professionals have become an emblem of gentrification, attracting interest in a new area while ultimately pricing themselves out. From SoHo to Chelsea, the East Village to Williamsburg, in cities like New York this is a recurring theme.