CNU blogs

It’s Foolish To Define Austin By Its City Limits

Urban Planning Blog - 24 min 4 sec ago

Cities grow in two key ways, and when we talk about how “big” a “city” has become, or how fast it has grown, we often conflate two forms of expansion: spatial and demographic. On the one hand, the footprint of a city changes shape; year to year and decade to decade, growing municipalities annex more and more land. On the other hand, urban growth also involves a bigger and bigger batch of humanity living in and around that bulging municipality.

But the one hand does not always know what the other is doing, and when population growth outpaces geographic growth — like it has in Austin — things get messy.

via FiveThirtyEight.


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Events roundup: Changes are coming

Greater Greater Washington - 1 hour 58 min ago
by Claire Jaffe

I-66, Capital Bikeshare, and Prince George's zoning will all be changing in the near future. Have you weighed in? Plus, learn about dams, bikeway design, and more in this week's events.
Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Tolls and lanes for I-66: Virginia is considering tolls for people driving alone on I-66, along with new lanes outside the Beltway. They're holding a series of meetings this Monday to Thursday around Oakton, Centreville, Haymarket, and Fair Oaks, all from 6 to 8:30 pm.

Rewrite Prince George's zoning: Prince George's County is rewriting its zoning code for the first time in 50 years, which will have a major effect on future development. Three listening sessions, Tuesday in Riverdale, Wednesday in Fort Washington, and Thursday in Landover. All meetings are 6-8 pm.

Those damn dams: Senator Al Franken will host a screening of the movie DamNation on Tuesday, January 27, 5:30-8:30 pm at the US Capitol Visitor Center. This documentary explores how the US has changed its attitude towards dams from a source of national pride to environmental awareness. A panel discussion will follow the film. RSVP is requested.

Talk bikeshare's future: Help shape the future of Capital Bikeshare at an open house this Wednesday, January 18, 6-8 pm at the Marin Luther King Jr. Library at 901 G Street NW. Officials will discuss a possible price increase and future expansion. There will also be a trivia table and fun facts about bikeshare on display. You don't want to miss it.

The right way to make bikeways: Bill Schultheiss of Toole Design Group will speak about his experience building bike lanes in several US cities and his observations from abroad. The talk is Thursday, January 29, 6 pm at the Downtown BID, 1250 H Street NW Suite 1000. RSVP by January 28 to attend.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

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Help put us over the top! Give now and our editors will match your contribution

Greater Greater Washington - 3 hours 13 min ago
by David Alpert

To all of you who have stepped up to contribute so far during our reader drive to fund our operations for 2015, thank you! You've given $6,711 so far during the drive, and in addition, many of you also signed up for monthly or yearly contributions to give us an ongoing revenue stream.
An urbanist version of the donation thermometer. Original photo by ekelly80.

The reader drive is almost done—we're wrapping it up at our 7th birthday (wow!) on February 5th. Stay tuned for information about a party coming in March, but first, help us get closer to our $18,000 goal.

The entire editorial board of Greater Greater Washington, the board of directors, and a few major donors have come together to match your gifts in the lead up to our birthday. Starting today, they will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar for the next $5,250 we raise.

Click here to support Greater Greater Washington.

$18,000 is an ambitious goal; we set it with the knowledge that we have big plans for 2015, from expanding editor hours to growing the diversity of our base of writers.

If we can match the full $5,250, we'll be extremely close to this ambitious goal, and either way, on our way to solid start to 2015. We are serious about the future of this organization, and we are willing to put our money behind it in addition to our time.

Double your impact, and give now. Thank you!

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A book-of-the-month club for infants and toddlers aims to narrow the achievement gap

Greater Greater Washington - 4 hours 43 min ago
by Natalie Wexler

A new proposal to send a book a month to every DC child under five could help narrow the yawning literacy gap between poor and higher-income kids, which has its roots well before kindergarten. But ultimately, disadvantaged kids will need a lot more assistance than a book a month to catch up to their more affluent peers.
Photo of family reading from Shutterstock.

Spurred by low achievement among DC's low-income and minority students, Ward 6 DC Councilmember Charles Allen has introduced a bill modeled on similar programs in Tennessee and elsewhere.

Fewer than half of all third-graders scored proficient or advanced on the District's standardized reading test last year, and literacy scores in general have remained stubbornly flat since 2008. Allen and others say that exposing young children to books and language from the beginning of their lives is the key to solving that problem.

In some low-income households, Allen says, "the only book may be a phone book."

Allen got the idea about six months ago, while visiting his brother in Tennessee. Allen's two-year-old niece was "completely thrilled with this book that came in the mail," with her name on the address label.

It was part of a program called Imagination Library, based in Tennessee and founded by singer Dolly Parton. Imagination Library, which began in 1995, now sends monthly books to almost 770,000 children across the country.

DC would have its own local program

DC could have signed up to become part of Imagination Library, but Allen decided it made more sense to start an independent local program, which he's calling Books from Birth. One reason was that he wanted the books to reflect the diversity of DC's population.

Another reason was to involve the DC Public Library, which already has a program designed to get parents to verbally interact more with their children, called Sing, Talk, Read.

The legislation calls for DCPL to appoint a committee to recommend books. DCPL will then choose from the recommendations and send the books out along with information about library programs in each child's neighborhood, including literacy programs targeted at parents.

Allen hopes that pediatricians serving low-income families will reinforce the message that it's important to read to kids, and also help keep track of families as they move around the District.

Allen estimates that the cost will be $30 per child per year. With 41,000 eligible children, that comes to about $1.2 million annually. But the $30 figure is based on Imagination Library's costs. As Allen acknowledges, DC wouldn't be buying books in such large quantities, and it might not get the same volume discounts.

But even if the program ends up costing more, Allen says, "I think it's a sound investment."

Do the program's benefits justify the costs?

Sending free books to children certainly couldn't hurt, and even a couple million dollars a year isn't a huge amount in the scheme of things. But the question is whether that money might be better spent elsewhere.

One way to reduce costs would be to limit the program to low-income families, or at least to families who opt in. But Allen is adamant that the program should be universal and enrollment automatic.

Using a means test would create a stigma, he says. And parents who need the program the most might be the very ones deterred from filling out a form to enroll, in part because of their low literacy skills. (Allen is, however, anticipating that the program will be phased in beginning with younger ages, making the cost of the program $1.5 million over the first five years.)

A larger question is whether programs such as Books from Birth actually work. One study found that entering kindergarteners in the Memphis area who had been enrolled in the local Books from Birth program scored eight points higher on a reading readiness test that had an 86-point scale.

There's other data indicating that the programs have a positive impact on things like how much parents read to their children, but much of it is self-reported or anecdotal. On the other hand, as Allen points out, it may take many years before we know whether a program like this really works.

The 30-million-word gap

Allen ties the impetus for his bill to research published 20 years ago, which has come to be known as the "30-million-word gap" study. "Research shows," Allen said at a recent event, "that preschoolers who have access to books and adults who read to them will have heard 30 million more words at home by the age of four than children who do not."

But the study actually focused on income levels, not books or reading. It estimated that children in families on welfare heard 30 million fewer words than those in high-income families.

True, high-income families are more likely to have both books and parents who read to their children. But the study was looking at verbal interactions rather than reading, and not even just at the number of words children heard. Higher-income families spoke to their children differently, according to the researchers, giving them more praise and encouragement and asking more open-ended questions.

Some cities, most notably Providence, have tried to address the 30-million-word gap through programs that send home visitors to work with low-income parents so that they'll speak more, and more encouragingly, to their kids. Children in Providence are even fitted with devices that record the number of words they hear, and the kind of interactions they're engaged in.

While it's too soon to say whether that kind of home-visiting program will help close the achievement gap, it's clearly a more intensive approach than just sending out books—even if those books are accompanied by information about library programs.

Allen is aware of the Providence program and describes himself as "a huge fan" of literacy-focused home visiting. He sees the Books from Birth program as a first step in the direction of a comprehensive approach to early literacy that would include home visits.

He may be right to start relatively small. Home visiting programs are not only expensive, they're complicated to design and administer. And sending out books may well begin to prompt the kind of parent-child interactions that home visits could further develop.

With all ten of his colleagues on the DC Council having signed on to co-introduce Allen's Books from Birth bill, it has a good chance of passage. That's fine, and undoubtedly some children will benefit. But no one should be lulled into thinking that this program alone will solve the massive problem it's targeting.

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Live Urban Real Estate celebrates outstanding year of sales in 2014

Denver Real Estate - 5 hours 51 min ago
Denvers strong real estate market continued into 2014, and Live Urban Real Estate continued to show its sales strength in Denvers city-close neighborhoods. Ournbsp;urban-focus brokerage sold and closed 625 properties, which added up to a total sales volume of over $200,000,000.nbsp; Records indicate Livenbsp;Urbans brokers performed considerably better than average among its peers, selling homes listed by the brokerage for 99 of the original list price. The average sold price for all brokers in the area is 96.9. Live Urban brokers also sold homes faster than average, putting homes under contract in an average of 21 days. Other Denver area brokers took nearly twice as long, 41 days. Our website continues at a record-breaking pace, with over-all traffic up 24 over 2013. Over 185,000 unique visitors went to LiveUrbanDenver.com to search for properties. Thats over 500 new people per day And our popularity across social media exploded. We have over 4000 Likes on Facebook, and our Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest feeds continue to grow and exceptional rates. In 2014, job growth and low mortgage rates encouraged consumers to enter the housing market, fueling strong sales. Sales volume for the entire Denver metro market increased from previous yearsrsquo; levels with many Denver area communities seeing double-digit gains. A very active condo-townhouse market was a contributing factor, with strong gains in most measurements. Tight inventory levels and strong demand drove average and median sales price increases throughout the region.nbsp;Average sales prices reached an all-time high and inventory levels dropped to a ten-year low.nbsp; Read more about Denvers real estate market at ReColorado.com. nbsp;
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Accounting for population, the world map looks totally different

Greater Greater Washington - 6 hours 13 min ago
by Dan Malouff

This is a world population cartogram, a false-geography map that resizes countries according to their population. It's an interesting way to view the world, and compared to common projections perhaps more accurate, in its own way.


Map from Reddit user TeaDranks

The United States is the world's fourth largest country by land area, and third largest by population, so it's not particularly distorted compared to geographic projections. But many other countries are.

China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion) visually dominate, being by far the world's two most populous countries. Others that stand out with seemingly oversized populations are Nigeria, Bangladesh, Japan, and the Philippines.

On the other end of the spectrum, the world's two largest countries by land area are much reduced. Russia's population of 146 million is still good enough for 9th highest globally, but that appears unimpressive against its normally huge area. And Canada, the world's second largest country but only its 37th most populous, is just a tiny sliver.

What stands out to you?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

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Breakfast links: Accumulation

Greater Greater Washington - 7 hours 20 min ago
by Matt Malinowski


Photo by Matthias Ripp on Flickr.Storm's a-comin': A "potentially historic" storm will befall the East Coast, though it should largely miss the DC region. Nonetheless, DDOT is ready to clear bike lanes using a new plow. (Post, DCBAC)

When was "peak car"?: People across the country have been driving less since 2004. Is this because of the economy? The decline actually started considerably earlier in many states, suggesting it was not due to the recession, but perhaps a shift to the information economy. (Post, Dave Murphy)

Mixed results for mixed-income: Poor boys living in mixed-income areas are more likely to fight, lie, and steal than their peers in uniformly poor areas, a study found. The effect does not apply to girls. (New Republic)

Charge on I-95: BMW and Volkswagen will build fast-charging stations for electric cars between DC and Boston. The stations can charge a car in 20 minutes, boosting sales and efforts to meet fuel efficiency standards. (NYT)

More than one way to zero: New York and San Francisco both began Vision Zero campaigns a year ago, but their approaches differ. New York lowered speeds, while San Francisco used data to fix trouble spots. Which will work best? (Next City)

School cuts: Muriel Bowser wants to take funds from school modernization projects at Garrison (in Logan Circle) and Marie Reed (in Adams Morgan) as well as smaller amounts from others. (DCUM) ... Prince William schools are facing an $11 million shortfall and may cut busing for special activities and full-day kindergarten. (Potomac Local)

Redevelopment in trouble: Zoning Commissioners were "appalled" by conditions for tenants at a Congress Heights property and seem unlikely to approve a proposed redevelopment that could displace them. (City Paper)

And...: The auto industry invented the crime of jaywalking to diffuse outrage over deaths caused by drivers. (Vox, Frank IBC) ... Even New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward is facing gentrification. (Guardian) ... A shooting near a Prince George's synagogue highlights problems with current dance hall regulations. (Post)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.

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Retrofitting Dead and Dying Suburban Malls: What Works?

Planetizen blogs - Sun, 2015-01-25 16:00
Denver is a national leader in retrofitting the Great American Suburban Mall. But how well are these retrofits working? A comparative analysis of field reports by college-age Millennials offers some insight.
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Slide The City is coming to Denver this summer

Denver Real Estate - Fri, 2015-01-23 19:13
Since therersquo;s been snow on the ground for weeks now, all of us in Denver are bound to be thinking about Summer. Hot, sunny Colorado days are in our future So imagine our excitement when we saw Denver on the list of Coming Soon cities for Slide The City Slide The City is bringing 1000 feet of slicknbsp;vinyl to brighten Denver streets. Come dressed to impress because itrsquo;s not every day you can strut through Denver with yournbsp;hot bod, cool dance moves and slick slides. Did we mention 1000 feet? Yeah, thatrsquo;s over 3 football fields. Theyrsquo;ve posted a video of all the fun on their Facebook page. The slide travels around the country, and is a family friendly slip-and-slide water party event. There will be live music, food, drinks, water, and of course the biggest slip and slide ever to hit asphalt. Best yet, they create partnerships to benefit local non-profits. Learn more about the event at http://www.slidethecity.com/events/denver/, where you can sign up to get on their mailing list, so yoursquo;ll be the first to know when they announce the exact date and location in Denver
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Live in this Beautiful Condo in the Heart of Capitol Hill

Denver Real Estate - Fri, 2015-01-23 15:15
Live in the heart of Capitol Hill in this charming and beautifully maintained condo located in a secure building. Just steps to all to all of the Capitol Hill attractions and a short walk to all of the Uptown restaurants and cafes. Also just a short walk to public transit and very close to downtown. Relax in the spacious master suite with five piece master bath and huge walk in closet. Enjoy morning coffee on the quiet, private balcony. The open floor plan and cozy fireplace make this condo perfect for entertaining. Deeded parking space in secure garage and private storage included. Donrsquo;t miss this opportunity to own in a great location for under $300K Listed by Sara Murdoch and Sandi Klatt, The Live Denver Team, for Live Urban Real Estate. Please contact Sara for current pricing and availability. 1415 Washington Street 202 Denver CO 80203. 2 Bedrooms. 2 Bathrooms. 1181 Square Feet.nbsp; $290,000. nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
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Metro in the Flickr pool

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 15:14
by Aimee Custis

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.


Pentagon City. Photo by washingtonydc.


Federal Center SW. Photo by Brian Allen.


Judiciary Square. Photo by nevermindtheend.


East Falls Church. Photo by Adam Field.


Metro Center. Photo by JJ Jackson.

Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!

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Where Maryland's big three transit projects stand in Hogan's budget

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 13:53
by Dan Reed

Maryland governor Larry Hogan's proposed budget includes funding for the state's big three transit projects: the Purple Line, Baltimore Red Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway. But none of the projects appear to be out of the woods yet.
Image from the Maryland Transit Administration.

Hogan's 2016 budget includes $312.8 million for the Purple Line, "pending review and reevaluation." Baltimore's Red Line is slated to receive $106.2 million, also pending review and reevaluation.

That's the full amount that MDOT needs for both rail projects in the upcoming fiscal year. The pending review is potentially troublesome, but this budget is adequate to keep these projects alive through at least the next step.

For the Purple Line, that will be assessing private sector bids to help with construction costs.

For the $2.4 billion Purple Line, the Maryland Transit Administration had requested between $350 and $750 million from the state, spread out over several years. The rest of the funding for the project will come from $220 million from Montgomery and Prince George's counties, a $900 million contribution from the federal government, and several hundred million dollars from the private sector.

The Red Line has an estimated cost of $2.9 billion. In addition to the proposed state money, there are also funding commitments from local governments, and $900 million from the federal government. It's not clear yet where the rest of the funding will come from.

Hogan's budget also includes $18.2 million for engineering work on the Corridor Cities Transitway bus rapid transit line in upper Montgomery County. That's less than the total of $100 million needed from the state, but it's possible that it may cover the most immediate costs.

The Corridor Cities Transitway hasn't been as much of a lightning rod as the two rail lines, so it would be more of a surprise if Hogan targeted it for cuts.

What happens next?

Hogan campaigned on a platform of reducing government spending and building roads instead of transit, so this news is a blessing for transit supporters. But the Purple and Red lines aren't done deals yet.

For the Purple Line, it's likely that Hogan is waiting to see the bids for a public-private partnership to build and run the project. Maryland wants the private partner to provide between $500 and $900 million, but if the bid is too low and the state has to provide more money than Hogan's budgeted, then the Purple Line may be in trouble. The bids are due March 12.

If Hogan does decide to pull the plug on the Purple Line (or the Red Line) before those projects get underway, the amount he's budgeted in FY 2016 would go unspent, and the MTA budget would likely be lower in future fiscal years as a result.

Hogan's actions could prompt the state legislature to allow Montgomery and Prince George's counties to tax themselves to help pay for the Purple Line. However, Montgomery County had already envisioned taxing districts as a way to pay for its proposed bus rapid transit network, and voters may be unwilling to accept a tax increase large enough to pay for two big transit projects at the same time.

The governor's budget also includes money for maintaining existing transit systems. WMATA would get $238.2 million for its capital improvements program, while the Maryland Transit Administration would receive $101 million for upgrades to Baltimore's transit system, including refurbished light rail cars, new buses, and a new bus facility.

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SNL and Parks and Rec take on urbanism

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 12:43
by Canaan Merchant

Modern urban planning issues have had a good recent stretch in TV comedy. Below, check out clips of both Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec talking about how cities and our attitudes about them have changed.

In the above skit from this week's SNL, host Kevin Hart and cast members Kenan Thompson and Jay Pharoah portray residents of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Their characters embrace both the old and new stereotypes on display in many changing urban neighborhoods.

It's a smart skit that talks about how gentrification is a nuanced two-way street. All residents benefit from a neighborhood's positives whether they're old or new, and the same goes for a neighborhood's challenges.

Parks and Rec

On Tuesday, Parks and Recreation a show whose plotline has always included urban planning, pitted two of its characters on opposite sides of a debate over development.

Leslie and Ron used to be friends and colleagues in the Parks Department but have since fallen out; they've moved on to new jobs as well. In a flashback, viewers learn that a root of the ongoing conflict between the two is a decision Ron made to build a mixed-use apartment building next to a park that Leslie helped establish.

Leslie doesn't like the idea of an apartment building because it would both replace low-density housing (including a home that was personally important to her) and obstruct views. She calls the building a "monstrosity" and mocks its name, calling it pretentious. Ron counters that there is demand for more housing in that area and that more people living near the park will mean more people using it.

In Ron's office, we see renderings of a building that wouldn't look out of place in many DC area neighborhoods. That's a reminder that we have seen this basic argument, where some think that there is too much development going on and others think there isn't enough, play out all over the DC region, including in the comments of GGW posts.

Since the scene is a flashback, we don't actually find out if the apartment building went up or not. Down the road, perhaps we'll read about the ongoing debate on Greater Greater Pawnee.

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Detached in Denver for Under $200K? Yes Check out this lovely Green Valley Ranch Home.

Denver Real Estate - Fri, 2015-01-23 12:06
Beautifully maintained home in a quiet neighborhood. Easy access to public transportation, I-70, DIA and Downtown. Shopping, restaurants, bank and grocery store just a few blocks away. This light filled home is cozy and comfortable. Lots of storage with an over-sized 2 car attached garage. Low maintenance with the HOA taking care of common areas, fences, trash and snow removal. Bedrooms have great mountain views and loft area upstairs is perfect for an entertainment center or a home office. Wonderful back patio and deck, perfect for barbecuing. Garden area that blooms with bright colors from Spring to Fall. Dont miss this opportunity to own for under $200k Listed by Brad Yoshimitsu for Live Urban Real Estate. Please contact Brad for current pricing and availability. 21461 East 47th Avenue Denver CO 80249. 3 Bedrooms. 3 Bathrooms. 1300 Square Feet. $199,000. nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp; nbsp;
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Bus stops around DC are getting real-time arrival displays

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 10:50
by David Alpert

If you ride the bus on 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, H Street/Benning Road, Wisconsin Avenue, or Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, it may already be easier to know when your bus is coming. New real-time screens have already appeared on 37 bus stops, and more are coming.


Photo by Reginald Bazile on Twitter used with permission.

The District Department of Transportation is installing these screens in bus shelters on these high-ridership bus corridors. According to Sam Zimbabwe of DDOT, they are part of an initial order of 56, and the agency hopes to have 120 by March.


One of the new signs. Photo from PoPville used with permission.

The money comes from a federal TIGER grant, part of the 2009 stimulus bill. The Washington region won a grant in 2010 to improve bus service.

Many of the projects then stalled for years, and there still isn't new signal priority, where signals adapt to help keep the buses moving, beyond the limited one that had already existed on Georgia Avenue. But it's great to see these screens, which should make riding the bus much less of a mystery.

Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone who does knows how to pull up the real-time info. Research shows that people even perceive the wait to be shorter when they have the information than when they don't.

Have you used any of the signs yet?

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Extending Approval for State Plan Centers Could Harm Coastal Towns

New Jersey Future - Fri, 2015-01-23 10:00

Mystic Island endorsed center projected flooding vulnerability in 2050 under 1-percent storm scenario

On Dec. 18, 2014, New Jersey Future submitted comments (pdf) to the State Planning Commission (SPC) on its proposed Amendment to the State Planning Rules that would extend the period of approvals for any center designations granted by the commission prior to Sept. 6, 2008, by an additional three years beyond their otherwise applicable expiration dates.

Centers were created in the State Plan as a means of identifying areas most suitable for growth, while environmentally sensitive lands are kept protected. The state government provides incentives such as expedited and coordinated permit review to communities that undertake the planning necessary to create centers.

Centers approved by the State Planning Commission’s center designation process were supposed to be endorsed for a period of six years, whereas those centers that were created through plan endorsement expired every 10 years. Many of these centers would have expired if it were not for three Permit Extension Acts, which extended the period of those approvals. And now, the State Planning Commission’s proposed amendment would extend by an additional three years the period of approvals for plan endorsements and center designations that would have expired on Dec. 31, 2014, or June 30, 2015.

Given the economic reality created by the recent recession and the expense of going through plan endorsement, this extension may appear reasonable at first blush. However, Hurricane Sandy changed dramatically our understanding of how vulnerable our coastal communities are. As climate change accelerates, sea-level rise and the severity of storms, flood risks continue to grow. This means that many coastal centers contain areas at increasingly high risk for flooding and damage to land, homes and businesses.

In an analysis of the Mystic Island designated center within Little Egg Harbor Township in Ocean County performed by New Jersey Future based on sea-level-rise projections developed by Rutgers University, under a projected 1-percent-storm scenario in 2050, 52 percent of the total acreage within the center is likely to be inundated regularly by water (see map). Given these results, which are similar to those in other coastal communities, it is inadvisable to allow the boundaries of these centers to remain as they are currently and to continue to steer future development into these flood-prone locations. In the absence of actions municipalities might take that would be designed to mitigate impacts from future storms, it also may be inadvisable to steer growth to these flood-prone locations.

Instead, New Jersey Future recommends that the State Planning Commission extend center designations in coastal areas for a one-year period, and that during this time the commission assist municipalities in performing risk assessments, including mapping of areas likely to be flooded today and in 2050. These assessments could identify areas and populations that will be at risk and the corresponding maps would guide revisions to center boundaries.

Since New Jersey Future’s comments were submitted a fourth Permit Extension Act was signed in December 2014, which extended the period of approvals issued for center designations statewide for another one-year period, removing the urgency from the commission’s proposal. Regardless, the commission has a timely opportunity to apply lessons from Hurricane Sandy and make the state more resilient to potential flooding and storms associated with climate change, and to use the coming year to update center boundaries to reflect vulnerability to flooding.

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Mercedes imagines passengers in driverless cars never interacting with the world outside

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 09:20
by Matt Malinowski

Driverless cars still aren't ready for consumers to buy, but they're getting closer. When they do, they will reduce dangers and hassles of driving but will not magically eliminate congestion. And it would be a shame if automation totally isolated the riders from the places they travel through, as one concept from Mercedes does.


Scale model of the Mercedes F015 concept car. Photo by the author.

Electric and driverless car concepts made a big splash at this month's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Two concepts from BMW and Mercedes show what is coming soon.

While BMW's entry shows how technological advances might improve cities for everyone, Mercedes' ideas could give new meaning to the term "windshield perspective" by creating a car that completely isolates the rider from the places he or she is traveling through.
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BMW hopes to make parking easier

BMW's foray into automation, called the i3, can't quite drive itself down a city street. But it can park. At the push of a remote, the vehicle can roll forward, without a driver.


BMW i3. Photo by the author.

That sort of innovation may not revolutionize cities as we know them, but it could have immediate practical impacts. A self-parking car could squeeze into tighter parking spots. That could make our parking lots more efficient, saving space and reducing drivers' desire to circle for a better spot.

BMW hopes to continue developing the i3 until it can fully retrieve itself from a parking lot, sans driver. But manufacturers aren't stopping there. Other features include things like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure detection, and eventually full automation.

Mercedes hopes to block out the outside world

BMW wasn't the only car company at CES. Mercedes also made news, with its completely autonomous F015 concept car.

According to Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz, the F015's futuristic design protects its driver in an exclusive "cocoon" of luxury.


Mercedes' F015 concept car. Photo by lincolnblues on Flickr.

With its F015 design, Mercedes strives to isolate passengers behind silvered slits of windows and extra-thick doors. Since the car drives itself, there's no need for anyone in it to bother themselves with views of the outside world. Instead, touch screen computer panels line the doors.

Zetsche compared the car to an exclusive condo, contrasting it with a public subway car that anybody can enter. He recalled Margaret Thatcher's infamous comment that anyone on a bus beyond age 26 "can count himself a failure."

Techno wizardry aside, Zetsche's comments and Mercedes' designs are troublingly antisocial.

Many car drivers already exhibit a "windshield perspective", where the outside of the car seems like an entirely separate, and somehow less real world. That perspective has all sorts of negative effects, from promoting road rage to encouraging snap judgments that magnify social biases.

By taking the next step and literally blocking the outside world from motorists' eyes, Mercedes will surely exaggerate the effect. The world will be out of sight, out of mind.

Will driverless cars cure congestion?

It's still an open question whether autonomous cars will improve congestion or worsen it. On the one hand, they'll eliminate much human error and potentially use road space more efficiently. On the other hand, if more people use cars more often, congestion will likely get worse.

In the meantime, taxis may offer an instructive example.

Like with autonomous cars, travelers can hail taxis whenever they want, and with taxis one need not cruise around for parking. Nonetheless, outside CES at the Las Vegas convention center there was plenty of taxi congestion.

Cabs were simultaneously numerous enough to clog the streets and insufficient to serve everyone waiting for a ride. A colleague reported standing in line for 40 minutes until he could get a ride. Even queued up in a line and ready to go, cabs simply could not move fast enough to load all passengers in a timely manner.

Queuing like at the Las Vegas taxi stand isn't a problem driverless cars will solve. They may reduce some congestion by eliminating cruising for parking or by forming platoons on the highway, but at some point, everything comes down to geometry.

Anyone who's ever tried to catch a cab at DC's Union Station during a busy time of day knows exactly what my colleague experienced.

Meanwhile, I walked around the corner from the convention center, waited five minutes, and took the bus.


A viable alternative to driverless cars. Photo by the author.

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High-Rises and Streetlife

Planetizen blogs - Fri, 2015-01-23 08:00
The common claim that "high-rises kill streetlife" is often incorrect.
Categories: CNU blogs

Breakfast links: Bike lanes coming

Greater Greater Washington - Fri, 2015-01-23 07:52
by Russ Doubleday


Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.Next bike lanes: DDOT is proposing ten new bike lanes on nine miles of major streets including Pennsylvania Avenue west of the White House. While not protected bikeways, they still require removing lanes of traffic. (TheWashCycle)

More Metro fallout: DC encrypted its fire department radios but never told WMATA, officials say. Metro was trying to troubleshoot when the incident occurred. (Washington Times) ... The death and injuries could mean many lawsuits. (City Paper)

No endangered species: After 10 to 15 searches in Rock Creek Park within Montgomery County, an American University professor has found no evidence of any endangered crustaceans near the proposed Purple Line route. (Post)

A vision, realized: Ten years ago, DC's former planning director Andy Altman planned a new neighborhood around the Navy Yard. Now, he's back and is amazed at the transformation that he envisioned long ago. (City Paper)

Candidate campaigns on Metro: State delegate Scott Surovell is running for state senate and listed extending the Yellow Line as a top priority. (Fairfax Times)

The wandering museum: The National Children's Museum tried to get a spot on the Mall, then at L'Enfant Plaza, but the recession scuttled plans. So it moved to National Harbor, but couldn't attract enough donations for a building. What's next? (Post)

We're driving less: The number of miles that Americans travel by car each year is falling since a peak in 2004, with many states peaking in the 1990s. Researchers think that car travel and economic activity are no longer coupled together. (Post)

And...: New bike grip technology claims to provide "eyes-free navigation." (CityLab) ... How should cities handle the demise of the parking meter? (Bacon's Rebellion) ... When is it appropriate for bicyclists to pass cars at a stoplight? (City Paper)

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 35

Greater Greater Washington - Thu, 2015-01-22 14:00
by Matt Johnson

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-fifth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 41 guesses this week. An amazing 12 of you got all five. Great work, Alex B, Peter K, dan reed!, Mr. Johnson, K Conaway, Spork!, MZEBE, DAR, Justin...., hftf, Chris H, and Frank IBC!


Image 1: Wiehle Avenue

I snapped the first image on the Wiehle Avenue station's southern bridge. The main clue here is the freeway below. You can see the six eastbound lanes of the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Airport Access Road. The gambrel roof of the station, which is visible at left, also narrows this down to one of the three new Silver Line stations with that roof type. Thirty-two of you knew this one.


Image 2: Fort Totten

The next image shows the bus loop and upper level platforms at Fort Totten. One clue here is the tall steel beam running along the station. This is part of the bridge structure that holds up the CSX tracks that flank the Metro tracks between Brookland and Silver Spring. Takoma and Silver Spring also have similar beams, but their layouts are different. The bus loop, which extends under the bridge, is the clearest indicator that this is Fort Totten and not Takoma. Another clue that this isn't Takoma is that the platform continues above the roadway, which is not the case there. Thirty-two guessed correctly.


Image 3: Eisenhower Avenue

The third image was taken from Eisenhower Avenue looking north. At center is an inbound Yellow Line train. The tracks that split off here turn west and go into the Alexandria Rail Yard, which is along the Blue Line. These lead tracks allow Yellow Line trains to be put into service without first going to King Street and reversing. The perspective (off to one side of the tracks) also means that this is a side platform station, which considerably narrows the field. Twenty-eight of you got this one.


Image 4: Wheaton

This picture shows the pedestrian bridge over Viers Mill Road that links Wheaton station to its parking garage and the Wheaton Plaza shopping mall. It's a fairly distinctive bridge, and there aren't any others in the Metro system that share its design. Twenty-seven knew this was Wheaton.


Image 5: Foggy Bottom

The final image shows the entrance to Foggy Bottom station. Metro completely rebuilt this entrance a few years ago. Prior to its reconstruction, it had three escalators. But when one or more was broken, the lines to get into and out of the station were legendary. When WMATA rebuilt it, they put in three new escalators in such a way that there was room for a staircase. The LED lights glinting off the sides of the escalator are a clue here. Another clue is the building visible just outside, which is on the northeast corner of 23rd and I NW. Twenty-two got this one right.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next Tuesday.

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