When cities invest in infrastructure, it’s often the gray stuff like roads and bridges. Or it’s hidden away like water and sewer pipes. Not to say that infrastructure isn’t interesting and vital to a city’s success, but it’s hard to get excited about.
Pittsburgh has developed software to calculate the value of street trees, and found that it gets far more benefit than it spends, according to Next City. "Pittsburgh found that the city’s street trees — strictly those planted in sidewalks and medians — provided $2.4 million worth of environmental and aesthetic value every year... Given the city’s annual expenditures of $850,000 on street tree planting and maintenance, Tree Pittsburgh concluded that the city received $3 in benefits for every dollar it invested in street trees." Trees filter air and water, sequester carbon, offer habitat and shade, reduce the urban heat-island effect, boost property values, buffer storms, and even provide a source of energy through waste wood and mulch, among other services, Next City reports.
With parking now consuming as much as 30 percent of precious urban land in some American cities, it’s no wonder that parking has become one of the leading hot-button issues in planning and urban design. Rethinking A Lot enters the parking fray with MIT Professor Eran Ben-Joseph tackling the issue of ubiquitous and banal surface parking lots. Ben-Joseph believes that these lots are ripe for design interventions with the potential to make parking lots a significant civic element like plazas and parks, writes planner and Cornell lecturer David West in his review for the January-February 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns. Ben-Joseph's book focuses narrowly on better design for surface parking, but does not delve into wider discussions of parking mandates and whether we need so much parking in the first place. The publisher is MIT Press.