Showing posts from July, 2015

Transportation: Which side am I on?

The Department of Transportation, in its single-minded pursuit of traffic flow, has destroyed more American towns than General Sherman.--ANDRES DUANY (quoted at Speck 2012: 87)
The U.S. Highway Trust Fund runs out of money at the end this week, unless Congress can agree on an appropriations formula. The fact that both the House and Senate are seriously at work suggests they're close, but details (including non-germane provisions attached to this supposedly "must-pass" measure) remain to be negotiated. Note that "pay-as-you-go" budget rules require that Congress offset increased spending in this area with compensating revenue or savings somewhere else. The Senate is poised to vote on a six-year extension of the fund, plus reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, albeit the bill only accounts for funding for the first three years through a number of fixes; the House has passed a short-term extension, after which they hope to have funding for a long-term exte…

Greetings from Washington (Iowa)

The southeast Iowa town of Washington played host to two presidential candidates on the same day last week, enticing a nearby urbanist to explore how they have added contemporary features to its traditional pattern of development.

As Ben Kaplan (cited below) points out, Washington has grown in recent decades, but slowly, enabling it to retain its older development pattern. Its population in 1940 was 5227, not much smaller at the time than the Chicago suburb where I grew up. But while my former town has grown by a factor of 8 since then, with sprawling subdivisions surrounding what had been a compact, walkable core, Washington's population has increased less than 50 percent, to 7266 in the 2010 census.

Doubtless there were people in Washington who wished their town had grown like topsy (or like Ben's counter-example of North Liberty, Iowa). But for whatever reason--revolutionary changes in agriculture, no nearby large city to become a suburb to--it didn't happen, and now Wa…

CR churches

A collection of small churches south of downtown Cedar Rapids speaks to the role houses of worship have historically played, and can still play, in resilient communities. Decades ago, when Cedar Rapids (and all other American cities) was a compact town, the residential areas around downtown featured a wide variety of Christian churches. Some of them--most recently, People's Church (Unitarian-Universalist) and First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)--have been demolished to make room for bland new commercial development. Both churches relocated to the west side in 2011. Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, formed in Oak Hill-Jackson in 1914, relocated after the 2008 flood from 824 8th Street SE (where it had resided since 1916) to the edge of town.
That property is now part of a parking lot.

But others remain, continue to serve congregations, and are among the assets Cedar Rapids carries into our uncertain century.

Dallas May, writing on the Dallas-based Street Smarts blog (c…

VIDEO: Chuck Marohn in Iowa City

The Iowa City public access channel, City Channel 4, recorded the Curbside Chat by Strong Towns President Charles Marohn on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. The link is The entire presentation, including Q-and-A, runs 1:45:00.

Iowa City-based readers may also view the talk on City Channel 4 at the following times:
July 18, 2015 @ 09:00 AM
July 20, 2015 @ 06:00 AM
July 20, 2015 @ 05:00 PM
July 22, 2015 @ 02:00 PM
July 23, 2015 @ 12:00 AM
July 24, 2015 @ 10:00 PM

Charles Marohn, "Iowa DOT Chief: The System is Going to Shrink," Strong Towns, 6 July 2015
B.A. Morelli, "Road System Will Shrink, DOT Says," Cedar Rapids Gazette, 15 July 2015, 1A, 15A

Chicago: Bloomingdale Trail and Bucktown

This week marks the first "monthiversary" of Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail, also known as the 606, which opened with great fanfare and no coincidence on June 6. It's a high-trestle trail, constructed along abandoned railroad tracks, running east-west for 2.7 miles on the west side of Chicago. As can be seen on this map, it runs alongside Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 N)--hence the name--between Ashland (1600 W) and Ridgeway (3750 W) Avenues. No doubt it was inspired by New York's High-Line Trail. 80,000 people live within ten minutes' walk from the trail.

We walked on the morning of what would become a hot, humid Monday. The trail was well-used by people of all ages and physical conditions--mostly pedestrians, with some cyclists. My friend Mary Scott-Boria, who lives nearby and is a tireless evangelist for the trail who has been on it at least four days a week since it opened, reports it gets more crowded towards mid-day and stays so well into the evening. Use is…