Valuing the Public Realm

West River Commons Plaza

Are we doing enough to create good cities and urbanism? Perhaps we need to be thinking first about the design of public space and then private development. Read more >

Taking local action

Minneapolis Skyline CC licensed by flickr user Doug Wallick

Over at Grist, David Roberts lays down the brutal logic of climate change:

With immediate, concerted action at global scale, we have a slim chance to halt climate change at the extremely dangerous level of 2 degrees C. If we delay even a decade -- waiting for better technology or a more amenable political situation or whatever -- we will have no chance.

And what's so special about 2 degrees C?  Well, that may be something like a point of no return.

The thing is, if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic. In fact, according to the latest science, says Anderson, "a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond 'adaptation', is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable."

Roberts is citing the work of Kevin Anderson, former head of the UK's leading climate research institution.  Other scientists are making similar predictions.  James Hanson, director of Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says, "The target of 2C... is a prescription for long-term disaster".  Increasingly, you don't have to look far to find words like "apocalyptic" being used to describe the path we're on.

So we need to reverse course on emissions by 2015, and in dramatic fashion.  But the latest round of international talks seem to be on shaky ground.  All US climate bills have so far failed.  So what's a local planner or public official to do?  Decry the problem as global in scope and thus unsolvable? Shrug shoulders and pour a stiff drink?  While I have a healthy amount of skepticism about the ability of one jurisdiction or even one state to have a measurable impact on the global trendline, I think we absolutely must be making our best efforts now, for a number of reasons:

  Read more >

In defense of zoning

[Minneapolis has seen zoning constraints with the Pillsbury A Mill project, which has been downscaled both due to local complaints and market conditions].

Zoning has been criticized by many of a libertarian bent as denying individual property owners the right to do what they want with their property. It has also been criticized by densificationists who declaim the damnably high rents induced by real density caps enabled by zoning. I discussed some of these issues relating to height limits yesterday. I am of a libertarian bent and I like density, so why do I, in principle, think zoning is a useful concept? Read more > Podcast #2: Bicycling and Transportation Funding with Julie Kolsab

One of the new green bike lanes on the U of MN campus.

In this episode, we're talking with Julie Kolsab, a certified bicycle instructor and blogger at Ride Boldly. We sat down about a week ago at the Swede Hollow Café to discuss the state of transportation funding, bicycling, and how cities are coping with limited budgets.

Enjoy! We're going to have these podcasts up on iTunes soon, but in the meantime you can download them from the archive website.

Thanks. Read more >

Metrodome TOD site plan includes "central park"

A sketch of the planned post-Metrodome future.

Here's an article on the 2003 land use plans on file with the city about the Metrodome site. They've planned a mixed-use TOD high density area surrounding a park and a "centennial lakes" style lake near the burdgeoning Guthrie condo area.

What do you think? Is this a pre-housing bubble plan? What might it look at in the current market? Read more >

Bicycle Parking in the Capital City

Last week we had a post on the site about new off-street car parking requirements in Saint Paul. I thought that the city should have included minimum levels of bicycle parking in its updated planning codes – turns out they already are.

Donna Drummond and Kate Reilly, who are planners for St. Paul, wrote back and let us know about new bicycle requirements that will soon be before the city council. The proposed changes are attached as PDFs, and certainly represent a step forward. The new code after the break Read more >

Mia Birk: Twin Ciites Has a Great Foundation for a World Class Biking Future

Mia Birk talking bike lanes at the Hotel Minneapolis last night.

There was a great turnout at the Hotel Minneapolis last night for Mia Birk's talk about bike planning in the US. Birk was the Bicycle Coordinator for Portland, OR for much of the 90s, and she was brought here by Tranit for Liveable Communities to talk about how to go about advocating and planning a bicycle-centered city. She had a lot of great thigs to say about Minneapolis, including that our bike trail system is the best in the country. 

(She didn't think much of Hennepin Avenue's shared bus lane/bike lane concept, though. She said that it wasn't the kind of thing that would lure people who aren't necesarily comfortable biking out of their cars and onto their bicycles.) 

Is the grass always greener?

Bullet train in Japan

Is the grass always greener? In the United States we are usually challenged to use local examples of what a good transportation network looks like. Even NYC and Portland, two usual suspects, have their varied issues. David Lazarus at the LA Times thinks:

I hate to be cynical, but I simply can't imagine political leaders at the local, state or federal level telling voters that they support a big increase in gas taxes, sky-high parking fees and high-density neighborhoods.

So don't hold your breath for a public transportation system that rivals what our friends abroad enjoy. It's not going to happen -- at least not until a majority of us agree that we're prepared to accept the trade-offs necessary to bring about such a wholesale change in how we live and travel. 

I am more hopeful that quality of life issues will push this issue and make it relevant for all of us. Imagining a different way of life really is not that much to ask. Read more >