What We're Reading: June 19

Happy Friday! Here are a few articles that piqued our interest this week:

  • Minneapolis proposes to eliminate minimum parking requirements near transit: This step, if taken by Minneapolis, could lower rents by removing the hidden cost of parking, and could open up room for additional residential in-fill.
  • U.S. sprawl peaked in 1994 and has been declining ever since: Measuring sprawl as poorly-connected, dead-end streets (which Chapel Hill has plenty of...), these researchers show that sprawl has been declining since 1994
  • Seattle's smart plan to remake its streets: This Grist piece detailing the direction in which Seattle is moving when it comes to its transportation network provides an instructive look at how cities are moving away from automobile dependency to multimodal approaches for the future
  • The road less traveled is in Oregon: This report details how Oregon has managed to reduce its total number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) even as its population has increased. And what makes this all the more notable is that Oregon simultaneously saw its economic productivity increase, making it the only U.S. state where this happened. 
  • How cities grow big; not how big cities grow: This piece by Brent Toderian, Vancouver's former planning director, hits on so many great points about growth -- specifically, if there is an "ideal city size" or if cities can stop growing. It's so releveant to many debates in Chapel Hill and Carrboro that here are some excerpts:

...[W]hat really matters is how you grow big, not how big you grow. In other words, it isn't size that matters—it's design that matters. You can have a well-designed larger city that works, or a poorly designed smaller city that's dysfunctional. Your city can get better as it grows, or worse. The key variables are the values, intelligence, and tools that shape your growth choices.




Even if there was an ideal city size, could you stop growth at that size? Very few cities, especially successful cities, have tried to stop growth, and those that have tried have likely created or exacerbated other problems, not the least of which is affordability.


Trying to stop population growth in a successful city that is attracting people, talent and investment, would likely only succeed only in stopping well-planned growth. People still come—they just come in unplanned ways that translate into scenarios like Favelas in Latin America, or illegal suites in North America.




Growth in a constrained context can be a good thing. It can mean that as we grow more up than out, we’re improving our ecological footprint, supporting important things like public transit and walkable, complete communities, and making our region less car-dependent. But even in "unconstrained" geographies, cities are hitting fiscal "walls" relative to the staggering public costs of sprawl, or resource "walls" relative to natural resource shortages such as water, and thus are needing to achieve the same smarter, more sustainable outcomes. No one has land/money/resources to waste.


Another great read from this week comes from Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene's blog post on why she voted for Obey Creek. It's excellent, and gives me faith that our elected officials are making smart decisions and leaves me more optimistic about our community's future.


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