Land Use

Photo by jennifer yin licensed under Creative Commons

Greater Greater Washington writes about where we live, work, and play, why we make the location choices we do, and what forces shape these places.

Many people would like to live in safe, diverse, walkable neighborhoods with access to transit, stores, parks, good schools, and other amenities. While our region has more walkable urban places than most, the demand still exceeds available housing, making these places more expensive (and prices keep rising rapidly).

We must ensure that there are enough housing choices so everyone who wants to live in such a neighborhood can choose to do so. We should ensure that housing in desirable areas is available to people at many points along the income spectrum, and take action to fight segregation. And we can improve the vitality of all neighborhoods by encouraging new retail and amenities to improve the quality of life for all residents.

  • What free market?

    Houston is the poster child for bad urban planning - or should I say the complete lack of any planning.  Developers build subdivisions across the Texas plains, and the government builds freeways to them, in an endless cycle of sprawl.  This Houston Chronicle article talks about the many negative effects this is having on the region, from decaying inner-ring suburbs to…  Keep reading…

  • Harvard’s Allston plan: wow

    The architects hired by Harvard University to study locating facilities in Allston have created an interim report, and it’s really nice.  If Harvard really implements most of it, rather than getting cheap and cutting the more expensive pieces which improve quality of life, it sounds as though a really nice new campus might result.  I’m pleasantly surprised,…  Keep reading…

  • Two plans for Times Square

    Times Square was once a seedy place that many New Yorkers avoided, except for brief forays to a Broadway show.  Today, many New Yorkers still avoid it, but for the opposite reason - it is really, really crowded.  According to the Times Square Alliance, streets in Times Square burst with up to 16,817 people per hour on the busiest sidewalks, plus 1,279 people who can’t…  Keep reading…

  • Stop the space elevator, or, it’s the Battery Bridge all over again

    This is wonderful.  And a very clever satire on an important issue.  Keep reading…

  • The sprawl lovers

    There’s something aesthetically appealing about big, soaring highway ramps conveying a feeling of speed and mobility.  And I can understand why, in Robert Moses’ day, people could have thought building highways was a grand endeavor.  But we now know they just don’t work.  Or do we?  Alex Marshall, author of one of the best books on sprawl,…  Keep reading…

  • Don’t play SimCity (Classic)

    Like many people my age, I grew up playing SimCity, the 80s classic video game of city planning.  The player lays out transportation infrastructure, parks,  and residential, commercial, or industrial zones into which the Sims build their own buildings.  All the zones are square and exactly the same size.  (There have since been two sequels, SimCity 2000 and…  Keep reading…

  • Slower, messier, safer, better

    Reading about urban planning it often sounds like the engineers back in the 60s had no clue.  They thought it was just great to bulldoze whole neighborhoods to build freeways partly because freeways made people drive faster, thereby reducing the amount of pollution they emit because cars are more efficient at higher speeds.  But really it just encourages people to live…  Keep reading…

  • Let’s solve traffic jams by creating more!

    Congress is close to approving a huge transportation bill, which in its original form allocated $300 billion to roads but only $75 billion to transit.  According to the article, “House Transportation Committee spokeman Steve Hansen… cited the $70 billion that is ‘wasted each year due solely to traffic congestion and the waste of more than 5.7 billion gallons…  Keep reading…

  • Reaper Mall

    Actually, it turns out there’s quite a lot to say about How Cities Work and Reaper Man.  In Reaper Man, a mysterious set of snow globes appears in Ankh-Morpork, followed by metal shopping carts.  A character realizes that if cities are like life forms - large, slow moving life forms - then there would evolve parasites to prey upon them, just as other long-lived life…  Keep reading…

  • Marshall and Pratchett

    I started reading How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken by Alex Marshall on the plane.  (I also started reading Reaper Man, but there’s not much to say about that other than that Terry Pratchett is hilarious and you should read his books).  Keep reading…

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