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Thread: Myths embraced by armchair planners

  1. #1
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Myths embraced by armchair planners

    My hometown is not a place where professional planning is prospering. Buffalo has only a small planning staff, with the number of professional planners numbering in the low single digits. Suburban communities, though large in area and population, typically don't have planning agencies or staff planners. Thus, an army of "armchair planners", those with no professional training as a planner, whose knowledge of the workings of the built environment was learned mainly from media soundbites, storytelling relatives, folklore, and local message boards, fill the void in the region's dialogue about the built environment and planning issues. The following are some of their commonly held beliefs:

    * Urban downtowns and/or waterfronts are the ideal location for large football stadiums.
    * Older houses and buildings are always built more solidly than newer structures.
    * Rail transit should emphasize the interconnection of large destinations (airport, downtown, malls, edge cities, etc).
    * Colleges, universities, and medical centers are always catalysts for growth in the surrounding neighborhood.
    * Neighborhoods near urban downtowns are always prime areas for gentrification.
    * Suburbs developed only after WWII, almost exclusively as a response to white flight, and today they are all affluent and ethnically white/homogenous.
    * Chains comprise most restaurants and retail establishments in suburban areas and the Sunbelt.
    * Young, educated college graduates and professionals leave a region only if there is a lack of jobs.
    * Poorly performing urban schools keep families from returning en masse to cities.

    As planners, we know these beliefs aren't rooted in reality. We've seen colleges and universities surrounded by rotting neighborhoods. We know that there needs to be sources or originating passengers to make rail transit viable. We know football stadiums -- the American football kind -- are massive, space-hogging facilities that see only infrequent use, with vast seas of parking that remain empty throughout most of the year; and not a contributor to the day-to-day vibrancy of a neighborhood or downtown. We know slums near otherwise busy downtowns won't gentrify if more attractive and safer housing and neighborhoods elsewhere in the region remain affordable. We know suburbs have been around as long as cities have existed, that the birth of contemporary suburbia had a variety of causes, and that today suburbs throughout most of North America are socioeconomically diverse.

    What other beliefs are commonly held by armchair planners in your neck of the woods?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Tarf's avatar
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    *Affordable housing means Section 8 welfare recipients who will deal drugs and steal my baby.
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    Cyburbian
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    "Any additional regulations will dissuade development." This being in a county with zero zoning and most of the population living in unincorporated areas due to tough annexation rules. People move to the adjacent county since it actually has zoning. Most people don't want a crappy used car dealership or a mobile home park popping up right next to their brand new subdivision... Happens here all the time and nothing we can do about it.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    "I never take the Woodward Avenue Bus, but if it was Light Rail, I would use it everyday!"

    "You can't have TOD without rail. Build the rail and it will fix the pedestrian environment"

    "Even though we dont have any retail in town, I'd rather have that than a Family Dollar or Dollar General as they just sell bric-brac and are useless."

    Note to Dan: Our football stadium incorporated old buildings and is about as dense as it can get. It fits the landscape pretty well. The baseball stadium next door? It was built with parking lots in mind.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    "If we reduce or eliminate development impact fees, there will be more development, and more construction jobs."
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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post

    As planners, we know these beliefs aren't rooted in reality...

    What other beliefs are commonly held by armchair planners in your neck of the woods?
    o Fill in your favorite Free Markets do _____ better than gummint fetish phrase at your leisure.
    o Jaaaaaaaahb killin' regalayshun is killin _____.
    o Agenda 21 policies like replacing Euclidean zoning will kill your freedom and babies.
    o We need more roads and road capacity.
    o Rational actors have rationally and freely chosen McSuburbs as the rational choice.
    o Density will kill your babies.
    o Complete Streets are a commanist plot to slow traffic...

    yada.

    Civil society can usually overcome such comical objections if the agitators aren't too loud and cooler heads can have their voice heard.
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    Cyburbian jsk1983's avatar
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    "If we expand that light rail line to our suburb people from the hood will come in and steal our TVs".

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Seems like we're looking at two differenttypes of armchair planners.

    1) The kinds of folks that comment on local urban blogs, the people that show up to neighborhood salons, and the like.

    2) The kinds of folks that leave derogatory comments about President Obama in response to every article on a newspaper web site.

    Basically, the armchair planners, and the armchair anti-planners.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian
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    Those "false" beliefs in the initial post aren't all completely false - depending on the context, some of those can work out to be totally true, some of those can work out to be totally false, and most of them usually fall somewhere in between. But more importantly, how did these beliefs enter "armchair" discussions in the first place? The planning issues that non-planners (like me) talk about mostly filter down from our conversations with planners! All those beliefs cited at the beginning of this thread were once planning dogmas - look back to the 70s, 80s, or 90s and many of those beliefs were the exact tenets planners were preaching! Us "armchair" planners have only now absorbed some of those beliefs (there's a bit of a time lag), but the planning profession has since moved on and learned the nuances and complications behind those beliefs. It'll take some time for the nuances to filter down to the general public. If I only had a dime for every time I heard a planner preach "Eds and meds are the future!" in the early 2000s only to see them revise that and say "Wait, a vibrant town or city can't rely on a handful of gigantic institutions to power its economy - look at Detroit!" in the late 2000s!

    From the outside looking in, it looks like an endless round-robin of urban design/urban economics fads keep circulating through the planning profession. (The same problem afflicts architecture, by the way.) I'm more suspicious of purportedly "correct" knowledge emanating from some of the more institutionalized professions than of the suggestions/opinions of laymen. It took generalist "armchair" outsiders (Christopher Alexander in architecture or Jane Jacobs in planning) to shake up the orthodox ideologies in these professions. Both architecture and planning claim to be above the understanding of laymen - apparently you have to be a trained, certified, university-educated professional to "get" how "correct" human settlements or buildings work - but both these professions have wreaked their worst damage when they practiced "correct" ideas out of manuals and were shielded from the input of laymen. This isn't medicine or law (where it really pays to listen to the trained professionals), this is the built environment where the layperson usually does know what's best for them. "Professional training" does not necessarily help you understand the built environment better at all.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    In OKC, there's an anti-transit mentality that wasn't around in Austin or DFW. People are okay and supportive of the idea of public transit, but believe if you take the buses in town you will get robbed/assaulted in some way. They won't ride the OKC bus fleet (which are actually pretty nice, new, natural gas-electric hybrid vehicles mostly), but believe that rail would be ridden throughout the sprawling suburban areas enough to recover costs of its operation. (OKC sprawl is much more piecemeal than the sprawl in Texas metros - I love central OKC, but really don't understand the OKC-specific sprawl patterns that don't just occur on the periphery as the city grows, but stay that way and have been that way for 30+ years).

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by marcszar View post
    From the outside looking in, it looks like an endless round-robin of urban design/urban economics fads keep circulating through the planning profession. (The same problem afflicts architecture, by the way.)
    You're right, and it's a trend I see quite clearly in the inside. Indicators of that include:

    * Planners in some parts of the country looking only within a limited geographic area, usually just their state, for inspiration for their comp plans, zoning codes, or other solutions to an issue. When I worked in suburban Cleveland, "What does Delaware County do?" was a mantra, and citing examples from outside the state would be like quoting verses from the Koran and Bhagavad Gita from the pulpit of an evangelical church. Upstate New York isn't much different. (Guess what Delaware County did? They innovated on their own, and didn't think of the state line as a barrier for inspiration.)

    * Innovation in planning coming not from within the profession, but trickling in from the outside. New urbanism comes to mind. Many planners who advocate new urbanism are labeled as fanatics of of a kind, "drinking the Duany kool-aid", even though NU is just one tool out of many to use.

    * The lack of planning blogs that are authored by real working planners. There's a few out there, but most planning-related blogs are authored by "urbanists", architects, landscape architects, think tank types, public policy experts, and the like. I'll use "the other site" as one example, whose "opinion leaders" include three working planners, and about 20 professors and others working in various capacities at schools, think-tanks and non-profits. The lack of bloggers that are actual practicing planners is one for another thread.

    I'm certainly not an old-timer, but while I've been in this profession I've been seeing a change. Planners used to be problem-solvers. Now we increasingly see our role as being bureaucrats. There's an emphasis on collaboration, not innovation.

    Interesting tangent ...
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    * The lack of planning blogs that are authored by real working planners. ...The lack of bloggers that are actual practicing planners is one for another thread.
    Maybe working planners are too tired/burned out at the end of the day?


    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Planners used to be problem-solvers. Now we increasingly see our role as being bureaucrats. There's an emphasis on collaboration, not innovation.
    Folks on the outside increasingly see our role as being bureaucrats as well. Maybe because collaboration takes so long?
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    Cyburbian cng's avatar
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    That we can plan for, require, and obtain pedestrian-friendly amenities, such as public transit (light rail, etc.), bike and walking trails, main-street commercial developments, without also planning for increased land use density... Essentially, the false idea that all these "urban goodies" can be achieved and be easily accessible a block away from me while I live in my suburban single-family home with three car garage... Or, in other words, the idea that you can have everything without any trade-offs. And don't me started on false notions of sustainability...

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by marcszar View post
    Those "false" beliefs in the initial post aren't all completely false - depending on the context, some of those can work out to be totally true, some of those can work out to be totally false, and most of them usually fall somewhere in between. But more importantly, how did these beliefs enter "armchair" discussions in the first place? The planning issues that non-planners (like me) talk about mostly filter down from our conversations with planners! All those beliefs cited at the beginning of this thread were once planning dogmas - look back to the 70s, 80s, or 90s and many of those beliefs were the exact tenets planners were preaching! Us "armchair" planners have only now absorbed some of those beliefs (there's a bit of a time lag), but the planning profession has since moved on and learned the nuances and complications behind those beliefs. It'll take some time for the nuances to filter down to the general public. If I only had a dime for every time I heard a planner preach "Eds and meds are the future!" in the early 2000s only to see them revise that and say "Wait, a vibrant town or city can't rely on a handful of gigantic institutions to power its economy - look at Detroit!" in the late 2000s!

    From the outside looking in, it looks like an endless round-robin of urban design/urban economics fads keep circulating through the planning profession. (The same problem afflicts architecture, by the way.) I'm more suspicious of purportedly "correct" knowledge emanating from some of the more institutionalized professions than of the suggestions/opinions of laymen. It took generalist "armchair" outsiders (Christopher Alexander in architecture or Jane Jacobs in planning) to shake up the orthodox ideologies in these professions. Both architecture and planning claim to be above the understanding of laymen - apparently you have to be a trained, certified, university-educated professional to "get" how "correct" human settlements or buildings work - but both these professions have wreaked their worst damage when they practiced "correct" ideas out of manuals and were shielded from the input of laymen. This isn't medicine or law (where it really pays to listen to the trained professionals), this is the built environment where the layperson usually does know what's best for them. "Professional training" does not necessarily help you understand the built environment better at all.
    A good post, marcszar. I especially agree with your last paragraph, particularly the bolded part. I'm also a non-planner, and my educational background is American history with an emphasis on local and social history. That's since been overlaid with education and experience in IT, but I've always maintained my interest in history, and it's why I so frequently have historical slants to my comments.

    Having lived in Dan's hometown for 20+ years, I think of the failed projects that he alludes to with his myths, and all of them had significant opposition from local lay people while they had almost universal support from the professional planning/development community -- as well as the politicians and their mouthpiece, the local surviving newspaper. That has made me very skeptical of virtually every plan that's proposed as a "solution" to one urban problem or another, whether it comes from planners or laypersons. I think that real solutions can't be "one size fits all". I also think that solutions cannot be only about bricks/mortar/asphalt but about people as well.

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    That has made me very skeptical of virtually every plan that's proposed as a "solution" to one urban problem or another, whether it comes from planners or laypersons. I think that real solutions can't be "one size fits all". I also think that solutions cannot be only about bricks/mortar/asphalt but about people as well.
    Exactly, well put! "Solutions" are never really clear-cut or broad-based. I dunno, maybe all us folks who either design/build/plan the built environment still have some of that unrealistic Modernist utopianism kicking around, or, like many other professions, architecture and planning have been "PRed" to deliver feel-good, easy-sounding, flashy solutions in sound-bite format. Bike lanes! Eds and meds! TOD! Rails to Trails! Sign here! Those things can turn out great in the appropriate supporting context, but just as the Modernist tower-in-the-park turned out to be dismally unsuccessful when it was applied as a universal solution to "affordable housing," so too can some of the contemporary mantras turn out to be weak and ineffective if they're intended to serve as universal quick-fixes. Sometimes some of these things are no more than shallow image-boosting PR stunts - for example, if sporadically-painted bike lanes that randomly start and stop are laid down in a suburban neighborhood, who really is going to use them? Is it worth wasting the road space to paint an unusable "we're green!" gesture on them?

    I personally like things like TOD and urban infill (when done in the appropriate context where they would seem to make sense; i.e. not in greenfield areas), but it doesn't really make sense to push these as purported "solutions" for seemingly everything. There's no point pushing a TOD on the basis of "reducing car dependency" if few of them (save for the ones done in intensely urban areas) have ever achieved this lofty goal. Rather it would make more sense to argue for TOD on the basis of market demand - are there enough young transients here to demand modest apartment-style housing over shops? Are rents in existing similar developments soaring because demand is outstripping supply? In a few markets - several of the larger east or west coast cities like Seattle, San Fran, Boston, or DC - this is indeed the case and it would seem to make sense to increase the supply of TOD-style housing. But it doesn't make as much sense to push these as universal solutions for every town, city, or suburb.
    Last edited by marcszar; 23 Nov 2011 at 8:44 AM.

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    Having lived in Dan's hometown for 20+ years, I think of the failed projects that he alludes to with his myths, and all of them had significant opposition from local lay people while they had almost universal support from the professional planning/development community -- as well as the politicians and their mouthpiece, the local surviving newspaper. That has made me very skeptical of virtually every plan that's proposed as a "solution" to one urban problem or another, whether it comes from planners or laypersons. I think that real solutions can't be "one size fits all". I also think that solutions cannot be only about bricks/mortar/asphalt but about people as well.
    When I think of "armchair planner", again it's not those that work in the field or an allied profession, or have some connection to the field, but the frequently upvoted commenters on Buffalo Rising, my relatives and friends back home, and locals sharing their ideas when they discover I'm an urban planner.

    The 1960s and 1970s was both the peak and nadir of planning in the Buffalo area, when most cities and towns in the area had fully staffed planning departments, the plans that were released made one shudder by today's standards, and they were more often than not implemented to some degree.

    I don't want to be an apologist for urban renewal, urban sprawl or expressways, but one has to consider the time when such plans and trends were taking place. In the case of Buffalo:

    1) The city suffered from 20-plus nears of neglect, because of the financial challenges of the Depression, and the resource and labor shortages of World War II. Despite their vitality, Downtown Buffalo and the city's older neighborhoods were pretty beaten up by 1950. Add sticky particulates from heavy industry to the mix. So many buildings in the city were black in soot.

    2) The population of Buffalo was 600,000 in 1950, and with some post--War immigration from Europe, and Great Northern Migration still in force, thousands more were streaming into the region. Conditions were crowded. Many of the city's narrow lots -- 35' x 120' -- had two two-flats on them, a fronthouse and rearhouse. (Remember addresses like "321 Plymouth Avenue, Rear Up"?) Except for a few scattered lots in Kensington, Riverside and South Buffalo, the city was, for all practical purposes, built out. People had to live somewhere. Rowhouses never took hold in Buffalo, and voluntary apartment living only caught on among the old money crowd and the elderly. Also, those people crowded into tiny flats increasingly had lower middle and middle-class incomes, thanks to post-war prosperity and unionization.

    3) Suburbanization has been a force in Buffalo since the 1910s. Unlike other metropolitan areas, Buffalo had few "railroad suburbs". Those with the means to do so moved as far from heavy industry as they could, and in Buffalo that meant to the north and northeast, where there are no rail lines running downtown. Interurban lines barely influenced suburbanization; in Tonawanda, there was no noticeable concentration of development around stops of the High Speed Line. After WWII, the move to Buffalo's Northtowns continued. Downtown Buffalo was the dominant white-collar employment center in the region. The only road connecting Amherst directly with downtown Buffalo was Main Street. For residential areas in Tonawanda, it was Delaware Avenue and Elmwood Avenue. In the 1930s, late 1940s and 1950s, traffic congestion along Main, Delaware and Elmwood was of epic proportions.

    You're a planner in 1950. Automobile ownership is skyrocketing. Public transportation systems are privately owned. There are houses on the East and West Side that are structurally unsafe, housing large families, and often lacking indoor bathrooms. The average commute time is 40+ minutes and growing, except for those living in walking distance of the factories where they work, and many now have the means to leave. Soot and grime fills the nooks and crannies of aging brick and terra cotta-cladded structures, and if they were cleaned, they'd just turn black again in five years. Hundreds of miles of empty streets lie beyond the city limits, all with full utilities and sidewalks, sitting dormant since the late 1920s. What do you do?
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Unlike most laypeople and many professionals in/from Buffalo, I don't have much issue with the expressways that were built through the city. I don't think they were the reasons the East Side is what it is today. Aside from a few blocks in the Central Park area and around UB, the neighborhoods east of Main Street have never been fashionable and have always been seen as less desirable than the West Side.

    My big gripes about planning and development in Buffalo has to do with the building of the downtown shopping mall, the convention center, and the biggest boondoggle of all, the subway to nowhere. Main Place Mall and the convention center were touted by people who were supposed to be "professionals" as means to save the city, and they didn't.

    The subway, OTOH, was an out-and-out boondoggle IMO. The city likely could have had an entire LRRT system for what it cost to build that subway beneath Main Street -- and it would probably have a lot more riders because it would cross residential neighborhoods. At the time the city decided to go with the subway, it owned the ROW to the old Belt Line RR that literally, encircled the city. I think parts of it were still in use. The line needed roadbed improvements, new viaduct bridges, and stations, which would have been chump change compared to what the city spent on the subway. Of course, the lower cost would have meant less for all the politically connected development and construction companies.

    Planners and other alleged "professionals" jumped on the subway bandwagon as the project that would turn Buffalo into a replica of Toronto, since we all knew that all of Toronto's prosperity was directly attributable to its subway system. (//sarcasm off) Did you know that there are special zoning districts around the Metrorail stations set up in anticipation of the mega-commercial boom subway advocates were sure would result?

    Maybe the great subway swindle wasn't drawn up and pushed by real planners but by typical City Hall hacks fronting for politicians and their developer cronies. Too frequently, that's the "Buffalo way", and has been for a long, long time.
    Last edited by Linda_D; 24 Nov 2011 at 10:45 PM.

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    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Here's my take on false beliefs that planners have about engineers, which I've commented on in past threads:

    - Engineers like wide streets: Engineers want streets to be as wide as they need to serve the functions of the street. We don't want to maintain (pavement, snow removal) more than what's necessary.
    - Engineers like cul-de-sacs: Street drainage considerations are always more challenging than if they were through streets. Cul-de-sacs often don't have enough on-street parking resulting from a developer placing too many lots within the cul-de-sac (and then charging a premium for it) and become an operational nuisance for the residents who then start parking perpendicular and causing grief for the fire authority folks.
    - Engineers want to see a proliferation of streets: If a use can be fronted by a greenbelt rather than a street and access and life safety concerns can be sufficiently addressed by this, sounds good to me. Again, we don't want to maintain more roads than what's necessary. I've been on the end of arguing with a militant new urbanist planner that he was punching too many streets through a subdivision as he needed to see that every unit had identifiable street frontage whereas I lamented the loss of green space and trails to streets.
    - Engineers like curvilinear streets over a more traditional grid pattern: Curvilinear streets often present sight distance concerns for access points onto the streets that a grid pattern doesn't have.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    Here's my take on false beliefs that planners have about engineers, which I've commented on in past threads:

    - Engineers like wide streets: Engineers want streets to be as wide as they need to serve the functions of the street. We don't want to maintain (pavement, snow removal) more than what's necessary.
    - Engineers like cul-de-sacs: Street drainage considerations are always more challenging than if they were through streets. Cul-de-sacs often don't have enough on-street parking resulting from a developer placing too many lots within the cul-de-sac (and then charging a premium for it) and become an operational nuisance for the residents who then start parking perpendicular and causing grief for the fire authority folks.
    - Engineers want to see a proliferation of streets: If a use can be fronted by a greenbelt rather than a street and access and life safety concerns can be sufficiently addressed by this, sounds good to me. Again, we don't want to maintain more roads than what's necessary. I've been on the end of arguing with a militant new urbanist planner that he was punching too many streets through a subdivision as he needed to see that every unit had identifiable street frontage whereas I lamented the loss of green space and trails to streets.
    - Engineers like curvilinear streets over a more traditional grid pattern: Curvilinear streets often present sight distance concerns for access points onto the streets that a grid pattern doesn't have.
    We should differentiate between injuneers and PWers that are ossified and ready to retire, and the new crop of folks who embrace modern ideas.
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    I have to agree with many others here of the prevalence of the myth of less regulation will bring more development. That is a very commonly held belief that I have ran into mostly from City Council members and City Managers. This belief stems from the fear that if we don't give x developer what they want, they will just go to the community next door. What you end up with is a mismash of development that drags down the entire community's perception. If your community wants to attract new development and new residents, a developer wants some assurance that their subdivision is not going to have a pig processing plant next door. There is room for mobile home developments and heavy industrial in a community, there just needs to be well thought out plan on where these uses are located. The community I work for is finally realizing this and currently rewriting their zoning ordinance to mandate more high-quality development. We will see how quickly the City administration bends the first time a developer even slightly balks.

  21. #21
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    \ The subway, OTOH, was an out-and-out boondoggle IMO. The city likely could have had an entire LRRT system for what it cost to build that subway beneath Main Street -- and it would probably have a lot more riders because it would cross residential neighborhoods. At the time the city decided to go with the subway, it owned the ROW to the old Belt Line RR that literally, encircled the city. I think parts of it were still in use. The line needed roadbed improvements, new viaduct bridges, and stations, which would have been chump change compared to what the city spent on the subway. Of course, the lower cost would have meant less for all the politically connected development and construction companies.
    There's a ton of myths about Buffalo's subway, the reasoning behind its construction, and its effects on downtown. The biggest is that liught rail killed downtown retail; in reality, Metro Rail opened at abut the same time downtown retail began its final death throes in most mid-sized American cities. Downtown Buffalo's department stores closed because the entire chain went bust, or it was bought by another chain that "didn't do downtown". The downtown Buffalo Bon-Ton (AM&As) and Kauffman's (Hengerer's) were both profitable when they closed.

    The idea of a Main Street subway dates back to the 1910s. Serious plans were laid out in the 1960s in conjunction with plans for the UB North Campus. At that time, development in Buffalo's Northtowns was exploding, and Northeast Buffalo (Kensington, Delavan-Bailey University Heights) was still seen as a desirable "first home" neighborhood. One planning effort of the day was the Amherst-Buffalo Corridor, or "ABC". The corridor extending from downtown Buffalo to UB North was envisioned as a high-density, transit-oriented area with high-rise apartments, office buildings, and the like. It was a planned linear Edge City.

    Also, at the same time, Buffalo's bus routes were still based on the old streetcar routes they replaced 15 to 20 years earlier, street for street. The bulk of bus routes north of the Buffalo River fed into Main Street and followed it downtown. It was thought that by feeding into a rapid transit line following the ABC, redundancy in the system would be eliminated, and capacity and service frequency would increase. For example, instead of separate West Utica/Main and East Utica/Main bus lines, there would be one Utica crosstown line, feeding into Metro Rail at Main Street.

    Population projections of the day were quite optimistic. They say the regional population boom of the 1950s and 1960s continuing through 2000; no bust in the baby boom, large Catholic families remaining the norm, and no deindustrialization and population exodus from the region. Even in 1970, Buffalo was one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, with some neighborhoods having 30,000 residents per square mile; a level that was seen as easily supporting heavy rail transit.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Dan, in your previous thread you mentioned several projections/assumptions that professional planners 40 years ago (1970s) held that have proven utterly wrong. These weren't just local planners but national ones as well, and this wasn't just a recent phenomenon. "Futurists" from the 1920s and the 1950s were just as wrong in their predictions.

    It seems to me that people who attempt to "plan" for the future, be they professionals or lay people, have about the same chance of "getting it right": the same chance as the proverbial blind squirrel has of finding a nut. It seems to me that these predictions fail because of a variety of reasons: poor analysis/interpretation of historic and demographic data; failure to recognize societal changes and their consequences; failure to anticipate new technology and its consequences; and the biggie, failure to recognize that human nature is going to determine the success or failure of many projects. Too many "planners", whether lay or professionals, seem to base their assumptions on human behavior on wishful thinking rather than on observation in the real world or on scientific studies. Discussions about any number of topics in planning seem to get mired here, most notably those about mass transit.

    I think it's important to not only recognize that a society's values/myths/ideals play a major role in determining how people react to the built environment, but to admit that human nature is fairly immutable, especially in the short-term. That means that solutions that seem so simple frequently don't work because not enough people buy into them.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    cyclone land
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    "I never take the Woodward Avenue Bus, but if it was Light Rail, I would use it everyday!"

    "You can't have TOD without rail. Build the rail and it will fix the pedestrian environment"

    "Even though we dont have any retail in town, I'd rather have that than a Family Dollar or Dollar General as they just sell bric-brac and are useless."

    Note to Dan: Our football stadium incorporated old buildings and is about as dense as it can get. It fits the landscape pretty well. The baseball stadium next door? It was built with parking lots in mind.
    Preach !!! I have come into contact with these a lot and it always annoys me.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian fringe's avatar
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    Comer, GA
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    570
    Eliminating plan review entirely will signal developers that a locality is "business friendly".

    Local county commission did just that, about three years after firing its lone degreed planner, who was the last of a series of four such. Now all of planning/zoning is handled by a two-person office whose manager barely made it out of high school.

  25. #25
    Member
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    Feb 2012
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    Chicago, IL
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    Professional Planner Myths

    How about myths believed by APA?
    "Everyone wants to live in dense communities with ethnic diversity, they just don't know it."

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