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Thread: Badly planned cities

  1. #1
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Badly planned cities

    I'm sure this conversation is out there somewhere, but after spending a week in Topeka it didn't take long for me to get hit with how bad the planning is for the city.

    Overall the streets hit me as the bad planning aspect, but the lack of urban renewal and over concentration of strip retail add to the list.

    Maybe as an outsider I was jsut more sensative to it, but the road conditions were horrible, some roads in neighborhoods had no curbs, a lot of the main roads cut from four lane arterial to two lane collector almost randomly.
    My personal favorite was driving up a small hill in the right lane at 40 mph and cresting the hill to see a curb in my lane. It was in the middle of the street, not a decel lane, or intersection, just something to force you into a garage.

    It looks like the city was built, post war housing boom happended, then for a long time there was nothing but minor county housing projects.
    Then suddenly the "new" part of town springs up with an overload of retail. There just seems to be no easy way to get around town.

    When you visit a town what hits you first to say the town is well planned or needs a little help?
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  2. #2
    One of my favorite all time quotes on Cyburbia is from the myths thread:

    Quote Originally posted by bentobox34 View post
    That the characteristics they like about cities/neighborhoods/places are the result of "good planning" and characteristics they don't like about places are the result of "bad planning."
    The content contrarian

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    one thing i've noticed is in small town most developments are one cul-de-sac so there is no planned-interconnectivity. It's just a main road with a bunch of cul-de-sacs coming off of it.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    I'm sure this conversation is out there somewhere, but after spending a week in Topeka it didn't take long for me to get hit with how bad the planning is for the city.

    Overall the streets hit me as the bad planning aspect, but the lack of urban renewal and over concentration of strip retail add to the list.

    Maybe as an outsider I was jsut more sensative to it, but the road conditions were horrible, some roads in neighborhoods had no curbs, a lot of the main roads cut from four lane arterial to two lane collector almost randomly.
    My personal favorite was driving up a small hill in the right lane at 40 mph and cresting the hill to see a curb in my lane. It was in the middle of the street, not a decel lane, or intersection, just something to force you into a garage.

    It looks like the city was built, post war housing boom happended, then for a long time there was nothing but minor county housing projects.
    Then suddenly the "new" part of town springs up with an overload of retail. There just seems to be no easy way to get around town.

    When you visit a town what hits you first to say the town is well planned or needs a little help?

    Why do you assume that there is actually much overall "planning" involved in the built environment of cities or towns? Aside from Washington, DC, how many major American cities were actually laid out in some grand design from inception? How many have followed that plan to the present? What suburbs are really "planned", even today, except on a development-by-development basis?

    It seems to me that haphazardness is the only "plan" in American cities and towns simply because people have been putting up what they wanted on land that they owned from the beginning of settlement -- and that continued to be pretty much the norm for most of the 19th century. In the 20th century, developers and politicians figured out that segregated uses appealed to people fleeing the crowded conditions of city centers, so developers started separating residential subdivisions or office parks or shopping centers from each other while politicians employed zoning to confirm the existing uses and to ensure that residential subdivisions stayed residential and that manufacturing and shopping were concentrated in certain areas, especially when they already existed.

    I think if you find what you think is a "well planned" city, it's probably that that city got lucky in that development was controlled by somebody with some kind of decent vision. If you find what you think is a "badly planned" city, it's likely that city was simply unlucky in what individuals or government chose to develop.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    My hometown in West Virginia (city pop. 18,000; metro pop. 124,000) is pretty poorly planned (I'm not even sure they have a planning department!). Most of the commercial activity takes place on the fringe of the city on a three lane "bypass" that was never designed to handle the commercial activity, nor the cars it brings. In addition to that, most of the development took place over a filled in creek, which resulted in flooding during every significant rain. The federal government spent a lot of tax dollars on digging back out the creek and channelizing it to kind of rectify the problem. They're currently pressing the federal government for money to make a bypass of the bypass. The movement of commercial activity away from downtown has left much of the downtown empty. And the few businesses that remain downtown push the city to tear down buildings to add more surface parking (an interesting note to this is that last winter 2 buildings burned down. The owner of the two buildings, a law office, wanted to rebuild; the city under pressure from other local businesses is attempting to buy out the space to put in more parking). Its not that there is really a need for parking; there is plenty of it on the fringes of downtown, but it is simply not close enough for the businesses (next door).

    Outside of these recent downfalls, the city was never really supposed to be as large as it is and has just sort of sprawled over the hills. In addition to this, it is still partially segregated in that the predominately African American neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city are largely undeserved (though this is changing).

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    I have always that "good" and "bad" planning is in the eye of the beholder. I have heard in casual conversation that a few planners and urbanophiles regard Vancouver as a very well planned city, and it is so desirable that only the rich can afford it. If true, I personally it as counterproductive to both planning as a profession and the long term survival of Vancouver.

    There is also the example of my hometown of Rochester NY, which I regard as well planned from a technical perspective. There was a burst of planning activity immediately after World War II. The core city was built for a population of 500,000, and the local expressway system for a metropolitan population of 3 million. Today, the core city has just over 200,000 inhabitants, and the metro area just under 1 million. The population projections were so off base that Rochester has way more infrastructure than it needs (and the same maintenance bills, regardless of tax base size). On the flip side, there is NEVER any traffic.

  7. #7
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    There's many examples of post-WWII suburbs that are considered to have outstanding planning, but by the standards of the 1970s/1980s. I worked for one for a few years. Here's how I'd describe the community's built environment:

    * Well-defined arterial road network; six lane majors with landscaped medians following section lines, winding two/four lane collectors following the half section lines.
    * Extremely strict architectural, site planning, sign and landscaping requirements.
    * Very little strip development: commercial uses concentrated at the intersections of major arterials, with multifamily residential complexes or immaculately landscaped "fence canyons" between them.
    * Very little leapfrog development, and a well-defined boundary between urbanized areas and undeveloped rural/working lands. New subdivisions were usually contiguous to existing development.
    * High-end street furniture, traffic signal and light poles painted earth tone colors, internally illuminated street signs, etc.
    * All the streets have sidewalks.
    * Large, interconnected park and trail system, winding through most neighborhoods.
    * Many large PUDs and "planned communities".
    * Freeways with custom noise barriers (e.g. not tilt-up), signature bridges, no high rise signs or billboards, etc.
    * Generally high residential density.

    What does that great planning look like, though?













    Basically, someplace that younger planners would see as the antithesis of what they would consider "desirable". It's what I call "kinder, gentler sprawl" - dense, quite easy on the eyes, providing a range of housing types, but still vehicle oriented.

    Anywhere else in the country, this community would have been considered a middle to upper-middle class suburb. Because it was located in a very affluent metropolitan area, though, it was seen as the equivalent of the 'hood.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Wichita, Wichita, Wichita

    Nauseating dump of a town. Terrible, cheap-looking architecture throughout the city that is never facelifted, lack of landscaping to soften the architectural features of the buildings, signage is bold, over-sized, in garish colors. I will give credit to Old Town, which is a redeveloped meat packing district in downtown but it is still FAR too small. I worked on streetscape design guidelines for the downtown as well as conceptual streetscape designs for several blocks but I doubt any of it would ever be implemented. It's still lipstick on one very ugly pig.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  9. #9
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I been to Wichita, it is that bad, although like you said they're working on the Old Town. I think they lack a good design standard and some landscaping standards so at least parts can look more like Dan's pictures. I'm not expecting a city to have an official plan like Chicago, DC, Radburn, etc. I just expect to find a reasonable transportation network (doesn't need to be perfect), and some level of standards that shows pride in what gets built, not leaving everything up to the cost of construction. I can't say my town is perfect, but they are evolving. You can see older standards being replaced with new ones and where traffic becomes a problem they look for alternatives. Is that really to much to ask for a city?
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Vancity's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by anthrus View post
    I have always that "good" and "bad" planning is in the eye of the beholder. I have heard in casual conversation that a few planners and urbanophiles regard Vancouver as a very well planned city, and it is so desirable that only the rich can afford it. If true, I personally it as counterproductive to both planning as a profession and the long term survival of Vancouver.
    I live in Vancouver. I think one of the reasons it's regarded as well planned is because there has never been much opportunity for sprawl due to geographic factors (surrounded ocean inlets and a large river) and the Agricultural Land Reserve, which does not allow sprawl to creep into rural areas (theoretically). Secondly, Vancouver does not have any major highways running through it's core, which is connected to the surrounding cities primarily by bridges. We therefore have extreme traffic conjestion.. but a high level of walkability. It is not easy, or cheap, to be a driver here. Vancouver is beautiful but I don't know that it's overall desirability is due to "good planning".. the reason it is so unaffordable (and it really, really is) is because of a high degree of speculative development, and allegedly, foreign real estate investment. A high percentage of the condo's in Vancouver's core are completely unoccupied, while we have some of the largest homeless populations in the country. Many blame immigration and investment from overseas for the high housing prices, but in a study I did recently for a class, I found most of the empty condos in Vancouver were actually owned by Canadian investors. Anyway, I think it's desirability has a lot to do with the lifestyle that we sortof promote ourselves as having -- very outdoorsy, mild weather, oceans, mountains, "golf and ski in the same day!" kindof idea... and people are buying up property and developming just for the sake of making money, because they can here. Regulations for maintaining affordable housing are weak.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Geography often mandates cities that look like they are "well planned" - for example, look at any city with oceans or mountains on the edge of town and you will see "growth boundaries." What is extraordinary - and does happen - is when a city that does not have such limits enforces growth boundaries. What is also good - although not as extraordinary - is when cities that had the initial advantage of natural growth boundaries then continue to promote dense growth patterns even when those constraints may be technologically moot.

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