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Use of Space

rurban

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
Recently returning from a trip to Europe, I was struck at the 'smart' use of space, in particular multiple, re-adaptive and flexible uses. I am now thinking about some of these ideas for the North American context, and perhaps how they relate to the public - in terms of education, awarness and possibly participation in 'planning' matters.

Any direction would be appreciated, thanks.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Welcome aboard. ;)


*Europe is what got me interesting in planning, as with people many I believe.
 

SlaveToTheGrind

Cyburbian
Messages
1,243
Points
23
We could blast off all the idiots, like the woman breastfeeding her child while driving, in the space shuttle and keep them in orbit where they can cause little harm.
 

Tranplanner

maudit anglais
Messages
7,903
Points
35
First off, welcome to cyburbia. A post in the "introduce yourself" thread would be greatly appreciated, and let us get to know a bit more about you. :)

Secondly, and in answer to your query, I agree that Europeans do seem to have a better sense of the use of space. I expect that comes from history, and being squeezed together for so long. I think many North American communities are starting to discover the need to be more creative with public space and this will evolve more as time goes on.

As for application to the planning process, well - that depends where you're coming from I guess.
 

rurban

Member
Messages
8
Points
0
Thanks.

If anyone is aware of any interesting 'smart' spaces that illustrate multiple, re-adaptive or flexile use - let me know.

Much appreciated.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Tranplanner said:
Secondly, and in answer to your query, I agree that Europeans do seem to have a better sense of the use of space. I expect that comes from history, and being squeezed together for so long.
I predict that our use of space will improve only at the rate in which we increase our density. I will draw fire for this as I am in the minority opinion on this. We live on an UNDERPOPULATED continent.

Europeans can do things with thier nations we can't dream of as a nation because of thier density. What europeans do does not automaticly transfer to an abiltiy here in the US. Some examples:

a) Autobahns have an emergency phone every few kilomiters. This is doable when you have 85 million people in the space the size of oregon. Not feasible at all in a nation the size of the US.

b) High price for gas and high entry fee to be allowed to drive.
Europeans have a steak in limiting the mobility of its people. With densities that high, it would be a large parking lot. People still need to get around, so those who do drive face a stiff penalty while subsidizing public transit. The high density and driving penalty pay for the alternate forms of locomotion.

Once again, we are too spread out in most places for this to be effective. Cheap personal mobility is a main reason our economy does better than european economies.

C) European buildings are MUCH more expensive in Materials, labor, and land than they are here. If it costs that much, you build for the long term because it is more cost effective that way.

Our buildings are cheap as possible because they can be. Materials, labor, and land are much cheaper here than in europe. If you won't be holding on to it, or it might change rapidly due to its suroundings and need redevelopment, it is more cost effective to go cheaper rather than long term.
 

SkeLeton

Cyburbian
Messages
4,853
Points
26
Duke Of Dystopia said:
... Autobahns have an emergency phone every few kilomiters. This is doable when you have 85 million people in the space the size of oregon. Not feasible at all in a nation the size of the US...
Here our main highway has emergency phones every few kilometers in all the strech between La Serena and Puerto Montt. And we have even less population than the US.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
SkeLeton said:
Here our main highway has emergency phones every few kilometers in all the strech between La Serena and Puerto Montt. And we have even less population than the US.
Its not the total population that matters, its the density. That distance is rougly a 700 miles. A drop in the bucket, even just counting Interstate milage in the US. Must be 15,000 miles of just interstate roadway (20,000 kilometers).

Boosting density is fine, but with a stable population (US) the overall density does not increase due to the spread out nature of our communities. Our bigger cities have lost population. Yet planners sit and whine about needing more density. Its not in the cards except for isolated spots.

WE NEED MORE PEOPLE!
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Duke Of Dystopia said:
Its not the total population that matters, its the density. That distance is rougly a 700 miles. A drop in the bucket, even just counting Interstate milage in the US. Must be 15,000 miles of just interstate roadway (20,000 kilometers).

Boosting density is fine, but with a stable population (US) the overall density does not increase due to the spread out nature of our communities. Our bigger cities have lost population. Yet planners sit and whine about needing more density. Its not in the cards except for isolated spots.

WE NEED MORE PEOPLE!
You have an interesting take. I think density is a necessity as you said, but I don’t think we need more people. We need more protection to the farmland and countryside, containing sprawl and creating denser communities. Under the current situation more people would simple just equal more sprawl. I am not saying we curb our population growth, but we certainly don’t need to increase it.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
NJ has call boxes every 1/2 mile on it's "rural" " interstates" like 195 and the AC expressway as well as western stretches of I-78 and I-80. Otherwise you're usually not further than shouting distance of a house in case of an emergency.

I have to disagree with the claim that we're too spread out. I'll agree that this is a big country with lots of elbow room but those of us who do live here are nevertheless packed together like sardines.

34 million people live in California and 63 million of us live in an even smaller area on the east coast. That's a third of the country's population right there.

If you narrow that down to 4 or 5 megalopolitan regions - it's even more dramatic.

Boston-Washington - 42 million people (1.5% of US land area)

San Fran-San Diego - 30 million

Chicago-Pittsburgh - 28 million

Richmond-Atlanta - 10 million

Miami-Jax - 9 million

put another way - half of the US population lives in it's 30 largest metropolitan areas.
 

michaelskis

Cyburbian
Messages
19,461
Points
44
WOW

Duke Of Dystopia said:
I predict that our use of space will improve only at the rate in which we increase our density. I will draw fire for this as I am in the minority opinion on this. We live on an UNDERPOPULATED continent.
WOW... you got balls to say that. *not saying your wrong or right, just that is a quite the statement.



a) Autobahns have an emergency phone every few kilomiters. This is doable when you have 85 million people in the space the size of oregon. Not feasible at all in a nation the size of the US.
Part of the US have this, are are thinking about removing it. Case in point, the PA Turn Pike. It has phones about half mile. In todays world, almost every one has cell phones, so they can not see the reason for emergency phones.

Oh and WELCOME Rurban!!!
 

simulcra

Member
Messages
127
Points
6
I believe that america has plenty of room to spread out. but that density is very low. i mean, numbers aren't everything. most of any city's population numbers are massive sprawl, with very little focus.

but that doesn't mean we should have to wait till we fill up our lands that we should opt for density. whereas europe had the geography in their favor for density (and this is going to sound ivory-toweresque), we should have the foresight to try and create artificial limits to our growth in order to promote density and slow down sprawl. horizontal growth is inevitable, but we just have to permit internal densitization.

so i suppose i'm more to huston's take on growth. we've got things in place, we've got the want, we just have to make it possible. pro-choice on where you want to live, but unfortunately, there's not much of a choice, methinks... if you want the urbanity and density you have to either afford high rents or you have to make do with very puny amounts of density. basically, it seems that suburbs are what people are being mroe forced to choose than want to choose.

(unexperienced 18 year old speaking, so take with salt)
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Re: WOW

michaelskis said:
WOW... you got balls to say that. *not saying your wrong or right, just that is a quite the statement.

Part of the US have this, are are thinking about removing it. Case in point, the PA Turn Pike. It has phones about half mile. In todays world, almost every one has cell phones, so they can not see the reason for emergency phones.
I agree whole heartedly with the cell phone making them less than cost effective. Also, we have cops that pull over and run your plates before they find out what is wrong. Most of the time, people are within walking distance of help if they really need it. So why waste that money on overly redundant infrastructure.

My whole point in the beginning is that what planners use as a model for this country is not necessarily transferable from Europe to here for whatever reason. They have had 2,000 to 3,000 years of development and redevelopment experience. We have 500 at best. Space for expansion still is not an issue and the methods for doing that are in place for the most part.

:)**********************:)START OF RANT:)**************************:)

More to the point, I question weather the argument about needing higher densities is first and foremost a bias planners have toward the urban. This begs the question, when do you decide a place has become “urban” enough to slow down its growth? When is up better than out? Who gets to make the decision that the masses that don’t live in houses, now have to pay higher rents because it is so much better for them.

Its not one issue, I know this and am in a quandary about how to deal with it. Many interlink to create places that are easier to escape from than fix.

The second most often heard rant I hear from planners is how environmentally harmful the auto based culture is to the nation and planet. Yup, but not nearly as harmful as say, using wood as your primary fuel for heating and cooking. What would you replace it with in reality, remember, it must be nearly as powerful and cost effective. I have a host of environmental concerns, but things could certainly be much worse.

Farmland preservation is another good one I hear. Is the term “farmland preservation” being used as a replacement term for market control/growth prevention (horizontal)? Our farmers ALL get paid too little for their effort because they produce to much.

I will reiterate and kick off the argument that North America is under populated. The belief that the US is jam packed and should not grow is a peculiar notion and I have no idea where this idea started. Many people seem to believe there is a magic number the nation should not grow past. That number is? The shift from rural agriculture to more advanced economies did this for us.

As a national defense issue, we should be STEALING the brains from the rest of the world and giving them US citizenship. If the majority of smart people are here in this country as US citizens, they are less likely to cause trouble for us elsewhere and might even help us continue to maintain our edge in the world.

Sorry for the rant :) Since I started reading and posting this board, all the questions I have been having about my profession keep bubbling to the surface since I can now get some feedback. Maybe if I get them sorted out I can be a normal planner/person :)
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
Messages
7,657
Points
29
I have driven across this country, pretty much from coast to coast and in both directions. There are very few conus states I haven't been through. Many places have rather erratic distances between public rest areas and there can be such a long distance between them that it seems a rather useless system at times.

I think the Jersey Turnpike does this too but I was always impressed with I-70, in Kansas. You have fairly regularly spaced and frequent rest stops because they put the rest stops between the eastbound and westbound lanes and make them accessible from both sides, rather than the more typical practice of placing them on the "outside" of the highway and making them accessible from only one direction.

I think 'density' is partly a matter of design. The rest stops in Kansas can be placed frequently because they double the potential traffic for each sight -- or halve the overall number they would need for the same frequency if you made separate rest stops for each direction, like you usually see.

I agree that folks buy houses in the suburbs largely because our system is structured to make that the easiest thing to do, or the 'default setting,' so to speak. Federal policies, tax policies, mortgage financing mechanisms and so forth are all largely geared towards 'single family homes'. It is difficult to buy into something else, like co-housing, which is supposedly something of a trend but, here in the U.S., most such projects are 'self financed' by the people that wish to live there. There is no federal or bank financing mechanism readily in place. This means that most folks in co-housing projects are fairly wealthy -- or, at least, some of the residents have to be, just to get it built.

One planner told me that what I was suggesting was 'controling individual choice' about where people live. But I think we already do that. If our federal policies and other 'infrastructure' (so to speak) were different, we would have different options. We already 'control individual choice' by what we arrange to make readily available.

EDIT: I also meant to say that many people live far out 'in the suburbs' and have a long commute to work "because it is cheaper" than buying a house closer in. So, I think it is pretty clear that many people do not live in the suburbs because it is the environment or lifestyle they prefer but because of cost. I think that makes it a 'no brainer' that if there were other options, a lot of people would happily make other choices.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Michele Zone said:
EDIT: I also meant to say that many people live far out 'in the suburbs' and have a long commute to work "because it is cheaper" than buying a house closer in. So, I think it is pretty clear that many people do not live in the suburbs because it is the environment or lifestyle they prefer but because of cost. I think that makes it a 'no brainer' that if there were other options, a lot of people would happily make other choices.
I think the edit is the point here. Be it true that many people like the suburbs and don’t want to live anywhere else, many people don’t, but are forced there for financial reasons. Intown housing is expensive and often under supplied. One of my future sisters in laws lives waaaaaaay out in the burbs and commutes 40 minutes to work because it is all she can afford. The price she pays there would barely rent a closet in a crack shack downtown.

So the point here is ‘choices’. While planners (in my opinion) don’t have the right to take the suburb choice away, we do have the ability to make the intown choice an option. How do we do this? Well we start by rewriting city code to allow higher densities and greater mixed use. Once developer realize a profitable market, ther rest will take care of it self. (mehopes) :)
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Well we start by rewriting city code to allow higher densities and greater mixed use. Once developer realize a profitable market, ther rest will take care of it self. (mehopes) :) [/B]


This is the cheap & easy part. The expensive part is the redevelopment of those spaces. With redevelopment mostly including some amount of demolition and higher property values, how does the private sector lower the requirement to affordable. Is it possible to do in a free market?
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Duke Of Dystopia said:
This is the cheap & easy part. The expensive part is the redevelopment of those spaces. With redevelopment mostly including some amount of demolition and higher property values, how does the private sector lower the requirement to affordable. Is it possible to do in a free market?
Well that brings us to the tax incentive controversy. But if you mitigate the tax incentive cost to the utility infrastructure cost and the intangible environmental costs… maybe.

Also I believe any city / county has the right to say “sorry, we will not extend roads, lights, sewer, police, fire medical or sanitation service out to the patch of wood where you want to build your new subdivision. No not even if YOU pay for it, because it makes the city inefficient. What? It would decreases the value of your land if we dont, well you knew these services didn’t exit when you bought it. If you want to develop I suggest you buy that abandoned warehouse in town and tear it down. Shoot, we will even help you with that with a fat tax incentive; here is a number of a city demo guy. When its down you can build your houses there, and all the services are already in place. Thanks for coming by city hall. Come back now.”
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
He he, you will have to excuse me Mr. Huston, I have been in this place and bored for so long my brain might not be functioning right :) I forget there is more than one way to do things:) Thanks for the relevenat feedback.
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
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7,657
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29
Huston,
One of my professors -- who had his ph.d. in planning -- worked (with probably a couple of other folks) on a study quanitifying (or otherwise examining) how much more it cost the city to okay the subdivision out in the stix and supply water, etc, as opposed to a subdivision closer in. If you care to see it, I can try to find it. I probably still have it on a disk somewhere.

Also, policies in America encourage wealtheir folks to live farther out and build big. The center of most American cities is a black hole of decay, while in Paris, the closer to the center you get, the ritzier things are. It is not a given that our policies have to support/encourage moving farther and farther out.

Additionally, at the end of WWII, vets returned home and had VA benefits allowing them to buy a house. They also typically had as much as a year's salary in the bank because of the Rosy the Rivetter thing where they filled the factories with women while the boys went off to war -- yet they stopped building cars and build jeeps and tanks instead, rationed butter and gasoline and a lot of 'luxury' items (like cigarettes, coffee, sugar), and encouraged everyone to grow a Victory Garden so the food from the farms could feed our soldiers overseas. WWII put an end to The Great Depression, so folks were used to having not very much. The guys came home and there was a spending frenzy, including a housing boom (and baby boom).

Houses back then were typically 1200 sq. ft. Now the average new home is 2000 sq ft. (or larger -- I did this research a few years back). Only about 50% of all houses at that time had what is classified as 'complete indoor plumbing'. This includes hot and cold running water, a toilet, a sink, and either a bathtub or shower. Now, about 99% of American housing has 'complete indoor plumbing'. Houses often lacked air conditioning and certainly did not have dishwashers or microwaves. Additionally, improvements in plumbing and other systems and building materials generally, as well as increasingly stringent building codes, have pushed the cost of a home up dramatically compared to what it was.

However, our policies do not finance the increased cost of meeting more stringent codes (can you imagine a develope trying to build a subdivision with no hot water or something?) that has raised the 'floor' on housing costs. So, we have not kept it affordable for 'poor' folks to buy a house. Instead, we heavily subsidize the middle class, by blithely paying for services out to their subdivision on the cheap patch of what was farmland yesterday. The middle class and upper class get a lot more 'welfare' than do poor people but nobody seems to notice how we externalize so many costs for them, so they can do 'cheap' housing in the burbs (cheap for them, expensive for the city extending services, for the environment, for society generally).

One of the things I would like to figure out, at some point, is how to subsidize the cost of meeting the minimum housing standard, so poor people who might have had a shack with cold water and an out house 50 years ago can still buy the minimum that our society will now legally tolerate, and turn off the tap on throwing money away on making housing in the stix 'cheap' for folks who can afford the 2 car lifestyle it takes to live where no public transit runs.

Just some food for thought. (I will say it first: "Commie Planner" and nutcase environmentalist -- and proud of it.)
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
Michele Zone said:
Huston,
One of the things I would like to figure out, at some point, is how to subsidize the cost of meeting the minimum housing standard, so poor people who might have had a shack with cold water and an out house 50 years ago can still buy the minimum that our society will now legally tolerate, and turn off the tap on throwing money away on making housing in the stix 'cheap' for folks who can afford the 2 car lifestyle it takes to live where no public transit runs.

Just some food for thought. (I will say it first: "Commie Planner" and nutcase environmentalist -- and proud of it.)
"Its for the poor people, its for the environment, its those rich bastards screwing people" blah blah blah.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
blah-blah-blah

the distance from Madrid to Paris is the same distance from Chicago to New York -

and the overnight train between the two euro capitals is packed every night depsite the fact that less people live between those two cities than live between New York and Chicago.

When you average in the sparse population of the plains and rocky mountain west sure you come up with a low over all number but most of us live in a relatively small area. despite sprawling metropolitan areas half of all Americans live on 8% of the surface area.

The sprawling hinterlands of metropolitan areas takes up a lot of space but contain a very small percentage of the population - this is the problem with sprawl. In most large cities around the country a majority of the population of the metropolitan area lives within 20 miles of the city center. With smaller cities the number is more like less than 10 miles.

Philly, for instance, there are roughly 5 million people in the 8 county area. If you add the exurban counties you nearly double the size of the area but only add on another 1.5 million

damn this makes me feel like Cox. but at any rate my source is that huge rand mcnally demographic atlas.
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Michele Zone said:
Huston,
One of my professors -- who had his ph.d. in planning -- worked (with probably a couple of other folks) on a study quanitifying (or otherwise examining) how much more it cost the city to okay the subdivision out in the stix and supply water, etc, as opposed to a subdivision closer in. If you care to see it, I can try to find it. I probably still have it on a disk somewhere.
I would be interested in seeing it, thanks.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
OK, here we go again. What europeans do does not automaticly transfer to an abiltiy (desire, necessity, need, or make economic sense) here in the US. They have made a conscious effort to RESTRICT access to personal mobility, thus limiting access to personal mobility for the poor or purly Urban Dweller. This is done through dissincentives of High entry costs to drive. It is no wonder then that the train from Madrid to Paris is Packed.

We in the US have made a conscious effort to put personal mobility at the top of the list of priorites. right or wrong, our entire economy is based on it. No amount of public transportation can hope to fullfill the needs of a continent sized space so difusely populated. We use 8% of our space. I ask where the land crunch is at?

As iterated above, I have a host of environmental concearns too long to post. Being a technophile not a ludite, I believe the vast majority of issues can be solved through technology, the free market, and the democratic process.

I love dense urban areas as much as anyone, but they are not the end all and be all of existence. If your a public transportation nut, go crazy. Love the bus? have at it. Please explain the need to force people to use public transit that is much less flexible than private transport.

I think the solution follows along the lines of Mr. Huston's alternate incentives idea. Federal as well as state incentives, and then those incentives need to be maintained as the norm.
Poeple moved away from the cities for economic reasons, they can be coaxed back using economic incentives.
 

Duke Of Dystopia

Cyburbian
Messages
2,713
Points
24
The taubman center:

1,700-squarefoot) house. Given typical construction costs nationwide, the cost of building such a house in 2000 was about $127,500. Data from the 2000 census indicate that 63 percent of single-family detached homes (including land) in America were valued at less than $150,000, and 78 percent
were valued at less than $200,000.


Oh yeah, find me a 1700 square foot condo in 4 block walking dstance to an EL train or metra station for $200K. :)
 

H

Cyburbian
Messages
2,850
Points
24
Duke Of Dystopia said:
...We use 8% of our space...
Where does the 8% come from? How is that defined?

...Mr. Huston's...
Huston is my first name, so please, no need for Mr. I have Mr. in my quote because I didn’t want to use my last name. :)

Did you get my PM? Regardless, I have the answer now.
 

jresta

Cyburbian
Messages
1,474
Points
23
Duke Of Dystopia said:
I love dense urban areas as much as anyone, but they are not the end all and be all of existence. If your a public transportation nut, go crazy. Love the bus? have at it. Please explain the need to force people to use public transit that is much less flexible than private transport.

I think the solution follows along the lines of Mr. Huston's alternate incentives idea. Federal as well as state incentives, and then those incentives need to be maintained as the norm.
Poeple moved away from the cities for economic reasons, they can be coaxed back using economic incentives.
I'm not arguing policy with you - at all. I'm just disagreeing with you that our population is really "spread out".

As far as the 8% - you can do the math yourself but i'm pretty sure i got it right. Just take the land area of the 30 biggest metros and add 'em up. It should come under 370,000 square miles.
 

Michele Zone

BANNED
Messages
7,657
Points
29
Hey, DoD,
I think I have been misunderstood. I am talking 'economic incentives'. One of the first things I said is that it is the way we make it easy to finance a single family suburban house that makes it the 'default' setting here in America.

Nor am I trying to promote public transit, I am just making the point that living out in the burbs practically requires 2 cars, so the folks living there for the 'cheap' housing are not 'poor', they are middle class. They manage to stay middle class in part by exploiting the difference in pay and price between two geographic areas and bridging the two via commuting.

Folks who most need a break on housing prices cannot afford 2 cars. So, there is a fairly high 'entry price' to getting the cheap house in the suburbs.

I am well aware that America has chosen to prioritize individual mobility and many other countries do not. Nor do I think that is ever going away. It is a different mindset. I have heard folks who are very pro-public transit talk about the so-called 'consipiracy' where the car companies bought up subway, monorail, etc, lines and closed them down to drive up car prices. However, most (if not all) of those lines that were closed down were dying a natural death, as I understand it. So I think this conspiracy theory is pretty silly. The only 'conspiracy' is the American attitude that places a high value on independence.

While I am not fond of driving, I am a very independent-minded individual. I left my hometown and have lived all over the place -- and that was what I wanted. But I was cured of any fantasy that it was all about 'individual choice' and not 'market forces' when I lived in Washington state. The nuclear plant in Richland is a major employer for the area and has undue influence on the local economy. In fact, Richland basically was 'born' of this nuclear plant. I no longer remember numbers but it was originally a tiny town of a few hundred. They decided to build the nuclear plant and the army corps of engineers threw up several thousand houses in a period of a couple of years and practically overnight Richland came into being.

Much of the housing stock goes back to that originally built by the army corps of engineers more than 50 years ago. Much (all?) of what they built are duplexes, and some of them still have window air conditioners rather than central air, etc. I lived in one for a year. When we wanted to move, we had a hard time finding a suitable apartment. The boom-bust cycle of the nuclear power plant dependent economy meant that a lot of apartments were built there in the 70's but I don't think a single apartment complex was built during the 80's. There were some new luxury complexes that were too expensive for us when we first arrived up there.

Another bust brought housing prices down and allowed us to move to a new apartment complex. It was nearly impossible to find an older apartment where you could have a hookup for a washer and dryer. The new apartments had washers and dryers in them. Either way, we had to sell our washer and dryer.

In short, real choice was almost non-existent. There was nothing similar to the kind of housing I had in mind and had lived in before.
 
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