December 28, 2004

Few Communities Interested In Romney ‘Smart Growth’ Plan

At first glance, it seems like a good "smart growth" idea: Encourage communities to build more affordable housing in areas where there's already existing infrastructure, such as near mass transit or on former industrial sites.

But the current state plan falls short in a number of key areas.

First off, one-time bonuses totaling $4,000 or so per new unit of housing is not necessarily going to do much to offset long-term costs of educating new schoolchildren or providing other services. And local officials are skeptical over whether even that promised money would ever actually materialize.

Some suburban communities view the required densities as too high (eight single-family units, 12 two- or three-family units or 20 apartments/condos per acre), and see a "streamlined approval processes" as threatening local control, according to the Boston Globe.

Not discussed in the article but an important corollary to the lack of state funding for towns that accept the program: It's simply unfair to place the primary burden of stopping sprawl and generating more affordable housing on communities that are already doing more than their fair share in the region. What about communities with lower-density development and almost no affordable housing? They should be required to contributing something substantial if they want to keep their snob zoning -- excuse me, "rural character" -- while other towns build the housing that their teachers, police officers and firefighters can afford.

As I said in an earlier post: While I support smart-growth concepts, "I’m NOT in favor of willy-nilly turning middle-class inner-ring suburbs into urban areas while allowing richer communities to continue building more McMansion developments unchecked, so they can dump more SUVs on everybody’s roads. Traffic in Framingham and surrounding communities already suffers when exurban communities build nothing but expensive housing without enough commercial development to support it. (Those people need to go elsewhere in order to work and shop). Suburban sprawl needs to be addressed in wealthier towns that can’t or won’t create smart-growth zones.

December 27, 2004

Traditional Town Or Suburban Sprawl?

How do you tell the difference between a traditional neighborhood type of community and housing that simply contributes to suburban sprawl? It's easy enough to label downtown Lexington as a traditional town center and Route 9 as suburban sprawl, but there's more to it than that famous judicial definition of pornography ("we know it when we see it").

Planners Dover, Kohl & Partners have come up with an easy quiz to test whether a neighborhood is an "authentic, mixed-use community" or not. Questions include: Can you find within a 5-minute walk of your home, a gallon of milk? A newspaper? A school? Does your community have an identifiable center or gathering place?

I would add: Do you enjoy walking around the neighborhood? Do you see others out walking? Is there anywhere to walk TO besides getting exercise and fresh air? Can you do any errands on foot -- and would you want to?

December 26, 2004

How Not To Build Student Housing

The Harvard Business School's new student housing complex made James Howard Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month this summer, thanks to hideously offputing architecture at every turn.

Do take a look at his commentary with photos, which clearly demonstrates why simply plunking down "green space" and a "courtyard" doesn't necessarily make an inviting public space.

December 24, 2004

Opportunity For Community: New McAuliffe Branch Library

This project would be so great for the Saxoville community and Framingham's north side in general, it's hard to know where to begin.

The north side of town is terribly underserved by library services compared with demand. Last year, the McAuliffe branch library in north Framingham was the busiest branch library in Massachsuetts. But it's certainly far from the largest.

"Based on well-established nationwide standards for library collections and services, the size of the branch needs to be nearly tripled," according to the Framingham library Web site.

As I've complained before, the current branch library has the look and feel of a trailer. There's not enough room for books, there's nowhere to hold either library or community events, and there's very little place to actually sit, read, research and spend time. In fact, there's not even enough space for the books. The building was designed to hold 16,000 volumes; it currently has more than 72,000 stuffed in.

The staff does an amazing job considering the cramped size and inability to offer any kind of appealing place to do anything more than check books in and out. But this is an unacceptable situation that's getting worse.... yet we now have a great chance for a new building that would offer so much to the community.

December 22, 2004

Average Supermarket Size Decreases

"Driven by a robust growth in target market segments — such as natural/organic, ethnic and gourmet stores — the average size of a supermarket in the U.S. decreased to 34,000 feet in 2003, taking the size of new stores below 40,000 for the first time in 10 years, according to a new study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)," FMI announced.

Good news indeed. Yes, superstores can be useful, but having fewer, larger grocery stores means that more people have to get in their cars and drive, even just to pick up some bread and milk. And that's a pity.

Here in north Framingham, we've lost at least three food stores since I've been here -- the old Round-up in the Saxonville Walgreen's Plaza, Purity in Pinefield and most recently Countryfare in Nobscot. Being able to walk to a supermarket was an important plus when I bought my house, but now it's either walking to an expensive convenience store (with no meat or produce), or the car (more than half an hour each way isn't really practical).

I grew up being able to walk to two supermarkets and a deli, and my mom could send my sister & I out for milk, bread and sandwich meat beginning when I was fairly young. Kids lose something when they don't have that kind of independence to run errands themselves.

December 19, 2004

Surprise: Making Driving Seem More Dangerous Could Make It Safer

"Hans Monderman is a traffic engineer who hates traffic signs. Oh, he can put up with the well-placed speed limit placard or a dangerous curve warning on a major highway, but Monderman considers most signs to be not only annoying but downright dangerous. To him, they are an admission of failure, a sign - literally - that a road designer somewhere hasn't done his job," starts an intriguing profile in this month's Wired magazine.

"Monderman is one of the leaders of a new breed of traffic engineer - equal parts urban designer, social scientist, civil engineer, and psychologist. The approach is radically counterintuitive: Build roads that seem dangerous, and they'll be safer." One component of this idea is to trim back wide, superhighway-type road design and return to a more human scale.

In one Dutch village, "what was once a conventional road junction with traffic lights has been turned into something resembling a public square that mixes cars, pedestrians, and cyclists." Thsoe on foot, bicycle and motor vehicle have shared the space without serious accident since 1999.

This trend is actually making its way across the Atlantic to a few select portions of the New World. "In the US, traffic engineers are beginning to rethink the dictum that the car is king and pedestrians are well advised to get the hell off the road. In West Palm Beach, Florida, planners have redesigned several major streets, removing traffic signals and turn lanes, narrowing the roadbed, and bringing people and cars into much closer contact. The result: slower traffic, fewer accidents, shorter trip times," the Wired article notes.

Narrowing the roadbed. Not exactly what we ended up with on Rte. 30, where recent construction has made the street even more offputting and threatening to non-motorized travelers.

December 13, 2004

Walker-Friendly Mixed-Use Development Under Way in N.J.

The 230-acre Chrin Commerce Centre, "years in the making ... is set to launch in Tatamy and Palmer Township early next year," according to the Express-Times.

The mixed-use development will include a business park with light industry in one corner, a town center with more industry and office space, and a village with shopping and "loft apartments."

"The concept brings buildings closer to the streets, which are narrower than in most new developments, and creates a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with trees on both sides of the sidewalks and designated bicycle lanes on the roads, [developer Craig Weintraub] said," the article explains. "Community continuity is the goal, with the streets and sidewalks tying into existing road patterns."

There, local officials support such ideas.

"Tatamy Planning Commission Chairman Anthony Jaskowiec said he likes that the design allows people to stay in the community to do things, such as shop. 'We like the concept of a walker-friendly community where people can get out and become part of the community,' he said," the Times-Express reports.

Ah, if only...

December 8, 2004

Meanwhile, In Arizona….

...a business owner and chair of the Gilbert Redevelopment Commission, is urging her town to create a pedestrian-friendly streetscape. And Mary Ellen Fresquez understands that this means more than installing sidewalks.

"If you're walking downtown, we want to make sure that there are windows you can look into to see what is available down here," she told the Arizona Republic.

Gilbert Planning Director Jerry Swanson agreed, explaining: "You don't want pedestrians to have to walk very far before they get to the next shop or business or restaurant. ... The places that we all flock to like Sedona, in the old part, is not a place that you drive from one business to the other or have to walk a quarter of a mile to go to another door. ... It's the place where the next business is right next door to the first business - and it's a short trip."

Reminder: Rte 30/Rte. 9 is also a business district here in Framingham, not only downtown.

They get it in Gilbert. Why don't we?

December 5, 2004

Natick Mall Expansion: Disappointment

I sat down with Dick Miller (chair of the Natick Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee) yesterday to take a look at detailed plans for the Natick Mall expansion, including a drive around the site .... and I was awfully disappointed.

At a time when pedestrian-friendly "lifestyle centers" are the cutting edge in suburban development, the Natick Mall plans appears to stick to the same old car-centric, pedestrian-hostile philosophy we've suffered through in the "Golden Triangle" for half a century. Unless local officials and residents make their demands NOW, we'll lose this opportunity for another generation.

December 4, 2004

Walking More Dangerous Than Driving

Thanks to communities designed for vehicular traffic and not pedestrian safety, "walkers are far more likely to be killed in street accidents than are motorists, according to a report on pedestrian safety released yesterday," the Washington Post reports.

"The report found that in 2001, the last year all data were available, the fatality rate per 100 million miles traveled for walkers was 20.1, compared with 1.3 for car and truck travelers."

The "Mean Streets" report was conducted by the Surface Transportation Policy Project. Anne Canby, president of the organization, blamed roads designed solely for cars, lax traffic enforcement and traffic lights that are not timed for walkers.

"People have not accepted that walking is a legitimate form of transportation," she told the Post.

The report also showed that a dismal 1.3% of all federal transportation funds in Massachusetts were spent on pedestrian and bicycle porjects from 1998-2003.

"Streets designed with wide travel lanes and expansive intersections have been the norm or local zoning and parking requirements that don’t account for pedestrians and public transportation riders is too often standard practice. Private sector actors routinely design malls, shopping centers and housing for automobile access, without suitable facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists or transit users," according to the report's executive summary.

Associated Press notes that Salt Lake City, which was rated poorly for pedestrian safety in 2000, improved its walking environment -- with policies not only promoting safety, but walkability and an appealing outdoor environment.

Update: Boston was deemed the safest city for pedestrians among 50 major metropolitan areas with more than a million people, the Boston Business Journal notes, with a 3.8% improvement over the last decade.

December 2, 2004

Status Of Mixed-Use, Smart-Growth Projects In The Boston Area

Dr. James C. O’Connell, a planner with the National Park Service, takes a detailed look at "compact mixed-use development in suburban Boston" with an eye on smart-growth policies such as re-using previously developed sites and building near mass transit.

"Some communities in Eastern Massachusetts want mixed-use development near public transit stops in order to attract commuters to become residents. Such town center redevelopment is not just an alternative to sprawl, it revitalizes traditional business centers, many of which had been declining for years," the report notes. "Living and shopping in town centers is growing in popularity, especially for young adults and empty-nesters. Apartments and townhouses in town centers are an emerging housing market niche."

Despite the fact that Dr. O'Connell calls Framingham "a small city" and Natick a "large town" (news flash: Framingham is the largest town in Massachusetts), this is an interesting roundup for those seeking to see the status of mixed-use projects throughout the region.

Pedestrian Killed On Old Connecticut Path

A woman was killed yesterday while trying to cross Old Connecticut Path near Hamilton Street during afternoon rush hour, the MetroWest Daily News reports.

Miriam Meyers, 88, was struck by a car at around 5:30 p.m.

I walked in that area for years during lunchtime when I worked on Old Connecticut Path, and still often do, and I can say that traffic is much heavier than it used to be, and it's a lot more difficult to cross the street even at lunchtime, let alone peak commuting hours.

With plans for the Cochituate Rail Trail to cross Old Connecticut Path, there's a clear need for a traffic signal and not simply marked crosswalks (that drivers can't see in the dark).

December 1, 2004

So You Think Your Commute Is Bad?

3.4 million Americans "endure a daily 'extreme commute' of 90 minutes or more each way to work," USA Today reports. They're among the fastest-growing segment of commuters, according to a Census study, Journey to Work, released in March. Their commute times are more than triple the national average of 25.5 minutes each way. "

I had a few summer jobs with commutes longer than that -- I'd leave my parents' Long Island home at 7:20 a.m or so to get into Manhattan by 9. But that was because I was taking a car to a bus to a subway; actual mileage probably wasn't more than 25 each way. However, the commuters being profiled here are going so far that "they actually travel through several weather zones — from the edge of the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, or from Pennsylvania resort towns in the Poconos to midtown Manhattan."

That's insane.

November 29, 2004

Romney Honors 10 Smart Growth Projects

Not a single one in MetroWest. Of course, Framingham's Arcade project, which would bring housing, commercial and retail development near the T station, stalled because the governor's administration hasn't developed proper regulations for tax-breaks for such mixed-use projects. Argh.

Anyway ... the 10 honored smart-growth projects include Cambridge's bicycle and pedestrian program, which assumes that people actually plan to get around by foot, cycle and public transit instead of designing for the automobile and then adding token gestures for others (such as sidewalks no one would actually ever want to use); and the Dennisport Village Center with a mix of retail, commercial, professional and residential use.

November 28, 2004

First “Lifestyle Center” Opens In Massachusetts

Derby Street Shoppes, recently open in Hingham, is Massachusetts' first so-called "lifestyle center," according to the Boston Globe: a retail development featuring "open-air areas with pedestrian-friendly streetscapes. ... While many of the stores are also found in malls, their ambience is intended to be more akin to a downtown. The centers typically have wide sidewalks and elaborate landscaping, in a layout meant to encourage window shopping, outdoor dining, and strolling."

''It is designed to give the customer a sense of place that is more than just a place to shop," Tom DeSimone, a partner in W/S Development Associates LLC of Chestnut Hill, which developed the center, told the Globe. "It creates something of a downtown feel."

It's a pity they had to give this cutting-edge shopping area such a gag-inducing cutesy name. That aside, though, Derby Street Shoppes is a great concept (although I haven't seen it in person yet), and a superior alternative to yet another conventional shopping mall.

A Framingham developer has planned another one for Burlington (see earlier posting) ... but no word on any such development here in Framingham. Instead, we've got the actively ambiance-hostile Shoppers World, which was designed to have a hideously unattractive parking lot as its central feature, not an appealing streetscape. Sigh.

‘Inner Ring’ Suburbs At Risk?

A study of Philadelphia's "inner-ring" suburbs -- communities between the city itself and more open, affluent outer suburbs -- finds them "increasingly vulnerable to economic decline."

The research, by Nancey Green Leigh and Sugie Lee at the Georgia Instiute of Technology, concludes that Philadelphia itself saw a reduction in poverty and the exurbs attracted new population and housing growth. But communities in between "are declining overall [and showing] early signs of blight."

Conclusion: "There is a need to stem the deterioration of the inner-ring suburbs, documented in our case study of Philadelphia, as well as to stem further sprawl-contributing greenfield development on the metropolitan fringe. This suggests that strategic policy approaches should favor the revitalization and enhancement of existing, inner-ring physical infrastructure over new infrastructure creation in the outer-ring suburbs."

Boston isn't Philadelphia, but planners in suburbs within Rte. 495 -- particularly those less affluent than their neighbors -- need to be paying attention here.

Why Much Of Framingham Isn’t Walkable….

...and how to make it that way.

That's the thrust of an article I had published in today's MetroWest Daily News.

The genesis of the piece was noticing how few pedestrians walk on Rte. 30 -- where sidewalks are ample and there are, in theory, attractive destinations for walkers such as stores and restaurants; yet so many more lunchtime office workers are out walking on nearby back roads, with no sidewalks or stores.

If you investigate this apparent paradox, you'll understand why simply installing sidewalks -- even sidewalks that meet government codes, and are wide enough to walk three abreast -- will not entice anyone but the most militant of walkers out of their cars. And why the Golden Triangle will NEVER resemble a walkable community, unless planners make a conscious decision to design for walkability as well as traffic flow -- even though office workers and residents are so tantalizingly close to restaurants, stores and financial services in town.

I invite you to take a look at it this week (before they put the article in their paid archives).

November 22, 2004

New Study To Examine Community Design, Health Links

"A new $2.8 million effort, partnering public and private funding agencies, will examine how better community design encourages people to be more physically active in their daily lives. Researchers will identify how our built environment contributes to obesity and how environmental changes can combat a growing public health problem," according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health.

"We'd like to determine if simple changes in the built environment and in individual behavior can enhance physical activity and reduce obesity for residents," said Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences , which is the public agency funding the effort. "Local municipalities could then look at the results and determine if modifying the built environment might affect the public's health and reduce health care costs."

Makes sense. If you not only can drive everywhere, but must drive everywhere, because you live in a pedestrian-hostile environment, clearly you're going to get much less incidental activity week in and week out, than if you live someplace where it's enticing to walk from place to place.

November 20, 2004

Shopping Malls a la Main Street

That's the title of a Boston Globe article about the new Wayside Commons development planned for the old Raytheon site in Burlington, Mass.

The $30 million, 190,500-square-foot outdoor mall will have " village-style retail with outdoor eating, small shops, walkways, seating, and landscaping threaded throughout the 16-acre site," the Globe says -- an attempt to recreate the feel of a New England village main street, within a 10-minute walk of 10,000 office workers and a hotel.

The project "will introduce a greater mix of uses to the district and make it more pedestrian-friendly," Kristin Hoffman, a planner for the town of Burlington, told the Globe.

Imagine what could have been done if Shoppers World, or areas of Speen Street, had been developed that way in Framingham, and office workers HERE had a village-style center to stroll through at lunchtime, instead of piling into their cars to choke area roads.

Framingham's Patriot Partners is developing the Burlington project. But the town of Framingham has no similar type of project, preferring conventional, pedestrian-hostile, aesthetically unpleasant "big box" retailers like Home Depot and BJs, set way back from the road and surrounded by a sea of asphalt.

You know what? Not every area suburb feels the same.

"Though [Burlington] was set against 'big box' retail development, officials liked the idea of a high-end, open-air retail village, which they thought would not deteriorate in value and would expand the town's tax base, [developer Steven] Rice said," according to the Boston Business Journal.


November 14, 2004

Downtown Framingham Arcade Project Stalls

Framingham officials approved the mixed-use Arcade building project, aimed at helping revitalize downtown, more than half a year ago, yet it hasn't gone forward. Why? Because everyone has to wait for the state to finalize guidelines for a so-called TIF (tax incremental financing) deal, which offers a temporary tax break for such developments. There apparently aren't any TIF guidelines for a residential portion of mixed-used developments, the MetroWest Daily News reports.

Hello! Hello! Earth to Romney administration! The governor's top officials SAY they favor dense housing around transit stations as a way to encourage "smart growth." Well, here's a plan that adds housing near the train station ... and it's been waiting since March for the state to come up with some rules?

It's not enough to talk the talk on smart growth. You've got to walk the walk. Making a grand pronouncement on smart growth doesn't mean squat if your'e not paying attention to hammering out the details to make it happen, instead of simply making headlines.

Meanwhile, interest rates are rising and local officials fear that too many more delays might jeopardize the project entirely. &%^$#@.

November 11, 2004

Arts In Downtown Framingham?

Globe West has a story about a group seeking to bring significant cultural events -- concerts, film festivals and the like -- back to downtown Framingham.


I say "back," because there actually were such events in Nevins Hall back in the '30s.

As much as I beat the drum about a pedestrian-friendly streetscape -- and I continue to think that's absolutely vital if there's any hope of downtown revitalization -- walkability alone isn't enough. There has to be something to draw people there. A "sense of place" isn't enough by itself. There's got to be something to attract people to the place.

In downtown Waltham, it's a concentration of good ethnic restaurants along with a movie theater that doesn't solely duplicate what you can see in any suburban multiplex, but also shows some edgier arts films and foreign flicks.

Things like concerts and film festivals could help entice people to downtown Framingham. Combined with planned new housing in the area, there's great potential. But I can't overstress the need to make an appealing park-once, walk-to-many pedestrian-friendly area. It's the best possible way to offer an attractive alternative to Route 9.

Kathleen Bartolini, director of planning and economic development, will be seeking a state grant to study creating of a cultural district downtown.

The MetroWest Daily News also has a report about the grant application.

November 4, 2004

Westboro Mixed-Use Project Moves Forward

"Roche Bros., Linens 'n Things, and a Lillian August home furnishings store are slated to become anchor tenants in the Westborough Centre project," Boston Globe West Weekly reports. "Developers are negotiating leases for the three retail stores that would occupy nearly half of the 247,000 square feet of retail, restaurant, and office space in the upscale 'lifestyle village.' "

The 22-acre project downtown, at the old Tyrolit/Bay State Abrasives site, has yet to receive Planning Board and Design Review Board approval. Officials have already asked developers to change the design, adding more walkways and roadways and creating smaller blocks, so it looks more like a village and less like a strip mall, Town Planner Jim Robbins told the Globe.

November 1, 2004

Top Ten Ways To Make Framingham More Walkable

I live here, I work here, and I walk here. And when I'm on foot, I get a look at places in a way that's not possible when traveling by automobile.
What I see is a town that offers a lot of sidewalks -- but too many places where it's technically "possible" to walk, but not actually enjoyable. And that's a pity, because walking improves both health and quality of life -- not to mention cutting congestion.
How could Framingham be a more walkable community? In this MetroWest Daily News column, I offer my top 10 list of places and features as they are ... and how they could be.

October 29, 2004

Revitalizing Inner Suburbs By Attracting Artists

There's an interesting piece in The Aurora Daily Sun & Sentinel about how a declining inner suburb with relatively high crime is being revitalized in part through a government investment in attracting artists to the area.

A new mixed-use development dubbed Florence Square in an area of Aurora, Colo., includes a hundred residential units with art studios. The rest of the 4.5-acre square will feature retail shops, office buildings, more apartments and an "arts walk."

In fact, walkability is a prime attraction of the center -- walking to galleries, other stores and public transportation when needed. “I love the idea of being able to walk to galleries and local shops that might be selling my art,” long-time Denver-based artist Irving Watts told the paper.

Downtown revitalization, anyone?

October 25, 2004

REI: Flagship Store Vs. Framingham Store

Maybe you've been to the REI store in Framingham, off Rte. 30 in one of the most pedestrian-hostile areas of town. Trying to get there by foot from the other side of the street is an adventure, although not exactly the kind of excitement that the outdoor-gear retailer has in mind.

It's a typical suburban-sprawl kind of place, set back from the road, offset by unlandscaped asphalt.

But their flagship store in Seattle sure sports quite a different look -- it's surrounded by a half-acre of beautifully landscaped forest, complete with waterfall.

"For most stores, the landscape consists of little more than a parking lot or garage and perhaps a few pots of seasonal flowers, a small investment compared with the building itself. But the forest surrounding REI stretches over 21,000 square feet, even though code required less than 3,000 square feet of landscaping. The waterfall alone cost more than $100,000," the Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest magazine reports.

Project manager Greg Brower explained: "Even though it's a retail store, it's all about the outdoors."

Well, in Seattle maybe. Certainly not in Framingham.

October 24, 2004

Saving Charlestown’s City Square

If you've got today's Boston Globe, take a look at the Sunday magazine's last page, Cityscapes. You'll see three photos: how a wonderful urban space looked a hundred years ago, how that place was pretty much destroyed by design for the automobile, and then how it's been restored to once again be a place that draws people in.

"In our 1987 photo, we see the ravages perpetrated on so many American cities when they carved themselves up to make way for the automobile," note Robert Campbell and Peter Vanderwarker.

Now, though, the elevated roadway has been torn down and "the square is a park again, designed by landscape architect Craig Halvorson, who also did Boston's fine Post Office Square park. . . . City Square is again an active part of the city."

October 23, 2004

Demand For Housing Near Train Stations

Demand for housing near subway and commuter rail stations is expected to skyrocket in the next 25 years, with "at least a quarter of all new households — 14.6 million households -- [potentially] looking for housing in these transit zones," according to a study, Hidden in Plain Sight, from planning groups in Chicago and San Francisco. "This is a staggering figure, since only a small portion of all new housing is being built in these locations today."

An estimated 6 million households are now within half a mile of transit stations.

Much of the demand will occur in five cities with "mature and extensive transit systems," the study says: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco. But other communities with smaller systems but soaring growth, such as Denver and Salt Lake City, are also likely to see heavy demand for housing within walking distance of a subway or commuter rail line.

October 17, 2004

‘Smart Growth’ Around Train Stations: A How-To

This easy-to-read 4-page guide (see PDF file) offers basic advice on how to get maximum community benefit out of developments around transit stations.

For example, an obvious but often-ignored suggestion: "Coordinate safe and easy transfers between transit, car, bicycle, and pedestrian travel ways." (I'd add "appealing" to "safe and easy").

The guide also includes some photos to illustrate what they're talking about.

No one is expecting that everyone will foresake their cars and walk or bike to the station, even with "smart growth." The point is to allow, encourage and entice more people to use alternate transportation -- especially if they're within walking distance.

It's important to remember that people will still drive their cars from place to place even if they're close enough to walk, unless there's a pedestrian-friendly route for them. And that means more than installing sidewalks in an environment that's still off-putting to walkers.

(Thanks to Beyond Brilliance, Beyond Stupidity for the link, and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission for the guide.)

October 16, 2004

Just Plain Silly

Stone's Auto Service in Natick has removed its gas pumps, prompting Bulletin & TAB Columnist Maureen Sullivan to bemoan the difficulty buying gasoline downtown these days. There are now "only" two gasoline stations in "that part of town."

Maureen ... are you listening to yourself? It's "challenging" to buy gas now? If there are stations nearby that sell gas and don't have long lines, what's the problem? How spoiled have you become? How many gas stations do you need blanketing an area so it's enough? Four? Ten? Three on every corner?

"Whether it's a consequence of big oil or an effort to make downtown more pedestrian friendly, getting gas in downtown Natick just became a bit more challenging," she writes in Sullivan's travels: Natick is running out of gas.


Actually, there are strict environmental regulations governing underground gasoline storage tanks. That might make more of an impact on a business's decision to remove their tanks than "making downtown more pedestrian friendly." And anyway, keeping the service station's existing footprint, including all the asphalt, doesn't do all that much to help pedestrians, other than a reduction in the amount of cars going in and out over the sidewalk.

October 15, 2004

Where Public Transportation Works

Where? New York City!

So says Atlanta photographer Charles Lyon, who marveled that for 10 days in New York, he "left the driving to professionals — cabbies, subway motormen, train engineers, bus drivers and ferry captains. . . . Instead of sitting in traffic, stressing out, I sat in the train, relaxing and reading the newspaper. "

Having spent several summers commuting from Long Island to Manhattan as he did -- but by bus to subway, not the Long Island Railroad -- I'm not necessarily eager to go back to three hours each day of enjoying public transport. However, I agree that public transportation works a lot better in New York than most American cities.

October 10, 2004

‘Village’ Proposed Near Westborough T Station

"In a sharp departure from the typical subdivision of large lots, a developer wants to build a cluster of shops and condominiums near the Westborough commuter rail station," Boston Globe West Weekly reports. "The village-style development is designed to attract younger residents who cannot afford the price of an average home in the area and are seeking a more urban environment."

The development would include small restaurants and cafes as well as convenience stores. Residents would be able to do some shopping and dining there, as well as walk to public transportation into Boston or downtown Framingham.

There would be no detached, single-family housing in the village.

Town Meeting will be asked to rezone 100 acres of industrial property as a "smart-growth" zone to allow more dense development. 20% of the units would be affordable. In exchange, the developer would have to buy land somewhere in town to be used at open space.

Not surprisingly, some neighbors are complaining about the density, including concerns about traffic and expenses for educating new children in the village. Original plans for 350 units have been cut back to less than 300.

October 8, 2004

How Do You Make An Area Pedestrian-Friendly? asked successful restauranteur Avram Hornik about the Ben Franklin Parkway, an "oft-deserted strip." How do you turn an area with buildings and residences into a thriving center of activity? Not by designing it so traffic whizzes through but pedestrians are put off, that's for sure.

"There's museums, schools, some residential, but it's not really a pedestrian area people go to stroll around. You don't hear people say, 'Oh, let's go to the Parkway and just hang out.' While on Walnut Street and Rittenhouse Square people do that," Hornik said.

"You have to change the architecture of the space, you have to make it pedestrian-friendly, you have to do landscaping, you have to create a mixed-use environment that makes the walk from Logan Circle to the Art Museum something people want to do.

"Just plopping a sidewalk cafe in that area right now would do no one any good. Nobody is going to walk five blocks just to sit outside. But if there's a series of sidewalk cafes, of small-scale amusements, now this is not something the city would necessarily have to invest in."

October 3, 2004

New York’s One-Time Slums Are Thriving

First one-time "dowdy" areas like TriBeCa became hot areas to live. "Then far bleaker neighborhoods like Harlem, the South Bronx, Fort Greene and Williamsburg saw their rubble-blanketed lots, burnt-out shells and down-at-the-heels brownstones transformed into appealing, sometimes voguish habitats," the New York Times reports in a Sunday feature, The Next TriBeCa? Stick a Pin in the Map. "Now even the badlands of East New York, Bushwick and Red Hook are luring adventurous developers and homesteaders. There is scarcely a New York neighborhood that is not on an upswing."

What's prompted the rebirth of neighborhoods that not too long ago, many people feared walking through in broad daylight, let alone investing in? The story says:

Waltham Eyes ‘Smart Growth’ Zoning

Waltham has hired a consultant to overhaul its zoning codes. And that consultant is looking to create business centers with residential as well as commercial activity.

"People can walk to the store and their jobs. They wouldn't have to use their cars if they didn't want to," the consultant, Ralph Willmer at McGregor and Associates in Boston, told the Waltham Daily News Tribune.

Such development can reduce congestion as well as improve quality of life for those who dislike dependence on automobiles or are unable to drive.

"That's where urban planning is going," Building Commissioner Ralph Gaudet told the paper. "It's what's called live, work and play zones."

October 2, 2004

Charles River Path From Newton to Boston’s Science Museum!

"By fall's end, people will be able to do something they never could before along the Charles River: walk, jog, or cycle on a single pathway from Norumbega Park, near Route 128 in Newton, to the Museum of Science in Boston," today's Boston Globe's West edition reports (I don't see the story on the Web yet).

What a fabulous idea -- being able to recreational walk or bike, or COMMUTE by foot or bicycle, along the river.

"Perhaps the most dramatic piece of the new pathway is the Blue Heron Bridge, a 140-foot suspension bridge for pedestrians that crosses the river by Cheesecake Brook in Newton. ... One couple has already asked to hold a wedding ceremony there...."

I used to live in downtown Waltham, just blocks from the Charles. In the early '80s, there wasn't that much pedestrian access to enjoy the river.

Now I live in Saxonville, just blocks from the Sudbury River. There's the lovely Carol Getchell Trail along the river for a couple of miles, thanks to Friends of Saxonville. But that's about it for river access around here, except for a few small disconnected parks. Imagine how fabulous it would be if there were a walkway and bikeway ALL ALONG the Sudbury River, including right in the business district, and you could actually get from one place to another on it as well as using it for recreational hiking.

If they can do it by the Charles, why can't we do it along the Sudbury River?

Update: The full article (although not the cool graphic of the trail) is now on the Globe West Web site.

Traditional Development Planned For Austin Suburb

A more traditional community/neighborhood development is underway in the Austin suburb of San Marcos, near Texas State University, designed to offer suburban living without the sprawl.

"Your kids will be able to walk to a store," developer Jeff Etheredge -- a native of San Marcos -- told the Austin Business Journal. "What we tried to do is blur the line between residential and commercial, so it's a more accessible neighborhood."

This kind of smart development doesn't mean densely packing 8 residences per acre. A lot has to do with walker-friendly design. "Homes will have wide front porches, the garages will be in rear alleys and the streets will be narrower," the article explains. "[Etheredge's] goal is to make the neighborhood pedestrian-friendly. Put another way: Wal-Mart stores won't be welcome."

There are 352 homes planned for 106 acres, with another 5 acres of commercial development and a 14-acre riverfront park.

September 28, 2004

Sprawl Makes Us Sick

"[D]ata from about 8,600 people in 38 metro areas ... found their ailments increased directly in proportion to the amount of sprawl to which they were exposed. Among the most common health complaints were asthma, arthritis, headaches and high blood pressure — some of the most prevalent, but preventable, illnesses," concludes the Atlanta Journal Constitution, commenting on a study published in Public Health.

"Spending hours every week stuck in grinding traffic — getting very little exercise and breathing polluted air — can make you sick. . . .

"One of the study's most surprising findings was that those living in denser, more walkable communities tend to live four years longer than their sprawl-stressed peers. By taking steps to address the health effects of sprawl, we have an opportunity to improve the quality of life in our communities while having more time to enjoy it."

September 25, 2004

Mall Adds Outdoor Dining, Activity Areas

"It's back to the future for Northgate, as Durham's oldest enclosed shopping mall opens new outdoor space for dining and gatherings and brings back movies after a 20-year absence," the Herald-Sun reports from North Carolina. The revamped area of the mall "will be ringed by outside entrances to shops and restaurants, which could feature outdoor seating."

Mall managing general partner Ginny Bowman told the paper: "Everybody's trying to be more pedestrian-friendly, and it's hard to do that when you have a wall of back doors..."

Is *everyone* trying to make a more appealing environment for walkers? Let's see what the new Natick Mall designs look like. Reminder: Simply installing sidewalks is not enough.

Rally For Car-Free Central Park Loop

In a place like Manhattan, a park should offer an oasis away from motorized traffic -- not allow cars on the park loop! And now, activists are battling to return Central Park loop drive "to its original car-free state." About 75,000 New Yorkers have signed a petition seeking to reserve the loop for pedestrians and bicyclists. A rally is planned on Oct. 26.

September 23, 2004

Wellesley Development To Stress Walkability

"The company developing one of Wellesley's largest and busiest tracts of commercial property says it hopes to turn the jumble of asphalt and random buildings into a pedestrian-friendly downtown area," according to the Boston Globe.

The project, on 18.5 acres of Linden Street, would include both housing and retail. Work isn't scheduled to begin until early 2006.

Paris Hosts Car-Free Day

The French capital yesterday hosted "the annual car-free day it launched six years ago and which is now copied by 1,100 other cities, most of them in Europe," AFP reports. Car-free day came just several days before the annual Paris Auto Show is set to open this weekend.

The left-leaning Paris city government has tried to reduce the influence of private motor vehicles there, adding bus lanes and bicycle paths. It's also considering banning large SUVs.

But the more conservative national government is much less enthusiastic about the effort, AFP says. "As a result, the car-free day introduced in 1998 by the then-Socialist government is in decline. In 2002, 98 French cities and towns participated. Last year, it was 72."

More than a thousand other communities in Europe joined the effort to discourage auto use. However, some were less successful than others. "The Automobile Association has confirmed that European Car Free Day turned out to be the busiest day of the month so far on Dublin's roads," one Irish news site reports.

September 19, 2004

$800M ‘Mini-City’ Planned For Ventura County, Calif.

"The $800-million RiverPark mini-city, the largest mixed-use project in Ventura County history, is set for official groundbreaking Tuesday with the dedication of a new elementary school and a fire station, and the unveiling of a smaller, redesigned business core," the Los Angeles Times reports.

When finished, the project is expected to include 7,500 residents and 1.2 million square feet of retail and commercial space.

"Taken together, developers have pledged well over $100 million in public benefits: three schools, a fire station, a county maintenance facility, a vital sewer extension into El Rio and a hiking trail along the Santa Clara River. They also plan to upgrade nearby roadways, convert three huge gravel pits into water recharge basins and build 392 affordable or low-income housing units."

Original plans for a traditional "Main Street" design have been changed "to a tonier shopping promenade," the paper notes.

September 17, 2004

Will It Play In Peoria?

"A public technology magnet school, chic restaurants and shops along Main Street near Bradley University, neighborhoods revitalized with renovated homes, wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and technology companies offering employment are only a few of the many ideas Philadelphia-based consultant Richard Huffman offered for the Med-Tech District" of Peoria, the Journal Star reports .

"Bradley can begin to see Main Street as a part of its campus," Huffman said, according to the article; "but Main Street has to serve the neighborhoods as well. Now it does not."

That makes me think of Main Street in Framingham, right around the state college, just south of Framingham Centre. That stretch of Main Street doesn't have a connected feel to the campus; and it's certainly not a pedestrian-enticing area to serve the neighborhood. It's a great opportunity to develop some pedestrian-friendly retail for those living, working and studying nearby.

September 12, 2004

Mass. Bicycle & Pedestrian Conference

Moving Together 2004, a statewide bike and pedestrian conference, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Worcester Crowne Plaza. Sessions include promoting bicycling, walking and transit use; funding trail projects; conducting walkability audits and more.

The $30 registration fee includes "a full day of workshops and other valuable presentations, continental breakfast, luncheon, other refreshments, and conference materials." Registration is limited to 200.

September 8, 2004

It’s Not Your Imagination: Traffic IS Getting Worse

"In the effort to catch up with the effects of traffic congestion, American cities are falling farther behind with each passing year, according to 20-year trends announced on Tuesday," says the Texas Transportation Institute's Urban Mobility Study.

That report "shows traffic congestion growing across the nation in cities of all sizes, consuming more hours of the day, and affecting more travelers and shipments of goods than ever before," according to a press release announcing the study.

Rush hour travelers suffer through 46 hours of delays per year -- up from 16 hours in 1982, the study says.

Can additional road-building help cut back on delays? The report says only 5 of 85 metro areas were able to keep pace with traffic growth via road construction.

Natick Smart Growth Meeting Thursday

Is "Smart Growth" in Natick Smart?

That's the title of a two-day community "charrette" that kicks off tomorrow, Thursday Sept. 9, 6 to 10 p.m. at the Morse Library. It's cosponsored by Natick Center Associates and the Community Development Office of The Town of Natick.

On this first night, attendees will examine the 10 major principles of smart growth and discuss how they might apply to Natick Center. The second night, Sept. 23, will be focused on specific areas of the downtown center.

September 7, 2004

‘Smart Growth’ Projects Big Minn. Sellers

From Finance & Commerce in Minneapolis:

"Many of the hottest housing projects in the market are dense, multi-family condominium projects in the core cities. Many new home buyers are eschewing long commutes and high-maintenance houses for condos close to downtown. Proximity to public transit (including the new light-rail transit line) is often touted as a benefit of many housing projects.

"Mixed-use projects combining residential and retail elements are becoming increasingly popular. "

September 4, 2004

The Cost of Driving

I'm always astounded when conservatives complain about "public subsidies" for mass transportation, because it's so inconsistent -- none of them seem to mind our massive tax subsidies for road construction and maintenance. (Well OK, even some mass-transit haters balked at the multi-billion-dollar Big Dig pricetag. But that doesn't seem to sour them on the general concept of public funding for private automobile travel.)

I'm not even talking about the endless billions we pay in defense money to keep a presence in oil-rich Middle Eastern nations, or the medical costs we all end up paying because of air pollution-related diseases (not to mention the health costs of living a lifestyle where nobody walks anywhere anymore). I'm talking about our tax money going directly for road construction, repair and maintenance.

Barnard College Professor Owen D. Gutfreund notes in a New York Times op-ed piece today:

There is a mistaken notion that American drivers pay for their roads through gas taxes. Actually, even though states collect gas taxes and a modest federal levy was imposed to pay part of the Interstate expenses, the total of these charges never amounted to more than one-third of highway costs. Such taxes, adjusted for inflation, have actually decreased, and efforts to increase them are politically risky, even though each 1-cent rise in the gas tax costs the average driver less than $8 a year. In practice, our roads and highways have been underwritten by general taxation. With gas taxes and tolls capped by effective lobbying, this annual subsidy has grown, amounting to billions of dollars annually.

With driving so generously subsidized and the true costs hidden, Americans have driven more and more miles each year.

It sometimes appears to cost less to drive your car than take the train, but that's because you're not paying anything close to the real costs of that automobile trip.

September 1, 2004

Walking Route 30

It was a beautiful day today, so I went for a stroll along Rte. 30 near the proposed new Lowe's on my lunch hour. Despite the fabulous weather and proximity of numerous offices (and office workers), the sidewalks were devoid of pedestrians. In half an hour, I saw two recreational walkers and one woman walking to the post office from somewhere nearby. Period. Of course, the area was teeming with people -- all of them in cars.

Why? Because despite the presence of sidewalks, almost everything about this area is ACTIVELY HOSTILE to pedestrians.

* There is no pedestrian-friendly paths from the sidewalk to any of the strip-mall destinations along the road. None! There is no walkway from the sidewalks to the Target mall, or even to the post office! You have to leave the sidewalk, and walk into the same paved way that cars are turning into, crossing a traffic-filled asphalt parking lot, to actually get anywhere.

In the case of the restaurant-filled mall across from the post office (Big Fresh Cafe, Boston Market, etc.), there is an active guard rail barrier preventing anyone from walking through from the street -- the only way in is by using the place where all the cars are streaming into the parking lot.

In fact, the ONLY place in that immediate area with a pedestrian alternative from the sidewalk to the business is the McDonald's. Sad commentary, Framingham.

* There is no buffer or screening of any kind between sidewalk and rushing traffic. This tends to make walking an unpleasant experience overall, scaring off all but the hardiest, most dedicated walkers.

Oh, and if you want to walk from, say, Stop & Shop or BJs on Old Connecticut Path through to Rte. 30? This is Framingham's idea of providing pedestrian access. Yes, some painted lines in the roadway saying "pedestrian walkway."

Walkway - just painted lines on the road

Planning Board Ponders Rte. 30 Lowe’s

The developers of the proposed new Lowe's store in Framingham (where the Verizon building now sits) claim that most of the traffic to their new store would be existing cars, not new trips, according to the MetroWest Daily News.

As a former member of Town Meeting's Standing Committee on Planning & Zoning, my analytical response to that woud be:


Are they kidding?

All you local Home Depot shoppers: How many of you stop in there while you're out and about shopping anyway, as opposed to going out there because you need something?

More importantly, even if that is true, the fact that the current design would make it unappealing and nearly impossible to walk there from anywhere else would add tons of turns in and out of the store, with an adverse affect on traffic. Let's listen to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member who urged a multi-use path be built between that proposed store and Shoppers World, so people could park once and walk around to different area retail centers.

Note: I had an opinion piece in the News about this project recently.

August 28, 2004

‘A Place To Shop And Enjoy The Atmosphere’

That's not what you get with a row of strip malls and big box retailers. It is what you get when you create a commercial district with a sense of place -- including a pleasant streetscape and pedestrian environment. (If you haven't yet, please do take a look at this Urban Advantage presentation, which shows exactly what a nicer streetscape can do for a business district).

The city of Holladay, Utah, is working on an ordinance designed to create a more walkable commercial center. "A little more homey, not big-boxey," community development director and architect Ken Millard told the Salt Lake City Tribune. "We want activity on the streets again."

The article explains:
As it stands, the area is a hodgepodge of aging storefronts, a spiffy strip mall adjacent to City Hall and the state's oldest pharmacy.

But crumbling asphalt, a dearth of sidewalks and the "dangerous" five-pointed intersection create what some in the city call "an embarrassment."

The ordinance - tweaked often since the spring - outlines size restrictions, how far a building can be set back from the street, aesthetics and landscaping standards.

"It tries to create a village instead of having walls that are 50 feet high," says City Manager Randy Fitts. "We want to make this a place to shop and enjoy the atmosphere."

August 27, 2004

Stopping Sprawl Is Up To Us

"Only when a substantial number of ordinary citizens decide that it's a critical national issue and follow conservation groups into battle will the destructive effects of sprawl move to the forefront of the national agenda," writes Anna Quindlen in an opinion piece for Newsweek magazine. "Sensible and ecologically sound development is possible, but people have to seek and support it. Otherwise the hideous stretches of superstores and supermarkets that turn downtowns into ghost towns will begin to meet across the great suburban plain, and every former cornfield in America will have a name like Fox Run. Without the fox."

This is a piece worth reading. She notes that sprawl isn't regulated by one or two governmental agencies, but by cities, towns and states across America. She compares sprawl to smoking -- and how it took concerted efforts of many, including massive public education campaigns, year after year, to finally have an effect in curbing the deadly habit. A similar, massive and sustained effort is needed to combat sprawl.

"[I]f you asked many Americans what is most devaluing the quality of their lives, I suspect the answer would be that their surroundings look like Monopoly boards at the very end of a hectic game," she writes.

"If that doesn't change, our kids will wind up in an unlovely and unlivable place, sitting in endless traffic because the exurbs have moved still farther out...., drinking degraded water because the water table has been polluted, taking pictures on vacation to prove that forests still exist."

August 26, 2004

Wal-Mart Part Of A Mixed-Use Development?

The world's largest retailer isn't exactly giving up the big-box store. But the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in order to get a foothold into urban Atlanta, one proposed new Wal-Mart "is planned as part of a mixed-use development, including a second story of retail shops, apartments, streetscaping and decked, hidden parking. . . .

"The boulevard will have trees, fountains, benches, bike racks and restaurants with outdoor seating and a linear park that will lead to the apartments — not a typical Wal-Mart look."

Too bad we didn't get anything like that in Framingham. But then again, none of our town officials have demanded such things -- nor do our zoning regulations.

5.5 Miles of Assabet Rail Trail To Open This Fall

"After years of slow progress, the Assabet River Rail Trail is poised for a breakthrough with the expected opening this fall of a 5.5-mile stretch linking the downtowns of Marlborough and Hudson," the Boston Globe's West Weekly reports today.

"Supporters of the bike path, which will eventually run more than 12 miles from Marlborough to Acton, say the completed section will mark a milestone in the project's stop-and-go history."

Dunchan Power, a member of the group promoting the trail, told the Globe: "This path will connect two downtowns, and at peak hours, it's a very competitive route timewise with automobiles."

August 24, 2004

Why Johnny Can’t Walk To School

That's the title of a report published in 2000, and if anything, the situation has gotten worse -- more new schools built on large tracts of land in areas where it's impossible for kids to walk. That forces local governments to bus them all, or their parents to drive them.

There's a loss to the community as well, when a school is no longer an anchor and focus of a neighborhood, but tucked away somewhere like a big-box retailer. "Like residential or commercial sprawl, 'school sprawl' is contributing to the dismemberment of communities around the country," the report notes.

Meanwhile, in Fairfield Ohio, parents are facing the cutting of school buses for budgetary reasons coupled with police warnings that students shouldn't walk to the new high school because it's unsafe.

""Don't try to walk to school. There is no safe way to walk to the high school along Gilmore Road or Holden Boulevard," said Police Lt. Ken Colburn, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

"Fairfield isn't alone," the article notes. "In recent years, new Monroe, Lebanon, Little Miami and Indian Hill high schools have been built on large tracts at the edge of the community - without sidewalks - which require most students to arrive by car or bus. "

Horrible planning! What about students whose parents aren't available to serve as chauffer service? They're advised to get a ride from someone else.

""That's the last thing I want, a car full of teenagers," one mother told the paper.

August 22, 2004

Whiter Rte. 495?

That's the question Sam Allis asks in the Observer column in today's Sunday Globe. He believes that development action is moving back to Boston while the current tech bust has put major corporate development around Rte. 495 on hold.

"The buzz is back in our much-maligned urban core," Allis maintains, arguing that "Big I-495 players that own swaths of land along the corridor have tabled many development plans."

Demographics aren't hurting either -- McMansions on McTwoAcreLots are likely to appeal to couples with school-age kids; aging, empty-nest baby boomers may be more likely to sell their larger homes and move back to a more traditional walkable community or urban atmosphere.

The high-tech industry will eventually regain its health and exurban office development is likely to resume at some point, Allis adds. However, without "smart, strategic planning ... the same dumb expansion will simply continue."

Mass transit isn't possible in exurban towns with 2-acre zoning -- there's simply not the population density to support it. And Allis believes that while Gov. Romney talks about smart growth, he's not spending any political capital to actually get plans implemented.

''Unless there's strategic planning from the governor's office, the whole concept of smart growth won't take off," says David Magnani, state senator from Framingham.

In addition, it's going to be tough to sell towns like Framingham, which justifiably believe they've already done far more than their regional fair share in providing affordable and/or multifamily housing, on doing some denser development if so many nearby snob-zoned communities remain far from the 10% affordable housing threshold.

August 21, 2004

Pioneer Developer Rouse To Be Acquired

The Rouse Company -- developer of Boston's Faneuil Hall, New York's South Street Seaport and the planned integrated town of Columbia Md.; a firm "well known for a series of ambitious projects that brought pedestrians back to neglected urban neighborhoods," as the New York Times put it-- will be acquired by major shopping center owner General Growth Properties (pending Rouse stockholder approval).

A General Growth executive told the Times that the merger will offer major U.S. and European retail chains "one-stop shopping" when they want to expand.

Oh, great. Now EVERY shopping center EVERYWHERE can have the same exact stores.

Rouse "helped revitalize urban cores across America, including Baltimore's Inner Harbor ... proving that the grim industrial waterfront could become a shining tourist attraction," said hometown paper the Baltimore Sun. "And with Columbia, Rouse made real a vision of integration - involving race, income and building types - on 15,000 acres of farmland in Howard County."

This was a pretty radical idea for its time (and still not that common in our own time). "Columbia, Maryland was opened in 1967 -- the same year Maryland legalized interracial marriages," notes Reuters. "It was viewed as an experiment where people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds could live together."

What will happen to that pioneering Rouse vision that focused on pedestrian-friendly retailing? In one hopeful sign, General Growth President and COO Robert Michaels told reporters that some Rouse-owned malls could become even more valuable by adding restaurants, theaters and stores that open onto sidewalks, the Times said.

August 19, 2004

‘Smart Growth’ in N.H.: Waterville Valley

Yes, it can seem like an artificially created resort town without much sense of history (or it did to me the two times I was there for business meetings). Nevertheless, AP makes a good point when noting that "unlike nearly every other growing town in New Hampshire, Waterville has remained compact rather than sprawling into the countryside. . . .

"Walking paths abound. A pedestrian tunnel lets walkers cross the highway without fear. The post office and shops are a natural gathering place. For those who can’t or don’t want to walk, businesses and the nearby ski resort have organized a shuttle bus. . . .

"A person can easily walk to the center of town from anywhere in this community."

That's definitely true. I went to Waterville Valley both times in someone else's vehicle, yet didn't feel the need for a car while I was there -- even the time I was on crutches.

This is a good article on smart-growth issues in New England (several other projects are mentioned) and worth a read, talking about the challenges as well as benefits -- and the fact that obviously, some homeowners will always want their own half-acre or acre+ in a conventional subdivision.

WHICH IS FINE. But those folks have plenty of choices in the suburbs west of Boston. And right now we seem to be reaching the traffic limit of how much more sprawl we can handle.

August 18, 2004

‘One Guy, One Vision, One Nation Stuck In Traffic’

That's MetroWest Daily News guest columnist Peter Golden's summation of highway-focused Robert Moses, whose ideas helped shape the modern car-dependent suburb.

Golden laments the modern vehicle and dreams of a smaller, cleaner alternative that would still give Americans the mobility and freedom they crave.

Good idea, although I'll still push first for the pedestrian-friendly and mass-transit-possible alternative to sprawl. A park-once, walk-to-many-destinations retail center will be a lot less congested than the Framingham/Natick Golden Triange where everyone has to drive from one place to the next (even if they're just half a mile away). Planning centers with multiple routes to the same destinations -- i.e. a street grid -- as opposed to funneling all traffic onto a few feeder roads -- i.e. Rte. 9 and Speen Street -- will also help.

"“The efficiency of the traditional grid explains why Charleston, South Carolina, at 2,500 acres, handles an annual tourist load of 5.5 million people with little congestions, while Hilton Head Island, ten times larger, experiences severe backups at 1.5 million visitors. Hilton Head, for years the suburban planners’ exemplar, focuses all its traffic on a single collector road," notes one of my all-time favorite books on planning issues, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream.

August 15, 2004

Wisconsin Officials Seek Pedestrian-Friendly Mixed-Use Development

Brookfield, Wisc. mayer Jeff Speaker and I have something in common: A great longing to see Newbury Street kinds of pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development expand around the country.

"[Brookfield officials'] vision is to create a bustling space where people can live, work, play and shop - a sort of suburban downtown with sidewalks, benches and streetscapes," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains.

"Speaker compared it to the night life he said he enjoyed during a recent trip to Boston, as he strolled along Newberry St. at 11:30 p.m. 'It's so alive and it's phenomenal to see that energy and that total mixture of uses,' Speaker said. 'I would love to be able to create that energy and synergy here in Brookfield.' "

In Brookfield, officials hope to target an area around the Brookfield Square mall with a special tax district, where revenues would go first to pay off work the city plans to conduct in the area. Only then would the money flow back into general coffers.

"The city, with the tax district, hopes to spur property owners to build mixed-used development of densely packed shops, restaurants, condominiums, apartments and office space. The mixed center would be a pedestrian-friendly area with a park-like public square south of Blue Mound Road."

Not surprisingly, there's some resistance still to the idea, which has yet to come to a vote.

August 12, 2004

Artana Art Gallery Closes in Saxonville

The Artana Gallery in Framingham is no more -- something I feared would happen once the gallery opened a "second" location in Brookline. The Head First Gallery next door already closed, bringing an end to the little art-colony enclave north of the Mill at 3 Elm Street (the building with the nice bay windows.)

According to signs on the building, coming soon are a nail salon and a door & window store. I wish the new businesses well! ... but I also can't help feeling that this is a bit of a step backwards for the Saxonville business district as a destination retail center.

I like a manicure as much as the next gal (even if I only average about one every 5 years or so), but there are already two beauty salons around the corner in the Pinefield shopping center. And while I really like the new doors and windows on my home, too, I'm guessing there's a reason home-improvement-type stores are mostly on side corridors at the Natick Mall instead of the main one -- they're not prime attractions for repeat shoppers or browsers (unless you're a contractor, how many times in your life do you need to look at windows and doors?). 3 Elm had been a nice regional draw, a retail "anchor" if you will, such as when Artanna hosted receptions.

Saxonville has a unique and special sense of place, but it can't compete with Rte. 9 for easy access and parking. It should be leveraging its sense of place by offering something different that you can't get elsewhere -- like the stores in the Mill such as Lasting Presents, like the artists' studios when they do their open houses. A nail salon, a Subway ... making Saxonville center look like Anywhere, Rte. 9 would be a pity.

August 11, 2004

For Livable Cities, Focus on the Basics

To create livable, appealing communities, planners need to worry about more than attracting the next major new office/residential/commercial development project, says this Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch editorial:

"For too long," the article wisely notes, "as Columbus boomed outward, city planners forgot that some people walk instead of drive. When thoroughfares such as Rt. 161 and Brice Road grew and bloomed with offices, stores and restaurants, the design was strictly for cars."

The basic yet too-often-ignored point: "Making cities more inviting isn’t only about the glamorous new high-rise or entertainment district. At the core, it’s often much more basic: safe, comfortable places to live, work and play.

"Columbus could make headway in this area by taking action on two unglamorous fronts: sidewalks and vacant buildings. The city needs more of the former and fewer of the latter."

How can you argue with that?

August 9, 2004

What Happens When Communities Seek Jobs, But Not Housing

Suburbs around Washington D.C. are encouraging more commercial development for the tax revenue, while not balancing it off with equal amounts of housing. And that's causing problems throughout the region, according to a Washington Post news analysis.

For example, Montgomery County's master plan calls for building office space and retail to generate 40,000 new jobs -- but fewer than 15,000 new units of housing, the Post says. And Mongomery isn't alone.

"...[B]y creating housing shortages, the policies push developers, home buyers and renters farther and farther away to find available land and more reasonably priced houses," the article notes.

"This migration, in turn, produces longer commutes to work, more road congestion and the destruction of remote natural habitats, planners say. The extra auto travel contributes to other troubles, including air pollution and the "dead zones" in the Chesapeake Bay. And, most of all, sprawl."

As Gerrit Knaap, a planning professor at the University of Maryland, told the Post: "Many local governments haven't controlled growth, unfortunately -- they've deflected it."

August 8, 2004

Downtown Making Gains Over Mall-Centered District in Houston

"In the battle of downtowns, the original is scoring a comeback victory over the upstart in Texas' biggest city," the Dallas Morning News reports from Houston. "In the 1970s and early '80s, it appeared that downtown was fading and that the West Loop area around the high-end shopping center the Galleria might become the new city center."

Today, though, the Galleria business district known as Uptown "has seen its office market stall," the article says; new construction seems to be primarily residential, and the area is turning into a mix of luxury residential and high-end retail.

"Meanwhile, the original downtown has undergone a multibillion-dollar revival in the last 10 years, adding stadiums, rail transit, hotels, clubs and residences, and an after-hours life. It's quite a change for a place that once emptied at 5 p.m.

"And it's pedestrian friendly; Uptown still depends on cars."

Downtown Framingham isn't likely to get either a multibillion-dollar renovation or a sports stadium. However, as the town looks to revitalize the South Side traditional business district, just as the Natick Mall is adding residences to what's likely to be upper-end retail, the Houston model is one worth noting. Downtown CAN complement Rte. 9 by becoming a pedestrian-friendly center with appealing, multi-ethnic offerings for residents and visitors alike.

August 6, 2004

What’s Life Like In A “New Urbanist” Community?

The Seattle Times last Sunday took a detailed look at several such developments, where "people, not cars, are king. Cul-de-sacs are conspicuously absent, frowned upon because they isolate residents. Dry cleaners and sandwich shops face the sidewalk, not the parking lot. Homes are set back on small lots, creating buffers between front doors and the road. . . .

"Behind [the Carlson's] house is their all-important alley, the bull's-eye of community connection the couple was searching for: Back yards bordered with low, picket fences overlook a well-lit central lane where kids play, moms pull weeds and dads wash cars. Maria Carlson calls the alley 'party central.' "

While yards are small, neighborhood parks abound. And, the developments are typically surrounded by nature.

But, the article notes, there are still problems ... and questions.

August 3, 2004

A Golden Opportunity For Framingham

"If Lowe's application to build a store nearby is approved, there's another chance to begin remaking Rte. 30 into a park-once, walk-to-many destination," says this opinion article in the MetroWest Daily News by ... um, me :-)

The piece expands on several posts here, urging the Framingham Planning Board to make decisions that give pedestrian needs as much weight as automotive needs; and to demand that developments offer an enjoyable sense of place as well as deal with traffic and parking issues.

Had we started ten years ago, we could have had a walker-friendly Shopper's World, Target, Wal-Mart and Kohl's; the whole region could have been a pedestrian boulevard with parking in the rear, a commercial center with a sense of place instead of a sprawling collection of strip malls. But the answer here isn't to throw up our hands and say too late; it's to START NOW so that in ten years, people will enjoy BEING in the "Golden Triangle," not only shopping there.

August 2, 2004

Livable Suburbs

Although the two can be paired as often as peanut butter and jelly, "suburbs" and "sprawl" don't always have to go together. It's more than a year old now, but I still found Utne magazine's list of the 10 Most Englightened Suburbs fairly interesting.

The Tempe, Arizona listing caught my eye:

Standard-issue Sun belt sprawl has been transformed into a genuinely lively town through smart redevelopment and historical restoration. Local planners capitalized on the presence of Arizona State University to create a lively main street that attracts shoppers, cultural patrons, and lovers of urban atmosphere from around the area.

As Framingham looks to revitalize downtown, we ought to think about how to incorporate Framingham State College into the pedestrian life and streetscape of Framingham Centre, along with making an attractive transition between the center and downtown retail district. Is there a way to draw more FSC students and teachers off campus, on foot, to surrounding areas? YES: If there's an appealing walking environment all the way from the campus to attractive destinations.

August 1, 2004

‘Quality of Life’

While not about planning, designing and building livable communities per se, I'd still like to note a fascinating New York Times/International Herald Tribune piece about the differences between European and American views of vacation and leisure time (this version on may be available longer without having to pay).

"Some economists and European officials argue that, rather than reflecting a failure to catch up with its more industrious competitors because of faltering productivity growth, Europe's more modest income level mainly reflects policy choices that have tended to put a premium on leisure and equality at the expense of greater wealth," the article says.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, Western European productivity growth outpaced that of the United States in the last 30 years. In some countries, including France, productivity now exceeds that in the United States. . . .

July 28, 2004

WALK From Box To Box

We're not alone here wrestling with how to combine big-box retailers like Target and Lowe's with creating a more walkable community with a sense of place.

In Lawrence, Kansas, planners from the Smart Growth Leadership Institute suggested that future development in the city's two commercial corridors "should include plazas, pocket parks and a lot of sidewalks," the Lawrence Journal-World reports. "'Big box' stores like SuperTarget, 3201 S. Iowa, should 'integrate pedestrian walkways with surrounding development to provide a sense of safety and comfort for pedestrians,' the experts said in their report, now available on the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department's Web site,

Sound familiar? As I posted earlier, the Framingham Planning Department is now considering a request from Lowe's to build a store on Rte. 30 at the Verizon site. Developers want it on the back of the property, like surrounding pedestrian-hostile retailers that create an unsightly, suburban sprawl district around Target, BJ's and Super Stop & Shop.

‘Bike Paths Are a Valuable Part Of The Seacoast Transportation System’

Officials and residents of Portsmouth, N.H. are working to make the area more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, with a new master plan that references "a citywide bicycle and pedestrian plan" and a $191,000 federal grant to build paths to "help connect outer neighborhoods with the downtown area," according to the Portsmouth Herald.

"We applaud the continued efforts of local individuals, nonprofits and the city to make Portsmouth and the Greater Seacoast area a bit more bicycle-friendly," the paper editorialized.

So do I!

July 24, 2004

Foresaking Sprawl For Walkable Living

AARP magazine calls it a "growing trend: 50-plus empty nesters are abandoning sprawling suburbs for pedestrian-friendly cities, towns, and planned communities. . . .

"Town centers ringed with housing are popping up in big-city business districts, close-in suburbs, and new-urbanist, master-planned communities."

The article includes a link to Walkable Communities Inc.'s 12 requirements for a walkable community, including "a lively, compact town center with a good mix of stores; tree-lined, low-speed streets; and public space (a park or plaza) within 700 feet of a home." Director Dan Burden told AARP: "Look for places that put people first, cars second."

July 22, 2004

How Cool Is This? Paris Turns 2-Mile Highway Into Summer Beach

"Put on by Paris City Hall for one month and with most of its two-million-euro (2.4-million-dollar) cost paid for by corporate sponsorship, the idea is to transform what is usually a busy two-lane riverside motorway into a sort of pedestrian-only French Riviera during the traditionally quiet vacation period," AFP reports.

The "Paris Plage," running right through the city center, features "an artificial 'beach' packed with sand, palm trees, lounge chairs and free family activities" along the Seine.

Within hours of opening, the man-made beach "was alive with people walking, cycling, playing on trampolines, cooling off under fine-spray sprinklers, and kicking back in the chairs and hammocks," AFP says. New addition this year: a swimming pool.

Bad for business, shutting down a highway for people's enjoyment on foot? The "plage" attracted 3 million visitors last year and is the city's most popular summer attraction.

July 21, 2004

Lowe’s Coming To Rte. 30, Framingham

Lowe's wants to open a store on Rte. 30 in Framingham, tearing down the former Verizon building for a 156,000 superstore, the MetroWest Daily News reported from a Planning Board meeting last night.

Alarmingly, the developer wants to build a big-box store set back from the street, offering a sea of asphalt as a streetscape -- EXACTLY the sort of hideous, pedestrian-hostile design that gives rise to suburban sprawl.

Vice Chairwoman Ann Welles said she'd rather see the building at the front of the property -- and we can only hope she sticks to her guns on this.

Lowe's will be one of the first major NEW retail construction projects on Rte. 30 of the 21st century. There are two choices: Start here trying to reshape Rte. 30 so it might eventually become an appealing, park-once-walk-to-multiple-stores destination; or continue the pattern of Target and Stop & Shop that makes it a car-only experience, to the point where shoppers feel the need to drive their car a quarter-mile from one to the other.

There are a lot of office workers as well as residents within walking distance of this shopping area. How about making it an esthetically pleasing place to walk and bike to instead of more suburban blight?

July 19, 2004

What NOT To Build Downtown: A ‘Darth Vader’ Building

Critics call an office in downtown Pasadena the Darth Vader building, "because it has shown through some freak of architecture an uncanny ability to choke off pedestrian traffic along the sidewalks of Colorado," writes the Pasadena Star-News.

"Built in 1980, at a time when the city's redevelopment agency was trying to bring corporate America back into the struggling downtown, little thought was given to 'pedestrian-oriented' design . . . said Richard Bruckner, the city's director of planning and development."

It's fine when viewed as a stand-alone office, but many now see it as a liability for the business district as a whole, because it "kills the connectivity between destination areas," said Maggie Campbell, president of the Old Pasadena Management District.

This is a crucial issue to consider when downtown Framingham looks at major redevelopment plans like the Arcade mixed-use project. We can't simply look at it as a stand-alone project, but how it affects the neighborhood. Does it integrate into the fabric of the business district? Does it create an inviting streetscape? Is it pedestrian-friendly?

July 18, 2004

Pedestrian-Friendly Montreal

My husband and I are just back from a few fun-filled days in Montréal, a city that offers a lot of useful lessons about livable communities.

I came near to weeping with envy at times at some of the more pedestrian-friendly areas of the city.

Rue Prince Arthur, Montreal    St. Louis Square

For example, off the lovely little St. Louis Square -- with neighborhood park featuring pretty fountain and a little stone building where you could buy ice cream and other snacks, and then sit outside at umbrella-shaded tables -- was Rue Prince Arthur, completely closed to vehicular traffic except for the cross streets (and all the cars had to stop for pedestrians; there were no traffic lights, just cars having to wait for a break in the foot traffic). Prince Arthur Street is lined on both sides with restaurants and cafes, all with LARGE outdoor seating areas -- several rows of tables each.

Imagine parts of Newbury Street in Boston or Harvard Square in Cambridge closed off to vehicles, and you approach the idea.

Montreal at night

July 16, 2004

Smart Growth Makes (Dollars And) Cents

Framingham is definitely not a city, but one could argue its downtown is a bit more urban than surrounding areas (although still not quite like communities such as Boston, Cambridge and Somerville in terms of urbanization).

So, when a report says that revitalizing core urban centers also benefits surrounding suburban communities, it leads one to imagine that revitalizing downtown Framingham can help all areas of the town, not simply one section of the South Side.

July 14, 2004

A ‘Smart Growth’ Pedestrian-Friendly Community

What does a 'smart-growth' pedestrian-friendly community look like? In Millcreek, Pa., it means "a general store that reduces the need to drive and it features behind-the-home garages, sidewalks, walking trails, homes with front porches and acres of usable open space. In addition, single-family detached homes and townhouses are located on the same streets," according to an article on the National Association of Homebuilders Web site.

It's not simply about dense development. Even communities with traditional densities can be "smarter" growth and more pedestrian friendly by the way they're designed. One key is not to have an endless row of large garage doors as major frontage to the street -- that's really offputting to walkers. Have inviting doorways fronting a pleasant sidewalk -- like the Victoria Gardens townhouses in Saxonville (thumbs up) and NOT like the latest prefab developments just down the street which are walled off from the streetscape and present an unappealing pedestrian vista (thumbs down).

It's a shame that builders of the new townhouses on Nicholas Road chose to have ENORMOUS garage doors as what most fronts the street (not only are the garages not tucked out of view; they're even closer to the road than the doorways) along with a lot of pavement but no sidewalk. Sigh. The larger apartment complex across the street is actually more pedestrian friendly.

July 13, 2004

Pedestrian Advocacy

Many communities now have groups that advocate for more pedestrian-friendly development and municipal policies. Framingham, for example, has the Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee -- which, by the way, meets tonight, Tuesday July 13, 7:30 p.m. in Town Hall (the public can attend).

In surfing around the Web, though, I was impressed with the site of one of our committee's West Coast counterparts, Pedestrian Friendly Alameda. It's an attractive, well-done site, for a group lobbying for making their community a safe and enjoyable place to walk.

Safety is only part of the equation. Simply creating sidewalks that meet certain width and curb-cut codes is not enough, as sidewalks currently along Rte. 9 and Speen Street in Framingham make all too clear. ENJOYABLE is really important, too! Wide enough, screened from traffic, attractive streetscape -- these are all vital for a community that is truly walkable.

July 12, 2004

Another Town Seeks Pedestrian-Friendly Downtown

The town of Malta, N.Y., hoping to emulate popular Saratoga Springs, has approved new zoning aimed at making its downtown more appealing to walkers.

"Lauded by Town Board members and county officials, the overlay [zoning district] calls for Malta's new downtown development to put parking in the back, encourage outside dining areas, line the streets with trees and add lamppost lighting," according to an article in the Saratogian.

Parking in the rear, encouraging outside dining, lining streets with trees and adding attractive lighting. All great ideas for Framingham to think about in its revitalization efforts!

"Retail uses will be on the ground floor with setbacks less than 35 feet from the edge of the pavement," the article notes. "And, like Saratoga Springs, owner-occupancy is encouraged."

July 10, 2004

Hawaiian Town Residents Want More Pedestrian-Friendly Living

"Residents of Kailua want better walkways, more bicycle routes and evening recreational activities for their town, according to survey results released by Kane'ohe Ranch this week," a Honolulu newspaper reports.

"Kane'ohe Ranch also hired an expert in transportation planning to help resolve issues with pedestrian circulation. James Charlier said people opt to walk because of subconscious decisions about comfort, safety and convenience. The environment shapes these perceptions, and if Kailua is to be more pedestrian-friendly, shade, wider sidewalks, protection from passing cars and eliminating long blank walls and overhead wires will help, he said."

The same things work up here in colder climates, too.

July 8, 2004

$4M Natick Mall Mitigation To Include Pedestrian Access

The Natick Mall will pay close to $4 million to improve area roads under a draft plan discussed by the Planning Board last night," the MetroWest Daily News reports. "More than $2.4 million will go to roadwork and pedestrian access on Speen Street...."

Woo-hoo! Some thought is indeed being given to pedestrians as part of the Natick Mall expansion plan. However, I hope that "pedestrian access" will mean a LOT more than sticking in sidewalks that no one would actually want to use. P-L-E-A-S-E, let's include sidewalks that have some kind of screening between walkers and traffic, and that are pleasant to be on, instead of feeling like you're drowning in a sea of concrete and barely separate from a river of speeding cars, trucks and SUVs.

July 7, 2004

A Field Guide To Sprawl

"I was struggling for words to describe places like Tysons Corner," Yale Professor Dolores Hayden told the New York Times, referring to the Virginia suburb's sprawl. "If you don't know what to call something, you don't know how to criticize it."

That, the Times explains, helped spark work on her new book to be published next month, A Field Guide To Sprawl.

"In addition to naming names, Hayden critiques a landscape based on unrestrained growth, one, she writes, championed by federal policies since the 1920s," according to the Times. "The idea for a field guide grew out of Hayden's own frustration as a scholar and a citizen. . . .[She] wound up serving on a citizens advisory committee examining encroaching development" in Guilford, Conn.

The town is "a very typical battleground for preserving the sense of place," she told the Times. Yet the town's zoning code "was so convoluted nobody could read it. After a while I got to see that a lot of it was designed to frustrate discussion rather than enable it."

July 5, 2004

Denver Face-Off: Smart Growth Vs. Dumb Growth

"In one of only three successful all-volunteer petition drives in the state's history, volunteers have turned in more than 52,000 valid signatures to ensure that the Regional Transportation District's FasTracks plan will be on the Nov. 2 ballot in the seven-county metro region," writes the Denver Post's Bob Ewegen. "That means this fall's election will produce the long-awaited confrontation between Smart Growth and its smog-fueled evil twin, Dumb Growth."

FasTracks would build half a dozen new rail lines into Denver. It is supported both by the local business community as well as environmentalists, as one way to deal with predicted booming growth -- 900,000 new residents and more than half a million jobs in the next 15 years.

Ewegen wisely points out that whether or not Colorado grows is not entirely in its own hands. "[W]hat we can control is whether that growth is channeled wisely or whether it overwhelms and obliterates the special qualities that attracted so many of us to Colorado in the first place. . . .

"The legacy of dumb growth will be with us until the next ice age, when the glaciers scrape off the sprawl and allow our descendants to start all over."

July 4, 2004

Who Owns The Streets?

"You either feel the pedestrian owns the street or the motorists own the street"
-- West Warwick Town Councilman Leo J. Costantino Jr, quoted in the Kent County Times after attending a Walkable Workshop.

Well said! When streets are designed only with automobiles in mind, even if sidewalks are installed as an afterthought (but with no effort to make the walking experience a pleasant one or even a safe one for people who are trying to cross the street), walking is a discouraged activity. And that means people end up taking their cars even from one strip mall to another, half a mile away or less -- distances that they wouldn't think twice about walking if they were on Commonweath Avenue or Newbury Street in Boston, Harvard Square in Cambridge and so on.

Costantino told the paper he expected to be "underwhelmed" by the event but "came away educated with a different awareness and a lot of ideas of different ways of accomplishing things."

We need better design and planning to liberate us from HAVING to use our cars to drive less than a mile!!!

July 2, 2004

Walkable? Zoning bill is the key

Current zoning encourages sprawl, argues this editorial in the San Jose Mercury News. But there's a solution!

People love places like downtown Willow Glen, Los Gatos and Mountain View. They stroll the streets and linger, with or without laptops, at coffee shops. People who work in stores or nearby offices rarely get in their cars at lunchtime because it's so easy to walk to Aqui or Kuleto's or The Cantankerous Fish.

It's no coincidence that these are older neighborhoods. Since the 1950s, zoning in the United States has discouraged building them. But a bill moving through the California Legislature this month would make it easier for communities to mix stores, offices and different kinds of homes in new, walkable neighborhoods that mimic popular older ones.

The editorial goes on to endorse the proposal by Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins, AB1268. "It should be required reading for local officials all over the state," the newspaper says. "Cities that haven't been thinking about this kind of planning ought to be."

Towns, too!