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"Transit Villages": Brief Fad or an important Third Way?

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The transit village, is finally popping up all over the Bay Area. By building a mix of housing and services near BART, Caltrain and light-rail stations, they bring together the same conveniences of transit and pedestrian-friendly shops that make established urban enclaves so desirable.


It's all part of the mid-'90s New Urbanism movement, which calls for a renewal of the charms and conveniences of an urban landscape designed for people rather than parking. New Urbanism preaches that a diversity of housing types is better for both community and consumers than an either/or choice of suburban sprawl or highrise urban towers.


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"What's Preventing Utopia?

The time has more than come for transit villages, so why aren't more people flocking to them?"

:: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...CMGTL7G20O1.DTL




The number of those who fit the New Urbanism profile, who like corner cafes and easier commutes, is significant and growing. According to a study produced by the Congress for New Urbanism, nearly 25 percent of the middle- aged population and some 53 percent of "Echo Boomers" (ages 24 to 34) would choose to live in transit-rich, walkable neighborhoods. A recent national marketing assessment found that demand for housing within walking distance of transit will more than double by 2025, says Shelley Poticha, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Transit-Oriented Development.



Security, she reports, is "excellent," and the well-lit Village has even improved the surrounding nighttime street scene



Like it or not, we need to dispense with the idea that we can solve our housing shortage by paving over the counties to the south and east with four- lane streets and five houses to the acre. If there's one thing environmentalists and the local business community agree on, it's that stratospheric housing prices and the regional costs of sprawl are threatening to strangle the region's livability. (Note: prices were still rising when this was written in 2004.)



With commute times and house prices both stretched to the breaking point, there's a sulfurous whiff of rancor in the air these days around suburban growth. Cultural critics such as David Brooks have drawn their rapiers in defense of suburbia, finding the American Dream and diversity within its homogeneity, while fed-up residents of the very bedroom communities he extols are rising up in rebellion against more development.


It's beyond refute that three- to four-hour daily commutes deplete home and community life, and that the environmental costs of traffic congestion -- not to mention the obesity of the drivers -- rise in direct proportion to the driving distance from urban centers


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Transit Villages site : http://www.transitvillages.org

VWMP plans site.... : http://www.vmwp.com/urban/urban_projects/transit.html

Hercules project..... : http://www.lgc.org/freepub/land_use/models/hercules.html

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Hercules ...has become a living example of what New Urbanism looks like in a suburban setting.


"In the near future," Lita said, "we'll be able to walk literally across the street to a convenience store, restaurant and transportation connecting to other parts of the Bay Area. It couldn't have been better, and we were instantly sold when we drove up to the development."




What's so different about Hercules?

Commonsense ideas, including easy access to transit, conveniences within walking distance and houses greeting visitors instead of driveways and garage doors are at the root of the zoning ordinance that citizens of Hercules helped its city government develop four years ago.


The ordinance, based on the design principles for homes and neighborhoods known as New Urbanism, mandates such features as garages in the rear of houses, accessed via alleys; "in-law" units above garages; and live-work units, described as "vertical mixed use" because the homeowners live above their offices.


It also requires "traditional neighborhood" layouts with narrower, calmer streets; a greater range of housing choices, including attached townhouses and single-family homes; and walking and bicycling access that's built-in, not an afterthought.


/more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...HOGKFBPRI71.DTL

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(still too many cars being accomodated ?)


The article cites two studies providing evidence:


- **53% of 24-34 year olds would choose to live in transit-rich, walkable neighborhoods, less than 25% of middle-aged Americans are interested in living in dense areas. Source: CNU


- Demand for housing within walking distance of transit will more than double by 2025. Properties within a 5-10 minute walk to a train stop are selling for 20-25% more than comparable properties further away, and going up. Source: Center for Transit-Oriented Development


However, the article is contradictory. It emphasizes new villages that are 20 miles or so from a major city with rural surroundings, in contrast to transit villages that are connected via rail closer to cities. Yet the example they give of a new village, Hercules, CA (pictured) is actually a transit village in the SF Bay Area. Besides, 'new villages', based on their description, aren't very popular with the younger crowd - they're expensive; essentially single-family and family-oriented; mostly isolated and not typically connected to major cities by rail; not very walkable to any semblance of nightlife; and often described as sterile. Old villages/small towns however, are another story.


/see: http://www.cooltownstudios.com/mt/archives/000842.html

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  • 2 weeks later...

A wall of houses welcomes you into suburbia, communities James Howard Kunstler

considered to be "the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."



PHOTO CREDIT: ©iStockphoto.com/Michelle Junior


Back-to-the-future urbanism

Is new urbanism the answer to suburbia's dying communities?


By Kathryn Carlson


Gabriela Lopez Forte walks her five-year-old daughter to school everyday, passing small parks and tightly packed Victorian-style homes as she navigates narrow tree-lined streets. The Lopez Forte family's Cornell Park Avenue home in Markham, Ontario lies at the heart of an urban-planning Petri dish that seeks to redefine the suburbs and breed a culture of sustainability.


As baby-boomers become empty-nesters and their children enter the housing market themselves, both generations are increasingly heading back to the cities and leaving suburbia behind.


So, is there a future for the communities that author James Howard Kunstler deems to be "the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world?" It's people like Lopez Forte and communities like Cornell that are keeping the country's suburbs and smaller cities on life support — proving there are ways to retrofit suburbia to become more sustainable and more attractive to people of all ages and economic situations.


Granted, not all communities afford the same redevelopment opportunities as others, but new urban-design principles may soon be coming to a town near you. New urbanism is an increasingly trendy planning concept that seeks to recreate the pedestrian-friendly and high-density cities of the 19th and 20th centuries.


One might even call it a ‘back-to-the-future' approach to urban design.


In Cornell, garages are located in laneways behind single and multi-family homes, while grid-like street patterns were chosen in favour of confusing networks of windy roads. George Dark, managing partner with Toronto's Urban Strategies, has worked on Cornell's open space design for over a decade and stresses the importance of designing a neighbourhood where people can walk to nearby schools, stores, community centres and parks.



"If you think of an urban city as a salad, all the ingredients are present and mixed up in one bowl," he explains. "A typical suburb, on the other hand, has all the ingredients of a salad, but everything is in separate bowls at each corner of the table. What we have tried to do is toss it all back together."


- - - - -

"What to do with existing suburban communities — now that's the $65,000-dollar question."

—Dan Leeming, Planning Partnership

- - - - -


And a new ingredient will soon be added to the mix — Markham Centre, an area planned to be Markham's new downtown core. It represents yet another dose of new urbanism in the area.


David Clark, an architect for the Town of Markham and part of the senior management team responsible for the Markham Centre project, hopes this development will illustrate the possibility of growing outward in a sensible way by intensifying within an urban boundary. "By intensifying inside the urban envelope, it puts less pressure on the need for outward expansion and the growth of the community can be better managed," says Clark. The downtown core is being planned to house over 35,000 people, one high school, four elementary schools, 20-25 hectares of park and open space, 30 hectares of protected open space in the Rouge Valley area and about 17,000 new jobs.


When all is said and done, it seems that Markham residents will be able to have their cake and eat it too, living in a town on the outskirts of a mega-metropolis, all-the-while swapping car keys for walking shoes when the milk-jug is empty or it's time for school. But as more and more people opt for the city centre and new communities like Cornell or Markham Centre, what will happen to the suburbs that don't easily lend themselves to urbanization?


Even with the issue of private property ownership aside, Clark agrees that it's very difficult to urbanize already established suburbs and smaller cities simply because of the way the streets and lots were originally designed.


But John Norquist of the Congress for the New Urbanism, an urban planning organization based in Chicago, Illinois, holds out hope that there is a way to bring urbanism out to suburbs that don't easily lend themselves to infill.


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"People will likely want to live in suburbs well into the future, even in the midst of what's happening within the oil industry."

—Jill Grant, Dalhousie University

- - - - -


"There must be some way to pierce the world of the cul-de-sacs with new streets and pathways in order to make them more navigable and pedestrian-friendly," he says. Lago Lindo, a community of about 5,000 people in the northern edge of Edmonton, is trying to do just that. Currently, there is a request before city hall calling for the installation of a mini-traffic circle midway through the community which would slow traffic and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. There has also been talk about adding paved paths in order to connect the community's two schools.


But other than rendering the community more walkable or developing it from the ground up on open land – as was the case in both Cornell and Markham Centre – urban planners like Dark say some of the best opportunities for infusing new urbanism into suburbs come in the form of greyfields. Greyfields are developed sites that are economically and physically ripe for major redevelopment.


For example, a failed shopping mall has the potential to be transformed into multi-family dwellings with retail and employment opportunities located on the ground level. But Jill Grant, a professor in the School of Planning at Dalhousie University, says it's important to remember that suburban life is still desirable for a lot of people.


"People will likely want to live in suburbs well into the future, even in the midst of what's happening within the oil industry," she explains. "Prices of oil may well go up and while a lot of literature seems to assume that people will move to the city for work, maybe industry will move out to the people."


In the meantime, new urbanism will continue to be infused into smaller cities as well as new and existing suburbs such as McKenzie Towne in Calgary's southeast corner, East Clayton in the eastern part of Surrey and Oak Park Community in Oakville.


But while professors, urban planners and governments are trying to determine the fate of many of the country's suburbs and smaller cities, people like Gabriela Lopez Forte won't be biting their nails in suspense. Instead, they'll be enjoying daily strolls on the sidewalks of their new urban neighbourhoods.


+see: http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/magazine/...communities.asp

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A simple fact of life is that any system based on the use of =

nonrenewable resources is unsustainable. Despite all the warnings that =

we are headed for an ecological and environmental perfect storm, many =

Americans are oblivious to the flashing red light on the earth's fuel =

gauge. Many feel the "American way of life" is an entitlement that =

operates outside the laws of nature. At the Earth Summit in 1992, George =

H.W. Bush forcefully declared, "The American way of life is not =

negotiable." That way of life requires a highly disproportionate use of =

the world's nonrenewable resources. While only containing 4% of the =

world population, the United States consumes 25% of the world's oil. The =

centerpiece of that way of life is suburbia. And massive amounts of =

nonrenewable fuels are required to maintain the project of suburbia.=20


The suburban lifestyle is considered by many Americans to be an accepted =

and normal way of life. But this gluttonous, sprawling, and =

energy-intensive way of life is simply not sustainable. Few people are =

aware of how their lives are dependent on cheap and abundant energy. Are =

these Americans in for a rude awakening? In a fascinating new =

documentary, "The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the =

American Dream," the central question is this: Does the suburban way of =

life have a future? The answer is a resounding no.


The film opens with the quote, "If a path to the better there be, it =

begins with a full look at the worst." You'd think from that opening =

we're in for a very depressing flick. Not so. Despite the serious =

subject matter, the documentary is actually quite engaging and =

entertaining. Not only is it informative for those already familiar with =

the issues but it's also quite accessible and enlightening for the =

uninitiated. It serves as great introduction and a real eye-opener for =

people who are largely unfamiliar with the topic of energy depletion and =

the impact it will have on their lives and communities.=20


"The End of Suburbia" marshals an impressive array of evidence that the =

growing energy demands of the "American dream" in suburbia will eclipse =

our planet's ability to provide it. The suburban way of life will soon =

become economically and ecologically impossible to maintain. We will see =

the inevitable collapse of the suburban lifestyle and the end of the =

American Dream. And it will happen within our lifetimes.=20


How bad will it get? Put it this way. We are looking at the mother of =

all downsizings.=20


For those who are familiar with the issues of peak oil and resource =

depletion, the usual suspects are here. They include Richard Heinberg, =

Michael Klare, Matthew Simmons, Michael C. Ruppert, Julian Darley, Dr. =

Colin Campbell, and Kenneth Deffeyes, among others. All of these =

individuals provide valuable information and insights concerning the =

coming energy crisis and the impact it will have on the lives of people =

on the North American continent.


But the standout star of the film is author and critic of contemporary =

culture, James Howard Kunstler. The sometimes humorous and always =

entertaining presence of Kunstler is prominent throughout the =

documentary--and for good reason. He grabs your attention. He explains =

in refreshingly blunt, easy-to-comprehend language that suburbia is =

screwed. His undiluted, tell-it-like-it-is style is a potent mix of =

George Carlin humor and wit wrapped around an incisive Chomsky-like =

comprehension and understanding. With Kunstler you get an intellectually =

penetrating person armed with a functioning bullshit detector wrapped up =

in an intensely candid New York attitude. Kunstler has a blog on the web =

he calls "The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicles" (kunstler.com). Need I say =



Kunstler calls the project of suburbia "the greatest misallocation of =

resources in the history of the world" and says "America has squandered =

its wealth in a living arrangement that has no future." You immediately =

get the idea he's not exactly a fan of suburbia. How and why did this =



. . .

"The End of Suburbia" shows how the suburban way of life has become =

normalized and reveals the enormous effort currently put forth to =

maintain it. On a foreign policy level, it means continued aggressive =

attempts to secure access to the remaining reserves of oil on the planet =

in order to prop up and maintain the increasingly dysfunctional and =

obscene suburban lifestyle. But "The End of Suburbia" makes it crystal =

clear that suburban living has very poor prospects for the future. Any =

attempt to maintain it will be futile. There will eventually be a great =

scramble to get out of the suburbs as the global oil crisis deepens and =

the property values of suburban homes plummet. Kunstler asserts that the =

suburbs will become "the slums of the future."=20


What about alternative sources of energy? "The End of Suburbia" points =

out that no combination of alternative fuels can run and maintain our =

current system as it is now.=20


What about hydrogen, you ask? The film does a great job of shooting down =

the hysterical applause for hydrogen. The idea of a hydrogen economy is =

mostly fantasy. Hydrogen is not a form of energy. It is a form of energy =

storage. It takes more energy to make hydrogen than you actually get =

from hydrogen. Same with ethanol. It is a net energy loser. It takes =

more gasoline to create and fertilize the corn and convert it to alcohol =

than you get from burning it. When you look at all the conceivable =

alternatives the conclusion is there is no combination of any =

alternatives that will allow us to continue consuming the way we do.=20


What is in our future? The consensus is the suburbs will surely not =

survive the end of cheap oil and natural gas. In other words, the =

massive downscaling of America--voluntary or involuntary--will be the =

trend of the future. We are in for some profound changes in the 21st =

century. The imminent collapse of industrial civilization means we'll =

have to organize human communities in a much different fashion from the =

completely unsustainable, highly-centralized, earth-destroying, =

globalized system we have now. There will need to be a move to much =

smaller, human-scale, localized and decentralized systems that can =

sustain themselves within their own landbase. Industrial civilization =

and suburban living relies on cheap sources of energy to continue to =

grow and expand. That era is coming to an end. One of the most important =

tasks right now is to prepare for a very different way of life.=20



/more: http://shire.symonds.net/pipermail/ok-sus/...ary/001710.html

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