Monday, January 14, 2008

A Capital Example

Walkability = Livability = Billions
Link (The Washington Post Writer's Group)

"Leinberger's case isn't about Washington's radically improved politics and city management. Rather, it's about walkability. It's about dramatic reinvestment -- about $8.2 billion worth -- pouring in the city's downtown since 1997. Complementing monumental Washington, there's been a rush of new cinemas, theaters, quality restaurants, trendy retail stores and a wildly popular sports arena, all helped along by a downtown business district providing special security, marketing and planning.

But the success story is not exclusively a downtown one -- the entire Washington citistate of 5.3 million people is now booming. And it's starring specialty is what Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism" -- places with a mix of destinations people want, from shops and parks and schools to pubs and entertainment, accessible on foot.

In a sense, walkable urbanism is nothing new; it was the way towns and cities were organized from the first urban settlements about 5,500 years ago to the 20th century."


"But in the 1990s, the model began to lose some of its luster. Suburbia's big
parking lots and low-density zoning meant an auto for every trip. Walking and transit were impractical. Older suburbs began to decline, inducing families to drive farther and farther to new suburban rings. Thousands of malls and shopping strips were abandoned. Traffic congestion -- and Washington is no exception -- became so severe that many families were obliged to build their lives around it. Kids had to be driven everywhere. Vehicle miles driven in America shot up a stunning 226 percent from 1983 to 2001, while population increased just 22 percent."


"Urban crime rates took a deep dive. Most downtowns began a surprising revitalization, with more offices, entertainment, restaurants, and a leading edge of middle-class people (often youth and empty nesters) returning. And the ideas of walkable town and city life, spread with fervor by the architects and planners of the New Urbanism movement, gnawed at the decades-old supremacy of the suburban ideal.

None of this, Leinberger insists, means "drivable suburbia" will disappear anytime soon: A huge weight of custom, continued consumer choice, zoning and the sheer vastness of today's spread-out suburbia assure it will remain dominant for years to come. Nor will cities' problems, from poverty to schools, disappear soon.

But walkable urbanism has demographics going for it. The share of U.S. families with children at home has been declining sharply; the largest household growth will be empty nesters, never-nesters and singles, many likely to look to cities and their excitement. And cities, competing, will likely keep heeding advice to lure creative young professionals; in fact, those that don't offer true walkable urbanism, Leinberger suggests, are "probably destined" to lose out economically."


ROACH said...
and knowing human psychology, and washington DC, "this kind of "walkability" will surely fit right in. and thats MISTRESS SHIRLEY to you. now bark like a dog!

Anthony Juliano said...

Great post. I was in D.C. in Dec. '06 for a YMCA conference, and the group went for a walk with Mark Fenton, who might be the nation's leading expert on the walkability of cities. Mark showed us everything that makes D.C. so pedestrian friendly, from set back light poles to timed crosswalks. And while we were walking, he pointed out a car getting ticketed for stopping on the crosswalk as some people stood waiting to cross. The main message was that D.C. treats pedestrians as equal to drivers, and they do everything they can to encourage biking and walking. The group I was with--now called Activate Fort Wayne--is interested in making infrastructure changes that would promote a similar level of walkability. The goal is make it easier and more attractive to commute on foot. We have a long way to go to be anywhere near D.C., but I encourage anyone who's interested to e-mail me with your ideas for making Fort Wayne--especially downtown--more pedestrian friendly.