Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Posts Tagged ‘Urban Design’

Missed Opportunities – A look at the Brookings Institute’s Study

Posted by Roobs on May 21, 2011

What does the Brookings Institute’s Study on Transit & Jobs Really Tell Us?

On May 12, 2011, the Brookings Institute released a first-of-its-kind study that looked at job accessibility in metropolitan areas via transit.  This exhaustive study took on the issue of job sprawl – the decentralization of jobs from the traditional downtown or urban core and out into the suburbs – and found that Western US cities’ transit systems, such as Los Angeles and Honolulu, have better job accessibility than their compact East Coast counterparts.  The reason is because Western cities’ transit systems were designed post-automobile.  That is to say, Western transit systems were designed to connect suburbs to central cities.

In summary, the Brookings study made the following conclusions:

  • Nearly 70% of large metropolitan residents live in neighborhoods with access to transit service of some kind.  This includes bus and light rail.
  • In neighborhoods covered by transit, morning rush hour service occurs about once every 10 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter.
  • The typical metropolitan resident can reach about 30% of jobs in their metropolitan area via transit in 90 minutes.
  • About one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible via transit within 90 minutes for the typical metropolitan commuter, compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries.
  • Fifteen of the 20 metro areas that rank highest on a combined score of transit coverage and job access are in the Western US and 15 of the 20 metro areas that rank lowest are in the Southern US.

Download the Study Here!

The Brookings study did not do one thing that has some critics crying foul.  The study did not look at performance as a function of ridership.  Because the study ignored ridership, instead to focus on job accessibility, does that make the study flawed?  Are its conclusions and ranking of transit systems somehow incorrect because of it? Some say yes. I say no.

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Hey Arnold! Animating the Benefits of Urban Design

Posted by Roobs on August 23, 2010

One of the best cartoons ever made was called Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon.  It ran five seasons from 1996 to 2004.  To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite childhood cartoons for its mature, yet incredibly accessible story lines, symbolism, music and heart.

Hey Arnold revolved around the lives of Arnold (last name never revealed) and Helga Pataki, Arnolds secret admirer and nemesis. Like any good kid show, it tried to teach life lessons.  Many of these were lessons such as standing up to bullies, tolerance, leadership, and first loves. The lessons were taught in a slightly more mature way compared to other cartoons.  And for all the great aspects of this lovable cartoon, one of its greatest and under-appreciated strengths was was it’s setting.

Set in a city setting, Hey Arnold! was one of the only cartoons to depict life in a dense urban environment.  Even the show’s music director, Jim Lang, used jazz as the primary theme music for Hey Arnold! which gave the show even more of that mature, urban feel while still maintaining its child-like accessibility. (Scroll to end for soundtrack clip!).  Arnold’s character utilized everything that makes a city great, from his constant use of the local bus and walking around his very livable neighborhood, to the fact that everything from the butcher, florist and grocery store was within walking distance of his home.

Hey Arnold depicted the end-result of the kind of urban design that America has strayed from but now planners wish to re-create: a walkable neighborhood where walking and transit are more viable means of mobility than the automobile.  But beyond that, it fosters a kind of social interaction that is often ignored when planners and the public discuss urban planning.  The environment we wish to create and animated in the Hey Arnold! cartoon helps foster relationships with multi-ethnic, multi-income families where individuals (in this case, young kids) co-mingle; crossing many social boundaries to form a cultural narrative unique to dense urban settings.

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Posted in Pop Culture, TV & Movies, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »