Episode Summary

  1. The popular form of transportation typically dominates urban planning of that age.
  2. Decoupling transportation planning from land use will result in sub-optimal urban planning.
  3. Business owners tend to over estimate and be very protective of the parking they have
  4. When considering investment in your community look for the sweet spot of density and complexity.

We haven't been able to separate transportation and land use in urban planning (4 min read)

Retailers have skewed perception of mobility habits (2 min read)

Density and proximity naturally create activity centers (10 min read)

Outside The Episode

Source: Urban Institute

Choosing to drive instead of walk? Or less options to walk safely and live to far away? 🤷🏼‍♀️

Cafés and shops on Kottbusser Damm in Berlin-Kreuzberg: only 7 per cent of customers come by car.
Source: iass-postdam.de

"Cafes and shops on Kottbusser Dman in Berlin-Kreuzberg: only 7 percent of customers come by car." - Dr. Dirk von Schneidemesser and Dr. Bianca Schroder.

Source: Author

Picture above shows what shutting part of Fulton St. in Chicago, IL can look like and how it might create an activity center. More green + more tables + more chairs = more people?  


Episode 30 Patterns of Development

Decoupling, Overestimation, Activity Centers. This is patterns of development.

Hey everybody it's Kyle. Where, on this podcast, I share, discuss, ponder, and try to connect some dots through the best content I've discovered each week related to urban planning, architecture, and cities.

Ultimately, trying to learn, what are the patterns of development?

What's going on in the world of urban planning, architecture, and development? What keeps happening, do we recognize any patterns, and what can we learn from them? \

Our goal is to create case studies, discover examples, refine ideas, that hopefully inspire you as you go along your journey as a developer, real estate agent, city staff, builder, or citizen.

And to kick things off this week - An article by Yonah Freemark with the Urban Institute.

The article is titled, "Throughout History, the US Failed to Integrate Transportation and Land Use. It’s Still Hindering Policymaking Today."

Fighting words from Yonah. What's he got to back up this statement?

First up he's hits us with the big pattern that the dominant form of transportation dictates urban planning. I love how he describes this pattern, "This is why medieval streets are narrow and difficult to navigate by anything other than foot and why neighborhoods built since the advent of the automobile have been designed around them."

Mm. Medival streets equals any city that was planned before the invention of the automobile. Because before there were roads there were horse paths, and before there were horse paths there were trails. So you see some of this in Boston, you certainly see this in Asia and Europe's older cities.

So what does Yonah mean when he says that we, in the United States have failed to integrate transportation with land use?

Three big points:

  • Administratively, these two issues are divided at the federal level. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) handles mobility policy and grants, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) handles housing and land-use policy.
  • In 1970, just 54 percent of US workers commuted alone in their personal vehicles. By 2018, more than three-quarters did.
  • Mandate that federally funded transit projects are associated with zoning reforms that encourage denser, more pedestrian- and transit-friendly development...

What does this all mean? It means that bureaucratically our left hand is not talking to our right. Is that the expression? This divide organizationally has magnified our "single solution transportation" problem. But there is hope and the recommendation to require zoning reforms in conjunction with transportation projects is a step in the right direction.

#2 this week? The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies collected data for two shopping streets in Berlin. Their findings, published in July of 2021, show that businesses have a skewed perception of their customers’ mobility habits.

Basically store owners think they need more parking then they need.

Author Dirk von Schneidemesser says, “The findings of this survey are in line with the growing body of literature that suggests improved active travel (i.e. for pedestrians and cyclists) and transit infrastructure is likely to benefit local business.”

Carmel, Indiana comes to mind for me. Bike and pedestrian paths everywhere. It leads to the chicken or the egg pattern we always talk about. The Spiderman meme of urban planning.

"Why would we build bike paths, no one is biking?"

"Well no one is biking because their aren't any bike paths..."

Annnnddd #3:

"Why ‘activity centers’ are the building blocks of inclusive regional economies"

I'm going to read two paragraphs from the article by Tracy Hadden Lot and Hannah Love from Brookings:

"In today’s fragmented, sprawling regions, a monocentric framework (e.g., placing all bets on downtown development) is wholly inadequate to meet the equity challenges and economic realities of complex, polycentric metro areas. Planners and leaders today have a more complex mapping (and political) challenge to understand and prioritize where to target resources.

Failure to identify the right “where”—or to match the “where” with the right kinds of investments and interventions—yields ineffective place-based investments that either fail to alleviate, or worse, exacerbate, harmful development patterns. Federal place-based policies such as Opportunity Zones, for instance, encouraged investment in some places where assets were already recognized and valued. Other federal programs, such as Empowerment Zones, were narrowly centered on very low-income communities with high, overlapping market obstacles to growth."

This is Kyle again. Related to figuring out how to invest public dollars in the right spot, if activity is already happening naturally, how might we accelerate it with investment?

The authors then introduce a 2x2 matrix. I loovvvee 2x2s. And the criteria for this particular matrix are concentration and complexity.

If we're on an x/y axis and we look at quadrant 4 (everyone remember basic algebra?) x/y axis are the two lines intersecting each other. Quadrant 4 is the lower right hand corner.

Ok. The left hand side of our quadrant is divided by low and high scale concentration. Along the top of our quadrant we have low and high complexity.

So where can we find high concentration?

I actually don't know why they authors use concentration and not density. I'm going to replace concentration with density for the rest of this podcast.

Where do we find high density in our community? And where do we find high complexity?

That's the sweet spot in our 2x2. And it's there that you should expect to see your highest return on investment according to authors.

This of course has fantastic implications. Mixed use zoning comes to mind. These are places where you're legally allowed to bring residential and commercial uses together, naturally, to give you both density and complexity.

If you have low density and low complexity you have sprawl.

If you have low density and high complexity you have a local-serving place...think main st. in a town of 5,000.

If you have high density but low complexity you have a mono center. One land use like an industrial park or a row of big box stores.

To sum up this weeks patterns:

  1. The popular form of transportation typically dominates urban planning of that age.
  2. Decoupling transportation planning from land use will result in sub-optimal urban planning.
  3. Business owners tend to over estimate and be very protective of the parking they have
  4. When considering investment in your community look for the sweet spot of density and complexity.

That's all for this week...I'll talk to y'all soon.