Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Storms Expose Inherent Weakness of Suburban Design

Hopefully, It's self evident that road systems with many redundancies are inherently safer, and less exposed to catastrophic traffic backups.

A Washington D.C. based blog did a short post on how the region's beltway designs made the recent huge snow storm much worse.

"Urban street grids are more resilient than road systems focused around large highways, because of how they're laid out.

The great thing about interconnected grids is that if one street becomes blocked, there's another perfectly good street one block over. And another one block down.
If a wrecked car or fallen tree or whatever blocks the street you're on, you just take a different street. There might be some additional turns involved; it might not be quite as direct. But for the most part 28th Street isn't all the different from 29th Street.

Contrast that with suburban-style systems where all traffic in a particular area funnels onto one big highway. If that one highway becomes impassible, everyone in the area is stuck. Or, at best, they have to drive miles out of their way to find the next big highway."
Amazingly, our "expert" engineers and central planners have spent the last 70 years replacing, naturally rational and resilient street grids with designs prone to massive failure.

That's part of what happened last night. There were a lot of accidents crashes. If they happened on arterial highways with no parallel roads, which a lot of them did, that road would succumb to gridlock.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Pittsburgh Firm That Helped Create The South's Jim-Crow Era Racial Zoning Maps

Most urbanists are painfully aware how today's zoning laws tend to segregate people by race, class and age. Families with kids in large houses live here; Students here; Poor renters here etc....

But, this story I discovered unlocks the not so secret intent of laws which have remained surprisingly unchanged over many decades. They were designed to do exactly that! The first zoning codes were developed in Southern Cities to explicitly segregate blacks from whites, followed by California laws to restrict Asian's

After The Supreme Court struck down those codes, Northern engineering and consulting firms helped create maps that would create these results, legally. Often nothing more was done, other than replace racial designations with letters and numbers. Similar laws soon were adopted across the country, including Pittsburgh's in 1923.

The Pittsburgh based firm of Morris Knowles was instrumental in creating Jim-Crow Era maps for cities like Birmingham and Charleston, South Carolina. It also was a key player in the design of Pittsburgh's first major zoning law.

"The meaning of those diagonal lines isn't stated on the map's key, but what was plainly understood then, in Jim Crow-era Birmingham, is that they represented areas where blacks, by a local law, were allowed to live."

Still learning more about the origin of the laws that still shape our city. Will try to follow up with more several more posts.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Act Shocked: Pittsburgh Leaders Surprised Again by the Loss of Downtown Retail

Guess I'll be back posting some. This topic is obviously worthy of a longer take, but honestly, could the reasons for this decline be more self evident?

Almost every action of city government has placed tourists, visitors and above all parking before residential development and livability in and near the downtown. Not surprisingly, retail has died.

Compare Downtown Pittsburgh to the booming emerging/reviving East Liberty district. The difference is the intricate, dense, connected neighborhoods around East Liberty- Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Friendship, Bloomfield, Oakland that support retail.

Government thugs destroyed and removed residents from the Hill District, gutted the heart of Allegheny City and removed housing from the Strip. What did they think would happen?

Here we go again!