February 18 2015

Mark Friis: A Leader in Bike & Pedestrian Safety Advocacy in Inland Empire, CA

I see Mark Friis as soon as I walk into Stell Coffee & Tea, a popular cyclist hangout in Redlands, CA. He’s relaxing at the counter, and as we shake hands he says, “Should we get a sandwich?” The barista, as well as the next 3 people who walk in, know Mark by name. That’s because he is a well-known member of the cycling community in the Inland Empire. Mark is the Executive Director of the Inland Empire Biking Alliance (IEBA), an organization whose mission is to advocate for safe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians. The Alliance was born 5 years ago, after a fatality occurred in a local bike club. “I organized a ride,” said Frii[...]
February 11 2015

Los Angeles’ Metro Public Art Funding: The Benefits of Cultural Planning

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in an event put on by the American Planning Association showcasing public art pieces in different Metro transit stations. Metro, also known as the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, services millions of passengers each day through both bus and rail transit. Additional projects focus on creating more carpool lanes and active transportation through bicycle and pedestrian improvement projects. While the majority of Metro’s budget goes towards construction and transit operator programs, the Metro Board policy mandates that 0.5% of Metro Rail construction costs go towards funding public art. Compared to other cities, [...]
February 09 2015

Farewell to The Grid from Molly Carpenter in Des Moines, Iowa

After six months of blogging, it is time for me to say goodbye to The Grid. This comes as I also say goodbye to Iowa, the state I called home for three and a half years. While studying urban planning at Iowa State University, I rarely ventured far from town, not thinking there was anything worth seeing beyond the cornfields surrounding Ames. Through blogging for The Grid, however, I discovered how wrong I was. As I explored the mid-Iowa region, I felt more and more like a part of the community, and could appreciate the traits that make the area unique. Upon my infiltrating Des Moines’ trendy East Village neighborhood, I stumbled upon the perfect Christmas presents for family mem[...]
February 09 2015

Two Historic Mill-Worker Housing Developments in Brooklyn, Connecticut

Over the course of the 1800's, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Amos Lockwood built a series of mills in East Brooklyn, Connecticut's "Quebec Square" neighborhood. Today, little is left of these mills; much of the complex (1952 Aerial) burnt down in 1961, but some of their structures remain. Their conditions range from habitable, to condemned, all the way to crumbling alongside the Quinebaug River. Noteworthy for both its history and aesthetic, the “Quinebaug Mill/Quebec Square Historic District” was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The impressive ‘shed’ of the mill still stands in slow decay, but even more visible are the worker housing developments built by Tiffany[...]
February 06 2015

Tours, France’s Jacques-Duclos Avenue To Undergo 5 Million Euro Redesign

Jacques-Duclos Avenue, the eastern entry-point of Tours, France, is in need of a new look. Tours plans on allocating 4-5 million euros in order to give it such a facelift. It is well known that Duclos Avenue is not the most “welcoming” street for drivers returning to Tours from the east. However, Jacques-Duclos Avenue, which stretches across 1.6 kilometers from Saint-Pierre-des-Corps to Tours (between Rue du Colombier and Pompidou Avenue) should soon see improvements. Moving Towards More Green Space This project is a part of a program created by the agglomeration of Tours' Plan for Urban Displacements (PDU). Most notably, the group wishes to “reb[...]
February 04 2015

The Perris Valley Line Charges Ahead Through Riverside County, California

Metrolink trains have been operating in Southern California since 1992, and although timetables and station locations can often be less than ideal, the trains provide a reliable alternative to cars for many Los Angeles, Orange County, and Inland Empire residents. Traffic on area freeways can cause significant delays, and the average Riverside County commuter spends 31.7 minutes commuting to work each way. That’s 15% higher than the average for California and 20% higher than the average for the U.S., according to the 2013 Riverside County Community Heath Profile. A significant portion of this traffic travels up and down the Interstate 215 corridor, between Downtown Riverside and Southern Riversid[...]
February 03 2015

Koolicar & Titi Flores Partner to Launch Carsharing in Nantes, France

Last week, in Nantes, France, the transportation society Titi Floris (located in the Nantes suburb of Saint-Herblain) and the start-up Koolicar launched a carsharing system. The system will use individual citizens’ cars, with additional cars provided by Titi Floris. “Our cars only run four hours a day, five days a week. The rest of the time, they just sit there! We were looking for a complimentary service that could bring our enterprise revenue,” justifies Boris Couilleau, Founder and Director of Titi Floris This is where Titi Floris got the idea to rent their professional cars to individuals, via Koolicar's website, when their enterprise wasn’t using them. Titi Floris rent[...]
February 02 2015

Numerous Car-Sharing – Even Electric! – Programs Now Available in Milan, Italy

One of the most consistent struggles of modern cities is providing sustainable and efficient urban mobility. To do so, a city must have an integrated approach to planning that considers all forms of transportation, both within the city and surrounding areas. According to European Union policies, sustainable urban mobility measures should seek to ensure that all people have access to transportation systems, while improving safety and security, reducing pollution, and improving the cost efficiency of urban transportation. More and more, cities around the world are trying to encourage a different kind of lifestyle, one where public transportation, which [...]
February 02 2015

Book Review of “Spectacular Vernacular: London’s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings”

In "Spectacular Vernacular: London's 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings," David Long takes the reader through central London to discover its least known yet extraordinary buildings. As disclosed in the book's introduction, the author aims at attracting both London visitors and longtime residents' attention to some of the least celebrated buildings and structures of the English Capital. In the words of the author, “the lack of an urban master plan … means that in London … the chief glory lies … in its many historic and often highly individual buildings.” This does not mean, however, that all the structures in this book are state of the art architectural realizatio[...]
February 02 2015

The Fleet of the Future: BART’s Improved Design for the San Francisco Bay Area

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is getting a much needed remodel after 40 years of service. The typical Bay Area commuter’s relationship with BART has always been strained. A typical BART ride, much like that on any big city's public transit system, involves outdated design, crowded cars, maintenance delays, and unsightly seating tainted from someone else's Friday night in the city. The migraine-inducing ride from Oakland to San Francisco under the Bay might be unique to BART, but hopefully this will all change in the future. BART is looking to replace its entire fleet with brand new cars. Nearly 35,000 BART users were invited to view prototypes of the new cars and give an honest critique of [...]
January 30 2015

St. Henri: Another Montreal Working Class Neighbourhood Gradually Transforming

Has St. Henri been subject to a renewal or gentrification? The latter has become a sensitive topic in urban planning theory, and is the cause of many debates and discussions. Notable for its negative implication of wealthy outsiders displacing poorer residents, the shift in demographics leads to subsequent changes to a neighbourhood’s social and economic character. The rise of rents and property values, and the introduction of new land use activities are often the factors that exclude original residents. Though class and culture may clash, it is these social and economic changes that can breathe new life into a community. Can urban revitalization even hap[...]
January 30 2015

Pedestrians Prioritized in Montreal, Canada: Five Projects Launching in 2015

In Montreal, Canada, five streets will be transformed in order to provide more space for pedestrians, beginning this summer. These projects are part of the city’s new urban planning program. On Sunday, the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre, announced the City of Montreal’s intention to allot more space to pedestrians while renovating the streets. In 2015, five districts can count on the city’s financial aid to transform a stretch of their streets into pedestrian spaces, whether that be accomplished by closing a traffic lane or by developing shared lanes. “These re-imagined streets will stimulate neighborhood life, not only by increasing liveliness, security, and the quality of[...]
January 30 2015

Is Frank Gehry’s Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum A Work of Art in its Own Right?

When the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis began the process of developing a new home for its art museum – originally founded in 1934 - in the early nineties, they knew immediately that they wanted something special. They wanted a building that would bring character, uniqueness, and beauty to the campus. The University commissioned world famous architect Frank Gehry to design the new building, knowing from his body of work that he could exceed their lofty expectations. The “starchitect”-designed building opened in 1993 as the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. Sitting high atop a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, Gehry’s design is one of contrasts.[...]
January 29 2015

Los Angeles, California Announces New Plans in Anticipation of “The Big One”

In a large metropolitan region like Los Angeles County, California, preparing for disasters, both natural and man-made, is a huge governmental concern. With a population of just over 10 million people, Los Angeles County is home to over 200,000 businesses. Specific to earthquakes, Mayor Garcetti has recently announced a new plan called “Resilience by Design” to help address some of the city’s greatest vulnerabilities to earthquakes. Scientists conclude that Los Angeles (along with other cities that borders the southern section of the San Andreas fault) is long overdue for a major earthquake that many call “The Big One.” Besides concerns for buildings that haven’t been retrofitt[...]
January 27 2015

In Toulouse, France, Victor Hugo Market and Square Slated for Renovation

Between now and 2020, the Victor Hugo neighborhood of Toulouse, France will be totally renovated. The market and parking lot (both located in the modern structure whose facade is shown above) will be redone, and the square will be redesigned by urban planner Joan Busquets - with construction lasting 18 months. Work could begin in the summer of 2016, but the project, presented as one of Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc’s priorities, has not yet been budgeted. The six months of dialogue between elected officials, businesses, and citizens finally ended with them settling upon an expansion of Victor Hugo market/parking lot and square. The total demolition of the building, once hinted at, is no long[...]
January 26 2015

New Statewide Rideshare Program Responds to Iowa’s Transportation Demand

If an Iowan were to complain about traffic conditions in Des Moines to someone from out of state, they would likely be laughed at. Traffic in the metropolitan area of Des Moines is nothing compared to that in cities such as Chicago or Los Angeles. However, there is a bigger commuting issue that plagues the state. Many people who live in small towns scattered across Iowa must commute long distances to the major employment centers in urban areas. To address this issue, the state is looking into developing more regional transportation options; enabling people to reside in small towns. The small towns in Iowa were once supported by the agriculture industry. As agriculture [...]
January 26 2015

Creative Augmented Reality App in San Francisco: Reimagining the SFMOMA

San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is “closed for construction, yet more open than ever.” With the museum expansion still under construction until early 2016, the SFMOMA collection has been popping up around the Bay Area in exhibits held within surrounding museums and public spaces. Even with the handful of curated exhibits planted throughout the Bay, the SFMOMA’s absence feels more present than ever. Snøhetta’s vision of the new SFMOMA serves as a symbol for the museum’s future rebirth. Wedged within the dense urban fabric of San Francisco, the structure is as visually captivating as it is controversial. The white building is seen by some as visually distracting[...]
January 26 2015

Longest Footbridge East of the Mississippi: Century-Old Willimantic Footbridge

While Willimantic’s Frog Bridge might be eastern Connecticut’s most familiar bridge, there is a far more historically notable bridge close by that has provided access to Willimantic’s downtown for over a century: the Willimantic Footbridge. As the Willimantic textile industry grew in the 1800’s, so did it’s neighborhoods on the south side of the town’s namesake river. A single road provided a pedestrian route across. The need for a second river crossing was recognized and debated for more than fifty years, and finally approved in order to “to curb the dangerous pass of children and adults across the nearby railroad yard bridge spanning the riv[...]
January 21 2015

Why Riverside Transit Agency Replaced its Entire Fleet with CNG Buses

The Riverside Transit Agency (RTA) has provided public bus services to Western Riverside County since 1977. RTA operates more than 160 buses on 36 fixed routes and 8 commuter routes. They also use 98 Dial-A-Ride vehicles, and 10 trollies. Their service area is among the nation’s largest, covering 2,500 square miles of Riverside County, California.  In 2001, RTA took a major step by converting its entire fleet of 94 diesel buses to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), despite the buses costing $50,000 more than their diesel counterparts. Early in 2014, RTA replaced its first CNG fleet with a larger set of 97 brand-new 42-foot CNG buses. So why are they so committed to CNG? CNG [...]
January 20 2015

Are Eco-Towers Coming to Downtown Paris, France?

An engineering and architecture firm have been working on Paris' Climate/Energy Plan, to be achieved by 2050. Their work led to plans for large, positive energy apartment buildings. How can we invent the city of the future while considering the constraints, necessities, and aspirations of its inhabitants, administrations, and enterprises? This, especially given that we live in a world where climate imbalance is provoking an increase of at least 2 degrees Celcius, with risks of heatwaves and floods. How can we intelligently standardize work, housing, and transportation? And finally, how can we manage energy, waste production, and different forms of pollution while reducing collectiv[...]

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