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Denver & Colorado

The Denver Post
Denver Zoning Changes Enter Final Stretch
By Christopher N. Osher
Posted: 04/23/2010
After more than five years of talking about overhauling the city’s zoning laws, the Denver City Council is finally poised to start voting on whether to put the changes into law.  The city’s Planning Board on Wednesday unanimously recommended that the council pass the proposed new zoning code.
Read more…

The Denver Post/via Washington Post, opinion
Peirce: High-techstrategies for Cities
By Neal Peirce, April 25, 2010
What are the latest innovations – especially high-tech “apps” – to make today’s cities succeed?  A host are being applied or waiting in the wings.  They include new forms of electronic measurement to track and channel traffic, monitor potential crime sites, check on water quality, gauge the energy use in “smart grids,” and much more.
Read more…

National

The Urban Land Institute/The Ground Floor Blog
April 22, 2010
Suburban Housing Market Declines a Result of Demographics Shift
The current decline in demand for suburban “trade up” housing is more than just an economic correction; it is the result of a seismic shift in demographics and consumer behavior according to James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, speaking at the ULI Real Estate Summit at the Spring Council Forum in Boston last week.
Read more…

Grist Blog
Eat your golf course
Coming soon to a cul-de-sac near you: farming!
By Tom Phillpot, April 22, 2010
Suburban sprawl was a dreadful mistake–and not one brought on by “consumer choice,” but rather by a specific set of government policies.
Read more…

Omaha World-Herald.com
Cities rush to get in streetcar line
By Joseph Morton, April 22, 2010
Considering just streetcar projects, 75 to 90 cities already are at some stage of requesting or using federal funds, with more lining up all the time, said Jim Graebner, a Denver consultant and chairman of the American Public Transportation Association’s streetcar subcommittee.
Read more…

The Urbanophile Blog
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
If You Want Sustainability, Provide Economic Security
Thinking about how we can create a more sustainable world on this Earth Day, my contribution to the debate is to encourage a greater focus on providing economic security to those at the bottom of the income pyramid.
Read more…

Editor’s note: The following two articles will support the fact that EVs will once again be offered to the American consumer.  This time, we need to embrace them and make sure that they become a permanent cultural movement here in the Denver region.  In the next few days I hope a guest writer who will tell you how you can help contribute in expediting that change here along the West Corridor.

Autopia
Strong Initial Demand For Nissan’s Electric Leaf
By Chuck Squatriglia, April 23, 2010
Early demand for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle is strong, with 6,635 people reserving cars in just three days – a figure that represents more than 10 percent of the Leafs Nissan will build in its first year of production.
Read more…

Autopia
Chevrolet Volt Gets a Bigger Brother
By Chuck Squatriglia, April 23, 2010
General Motors rolled into the Beijing auto show with a crossover utility vehicle based on the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric vehicle we’ll see at the end of the year. It’s just a concept, but the odds are good we’ll see it in show rooms.
Read more…

The New York times
Op-Ed Columnist
Tea Party With a Difference
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, April 24, 2010
The manifesto is easy, too: “We, the Green Tea Party, believe that the most effective way to advance America’s national security and economic vitality would be to impose a $10 “Patriot Fee” on every barrel of imported oil, with all proceeds going to pay down our national debt.”
Read more…

Sunday’s Film
L.A. Street Summit 2010: Building Momentum for Change
by Clarence Eckerson, Jr. on March 24, 2010
Whatever way you slice it, the L.A. Streets Summit 2010 was a big success.  Take a gander at our wrap-up vid featuring many voices from the hundreds of conference attendees who made connections and started some L.A. synergy for livable streets.
View film

Things you need to know along the corridor.

From RTD Fastracks Information Desk: April 23, 2010

West Corridor Crews will roll the light rail bridge across 6th Avenue just east of Simms/Union during the weekend of April 30 through May 2, 2010. All lanes of traffic on 6th Avenue between Simms/Union & Kipling Street will close on Friday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. and remain closed until 5:30 a.m.  Monday, May 2, 2010. Due to the unique nature of this event, the West Corridor Public Information team will be hosting a viewing area in the parking lot located on the northeast corner of Quail Street and the 6th Avenue Frontage Road. Best to enter from Colfax Ave and head south on Quail Street.

The viewing area will be open to the public between
9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, 2010.

For the most detailed and up to date information regarding street closures and delays, please go to:
RTD’s road closure web page

Bill’s Back Fence

Also visit Bill’s Blog

The Foothills Running and Cycling Club (FRCC) is launching activities
on May 13th for you, your family, and friends.

Thursday, May 13   6:00 – 8:30 PM
TriYoga, 16948 South Golden Road
Food provided by La Carreta (TBD)
For further information and to RSVP, contact Dan Dwyer at     dwyer1245@comcast.net

Denver & Colorado

The Denver Post
Former Rocky Reporter Joins RTD
The Denver Post, April 20, 2010
Former Rocky Mountain News reporter Kevin Flynn has joined the Regional Transportation District as public information project manager for the public-private partnership that is to build and operate trains to Denver International Airport and Arvada/Wheat Ridge, along with other FasTracks elements.
Read more…

The Denver Post
Denver’s Street-Smart Bike Planner
By Sheba R. Wheeler, April 19, 2010
Emily Kreisa doesn’t just walk her talk. She rides it, too. The 27-year-old former triathlete and bike commuter is guiding the handlebars in Denver’s effort to become one of the most bike- friendly cities in the nation.
Read more…

National

Wall Street Journal online
The Drive to Make Cities Greener
By Catherine L. Ross, April 17, 2010
We’re all well aware of the environmental challenge cities pose: Cities and the regions surrounding them occupy only about 3% of the Earth’s surface, but their residents consume more than 75% of the world’s natural resources.
Read more…

The Urbanophile Blog
Sunday, April 18th, 2010
The New Look of the American Suburb(Ed’s note: make sure you look at the pictures below the article.
This article is about the intersection of two trends I’ve written about before: suburban redevelopment and immigration.
Read more…

The Transport Public Blog
Is the U.S. Ready for a Sustained High-Speed Rail Funding Source?
by Yonah Freemark, April 19th, 2010
The government has yet to identify a source of long-term funds for its highway and transit programs, let alone a new high-speed rail scheme. If it did, though, would it know where to direct the funds?
Read more…

The Good Is Blog
Ghost Town: The Abandoned Suburb of California City
(Editor’s note: you just have to see this photograph!).
By Geoff Manaugh on April 16, 2010
Abandoned starter houses taken over by wildcats; swimming pools becoming breeding grounds for West Nile virus-infected mosquitoes; empty buildings gutted by copper thieves with pick-up trucks parked in grass-cracked driveways; foreclosed properties harboring kidnapping victims-over the past few years, there has been no upper limit to the surreal tales coming out of the suburbs. (Editor’s note: you just have to see this photograph!).
Read more…/

Straight Outta Suburbia Blog
Friday, April 16, 2010
Grading Transit Oriented Development: A Ten-Category Preliminary Metric
My scale, in which higher scores are better, is out of 100 points based on ten categories: transit proximity, density, mixed land uses, walkability (proximity), walkability (sidewalk upgrades and traffic calming), limited car parking, pay to park (if car parking is included), bike parking, affordability, and integrated open space.
Read more…

Dallas Transportation Blog
D.C. to Dallas: We’re done building free roads to ease commutes?
Michael Lindenberger, April 19, 2010
On Sunday, the paper carried a piece I wrote about the enormous explosion of highway construction in the Dallas area and the hassles it will entail while the work is being done.
Read more…

Natural resources Defense Council
For walkability and community, put the building on the street and the parking in back
By Kaid Benfield, April 20, 2010
The misplaced assumption that Americans like automobile traffic more than walkable streets has created some pretty awful disconnections within our communities.
Read more…

The Rest of the Planet

The Infrastructurist.com
One Winner in the European Air Disaster: High Speed Rail
By Melissa Lafsky, April 20, 2010
A commenter on yesterday’s post The European Air Shut-Down: A View From the Front Lines brought up an excellent point: Was the complete failure of aviation in Europe a boon for high-speed rail? With all those continental Europe flights canceled, it was certainly a golden opportunity for passenger rail to step in and save the day.
Read more…

Mass Transit Magazine Blog
Planes, Trains and Volcanoes
By Mark Foss, April 20, 2010
Over the past five days airports all over Europe were closed as a result of the eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano in Iceland. On Saturday about 17,000 flights were cancelled. Some flights began to lift off today (Monday) but progress is slow. The estimates of the cost of the volcano run to $200 million per day. The full economic impact of the disaster is yet to be determined. There is even talk of possible “bail outs” for affected airlines.
Read more…

The Guardian.co.uk
Iceland volcano: imagine a world without planes
For the last few days the skies have been quiet. What if they’d stayed that way for ever?
For the first time in my life, one of my favourite London walks has become the bucolic idyll it always should have been.
Read more…

Mid-Week Film
Long Beach Shifts Cycling in to High Gear
by Clarence Eckerson, Jr. on April 16, 2010
Although their proximity to car-dominated Los Angeles can’t be denied, southern neighbor Long Beach has put the money and effort behind making cycling an attractive and safe mode, and it’s already paying dividends.
View Film

Things you need to know along the corridor.

A kick-off event to introduce The Foothills Running and Cycling Club organization to Golden and surrounding communities will be held on May 13th at TriYoga, 16948 South Golden Road, Golden Co. For more information, contact : Dan Dwyer/ email: dwyer1245@comcast.net

From RTD Fastracks Information Desk: April 13, 2010

West Corridor Crews will roll the light rail bridge across 6th Avenuejust east of Simms/Union during the weekend of April 23 through April 25, 2010. All lanes of traffic on 6th Avenue between Simms/Union & Kipling Street will close on Friday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. and remain closed until 5:30 a.m. Monday, April 26, 2010. Due to the unique nature of this event, the West Corridor Public Information team will be hosting a viewing area in the parking lot located on the northeast corner of Quail Street and the 6th Avenue Frontage Road.  Best to enter from Colfax Ave and head south on Quail Street.

The viewing area will be open to the public between
9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, 2010.

For the most detailed and up to date information regarding street closures and delays, please go to the RTD West Corridor page.

Also visit Bill’s Blog

Denver & Colorado

Editor’s note: The Back Fence endorses State Senator Paula Sandoval for Denver City Council District 1 in the special mail-in election, May 1, 2010.

Despite the recent changes in demographics and shifting political tides of District 1, Ms. Sandoval embodies the spirit of the people who inhabit this vital district. Raised by a single mother in West Denver, she paid her way through the University of Colorado where she received a master’s degree in public administration.

During her stay in the state legislature she fought to lower the cost of heating bills, to expand access to school breakfasts and lunches, and to improve access to health care for children.

Although the District 1 just barely touches the West light rail Corridor at its southern boundary, all multi-modal transit experts know that connectivity is vital in the new urbanism movement. Having Ms. Sandoval as a northern neighbor will make it easier to promote a cultural change amongst her constituents that leaving the car at home and riding the light rail will enhance their family resources.

The Denver Post
RTD wise to wait on asking for tax hike
Opinion, April 17, 2010
It’s been a rough couple of weeks over at RTD, given the spate of high-profile accidents. But there was a bright spot this past week when RTD directors unanimously decided not to ask area voters this year for a sales-tax hike to bail out the financially troubled FasTracks transit program.
Read more…

Kevin Flynn’s Inside Lane
West Corridor steel-arch bridge roll-out over Sixth Avenue
April 16, 2010
FasTracks West Corridor to roll out signature bridge across 6th Avenue.
Innovative construction technique saves months of traffic impacts
Read more…

Daily Camera.com
Boulder ditches Transit Village name, now ‘Boulder Junction’
By Heath Urie, April 14, 2010
Boulder’s Transit Village has a new name.
Read more…

The Denver Post/Opinion
Peirce: A Walkable America
By Neal Peirce, April 18, 2010
Supermarkets surrounded by acres of asphalt. Pushcarts heavily loaded with groceries wheeled out, the haul stashed in car trunks.  Always a drive – often several miles – to get food. We perfected the buy-and-drive model from the post-World War II expansion onward. But is it necessarily the future? No, asserts my Seattle friend and urban design planner Mark Hinshaw.
Read more…

National

The Frontal Cortex Blog
Under estimating the pain of commuting
By Jonah Lehrer, March 30, 2010
David Brooks, summarizing the current state of happiness research: The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting.  According to one study, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year. In other words, the best way to make yourself happy is to have a short commute and get married. I’m afraid science can’t tell us very much about marriage so let’s talk about commuting.
Read more…

Infrastructurist.com
Are Urban Farms the Best Hope for Struggling American Cities?
Yonah Freemark, April 14, 2010
Faced with the inexorable departure of the manufacturing industry, from the inner cities to the suburbs and then from the suburbs to the third world, America’s rust belt has been forced to adapt. With little prospect of new factories – but plenty of demand for more jobs – cities are looking to an alternative: urban farming.
Read more…

Mlive.com/West Michigan Business
Downtown Development Authority approves $100,000 for urban market in Grand Rapids
By Chris Knape, April 14, 2010
GRAND RAPIDS — A $100,000 commitment from the city’s Downtown Development Authority will help spur a largely privately funded predevelopment process for a planned year-round urban market.
Read more…

Streetsblog/DC
Menendez Proposes Tax Credit for Transit-Oriented Development
by Elana Schor on April 15, 2010
New construction projects that are within a half-mile of transit stations and exceeding national energy-efficiency standards would be eligible for a tax credit under legislation introduced today by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the senior member of the Banking Committee’s transit panel.
Read more…

The Economist.com
Portland: Is Oregon’s metropolis a leader among American cities or just strange?
Apr 15th 2010 | PORTLAND | From The Economist print edition
Read more…

Urbanophile blog
Density Reconsidered
Thursday, April 15th, 2010
I’m a fan of contextually appropriate density in urban areas.  If you don’t have sufficient population and income density, you can’t support urban neighborhood retail; if you can’t support neighborhood urban retail, you don’t have any real walkability; if you don’t have walkability, you are car dependent; if you are car dependent, then you are in direct competition with the suburbs; if you are in direct competition with the suburbs, you are probably going to lose. You can’t have a walkable neighborhood if there is not, in fact, anything to walk to, no matter how many sidewalks you put in.
Read more…

American City.org
Free Parking is Not a Right
Laura Walsh, Apr 15th, 2010
We’ve all done it, looped endlessly around restaurants, bars, theaters, our homes, looking for the parking spot that doesn’t require walking too far, and certainly doesn’t involve paying; either in meter, lot, or garage form. For if something is free, isn’t it better to spend a few minutes driving slowly and erratically looking for a space to squeeze into? If parking in a garage could mean paying $6 an hour, isn’t it worth the time to circle around “just one more time”? Yes, it is. And that’s the problem.
Read more…

Streetblog.org
The Gas Tax: A Trip Back in Legislative Time
by Elana Schor on April 15, 2010
As Tax Day prompts a rush of political rallies and media coverage, it’s worth looking back at the history of the federal levy that helps pay for transportation projects: the gas tax.
Read more…

The Rest of the Planet
Reuters.com
China banks on rail boom to fire inland growth
(Reuters) – In southwestern Yunnan province, giant concrete pillars bestride the fields, tracing the route of one of scores of new rail lines that China is building.
Read more…

The Guardian.co.uk
The pedal-powered hotel
By Tom Robbins, April 14, 2010
A green hotel in Copenhagen is claiming a world first by using guests on exercise bikes to generate electricity
Read more…

Things you need to know along the corridor.

From RTD Fastracks Information Desk: April 13, 2010

West Corridor Crews will roll the light rail bridge across 6th Avenue just east of Simms/Union during the weekend of April 23 through April 25, 2010. All lanes of traffic on 6th Avenue between Simms/Union & Kipling Street will close on Friday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. and remain closed until 5:30 a.m. Monday, April 26, 2010. Due to the unique nature of this event, the West Corridor Public Information team will be hosting a viewing area in the parking lot located on the northeast corner of Quail Street and the 6th Avenue Frontage Road.  Best to enter from Colfax Ave and head south on Quail Street.

The viewing area will be open to the public between
9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 24, 2010.

West Corridor construction closures, detours (compiled by the City Manager’s Office, City of Lakewood, Colorado, RTD, and Denver Transit Construction group).

Street closures due to light rail construction

For the most detailed and up to date information regarding street closures and delays, please go to the RTD West Corridor page

Also visit Bill’s Blog

Transit Oriented Communities
by
Niccolo Casewit, AIA,
April 15, 2010

It’s no wonder the focus of Transit Oriented Design seems to be all about the transit technology — Trains are sexy!  Fine!  As “urbanistas” we look at how whole communities evolve over time; as environmental designers we envision how an emerging community might be experienced by the people themselves.  Sustainable communities are cherished, and last longer because they are built by and for all the people.

Integrating divergent processes and focusing on the common concerns is the crux of our problem.  Citizens and professionals almost always expect conflict between what is the reality on the ground and what seems like a great idea viewed from the heights of 30,000 feet.  The planning and construction of a rail corridor initially causes some communities and individual property owners to be at odds with, or at the very least ambivalent about, the prospects of public transit actually improving life where people already live.  It seems as though transit  is imposed “from above” through decades of planning, construction, and testing until the system is fully operational and ready for passengers.

We read the critical “bad press” reports, hear the NIMBYs, and question Eminent domain along routes as though all a just a necessary step.  It only helps to exacerbate the negative reports of the actual and forecasted “cost-over-runs”.  Real costs can be attributed to factors like inflation in material, labor, complex technical revisions, environmental studies, the shear “added on” challenges of security, grade-separated alignments, bridges, tunnels, and even flood control.  The real costs are staggering and sometimes we forget what for!  The irony is that all this  investment is being allocated to reconnect parts of the city that were once whole; older city corridors that have long become isolated from each other because of new highways leading to sprawl development.
FasTracks-Westline/West Colfax Avenue: an Emerging Urban Opportunity.

Many of our urban corridors have suffered great decline; case in point: the West Colfax Ave. Corridor (also known as US 40).  The loss of through traffic on historic main streets like West Colfax Avenue due to highway construction of I-70 and I-25 was actually an “intended consequence”  only too typical of the “urban by-pass” highway construction funded with Federal dollars all around the country, post WWII.  This loss of traffic lead to the loss of local jobs, reduced local services, loss of residents with declining population densities, and finally greatly reduced property values along the nearly 10 miles of prime business corridor west of Denver.  The problem was furthered aggravated by the perception and use of West Colfax as a dumping ground for the poor and the emergence of services that cater to these populations.

An emerging opportunity for re-birth is the FasTracks light rail line with 12 stations spanning from Union Station in LoDo Denver to Golden.  The Light Rail line which can travel at up to speeds of 50 MPH, is fully funded , and currently under construction as the first phase of the Regional Transportation Districts (RTD)  FastTracks expansion.  As such, the expected build out of the whole FasTracks system is to be the largest public transit infrastructure project in the entire USA.  The system is estimated to cost well over $7 Billion during the next 10-15 years of build-out.


The public has been asking for transit since the 1970’s; the West Line was already part of several failed Bond proposals in the early 1980s and 1990s but the issue was deferred, and funding finally materialized in 2004.  Just getting public transit is a long-term commitment, so it is no wonder that the focus has been on the transit technologies.  But what about life on the ground along each of these routes? Once the transit is accessible, will these neighborhoods thrive or, will they just be transit adjacent “Park and Rides?”  Will current residents and businesses be displaced and “priced out?”  Will the most undesirable neighborhoods just be left to gradually deteriorate?  Will isolated sections of towns remain just “bedroom communities” where there is very little in commerce, recreation, art, music, and culture actually to be found?  None of these scenarios is inevitable if the communities seize their own opportunity to Renew Life.

Each community can participate in shaping a better future with transit as the “functional” symbol and also a catalyst to achieve a shared vision for the livability in the future.  The transit amenity is best leveraged to implement a shared vision through local re-investment in new small businesses, housing, and public “place-making” which will nurture, and nourish the whole community.

Transit is a means, not an end; the journey, not the destination

There is no silver bullet once a business corridor is in decline: Public Transit will not “save” communities—it’s the people who live and work near transit corridors who save communities! Successful transit as an amenity that can become a commonly utilized resource-but to function effectively transit must be supported by all the neighborhoods having access.  Facilitating increased ridership through re-zoning for higher densities, creating developer incentives, and funding the infrastructure to connect people to a station node are all important ways a community can support its public transit investment.  Indeed the current RTD “fare box” only accounts for 20% of RTD’s operational revenues, so one obvious way to increase local revenues is to increase ridership.

A neighborhood district is the essential building block that makes up a city.  A district is an identifiable physical and social “unit” which is defined by experts as the existing, or developable land areas within a 10 minute walk, or a 20 minute bike ride to and from a light rail station, a well served bus stop, or regional commuter “nodes.”  In terms of walking distances, this translates to a quarter-mile walk or even a one-mile bike ride depending on climate, the topography, and the existing pedestrian connectivity found in a given area.

The Livability Factor:

The “Livability” of a neighborhood district is dependent on the character and quality of life afforded by a neighborhood.  A functional neighborhood district is commonly defined by “New Urban” city planners as a place where residents and visitors of all ages are able easily to satisfy their daily needs without getting into a car.  Ironically, traditional neighborhood design is a very old idea: simply vibrant places where friends live nearby, with access to public spaces where even strangers, visitors, and regulars  can meet to share the news of the day — a diner, or maybe a farmer’s market, a family owned businesses on “Main Streets.”–This is not a novel idea—it’s as American as Apple pie!

While making the  documentary film TOD Reshaping the Great American City (Transit-oriented development) for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 2009, I had the good fortune to visit and co-produce film locations in Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Arlington, VA; Washington D.C.; and Boston MA; and Denver, CO.  It became readily apparent to our production crew and director-producer that the great environments just kept going night and day and the marginal developments seemed to become ghost towns shortly after the nighttime rush hours.  We found that what really defines a great neighborhood district is more than shiny trams and sleek buses:  It was a universal “sense of place” that people themselves created everyday around the transit lifestyle.  Many of the bustling developments we experienced were uniquely and gradually designed over a long period of time.  The best of these built environments typically have a “mixed-use” character of houses and businesses with a generous supply of housing nearby; these transit nodes were popular at all times of the day,  The other not-so- successful places seemed inaccessible, had fewer uses, seemed to be dominated throughout by wide streets and parking lots with little in the way of “green space.”  A mix of old and new development is typical of the truly sustainable historic places we visited.  Without exception, the most successful areas offered a wide variety of housing types within walking distance of a public transit node.  As we traveled city to city, we discovered seamless connections between trains, buses, bikeways, and places designed around the pedestrian by offering safe, well illuminated places to walk which are naturally linked from the transit area deep into the surrounding community.  The streets become outdoor rooms for the community to enjoy and use.


Business establishments with private and public institutions can make living “car free” easier by offering free deliveries, extended hours, special loading zones (for certain times), supplying more bike racks and street benches, public drinking fountains all to accommodate people of all ages.  In an organic way, these business and retail districts offer the goods and services which are needed every day by transit riders and others alike.   Unlike the “big-box” shopping centers and indoor malls built during the 1980s and 1990s, the new community “anchors” are a social phenomena: usually it’s the well-established “mom & pop” businesses which become the local icons.  The new logos are the small grocery stores, dry cleaners, coffee houses, restaurants (of course), and even book stores; these are prominent signs of life re-emerging.  We count the number of doors on a street to measure the social equity shared by the community.  The crowds arrive by foot, bicycle, and by transit; activity feeds on activity.

It turns out: people like people!

A critical demographic : the  “young creatives” arrive early in a neighborhood’s resurgence; this is a good sign when the young fix things up, start businesses, and make the place “cool” again.  These young people are the “early adopters” of a declining “area of change.”  By virtue of their re-investment and hard work which often cannot be measured in dollars per square foot.  With collaboration, the young and old can eventually help a neighborhood prosper again.  New unique almost “tribal” sub-cultures begin to thrive together; art galleries, art studios, music venues, and theaters sometimes pop-up.  Each Station area on a transit corridor may have its own identifiable atmosphere and unique brand, a synergy, which occurs when each district boasts a  reputation for particularized goods and services which residents along the entire rail corridor can enjoy for variety, and convenience.

Urban green spaces, plazas and sidewalks can be fashioned into “informal” places for street performers of many types: from poets, folk singers, classical musicians, jugglers, and mimes!  These outdoor public places are not undefined “open spaces” but are adjacent to the streets protected by plantings, follies, benches, low sitting walls; these places become their own destinations.  All these places for people are only possible if there are enough people to create and take ownership of a “public realm.”  The re-emerging community has to make sure that people of all ages and incomes levels can afford to live nearby such places.  Transit itself does not increase business—It is business that increases business. Without the people 24-7 there is no real urban district.  Everything should not be designed just around the car and the tree-lined parking lot.  “Cars do not shop” — it’s people who shop!

The Need for Increasing the Housing Density

Substantial housing densities are a necessary factor to support small businesses, and to create the transit demand, which in turn, is needed to support a convenient and affordable transit system.  If readers are envisioning 30 story buildings—not to worry: Adequate housing densities can be achieved with buildings that are 3-5 stories tall.  Single Family houses cannot support a walkable pedestrian district and still be affordable because it takes roughly 2,000 housing units to support one block of 2-story buildings with retail uses.

In the coming months, as a guest blogger for THE BACK FENCE, I will be exploring how our communities can leverage public transit to create vibrant and sustainable environments to live, work, and play!

I am very interested in reader comments and suggestions. Please email me at:

niccolo@environmentalproductions.com
or visit
Environmental Productions

*   *   *   *

About the author: Niccolo Casewit is a Colorado native, an architect and urban planner, Niccolo’s professional focus has been on historic preservation, adaptive re-use, and small dwelling infill in transit-oriented districts. He holds a Masters Degree in Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) in Boston.  As a “citizen” architect, Niccolo has furthered the integration of participatory design for existing urban neighborhoods through his active engagement within the diverse communities of Denver and Lakewood, and the Front Range.  In addition to co-producing the TOD Reshaping the Great America City film mentioned above, Mr. Casewit also was the co-producer and urban subject matter expert for the documentary: “Sprawling from Grace” directed by David M. Edwards.  The Feature-length film was released on DVD in 2006 with national & international distribution in association with Cinema Libre. Niccolo is a professional advisor to “Friends of Granny Flats” in Denver which is advocating for changes to the zoning codes to allow Accessory Dwellings (ADUs) in all neighborhoods affording access to public transit.

You can purchase the documentary film,
TOD Reshaping the Great American City
from AIA Denver, 1515 Arapahoe St., Denver
and Sprawling from Grace below
Purchase the film Sprawling From Grace here
Below: Aerial view of Beaverton Station, Portland, Oregon
Photo: Niccolo Casewit

Denver & Colorado

The Denver Post
Barnes-Gelt: Planning a livable city
By Susan Barnes-Gelt
Posted: 04/11/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
In 2003 when Mayor John Hickenlooper hired Milwaukee’s Peter Park to be Denver’s planning director, the two shared a big vision. It’s taken nearly seven years, including five years of public process, led by a hard-working group of diverse citizens, to realize that vision.
Read more…

The Denver Post
RTD officials puzzled by rash of fatal accidents
By Jeffrey Leib
Posted: 04/11/2010
As bus operator Pete Acosta prepared to take his intercity coach out of RTD’s storage area Friday for its skyRide run to DIA, street supervisor Tim Lucero climbed aboard to give a safety briefing.
Read more…

National

The Wall Street Journal blog
Which Cities Save Commuters the Most With Public Transport?
By Sara Murray, April 6, 2010
With gas prices going up again it might be worth it to consider public transportation instead. In some cities, it’s a better exchange than others, according to the American Public Transportation Association’s monthly transit savings report.
Read more…

BuilderOnline.com
Urban Core Growing Faster Than Outer ‘Burbs
By Jenny Sullivan, April 8, 2010
EPA study finds that permits in central cities and first-ring suburban neighborhoods are outpacing greenfield developments. Smart growth proponents have long predicted that the ever-greater expansion of suburbia would one day reach its limit, prompting a renewed interest in central city living.
Read more…

USA Today
By Larry Copeland, April 8, 2010
It’s official: Your driving costs are going up.
The average cost of owning and operating a sedan in the USA rose 4.8% this year to 56.6 cents per mile, or $8,487 per year, a study out today by auto club AAA finds.
Read more…

The Denver Post
A matter of balance
By Dave Wann, 04/11/2010
An “affordable” economy means cutting away the destructive, polluting practices of the past and embracing the “three P’s” of intelligent growth.
How can we expect to track how our economy is really doing when standard indicators such as the gross domestic product conceal viruses like pollution, preventable illness, traffic congestion, and poorly designed products?
Read more…

Streetblog.NYC
Making Streets for Walking: Dan Burden on Reforming Design Standards
by Noah Kazis on April 8, 2010
One of the foundational documents in our country’s history of car-centric street design is what’s known as the Green Book. These engineering guidelines, which have been published in various editions by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) since the 1930s, are only “green” if you’re looking at the cover.
Read more…

The City Fix
Up, Up and Away in a Cable Car
by Megan McConville on April 7, 2010
Cable cars, also known as ropeways or aerial tramways, don’t get much respect. These types of transportation systems, in which a cabin or other conveyance is suspended from a fixed cable and pulled by another cable, are often thought of as tourist-movers. But cable cars can have some practical applications in urban settings.
Read more…

Examimer.com
Privatized toll road goes bankrupt using taxpayer money
Terri Hall, April 6, 2010
San Diego’s South Bay Expressway foreign-owned toll road has become the new poster child for the failed policy of road privatization. Up until now, most “conservative” and libertarian think tanks have promoted PPPs (public private partnerships) as the “free market” solution to road building. I’ve said all along it’s no such thing. They’re government-sanctioned monopolies and the Editorial Board of a leading conservative national newspaper, the Washington Times, agrees.
Read more…

The Best New Urban Parks in the U.S.
Melissa Lafsky, April 8th, 2010
A few months ago, we brought you a list of the 10 best large urban parks in the world.  But what about our more recent additions?  In the last few years, major American cities have been hard at work designing and building spectacular urban parks, to the benefit of millions.  Last week, New York City opened the first section of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, an 85-acre green space that will redefine the look of Brooklyn’s East River waterfront. It’s only the latest in what’s fast becoming a national trend.
Read more…

Bicycling.com
America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities(Boulder is rated 3rd).
Read more…

Daily Journal of Commerce
Climate bill stirs concern of double gas-tax hike
BY: Justin Carinci, April 8, 2010
An effort to pass a federal climate and energy bill has run into opposition from road builders and users who say it could hamper their efforts to pay for transportation projects.
Read more…

The Rest of the Planet

The New York Times
China Is Eager to Bring High-Speed Rail Expertise to the U.S.
By Keith Bradsher, April 7, 2010
BEIJING – Nearly 150 years after American railroads brought in thousands of Chinese laborers to build rail lines across the West, China is poised once again to play a role in American rail construction.
Read more..

Associated Press/Yahoo Finance
Elaine Kurtenbach, AP Business Writer,
April 9, 2010
China passenger car sales up 63 pct in Mar.
Weak sales in the United States and a surge in car purchases by newly affluent Chinese buyers helped to make this the world’s largest auto market last year, when total vehicle sales jumped 45 percent over 2008 to 13.6 million units.
Read more…

Association for the Study of Peak Oil
“A Nighttime Letter to the Grandchildren”
By admin · on March 29, 2010
When Stewart Lee Udall died on March 20th at age 90, we lost a giant of a gentleman and a passionate former public servant. The Arizona native was perhaps the most influential U.S. Secretary of the Interior ever.
Read more…

Things you need to know along the corridor.

Colorado State Representative, Max Tyler holds his regularly scheduled 3rd Saturday Town Hall,
April 17, 2010.
Golden City Halls Chambers
Golden, Colorado 80401
10:00am to 11:30am

West Corridor Construction closures, detours (compiled by the City Manager’s Office, City of Lakewood, Colorado, RTD, and Denver Transit Construction group).

The Back Fence Street Closures

For the best coverage of street closures along the entire West Corridor, please go to:
RTD-FasTracks Web Site for Street Closures


Denver & Colorado

National

The New York Times
A Southern Success Story for Public Transportation Offers Lessons in Livability
By JOSH VOORHEES of Greenwire
Published: April 5, 2010
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — By nearly all accounts, the new light-rail project here has been an unexpected and nearly unprecedented success. But that hasn’t stopped local and federal officials from wishing they could go back in time and take a second crack at planning it.
Read more…

Grist Blog
Sustainable urban farming ideas that think inside the box.
By Todd Woody
In my last Green State column, I wrote about Agriculture 2.0. The conference, held in Silicon Valley recently, brought together venture capitalists and sustainable ag startups in an effort to jump start a market for the regional distribution of fresh food.
Read more…

Grist Blog
My family (yours, too) needs rich social spaces-not cars-to be happy
By David Robers, April 4, 2010.
Human communities are ecosystems, and in all ecosystems diversity is the key to health and resilience.  …The most reliable way to maximize happiness is through social connectedness…if we want more healthy, happy people, we should create more supportive social networks.
Read more…

Charolette Observer.com
Donovan: more ‘ud’ in HUD
By Ron Stodghill, April 04, 2010
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, like many of his predecessors, hits all the notes of the quintessential change agent: He’s a scholarly yet results-oriented leader who wants to restore of the glory of American cities.
Read more…

Second Avenue Sagas Blog
A Nation in Support of Public Transportation
By Benjamin Kabak April 4, 2010
For much of the last two years, New Yorkers have witnessed a battle of mass transit funding and public transportation policy. While New York City, the state’s economic driver and only area of New York experiencing a population growth, needs and relies on its mass transit system to function efficiently and productivity, the state legislators holding the purse strings have not readily embraced making tough choices over public transportation funding.
Read more…

Infrastructurist.com
Will Bikers and Pedestrians Ever Be ‘Equal’ to Drivers?
By Melissa Lafsky, April 5, 2010
Ray LaHood came out big for bikers and pedestrians during the recent National Bike Summit (see a clip of his speech above). In fact, he was so fired up after the meeting, he went on to announce a “major policy revision” that aims to end the “favoring [of] motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized,” by enacting policies for cyclists and walkers that are similar to those enacted for automobiles.
Read more…

The New York Times
Builders Ponder a Housing Mandate
By ELSA BRENNER, March 31, 2010
AS Westchester tries to comply with a federal settlement mandating the creation of affordable housing in mostly white, well-to-do communities, the construction of low-cost units continues in low-income, racially mixed areas.
Read more…

Publicola Blog
Why I Choose to Live Car Free
Posted by Erica C. Barnett on April 3, 2010
This weekend, as we mentioned in Morning Fizz yesterday, I’ll be moderating a panel at the Climate Neutral Seattle Unconference about the challenges and opportunities involved with living car-free in Seattle.
Read more…

The Philadelphia Enquirer
Measuring affordable housing
By Al Heavens, March 4, 2010
With the extended federal tax credit set to end April 30 (closings deadline: June 30), real estate agents and builders will spend the next few weeks trying to get buyers off the fence and into new houses.
Read more…

San Francisco Cronicle
Open space little effect on housing, study says
John Wildermuth, Sunday, April 4, 2010
Land preservation efforts in Silicon Valley and surrounding areas have had only a minor effect on housing construction, according to a new Stanford study that looks to end decades of squabbling between environmentalists and developers.
Read more…

Detroit Free Press/Freep.com
Posted: April 4, 2010
What Detroit could be in 10 years
When you assemble all the proposals, plans and dreams that have been advanced in recent months, the city of 2020 looks dramatically different than it looks today: smaller, smarter, greener, more mobile, with more job opportunities — and once again the pounding heart of a metropolitan region.
Read more…

The Rest of the Planet

Alternative-Energy News
Abu Dhabi To Build First Full Eco-City
April 7, 2010
When we talk about the Middle East Asia, we imagine harsh terrain, blazing sun and sand dunes.
Read more…

Things you need to know along the corridor.

West Corridor Construction closures, detours (compiled by the City Manager’s Office, City of Lakewood, Colorado & Denver Transit Construction Group).
[In consideration of length of the closures, I’m sending you to my web site for that information.
Street closures due to light rail construction

Denver & Colorado
Aurora Sentinel
Survey: Voters narrowly favor potential RTD sales tax hike
By SARA CASTELLANOS
The Aurora Sentinel
Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 7:40 PM MDT
AURORA | Survey results released by the Regional Transportation District this week indicate voters would approve increased taxes for the full light rail project, a program beleaguered by rising construction costs – but only by a small margin.
Read more…

The Denver Post
Too late to cut Marsella’s pay
March 4, 2010
The former RTD chief may not have deserved all that cash, but the transit board agreed to it.  It’s much too late to renege.
Read more…

National

CNN.com/Living
Americans rebuild for the ‘new urban century’
By John Blake, April 1, 2010
In Charlotte, North Carolina, commuters zip along a sparkling new light rail system into a booming downtown district.  In Sacramento, California, construction workers hammer away at the next generation of green buildings.  And in New York City, rush-hour commuters pedal across popular bike paths that have spread like kudzu across the metropolis.  Those snapshots from cities across America offer a glimpse of the future.
Read more…

Grist Blog
Do Americans really make the connection between transportation, oil use, and environmental impacts?
by David Goldberg, Stephen Davis, 1 Apr 2010
The national poll that Transportation for America released this week makes it clear that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of increasing our access to transportation options, no matter where they live in America — big cities, suburbs, small towns, or rural areas. The majority believes that their community — and the country as a whole — would benefit from an expanded and improved public transportation system including rail and buses.
Read more…

D.C. Streets Blog
New Report: Congress Should Boost Truck Efficiency by Raising Gas Tax
by Elana Schor on April 1, 2010
As the federal government moves forward on a mandate to set stronger fuel-efficiency rules for trucks and buses, a new report from an independent scientific body is urging lawmakers to take another approach: raise fuel taxes.
Read more…

Human Transit Blog
03/31/2010
Los angeles: the next great transit metropolis?
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s campaign to accelerate the construction of rail transit his city is deservedly in the news, not just for his own persistence but also for the excitement it’s generating in the Obama administration, in Congress, and in other cities who would love to see a precedent-setting response.
Read more…

Houston Chronicle
Developers aim to attach transfer fee to homes
By JENNIFER HILLER
San Antonio Express-News
March 30, 2010, 10:52PM
Here’s a new concept in real estate: buy a house and when you go to sell it years later, owe the original developer or builder 1 percent of the sales price.
Read more…

Brookings Institute
Job Sprawl and the Suburbanization of Poverty
Michael Stoll, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program
Steven Raphael, Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
April 1, 2010
Read more…

USA Today.com
In fiscal pinch, transit agencies offer less for more
By Marisol Bello, March 2, 2010
Eight in 10 bus and subway agencies are raising fares and cutting service or considering such measures as a budget crisis racks mass transit.  The dramatic moves are the biggest ever for many of the transit operators.
Read more…

The rest of the planet
CitiScope Blog
No Excuses Slum Upgrading
by Andrea Peirce, March 2, 2010
Fernando Serpone Bueno and Veridiana Sedeh
Sao Paulo
São Paulo Seventh largest among the world’s metropolises and the linchpin of Brazil’s booming economy, São Paulo presents a globally relevant case study of stepped-up efforts — but continued deep challenges — if cities are to correct the deep poverty and environmental perils of massive slum settlements.
Read more…

Things you need to know along the corridor.

West Corridor Construction closures, detours (compiled by the City Manager’s Office, City of Lakewood, Colorado, RTD, and Denver Transit Construction group).

Due to technical reasons, I will have to send you to
RTD-FasTracks Web Site for Street Closures