3.17.2016

East Market Street Requires a ReDesign

When Jan Gehl was in Philadelphia in February to accept the 2016 Edmund N. Bacon Prize, he took a walk down Market Street with PlanPhilly's Ashley Hahn. There's many a gem in her recap of their walking conversation, but overall, Gehl concludes that while there are glimmers of "vitality and variety" in Old City,  the core of East Market Street is a loveless experience. In many ways the street is designed to keep people (especially in their cars) moving, instead of basking in the pleasant urbanity of it all. 

Ashley asked me to write a companion piece to her conversation with Gehl, about the challenges and opportunities facing East Market Street. This post originally appeared in PlanPhilly.  Supplemental graphics and text (captions and italics) are intended to lend further clarity and depth to the issues presented in the original text. 

2.03.2016

(Accidental) Success for OpenStreets PHL

Open Streets, the national effort to open up streets to pedestrians, is gaining steam.  Millennials love it; it makes children happy, and it even seems to give old folks an extra spring in their step.  But what about entrepreneurs and mom+pop retailers trying to make a buck? Might such restriction of vehicular traffic and parking dissuade their customers, squeeze their margins, and be more of a headache than it's worth? We got a chance to find out, and the results were really exciting.

6.28.2015

Transect Talk: Trails and Parkland

Philadelphia has a beautiful history and network of parks and trails.  After a long hike a little while ago, it dawned on me that parks and trails, just like buildings and streets, range from urban to rural, and that "getting it right" in those various contexts makes a huge difference.  In other words, beaux-arts fountains in the woods make about as little sense as building a raised ranch with a picket fence next to City Hall.  I'm going to use this post to show how a great long hike through Philadelphia parkland exposes you to a nearly perfect transition through the trail transect.

10.31.2014

Halloween: another reason row houses are totally awesome

Halloween might be the holiday made best by walkable urban places.  Christmas and its caroling has its charms and may give All Hallows Eve a run for its money, but who can argue the awesomeness of trick-or-treating with a new door to knock on every 15-to-100 feet? I can't imagine being a kid in the exurbs.  Being driven around to each and every daily activity is bad enough, but imagine needing to be driven house to house for trick-or-treating? Fortunately, the town I grew up in was an inner ring suburb well built for halloween.  Even so, I've been blown away by the spooky atmosphere created in my Philadelphia neighborhood. People really go all out, and the proximity to the sidewalk of each Halloween-costumed house really heightens the experience.

9.28.2014

SEPTA Expansion: First, How Did We Get Here?

Back in last September, SEPTA was facing the very real prospect of drastic cuts in service because of decades of deferred maintenance resulting from a funding structure that gives it far less juice than other comparable systems.  I called it the unnecessary doomsday scenario, but boy, what a doomsday scenario it would have been.

9.26.2014

When a Bike Lane is More than a Bike Lane

This post originally appeared as a Helen Ubinas column in the Philadelphia Daily News.  Supplemental italicized text and graphics in this post are intended to lend some color commentary and further clarity to the issues presented in Helen's original text. 

7.06.2014

Think tank’s urban jobs agenda misguided: cities must be empowered, not wards of the state

This post originally appeared as an op-ed in the Hartford Business Journal by your correspondent and David Panagore.

The Connecticut Policy Institute (CPI), founded by Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley, issued a series of white papers earlier this year about economic development.
With the election for the state's top spot heating up and Foley running neck and neck with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, it's a good time to assess some of the economic development initiatives and thinking from the contender's camp.

4.30.2014

Make Transit a Downtown Priority and Get the Details Right

This post originally appeared as an op-ed in the Hartford Courant.  Supplemental italicized text and graphics in this post are intended to lend further clarity to the issues presented in the original text. Your correspondent previously served as the City's Complete Streets Coordinator and has been involved in several of the projects discussed.

Introduction

Acres of parking in the shadow of tens of
thousands of jobs and the State Capitol
As recent research at the University of Connecticut indicates, too much surface parking is bad for downtowns. Citing Hartford as an example, the study finds that large swaths of blacktop drive down the value of surrounding property, making development less likely, which in turn begets more parking. In spite of being the highest concentration of jobs in the entire State, the conclusion of this unfortunate spiral is a place with plenty of parking but not much to do after you park.

A big part of the solution is improved transit, and with fewer than 10 percent of downtown Hartford employees currently using transit, there’s room for improvement.

3.17.2014

Economic Development - How Philadelphia Snagged Comcast without Giving Away the Farm

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center - This is the year's big real estate development news in Philadelphia. 

Comcast and Liberty Property Trust announced the plan to construct a $1.2B skyscraper at 19th and Arch in Center City, designed by Lord Norman Foster.  There will be much discussion of the design and the economic impact of such a development, but there's another important story here - Philadelphia has just caught a big - no, gigantic - fish without wading into the sordid waters of corporate relocation/retention incentive one-upsmanship, which so many cities and states seem unable to resist.  But this development is neither an accident, nor to the credit of the will if a single administration or development official; rather, it's the product of at least three decades of strategic choices and turning the tide in the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).

9.16.2013

The Unnecessary SEPTA Doomsday Scenario

As Paul Nussbaum recently reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer, SEPTA, which provides commuter rail, subway, a few versions of light rail, and bus service for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties, has presented a doomsday scenario if the Commonwealth chooses not to provide substantial cash infusions for capital improvements over the next several years.