...the stimulus must distinguish between the right kind and wrong kind of pavement — those investments that make communities more livable and sustainable versus those that weaken our strategic position and make families frighteningly vulnerable to volatile energy prices.
And a new president — this President — gives me some genuine optimism that we might be able to start turning this country to a better urbanism.
I will be writing about this topic — the stimulus package and where the money is going — as I find out more. And I urge you to watch for news about it, too. I think how this money is spent is terrifically important.
One of the sad things about the current financial debacle is not simply that we have had over-building in the residential sector — to some real extent that's unavoidable. The sad thing is that I fear that much of what we have built has limited long term value because it has been built without any sense of town and community-bulld.
Moreover, good urbanism is basically inexpensive — don't let anyone tell you otherwise —and very small public improvements in the street R.O.W. can help leverage what the private sector is already doing in redevelopment.
Post at Planetizen by CNU's John Norquist focuses attention on how the stimulus money will be spent. Norquist urges that it not all be automobile-oriented but that mass transit and walkable streets be included and even (hope upon hope!) be emphasized. One of the factors in our weak economic & overall strategic situation is our dependence on foreign oil. So why spend so much of the stimulus dollars on projects which will only worsen our situation? Not to mention the green-house issues.
I'd go slightly further and emphasize projects which specifically add to the walkability of our cities and suburbs such as — hold on to your hats — curbs and sidewalks.
Some other advantages of emphasizing right-of-way projects ((new curbs/sidewalks, curb bulbs, traffic calming devices etc etc ) which increase the walkability of an area:
• Such pedestrian-oriented street improvements are very labor-intensive and require many workers.
• Being simpler and low tech, ped-oriented R.O.W. improvements are quicker to design and thus can be "shovel-ready" long-before a new highway or subway.
• Being fine-grain and requiring useful construction skills, such projects can provide on-the-job training to unemployed which can be used in private market.
• They encourage people to get out of their homes and walk, meet neighbors, get healthier, and strengthen bonds of community.