Stewart Brand on Cities and Time

April 18 2008 / by cyrusbryan / In association with Future
Category: Environment   Year: Beyond   Rating: 9 Hot

As a response to Accel Rose’s post on the future of cities by Stewart Brand, I thought I would pass this along as a supplement. It’s a one-hour presentation on the “City-Planet”, a long-term trend barely noticed by anyone.

According to Brand, “The massive urbanization of the world now going on is changing everything, affecting economics, the environment, and global population—- most of it, in surprising ways, for the better. The more I delve into the subject, the more I find it packed with news which is not being widely reported or thought about.”

This is one of a monthly series of Seminars About Long-term Thinking, given every second Friday in San Francisco, CA, organized by The Long Now Foundation .

Here’s the google video of the Long Now talk:

Expanding the Future by Contracting the City

August 29 2008 / by John Heylin / In association with Future
Category: Social Issues   Year: General   Rating: 3

“Los Angeles would probably be a lot more livable today if this law had been passed 50 years ago.” — George Skelton, LA Times

If there’s one thing that pisses people off about living in a major city, it’s poor public transportation. Often one has to walk half a mile to the nearest bus stop and wait patiently for the next arrival (which typically will only lead you to another bus), only to arrive at the intended destination three hours later. For example, I recently tried to get from SeaTac to Port Townsend and it took me 6 hours using public transportation, not to mention the 1.2 miles I had to leg it to my friends house with all my luggage.

The only U.S. city that has a decent public transportation system as far as ease of use, speed, and the ability to get me within a few blocks of where I need to go is New York City. Subway stops are frequent, tickets are cheap and walking takes care of the rest.

So how is it that New York City has developed such a great public transportation system?

The key is a phenomenon called urban sprawl.

Areas like Los Angeles have populations that are so spread out that a public transportation system servicing everyone is downright impossible. The city has enough buses, but with such incredible distances to cover, a simple ride is turned into a grueling trek. But in New York, the populations are so concentrated that buses are always filled to capacity and very frequent.

Urban sprawl is choking public transportation.

It is for this very reason the California Senate is considering passing Bill SB 375 which aims to cut urban sprawl through cash incentives.

The legislation is authored by State Senator Darrell Steinberg last year, who states:

“Current planning models used for transportation decisions and air quality planning must be improved to assess policy choices. This includes encouraging more compact development patterns, expanding transit service, creating walkable communities, and providing incentives. It is also necessary to achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions from changed land use patterns and improved transportation.”

Steinberg believes the bill would eventually result in shorter commutes, reduced fossil fuel consumption, better air quality, and greater protection of the environment. Basically, the argument is that as we get rid of sprawl, we save the environment.

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