Samuel Staley's blog

Sam Staley is Associate Director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
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A Planning Contrarian's Reading List

Transcontinental flights are a great time to catch up on reading, and a recent flight from San Jose to Chicago inspired this blog post. As I was reading book #1 (below), I realized that a number books have been published recently that have important things to say about cities although they might be dismissed too easily as reactionary, ideological, or simply not relevant to urban planning.

Slicing Water Planning With Okham's Razor

I first learned of Okham’s Razor in an undergraduate economics class. Also called the Law of Parsimony, the idea states that the simplest of two competing ideas or theories is preferable to the more complicated one.

Horsepower vs Horse Power and Sustainability

How sustainable is the internal combustion engine? The answer depends, in part, on your historical perspective. This point becomes startlingly evident in a recent article by UCLA doctoral student Eric Morris in the most recent issue of Access magazine. The magazine publishes accessible versions of academic research and is published by the University of California Transportation Center at Berkeley.

Are planners ready for the Drew Carey (not so free) freeway?

Technology creates new challenges and opportunities, and this came home to me a couple of weeks ago when I was previewing a rough cut of Gridlock: Hell on Wheels, a video on traffic congestion released by Reason Foundation today. In the video, Comedian Drew Carey makes the following off-the-cuff comment on a morning drive-time radio show: “I would love to own a freeway in LA.”

The Politics of NIMBY

The following came through on a planning list serve, and I thought it raised several very provocative points that speak to the core of how we plan in the U.S.
“I heard, though I cannot remember the source, of a municipality that countered predictable neighborhood opposition to a higher density TOD proposal by broadening the review process to the whole community. I believe that the actual adjacent property owners were deemed to have a conflict of interest: i.e. their backyard versus overall better transit and housing opportunities for the entire town.

Hybrid Nation?

My Toyota Prius just turned 100,000. That’s quite a milestone for a car and it may be a harbinger of things to come. Many planners are betting so-called “peak oil” will undermine our car culture because we won’t have the fuel to feed them. The history of my Prius suggests otherwise.

What Gotham Tells Us about Mass Transit

I recently got taken to the proverbial wood shed on Planetizen Interchange for arguing that mass transit is unsustainable. So, I decided that it might be useful to look at the mass transit system that seems to be the most successful in nation: New York City. New York has the density and economic activity to sustain transit—perhaps a best-case scenario in the U.S.

Mass Transit Unsustainability

The solution to so-called "automobile dependence" within the contemporary planning community is almost alway more mass transit: more trains and buses. But is this realistic, particualarly given current strategies and approaches to providing mass transit? Most investments in mass transit are patently unsustainable, requiring huge investments in capital and dramatic reductions in mobility (measured by travel time) to achieve ridership goals.

Proof of mass transit's unsustainability is obvious to anyone willing to look at it objectively:

Chinese urbanism and the scale of development

SHANGHAI, CHINA--I've been a fan of New Urbanism for several years, but I've always considered myself an urban "pluralist"--someone who doesn't believe there is an "objective" or general urban form that is persistently successful over long periods of time. Indeed, Bob Bruegmann's thesis in Sprawl: A Compact History, suggests that urban form changes and evolves over time, although generally in a less dense direction.

Communist China's GPS congestion management capitalism

BEIJING, 9 MAY 2007--Anyone questioning China's potential to become the dominant player in the 21st century and beyond need look no further than the Beijing Transportation Information Center. The entrepreneurial leader of the center, Mr. WANG gang, has lead the development of the most innovative system for managing traffic congestion I've seen, putting U.S. systems to shame and leapfrogging over London's cutting edge signal coordinatin system. Rather than try to regulate congestion by limiting automobile use, they have figured out a way to use technology to make its use more efficient.

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