News Summary and Analysis - November 2006

As part of a monthly series, we present a summary and analysis of some of the most interesting news to appear on Planetizen over the month of November 2006. This is the transcript of an audio segment that originally aired on the nationally syndicated radio program "Smart City".

December 11, 2006, 7:00 AM PST

By Nate Berg

Listen to the audio podcast version of this summary and analysis.

In an effort to reduce traffic, cities across the globe are considering charging drivers to enter their most congested areas. Cities like London have implemented Congestion Pricing, which imposes a daily fee on drivers who enter certain high-traffic parts of the city. The New York Times reports that environmental and community groups in New York are pushing to impose congestion pricing in lower Manhattan during the busiest times of the day. The plan was originally proposed a year ago, and despite a rejection from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, proponents have regained momentum. Meanwhile, in Stockholm Sweden, a discontinued congestion pricing system is on the verge of being reintroduced. The proposal plans to appease drivers by using the proceeds to fund highway improvement. And in London, the city looks to build on its congestion pricing system, which is often cited as one of the best in the world. London's Mayor Ken Livingstone has proposed increasing the flat 8-pound-a-day rate up to 25 pounds for highly polluting cars. The cleanest burning cars, on the other hand, would be allowed to travel for free.

And another traffic reduction experiment is currently being tested in various cities in Denmark, Scandinavia and Britain to surprisingly successful results. Der Spiegel Magazine reports that a new method of removing road signs, traffic signals and guardrails and letting cars, bike and pedestrians mix freely has shown improved safety records and cross-city travel times. The restriction-free transportation system is intended to increase attentiveness in drivers and to require a more humane interaction between drivers and pedestrians based on eye contact and friendly gestures.

And in China, plans have been approved and construction has begun to expand Beijing's subway into the world's most extensive metro system, according to China Daily. Covering more than 350 miles on 19 lines, the length of the system is expected to surpass that of London's Underground system in 2020. Three lines currently under construction are expected to be operational when the city hosts the 2008 Olympic Games.

In New Orleans, rebuilding slowly continues after the devastation of last year's hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But as the city plans to demolish more than 5,000 units of its low-income housing developments to make way for New Urbanist projects, local housing advocates and residents have challenged the plan in federal Court. The New York Times reports that low-income residents in New Orleans fear being pushed out of the city by the newer, mixed-income developments. In contrast to the typical low-income housing projects built grossly out of scale, housing advocates argue that the New Orleans developments are some of the finest examples of low-income housing built in the country, and that they don't need replacement.

A new trend developing in the world of planning is placing increased importance on the consideration of children during the planning process. A recent conference in Sydney, Australia looked at ways to make cities and urban places more child-friendly. Speakers at the conference said that by planning cities to cater more to children, effects such as depression, criminal behavior, and obesity can be minimized. A recent article in Metropolis magazine also highlighted the importance of creating inclusive places like parks and playgrounds for children and families in urban areas as a method of improving a city's safety.

And finally, results from a new study fly in the face of the common perception that suburbs are socially alienating. A report released by the University of California at Irvine concludes that suburban areas are actually less socially isolating than dense urban areas. According to the study, the chances of people talking and interacting with their neighbors increases by 10 percent for every 10 percent decrease in population density. Jan Brueckner, the UC Irvine professor who led the study, says that while most of the criticisms against suburban sprawl remain accurate, at least one is no longer valid.

Below are links to summaries of the articles highlighted in this month's analysis:

New York City Groups Consider Congestion Pricing

Congestion Pricing Returning To Stockholm

London's Congestion Charge May Increase For Heavy Polluters

Where Have All The Traffic Signs Gone?

Controlled Chaos In Transportation Planning

Beijing To Build Biggest Metro System In The World

HUD's Public Housing Plan For New Orleans Challenged

Urban Improvement Through Child's Play

The Psychological Effects Of Urban Planning On Children

Suburbs Not Socially Alienating?

The audio segment originally aired on the nationally syndicated radio program "Smart City", which is broadcast in cities across the U.S.

Learn more about "Smart City" and listen to archived shows.

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