News and Views: April 28, 2017

Solutions to the challenges our communities are facing today and in the future will depend on bringing perspectives together and thinking differently about how we approach development and infrastructure in our neighborhoods. We hope this weekly snapshot of what our VERDUNITY crew was discussing this week will help inspire more communication and sharing of ideas.

What we're reading this week:

Finance & Infrastructure

Looking for a bargain on housing? Dallas isn't the place anymore (Dallas Morning News)

Buying a home in Dallas isn’t a bargain anymore, not like it used to be. For decades, this region’s low cost of living has attracted families and employers from around the country, helping the economy weather the booms and busts of the oil business. Now that competitive advantage is eroding in a big way.

Environmental

MIT experiment reveals pathogen-spreading mechanism of rainfall (Stormwater Report)

Some promising research on the transfer of bacteria/pathogens from soils into the environment during rainfall events. 

Parking lot project catches the eye as well as stormwater (Bay Journal)

Even basic engineering projects offer the opportunity to incorporate innovative stormwater management practices.

National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP)

The new standard for national certification of green infrastructure construction, inspection, and maintenance workers.

Social/Quality of Life

Invisible Riders: How Low-Income Cyclists Go Unnoticed (Bicycling)

People without access to cars move around cities in ways that are often invisible to the professionals who plan and design them. City officials, planners, and designers need to take the time to observe the ways people struggle to go about daily life—and then incorporate their needs into street and neighborhood design. We can't just rely on what we hear from people at a Town Hall meeting, and we can't just design for the fortunate alone. 

What does it mean to be a “Smart City?” (City Observatory)

Joe Cortright of City Observatory is skeptical of all the talk of "smart cities" these days. In a nutshell: "This highly centralized, engineering view of cities smacks of the kind of heavy-handed approach to cities exemplified by the master builder Robert Moses. In contrast, the real smarts, or intelligence of cities stems from their ability to bring people together, in a fashion better described by the work of Jane Jacobs. We shouldn’t be so enamored of technology that we forget that cities succeed because largely because they enable their residents to easily connect to one another in the urban environment."

AT&T pushes Dallas toward more walkable, productive streets (Strong Towns/Dallas Morning News)

A major corporation bends the will of a city to build safer, more walkable streets that will encourage economic growth? Three cheers for that. This is part of a nationwide shift in preferences toward situating workplaces is walkable settings to make them more desirable. (It's not only companies that have this power to influence these kinds of decisions; citizens can get engaged and advocate for better, safer, more inclusive places.) 

Not all trails are created equal. Here’s how to tell the gold standard from the imitators (Greater Greater Washington)

The Capital Trails Coalition (from the D.C. area) highlights an important problem with regional trail planning: different jurisdictions have different standards for what makes a 'trail.' Some have high-quality facilities where users of all abilities feel safe, and others are content to call a sidewalk a trail. To clear up confusion, they've developed a set of criteria for what makes a good trail. Trails should: 1) be separate from vehicles, 2) be wide, 3) have paved or hard surfaces, 4) connect to other trails or destinations, 5) accommodate both transportation and recreation, 6) be a project that's realistic to build now or sometime soon, and 7) follow uniform design standards.