A few things to know this week: July 1, 2019
Every week here, we package up a collection of things that caught our attention during the week. The following list is compiled by the whole Verdunity team — our favorite relevant or thought-provoking pieces of news, commentary, research, discussions, or cat videos we came across (or were thinking about) this week.
Here are this week's things to know:
We talk a lot about safe streets at Verdunity, so you may have heard: slowing cars down is the most effective way to keep pedestrians safe, and street design can be one of the biggest contributing factors to the speed of traffic. However, in this article, Gordon from Toronto asks a really good question: do I have to wait for that grand traffic calming project before I see slower traffic on my street? What happens when my city doesn't have enough money for those projects? The article features some changes that are easy to implement. Lowering speed limits and increasing pedestrian crossing times on signals can be one of the most effective ways to do that. The article cites an example from New York City, which saw a 44% drop in pedestrian fatalities due to lower speed limits and improvements such as bike lanes. – Tim
I've always wished Texas cities would have "the talk" about... drive-throughs. Minneapolis is having that conversation. The article delves into environmental, safety, and traffic rationale. I was a bit disappointed not to see a discussion of public health as well, though, which is also worthy of consideration. In short, maybe it's time to ask ourselves: does convenience trump all? – AJ
We regularly encourage public institutions such as cities and schools to consider building multi-story structures to allow a smaller tax exempt footprint, for the sake of fiscal sustainability. This reduces the footprint of land creating a cost burden while not producing any revenue to offset it. It also provides more space for tax revenue generating uses. The most common anecdotal rebuttal we hear falls along these lines: "Any benefit from building multi-story is lost by the significantly higher construction costs of building taller." This report, as well as many other small commentaries from commercial and residential builders available from a quick google search seems to suggest otherwise. – Felix
This piece by Felix Landry originally appeared on our blog, but was recently republished on Strong Towns. It touches on the exact issue Felix mentions above. I wanted to point to this version because there's a lot of activity in the comments section (64 comments at the time of this writing) that is worth reading. – Jordan
This is happening more and more, either with small developments begging to be annexed into their bigger city neighbor or bigger cities de-annexing (shrinking) their service area to align with the resources they have. In both cases, there are more needs than $$. Government leaders can kick the can for a while, but the bills eventually come due. – Kevin
While scooters have certainly caused lots of discussion among city lovers and others, they are still one of my favorite forms of urban transportation. It's god a fun factor that is awesome! However, I only use them occasionally. What do frequent users think? Benjamin Schneider, a San Francisco resident, decided to use Byrd's new monthly subscription for one month, in lieu of his bike. His observations are insightful and sometimes humorous, and he concludes his article saying that scooters are very useful for mile long trips, but lose their effectiveness on longer rides as compared to bikes. – Tim
When we talk about the affordable housing crisis, we tend to "talk about the forces that deny low-income Americans reliable and accessible housing near better jobs and educational opportunity," says Patrick Sisson. And we should: "It’s not just a national crisis and widespread policy failure, but a moral crisis for the world’s richest nation." But new research is showing the impact that the housing crisis has begun to have on the middle class. This is not an issue we can solve with a simple stroke of the pen (one reason people can't afford housing is that wages are too low, and other costs—such as health care and education—keep rising like crazy), but it is an area that housing and zoning policy can and must focus on. We've highlighted before the approach that the City of Minneapolis is taking (allowing all neighborhoods to build or convert to triplexes). There are even larger-scale policies elsewhere, such as Oregon's recent bill that legalizes missing middle housing statewide (which comes months after passing a rent control law). Then there's the work being done at a much smaller scale, such as by mission-driven small developers like Derek & Bianca Avery in Dallas. Whatever the scale, it's clear we need to be putting greater emphasis on solving this crisis in a sustainable way, with the tools at our disposal. – Jordan
One of my main talking points when I visit with cities is cultivating a self-sustaining local economy and workforce. This post outlines a number of ways you can get started on that path. – Kevin
Hey, city people:
Have thoughts on any of the links above? Think we missed something essential? We’re discussing these topics and more over on our brand-new online community, exclusively for local government employees.* Sign up for the Community Cultivators Network and join the discussion!
* The network is currently only for those wonderful folks out there who work in local government. If you’re not currently working for a city, town, or county, we still love you (and are sure many of you would add value to the community), but we want to keep our commitment to making this a community focused specifically on our friends working in local government. Thanks for understanding!