Weekly Top 5 - Cars, Conservatives, Alpharetta, Congestion, Innovation

Each week, New Urban Roswell brings you our Top 5 most interesting and thought provoking articles about urbanism and neighborhoods.  We sifted through about 100 articles this week to find the top 5.  We hope you enjoy.

Beware the 18% - New Urbanism Blog

Embedded in this article is a very interesting statistic that goes beyond the headline.  That statistic is that the average annual cost for owning a mid-size car in the US  is $9,519 when you factor in all pertinent costs and assume annual mileage of 15,000.  That’s almost 65 cents a mile!  It’s a statistic that’s just crying out for some common sense. Much of the current debate in Atlanta is about the Transportation Investment Act and the fact that 48% of the money is allocated to roads... this statistic tells me that we might want to consider lowering that.  Assuming that you have a 10 mile commute, your round trip is costing you about $13!!!  WOW!  Bet you didn’t think about that.  We need to start building walkable places where people aren’t forced to use their car and can even consider reducing their car ownership.  The automobile is a drag on our national wealth. 

Smart Growth for Conservatives - Bacon’s Rebellion

This is a highly interesting read if you are at all concerned about he politicization of common sense.  In the preface to this post, Bacon comments that “efficiency is efficiency... cost effectiveness is cost effectiveness.”  The current dichotomy is Sprawl (Conservative) vs Smart Growth (Liberal) and that isn’t going to cut it as reality begins to smack us in the face more and more frequently.  The argument in this post is whether the top-down liberal solution or the bottom-up conservative solution is best.  As a staunch independent, I think a little of both is needed.  An additional excerpt from the preface:

The logical, if somewhat extreme, outcome of the conservative dismissal of Smart Growth is the anti-Agenda 21 movement, which connects non-existing dots between the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainability agenda, President Obama’s green policies and efforts in Virginia’s cities and counties to implement Smart Growth. Thus, in this conspiratorial mindset, anything resembling Smart Growth is seen as part of a larger movement to undermine American freedoms and liberties. Frighteningly, this movement has gained momentum in a number of Virginia counties and created a distraction from the real issues.

If you really have some time and are interested, you can listen to a panel that Mr. Bacon was on at CNU 20 here.

Three Simple Ideas for Cities - Strong Towns Blog

This is a great posts that throws some ideas and thoughts out on how some small, experimental ideas could improve the overall development picture of towns and cities.  The three ideas that are thrown out for consideration are building a local building bank, moving to land value taxation rather than building value taxation and encouraging/allowing code free zones where a city can experiment with what an area with no zoning would develop like.  I feel that experimentation of this nature is not only a good idea but necessary to move into the next generation of development in this country.  The systems we have now are dysfunctional at best and toxic at worst.  

Alpharetta City Center Plan Stirs Concerns About Green Space - Live in Alpharetta

All I can really say on the newly revised plans for Alpharetta’s city center are WOW!  The plan as it is would create an incredible mixed-use destination that is quaint, people focused and inherently local.  This plan is about a mile away from Avalon but it is extremely different in the way it will interact with people.  I think once both are done, there will be no question that this project will win the ‘lovability’ contest. Great work Alpharetta!  I’m more than a little bit jealous that Roswell’s neighbor city seems to be a step ahead of us in redeveloping it’s urban core.

Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion - The Atlantic Cities

Is traffic congestion really a drag on economies and productivity?  This article looks at areas with low congestion and compares them to areas of high congestion and asserts that congestion is a byproduct of a healthy economy.  You can’t get around it.  They found that when traffic delays went up, GDP also increased and that the correlation was statistically significant. Here’s an excerpt that helps make sense of it:

How could being stuck in traffic lead people to be more productive? The relationship is almost certainly not causal. Instead, regional GDP and traffic congestion are tied to a common moderating variable - the presence of a vibrant, economically-productive city. And as city economies grow, so too does the demand for travel. People travel for work and meetings, for shopping and recreation. They produce and demand goods and services, which further increases travel demand. And when the streets become congested and driving inconvenient, people move to more accessible areas, rebuild at higher densities, travel shorter distances, and shift travel modes.