28 February 2009

Inward Trend in Building Permits?

The EPA just released results of a study of residential construction trends to see if there is a real shift inward, or if most construction is still on the suburban fringe:
...In more than half of the largest metropolitan areas, urban core communities have dramatically increased their share of new residential building permits.
* The central city has more than doubled its share in 15 regions (of 50 studied).
* The increase has been particularly dramatic over the past 5 years.
* Data from 2007 show the trend continuing in the wake of the real estate market downturn.

However, in many regions, a large share of new residential construction still takes place on previously undeveloped land on the urban fringe...

27 February 2009

Misc Urbanism Quotes

The present idea of the street must be abolished: DEATH OF THE STREET!DEATH OF THE STREET! – Le Corbusier, The Radiant City (1933), p. 124
Also in the same article:
... the use of streets for children’s play (for example) can seem obviously wrong, and thus the departure of children from streets with the arrival of automobiles can seem an obvious and simple necessity. Only when we can see the prevailing social construction of the street from the perspective of its own time can we also see the car as the intruder. Until we do, not only will we fail to understand the violent revolution in street use circa 1915-1930, we will not even see it. This is why the full scale of the wave of blood, grief, and anger in American city streets in the 1920s has eluded notice. - Peter D. Norton, Fighting Traffic, p. 2

The Congress for the New Urbanism views disinvestment in central cities, the spread of placeless sprawl, increasing separation by race and income, environmental deterioration, loss of agricultural lands and wilderness, and the erosion of society’s built heritage as one inter-related community-building challenge. ~ Preamble, Charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism

Daycamp Sign-Up Starting

Cincinnati Parks offers some great summer daycamps. We have tried a few of them and highly reccomend them. They are a great bargain at about $50 a week. Some of them fill up so even though summer seems far away, you may want to register now.

Mill Creek Restoration

A couple of notes about projects at two different portions of the Mill Creek. I have hiked around both of these areas, and restoration, especially at the area around Caldwell Park will offer a respite in a dense industrial waterway. I am so excited that someone is actually trying to salvage the Mill Creek.

First, at Caldwell Park:

...Mill Creek Restoration Project (MCRP) completed work on a major streambank and floodplain restoration program designed to protect Mill Creek water quality and aquatic habitat and to improve ecological conditions in the southwest corner of Caldwell Park. The recreational park is owned by the City of Cincinnati and located in the Carthage neighborhood.

... included stabilization of 340 linear feet of eroding streambanks and restoration of the adjacent floodplain, located immediately upstream of the North Bend Road bridge over Mill Creek. Prior to the project, site conditions included a degraded floodplain due to other construction activity, and fifteen-feet high, severely eroding streambanks that have caused continued loss of park property and trees. The bank erosion also caused increased sediment loads to the stream, impairing water quality and adversely impacting aquatic life.

...Soil bioengineering is a highly effective method for restoring streambanks and achieving other ecological objectives, including improved wildlife habitat, enhanced aesthetics, and increased shade along the creek. The approach is based on sound engineering, hydrology and ecology, and employs vegetation with good root systems to stabilize the slopes and soils.

... MCRP and its partners contributed $14,780 in inkind services and materials, including fieldwork labor by 54 students and teachers from Clark Montessori, a Cincinnati Public School. Other invaluable Clean Ohio partners for this project include the Cincinnati Park Board and the City Recreation Commission.


Map of proposed trail along Millcreek through Northside:

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) has awarded a $35,000 grant to Mill Creek Restoration Project (MCRP) to underwrite planning and design costs for the first phase of the City of Cincinnati's Queen City-South Mill Creek Greenway Trail. MCRP is especially honored that a portion of the GCF grant comes from the Joan Jones Portman Nature Enrichment Field of Interest Fund, because of Mrs. Portman's inspiring dedication to the conservation of natural resources.
The “barebones” budget (without major furnishings and trail heads) for the .6 mile Phase 1 greenway trail segment is $265,000. ...

The Phase 1 trail will connect Salway Park, in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Spring Grove Village, to the intersection of Dooley By-pass and Ludlow Avenue in Northside, one block from the Northside business district along Hamilton Avenue. The trail will follow along the west side of Mill Creek and will be constructed this spring. ...

Overall Queen City-South Mill Creek Greenway Trail
When all three phases are complete, the off-road Queen City-South Mill Creek hike and bike trail will span 3.4 miles along the river, from Mitchell Avenue at the Queen City shopping center to the Mill Creek Road bridge in South Cumminsville. The multi-purpose trail (e.g., for recreation, exercise and bike commutes) will connect with existing streets, on-road bike lanes, Metro and Access bus stops, and pedestrian sidewalks. In addition, the trail will link parts of five residential neighborhoods; two business districts; Salway park, a heavily used recreational facility; and the Spring Grove Cemetery together.

...the project will help to regenerate natural resources, including restoring wildlife habitat by planting Ohio native trees. Signage and art will be integrated to highlight the rich cultural history of the Underground Railroad that actively operated along Mill Creek.

...MCRP will offer environmental education and service learning opportunities for thousands of sixth through twelfth grade students.

...MCRP believes that the timing is right for the Mill Creek Greenway Trail Program because there is synergy with other major investments within the Mill Creek corridor, including the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati's capital program that will advance Mill Creek water quality improvements by preventing and reducing untreated sanitary sewage and stormwater discharges to the river from combined sewer overflows....

26 February 2009

Bloomberg Closing Part of Broadway to Cars

Traffic management does not mean ever-widening streets:
...Although it seems counterintuitive, officials believe the move will actually improve the overall flow of traffic, because the diagonal path of Broadway tends to disrupt traffic where it intersects with other streets.
The plan is the latest move by Mr. Bloomberg to change the way the city thinks of its streets, making them more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and chipping away at the dominance of the automobile....

Dukakis on Rail Again

Michael Dukakis recently talked about how relatively easy it would be to fix passenger rail infrastructure, lay double tracks, etc., and get decent intercity rail. The full lecture is here:
10 minute clip is on YouTube.

25 February 2009

Stop Building Suburban Slums

As the suburbs continue to be overbuilt, housing prices decline in many suburban communities. As the prices get low enough, they begin to attract more and more poor people, who previously only lived in the city, near services and transportation.
....In 2005...suburban poverty, in raw numbers, topped urban poverty for the first time.

...America will face a market surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (a sixth of an acre or more), attracting millions of low-income residents deeper into suburbia...

... "Suburbia is overbuilt and yet we will keep on building there. Most policymakers don't see the consequences, and those who do are denying reality."

...suburbia's least desirable neighborhoods - aging, middle-class tract-home developments far from city centers and mass transit lines — are America's emerging slums, characterized by poverty, crime and other social ills. ...

... suburbs are losing favor because they make little sense, forcing people into their cars, limiting social interaction and discouraging racial and socio-economic diversity. ...

The displaced poor find value in the aging, outer-ring tract-home developments that once promised easy living far from the city's hustle and bustle. ...

Miami real estate broker... said he's witnessing the spiral, even within newer tract-home development ... many early middle-class buyers in these transition neighborhoods are desperate to sell but can't.

..."The isolation can be both physical and emotional, the frequency of interaction with neighbors declines, social networks break down...

.... Most of the homes he expects to exist in 2025 have yet to be built. He said planners can reduce that oversupply by crafting long-term growth policies that reflect a careful assessment of regional demands ....What they will find, he said, is a preference among all income groups for denser, mixed-use communities with access to mass transit.

..."I wouldn't add another new road in American today,"...

24 February 2009


Some people are so set on living a life in which they can drive door to door, so against ever getting out and actually walking places or riding in public transit that they go through all kinds of contortions to make their drive-thru lifestyle sustainable. They are like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a hill.

Andy Webster commented on a blog post here last week. He and his partner, Jay Andress are two Cincinnatians, trying to develop an electric monorail car, called the Monomobile:

Somehow they have gotten the Clinton County Commissioners to endorse their idea:
WILMINGTON - Clinton County...is throwing its support behind the MonoMobile.

...The startup MonoMobile Corp., created by real estate investor Jay Andress of Hyde Park and Andy Webster of Indian Hill, hopes to hear this spring whether it will receive a $2.8 million matching grant from Ohio's Third Frontier program to build a mile-long test track to refine the project.

... have been working on the concept for about 12 years

... an electric-powered personal vehicle that could travel about 50 miles between charges for local travel, but would hook up to an electric-charging monorail built along interstate rights-of-way for high-speed, long-distance travel.

The project has gotten support from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Wright State University and the National Composite Center...

... it allows the driver to travel short distances and if the person wants to go to the outskirts of the city or to another city then using the wheels attached to the roof it connects to the monorail.

...The developers spent a sum of $2500 preparing the CityEl, now dubbed as the Liberator Car. They are also planning an additional $10 million for a 1 mile test section of monorail.

The new Liberator Car assures that the driver will never have to worry about running out of power the moment he reaches the destination..
I can save these guys lots of headaches and hard work. This proposal is totally unworkable. On the surface there are multiple problems:

- the car is too small for families, too fragile for road travel.
- three wheeled vehicles are inherently unstable.
- no one wants to go 200mph in what is basically a bicycle with a fiberglass shell.
- the design is proprietary and thus limited in scope.
- lifting a transport system off the ground makes it prohibitively expensive.
- they've spent only $2,500 on it themselves, but want $2.8 million from the State?

Look, long distance, fast, electric transport is done all the time in other countries. It is called electric rail, and it is tested, safe and we already have the right of ways. The only problem is that you must detach yourself from a car to use it. For some people this is a step too far.

Pinewood Derby Wolf

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23 February 2009

Dayton Fifth Emptiest City

Is Dayton really the fifth emptiest city in the country? I hate these kind of stories, as they surely mean demolition of buildings and wasted infrastructure. Las Vegas, Detroit, Atlanta, Greesboro NC are 1-4.

Aging in Place

Interesting article about aging in Portland. One trend is called "aging in place", which means living in a home and neighborhood that can support people of all ages and abilities.

..."I’m having the biggest small-town experience living in the core of Portland. I know the people who make my coffee every morning. My barber’s down the street. I’m connecting with my community. Boomers are drawing from their old commune days and pushing new models. They’re thinking about buying big houses together in urban areas, or creating guided communities where they live independently, but in a supportive environment.”

....Last year, AARP The Magazine named Portland one of the top five places to live and retire (along with Atlanta; Boston; Milwaukee; and Chandler, Arizona), based, among other things, on our cutting-edge urban-planning philosophy, our large number of mixed-use developments, and our accessible public transportation. In 2006, Portland was the only American city to participate in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age-Friendly Cities Project, a global study that identified solid indicators of an age-friendly city—everything from creating green spaces to offering priority seating for elderly passengers on public transportation and ensuring “psychological safety” in urban environments.

...seniors want to be able to benefit from a more compact, dense, transit-served, mixed-use, urban setting...

21 February 2009


Our milk makers: 
We volunteered to do the weekly milk pickup for our herdshare, and met our herd. It was a good trip, and I am still absorbing the implications. If you are interested in a herdshare, Cincy Locavore has some good info.

20 February 2009

IDA Developing Model Ordinance

The International Dark-Sky Association has just completed a long process in which they have written a model ordinance that can be adopted by local jurisdictions to limit harmful light tresspass, glare etc. They are accepting comments and criticism for the next months, and will have a final document later this year. Read about it here.

Suburbs Need Transformation to Survive

Interesting interview here with Chris Leinberger.

A Parents Group on Facebook

I was thinking about changing the "what this blog is about statement" to reflect more what it has become, which is a blog about old buildings, urbanism, and stuff like that. My original intention here was to organize get-togethers for downtown families. But that never really happened, and I think that kind of thing would maybe work better on Facebook anyway.

So I was thinking about starting a group on Facebook for downtown Cincinnati parents. After spending some time on Facebook, my only hesitation with this is that I don't think their "groups" function works so good. Maybe it works great, and the fault is with me, but it seems like it is better to just invent a person named Mr Downtown Parents or Mr Citykin or even use my real name and then make friends, and update the status often. Mostly what I get from Facebook are the status updates. Groups don't have status updates. Am I misunderstanding how this works? The other option is to start a Citykin fan page. But that even seems less connective. Anyone have any ideas on this?

One direction would be that the Facebook group could be much smaller than the blog readership, and would mostly include families in the basin and surrounding hills who want to share info on things to do and plan meet-ups. This would need to be somewhat collaborative. If I am the sole organizer, it won't go far.

Either way, this blog would remain as is.

19 February 2009

Intense Baroqueness

Follow this link to an amazing photo of the Piarist Church of Maria Treu, in Vienna, Austria. It takes you to a 360 degree GIGApixel image with rotate, and zoom controls. Pretty amazing.

Hat Tip Greg Shuet

Don't ReInflate that Bubble

We should not attempt to re-inflate housing prices. Many people paid too much for new houses built in greenfields. Better said by Yglesias:
...It’s important to understand, however, that we’re not talking about real assets that vanished. The houses are still there, and they’re still as good or bad or useful or non-useful as they ever were. What’s vanished is a speculative mania, and public policy can’t—and shouldn’t—create a new one.

Nuclear the Only Power Solution

...that is, if you want to consume at current rates and not devastate the environment and/or the economy. This blogger supports nuclear power and urban living as a green solution that could make America energy self sufficient. Biofuels, solar and wind's numbers don't add up, and the current path of coal and oil is destructive on many levels.

The Next Subprime Mortgage Meltdown

...Obama's $787-billion stimulus package will be steering us down the path California took in the 1980s and 1990s, leading up to the great California Electrical Shortage of 2000.....There is not one penny in the bill for the one form of energy that might give this country a future --nuclear power.

...windmills are producing almost no useful electricity and will become a huge drag on the economy -- just as biofuels have done nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and have just led to hundreds of millions in wasted investments.

..."All these wind farms...only deliver electricity 20-30 percent of the time at best. Because they're so unpredictable, you can't shut anything else down...

...it's nice to watch those 45-story structures going round and round but don't count on them to produce any useful electricity.

...because of their vast land requirements (125 square miles to match the average coal or nuclear plant), they must be located far from population centers. ...you we have be rebuild the entire national grid in order to accommodate them....

... France, unlike the rest of the world, has not yet fallen into a recession. The reporter attributed this to France's high level of government employment, but a much more likely explanation is France's complete conversion to nuclear energy. With 80 percent of its electricity coming from nuclear and the rest from hydro, France pays the lowest electrical rates in Europe -- and has the lowest carbon emissions on top of that....
These windmills, located along mountaintops in West Virginia, were not moving much when I saw them last fall.

18 February 2009

Libraries May Ban Children

"I don't trust a man who makes toys in a land where children are forbidden."

The Enquirer reports that the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act will force libraries to either test their children's book collections for lead, or destroy them. Testing can cost $300-$600 per book, and Hamilton County's library system has 1.2 million children's books. Neither choice is really an option for cash-strapped libraries, so the only remaining compliance path would be to simply ban children under 12 from entering.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission notes (pg 4) that they are "not aware of a single documented case" of an ordinary children's book printed after 1985 having a dangerous amount of lead. CPSC has told libraries that they will delay enforcement for a year while they try to make some kind of sense out of the new rules.

I don't think that's possible.

Our society stands to suffer much greater harm from the ban than the scare. Imagine an entire generation of kids forbidden from discovering the magic of books and the dizzying opportunities offered by libraries. It's too stupid to contemplate.

One snide commenter on the Enquirer story said, "let's just outlaw children under 12, that way Congress could solve all of our problems with one simple law." Apparently, that's the plan. No wonder Congress' approval ratings are approaching single digits.

Renting vs Homeownership Redux

Richard Florida, of Creative Class fame, is back in The Atlantic this month with a long article examining the current economic conditions. What will it mean for the American cities? Here is a quote:

What’s the right spatial fix for the economy today, and how do we achieve it?

The solution begins with the removal of homeownership from its long-privileged place at the center of the U.S. economy. Substantial incentives for homeownership (from tax breaks to artificially low mortgage-interest rates) distort demand, encouraging people to buy bigger houses than they otherwise would. That means less spending on medical technology, or software, or alternative energy—the sectors and products that could drive U.S. growth and exports in the coming years. Artificial demand for bigger houses also skews residential patterns, leading to excessive low-density suburban growth. The measures that prop up this demand should be eliminated.

If anything, our government policies should encourage renting, not buying. Homeownership occupies a central place in the American Dream primarily because decades of policy have put it there.... homeowners are no happier than renters, nor do they report lower levels of stress or higher levels of self-esteem.

And while homeownership has some social benefits—a higher level of civic engagement is one—it is costly to the economy. The economist Andrew Oswald has demonstrated that in both the United States and Europe, those places with higher homeownership rates also suffer from higher unemployment. Homeownership, Oswald found, is a more important predictor of unemployment than rates of unionization or the generosity of welfare benefits. Too often, it ties people to declining or blighted locations, and forces them into work—if they can find it—that is a poor match for their interests and abilities.

As homeownership rates have risen, our society has become less nimble: in the 1950s and 1960s, Americans were nearly twice as likely to move in a given year as they are today. Last year fewer Americans moved, as a percentage of the population, than in any year since the Census Bureau started tracking address changes, in the late 1940s.

17 February 2009

Biofuels Are Not Green

I was on the Treehugger website yesterday, and I was surprised at the number of self described environmentalists who endorse a car dominated lifestyle. They believe that we can continue to live our drive-thru lifestyle by just modifying the fuels used. They fiddle with MPG, ethanol, and battery powered cars. I think they are fooling themselves. Although it is not the reason I live here, it seems obvious to me that living in the city is more green.**

...the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.
Biofuels do slightly reduce dependence on imported oil, and the ethanol boom has created rural jobs while enriching some farmers and agribusinesses. But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple...: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.
Enviro initiatives often have these perverse effects. I remember the protests against the Moscow nuclear power plant in the 70s and 80s. The result is a coal burner and more strip mining in Kentucky. But jobs in Harlan County were a talking point by enviros then.

Plus the math on "growing" BTUs just doesn't work:
...powering the average U.S. automobile for one year on ethanol (blended with gasoline) derived from corn would require 11 acres of farmland, the same space needed to grow a year's supply of food for seven people. Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.

**Clarification. What I am referring to is the attempt to "save the planet" and through purchases of more energy efficient stuff. However, green choices can come naturally while making everyday decisions. If it pleasant, healthy and cheaper, then maybe it is also green. For example having the choice of walking, lowering heating bills, kids learning about composting, old buildings, reusable items, buying local produce etc... those are the green initiatives I can support.

Update: Here is an article about urban living being more green: City Journal

Support Your Local Piccolo Player

YouTube is creating the first collaborative symphony. From the site:
We have invited musicians from around the world to audition for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. The video entries will be combined into the first ever collaborative virtual performance, and the world will select the best to perform at New York City's Carnegie Hall in April 2009.
There is at least one local in the finals. Jennifer King is a CCM grad, has played for a number of local orchestras, and is currently a flutist for the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra.

You can support her in the contest by:
  1. Going to http://www.youtube.com/symphony.
  2. Click on Vote.
  3. Select Piccolo from the Category drop-down list.
  4. Click Go.
  5. View Jennifer.
  6. Click the Green thumbs-up.
Now, there are three finalists, so the responsible thing to do is to recommend that you listed to all three and choose your favorite. But I know you are all busy people, so I can save you the time and recommend that Jennifer is the one you want to select.

Also, you can vote once a day. So the old joke "vote early, vote often" is very applicable here.

Tree Down

Some friends of ours in Westwood had a 100 year old oak in their front yard that fell last week during the strong winds. Thankfully no people or houses were smashed. The kids had lots of fun climbing on it. It was a massive, 80' tree:



Toy Lab

In contrast to the Chuck E Cheese b-day party, we were invited to a birthday party at The Toy Lab Saturday. This place was great. The workers wear lab coats and discuss making toys in an entertaing way for the kids. Then they kids go and pick out parts of broken toys, and get them assembled as new toys. The kids then name the toys and describe their special powers to everyone. The kids loved it.

Prof in window: 

Deciding how to assemble: 

A finished toy: 

16 February 2009

Closed on Saturday

Maya, I need one of those tags: 

Chuck E Cheese

Yesterday was the first and hoepfully last time I go here. If our kids get invited to another birthday party here, wifey will have to take them. I took the bullet once.

15 February 2009

president's day meet up

Anyone interested in meeting at Fountain Square skating rink early afternoon? School's out and the rink is only open one more week.

High Water

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13 February 2009

Food Stamp

I recently scanned a bunch of old money from various countries. Some are quite beautiful. I thought I would start this series with an out of print American staple: 

The engraving showing the signing of the Declaration of Independence is low quality.

Previous post in this category was the 500-million dollar bill from Zimbabwe.

12 February 2009

Used Car Superstar and Aaron Pryor Jr

Cards found on our car or on the sidewalk over the past two months:


The wind last night was blowing stuff all over, and my son was fascinated by his discovery that the fast moving clouds made it look like the buildings were moving when you looked up at the cornice..which I agree is a cool sensation.

Saw the wind blowing this downspout loose: 

Happy 200th Birthday, President Lincoln

There are a lot of things to admire about Abraham Lincoln, and you certainly don't need me to list them out for you, so I thought I would share some Lincoln tidbits on this day.

First, you can check out some Lincoln photographs on Flickr. Yes, they actually had photographs during Lincoln's lifetime. In fact, the Library of Congress has a collection of photos online, including 22 of Lincoln.

Second, you can read Lincoln's writings for free. Project Gutenberg creates electronic versions of public domain books. They have quite a few writings of Lincoln available. An easier route is ManyBooks.net where they provide an easy point and click to convert Project Gutenberg (usually) texts to whatever format you want. They have a page dedicated to Lincoln's texts. If you do not have an e-reader, you can download the documents as PDFs.

Third, I would like to share a quote that displays Lincoln's leadership. It is taken from the Memoirs of General William T. Sherman (link to the entire manuscript on Project Gutenberg). If you want to read that book, you can download it in various formats at ManyBooks.net as well.

The incident occurred early in the Civil War when Colonel Sherman was located near Washington. There were differing opinions amongst the soldiers as to when their service began, and therefore ended, and many were trying to leave. Fearing mutiny, Sherman took a hard stand against an officer who announced his time was up and he was leaving. That same day Lincoln came to review the troops. Towards the end of this visit Sherman recalls:
In the crowd I saw the officer with whom I had had the passage at reveille that morning. His face was pale, and lips compressed. I foresaw a scene, but sat on the front seat of the carriage as quiet as a lamb. This officer forced his way through the crowd to the carriage, and said: "Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance. This morning I went to speak to Colonel Sherman, and he threatened to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln, who was still standing, said, "Threatened to shoot you?" "Yes, sir, he threatened to shoot me." Mr. Lincoln looked at him, then at me, and stooping his tall, spare form toward the officer, said to him in a loud stage-whisper, easily heard for some yards around: "Well, if I were you, and he threatened to shoot, I would not trust him, for I believe he would do it." The officer turned about and disappeared, and the men laughed at him. Soon the carriage drove on, and, as we descended the hill, I explained the facts to the President, who answered, "Of course I didn't know any thing about it, but I thought you knew your own business best." I thanked him for his confidence, and assured him that what he had done would go far to enable me to maintain good discipline, and it did.
Chapter IX

I was impressed by this passage. A leader, who instills total trust in his subordinates. A leader who "squanders" an opportunity to grandstand to the crowd.

11 February 2009

Lego Goes Urban - Light Rail

Now that our pretend city has its very own streetcar to circulate people within, they need more rail transportation to connect with other Lego neighborhoods. And since they don't have to worry about asking permission from voters, politicians or taxpayers, the addition of a light rail system is certain.

They have, however, received several bids in response to their RFQ (Request for Quotation). Please review them below and submit your purchase recommendation, along with rationale and justification for same, in the comments.

RFIs (Requests for Information) may also be submitted via comments, and will be responded to within 24 hours up until 18Feb2009.

1st Responsive Bidder - MTS

2nd Responsive Bidder - TGV

3rd Responsive Bidder - TriMet

10 February 2009

Those Days Are Over

"The days where we're just building sprawl forever, those days are over."

- Obama at a town hall event in Ft. Meyers, today. On C-Span, second to last question (at time 58:15), from a city councilwoman.

Also on the White House blog:
1:07 p.m.: Question: How can you help with infrastructure and transportation? Answer: We've got a lot of work to do. Nods to American Society of Civil Engineer's recently released 2009 Report Card for American Infrastructure, which gives the country's roads, bridges, and ports a national grade of D. Makes a case for high-speed rail and mass tranit -- says the days of sprawl are over. "Everyone recognizes that's not a good way to design communities."
“We have to target billions of dollars at infrastructure spending. And states all across the country are going through what Florida is going through. There was a study done by the American Association of Engineers… that might not be the exact title, but engineers from all across the country …. we get a D in infrastructure all across the country. We saw what happened in Minneapolis, where a bridge collapsed and resulted in tragedy. And not only do we need to rebuild our roads, bridges, ports, levees… our damns. But we also have to plan for the future. This the same example of turning crisis into opportunity. This should be a wake-up call for us.”

“You go to Shanghai, China right now… and they’ve got high-speed rail that puts our railroads to shame. They’ve got ports that are state of the art. Their airports, are… compared to the airports that we…you go through Beijing airport and you compare that to Miami Airport?”

“Now… now…look.. this is America. We've always had the best infrastructure. We were always willing to invest in the future. You know somebody… Governor Christ mentioned Abraham Lincoln. In the middle of the Civil War, in the midst of all this danger and peril, what did he do? He helped move the Intercontinental Railroad. He helped to start land grant colleges. He understood that even when you are in the middle of crisis, you got to keep your eye on the future. So transportation, when it is not just fixing our old transportation systems, but it’s also imagining new transportation systems. That’s why I’d like to see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to… to invest in mass transit, because potentially that’s energy efficient. And I think a lot more people are open now to thinking regionally in terms of how we plan our transportation infrastructure. The days where we’re just building sprawl forever… those days are over. I think that Republicans, Democrats… everybody recognizes that that’s not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money to help spur this kind of innovative thinking when it comes to transportation. That’ll make a big difference.”

Stop Signs Instead of Signals

I was out sweeping the sidewalk Sunday afternoon, and I heard a sickening crash. I looked up, and I saw a car smashed into the side of my neighbors car. Then get this, the guy keeps on driving! Fortunately a few blocks away, the idiot ditched the car (a late model Focus) and ran. The damage was actually pretty minor, but it got me thinking again about how so many of our streets have been turned into raceways.

Cars are always trying to "beat the light", and zooming as fast as possible to the next signal. Most of the streets in Over-the-Rhine would be better as either 4 way or 2-way stop intersections. Of course signals would still be needed at Boulevards and Thruways such as Liberty, Central Parkway and Reading,, maybe even Vine, but the rest would function just as well, and make a more pleasant environment if they were just old-fashioned, low-tech stop signs.

09 February 2009

Two Vacant Storefronts on Main

First, the recently closed Kaldis: Right Side: 

Left Side: 
[Where: 1204 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Another building, The Davis Furniture Building. This is kinda sad, because rain water from the roof is flowing down though the whole building soaking everything: 
Looks like this was bought over a year ago by Celine Piri, Owner of a Staffing Company.

[Where: 1119-23 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202]

Sunny and 50 in Eden Park

Just a few random shots here from a short walk in Eden Park Sunday. I think it was 5 below zero when I went to work Thursday, now it is supposed to hit 60 today. I love it: 



08 February 2009

"Hacking" Google Streets

I am very intrigued by Google's street view. For those who don't know, Google sends specially outfitted cars around the country to take pictures from the street. Any street that has been captured can be viewed.

This has lead to some interesting finds on Google. One site compiled the Top Ten Moments Caught on Google Maps. When they came through our street, I missed the car but could determine the day because the in-laws were in town and it caught their car on the street.

But this is the coolest thing I found so far. There is a web site called Street With A View that documents the Google car coming through. In fact, the web site shares:

On May 3rd 2008, artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley invited the Google Inc. Street View team and residents of Pittsburgh’s Northside to collaborate on a series of tableaux along Sampsonia Way. Neighbors, and other participants from around the city, staged scenes ranging from a parade and a marathon, to a garage band practice, a seventeenth century sword fight, a heroic rescue and much more...
So actually the #1 moment caught in the first link, was actually this staged event. If you watch the video you can see what a Google car looks like. It is nice to see a company like Google have a sense of humor about their product.

64 Days till Opening Day

Reds Opening Day is Monday, April 6th this year. Mark it on your calendar, we will have a party. Who will lead the push to have CPS cancel classes that day?

I have heard that CPS has added 3 days to the calendar to make up the snow days. School will now includ Feb 13, March 31 and May 28.

And I missed two great kid events yesterday because no one told me about them. SCPA had a production of Frog and Toad All Year, and Justin Roberts was in town for two performances.

07 February 2009

Sean Wilkinson at Iris BookCafe

TOMORROW is Main Street's Second Sunday:

Something More and Less:
Photographic works by Sean Wilkinson
January 11 - April 11, 2009

Artist’s Talk by Sean Wilkinson, Sun, Feb 8, 2PM
Something More and Less is a recent body of work by Sean Wilkinson, a Professor of Photography at the University of Dayton. Having studied with such photographers as Minor White, Harry Calahan and Aaron Siskind, Wilkinson has forged his own style from the essential and essentially complex activity of seeing. These images-deliberately but unpredictably blurred-emphasize how elusive and conditional the act of seeing can be. What ends up as a picture is both something more and less than what was in front of the camera.
Hours: M-F, 8AM - 10PM; Sat - Sun, 11AM - 10PM, (513)381-BOOK

[where: Iris BookCafe, 1331 Main St., Cincinnati, OH 45202]

06 February 2009

Middle Class Duany and the Environment

...What then is this world of the New Urbanism, and why is traditional architecture important to it? There are many reasons, but the primary one is that because traditional architecture is a common language of the American middle class... The enormous American middle class is the group that really matters, and yet they are the only consumers of architecture not addressed in the modernist schools or the professional periodicals.

...the middle, class unlike the poor, the market gives choice -- and given choice they choose traditionalism. Their ability to evade the modernist discourse (which the poor cannot do) confuses architects. But it does not confuse us. ... we enlist the middle class to our cause, which is to have them inhabit again a walkable, compact, and diverse urbanism.

... the lifestyle of the American middle class is the root cause of the environmental problems of the world today. It is that simple. It is the way we supersize our habitat, the way we consume as entertainment, the way we drive around to do ordinary things, the way we so freely allocate land to our use, and even how we choose to eat... It is this lifestyle, and now its export version ... which is responsible for the environmental problems we will all suffer...
-Andres Duany

Tom Bacher at Weston

I learned a few things last night. First I learned more about the Weston Art Gallery. This is the gallery at the SW corner of 6th and Walnut. Half of the gallery is on the lower level out of view of the street windows, so some people may not be very aware of it. I learned that their mission is to exhibit well-recognized artists who have a Cincinnati background.

The current exhibit is "Luminous Paintings by Tom Bacher". Last night Tom spoke about his work and took questions. He talked about his process and his life journey. He was blacklisted in Cincinnati in the 70's, and he left town to live in New York, though I think he now lives in downtown Cincinnati. He has an engaging personality.

His talk mentioned: Pratt, Mapplethorpe, glow in the dark rosaries, UFOs, Times Square, Arizona, LA, Elder HS, Dyslexia, self taught method, uranium, 1972, Michael Phelps, dog crap, Hall of Mirrors paintings 7'x 20', gnats, Arts Consortium, Gimmicks, Taft Museum protests, Post editorial, Landscapes, photo-realism, abstracts, additive vs subtractive coloring, sanding the canvas...

The exhibit is beautiful, and I would recommend taking children, as the luminosity will get their attention.

The exhibit will run until March 21st, but next weekend would be the best time to go:
- Sat Feb 14, 10am-Noon, Children ages 5-12 can meet the artist!
- Sun Feb 15, 2pm, Contemporary Performer's Workshop Recital

Visual Lingual Legos

In case you don't visit our neighbor, she has also had ongoing lego postings:

Visual lingual lego postings.

05 February 2009

Remove Freeways Restore Cities

Found a new website about removing freeways. It is a site worth reading.

Forward thinking cities have been deconstructing parts of freeways. In Cincinnati, we have leaders like Christopher Smitherman, head of the local NAACP, who believe the future is to add even more lanes to the freeways:

We need to focus on bread-and-butter projects such as repairing sidewalks, medians, potholes; or expanding driving lanes on Interstates... -C Smitherman in letter to Obama last week
"Widening roads to solve traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity," -Walter Kulash, a traffic engineer...

Starbucks: Gentrification or McDonaldization

Or is there a difference? Map below shows how Starbucks stores spread into gentrified areas of NYC, starting in the Upper East side in the 80's:

...Starbucks soon will enter the value-meal race. Schultz had long belittled such a move and said that customers were willing to pay a premium for the Starbucks "experience."
-USA Today

04 February 2009

Investment Deficit Disorder

...As a country we have been spending too much on the present and not enough on the future. We have been consuming rather than investing. We’re suffering from investment-deficit disorder.

You can find examples of this disorder in just about any realm of American life. Walk into a doctor’s office and you will be asked to fill out a long form with the most basic kinds of information that you have provided dozens of times before. Walk into a doctor’s office in many other rich countries and that information — as well as your medical history — will be stored in computers. These electronic records not only reduce hassle; they also reduce medical errors. Americans cannot avail themselves of this innovation despite the fact that the United States spends far more on health care, per person, than any other country. We are spending our money to consume medical treatments, many of which have only marginal health benefits, rather than to invest it in ways that would eventually have far broader benefits.

... And transportation: a trip from Boston to Washington, on the fastest train in this country, takes six-and-a-half hours. A trip from Paris to Marseilles, roughly the same distance, takes three hours — a result of the French government’s commitment to infrastructure.

These are only a few examples. Tucked away in the many statistical tables at the Commerce Department are numbers on how much the government and the private sector spend on investment and research — on highways, software, medical research and other things likely to yield future benefits. Spending by the private sector hasn’t changed much over time. It was equal to 17 percent of G.D.P. 50 years ago, and it is about 17 percent now. But spending by the government — federal, state and local — has changed. It has dropped from about 7 percent of G.D.P. in the 1950s to about 4 percent now.

Governments have a unique role to play in making investments for two main reasons. Some activities, like mass transportation and pollution reduction, have societal benefits but not necessarily financial ones, and the private sector simply won’t undertake them. And while many other kinds of investments do bring big financial returns, only a fraction of those returns go to the original investor. This makes the private sector reluctant to jump in. As a result, economists say that the private sector tends to spend less on research and investment than is economically ideal.

Historically, the government has stepped into the void...

The Big Fix, a long article in the NY Times yesterday

Lego Goes Urban - Streetcar

Well you knew it had to happen sooner or later on this blog. And since there are no petition drives in the land of Lego, our pretend-city is getting a streetcar!

Our old friend Akos Kostyan in Hungary built this on special request. BKV, or "Budapest Transport Limited" company wanted a LEGO model of their new streetcar (which they call a "tram"). They actually approached LEGO Hungary to have one built but LH turned down the offer. Akos told BKV it would be impossibe to model this tram in LEGO bricks but decided to give it a try. "I decided to concentrate on the shape, so I used non-transparent "windows". A lot of thinking went into the pantograph design but the biggest challenge was building the drivers cabin. I still have to figure out a coupling system for the tram, right now the cars are not connected, so the tram can only be used as a static model. It has two 9V train motors and the cars are on wheels, so otherwise the tram could probably run on train tracks without problems."

Here's the real thing he modelled it after. Excellent work Akos! Too bad he's so far across the pond, or I'd pack up my Legos and a few brewskies and stop by to play.

03 February 2009

Crappy Pics While Walking

Look down and you may see this.

Bottle and bird footprints:

..and look up and see ugly icicles!

or straight ahead, a weed tree.

Infrastructure Era to Follow Icon Decade

Has Zaha's ship run aground? Is iconic starchitecture in its death throes? Will it be replaced with the age of infrastructure?
By Blair Kamin |Tribune critic

The age of the architectural icon—that extravagant, exuberant, "wow"-inducing building on a pedestal—is dead, or more precisely, in its death throes. And what will replace it? President Barack Obama, who once dreamed of being an architect, had something to say about that Tuesday in his inaugural address: the age of infrastructure.

...The icon age was born in 1997 with the smash opening of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The titanium-clad museum, with its dazzling collage of shapes, spawned a new "build it, and they will come" mentality: Hire a star architect, or "starchitect," give him or her free aesthetic rein, and watch the tourists or the buyers arrive.

...And yet, icons divorced from infrastructure are nothing more than empty set pieces, objects divorced from the fabric of everyday life.

..Even as McMansions swelled the average size of the American single-family home, the nation's commitment to the public realm was shrinking. That was evident not only in New Orleans' flooded lower 9th Ward, but also in crumbling roads and bridges, as well as schools...

...the real issues transcend style. They are about whether the new infrastructure will help usher in a new set of urban growth patterns—dense neighborhoods where you can walk or bike to the corner store to buy a carton of milk—or whether new roads and bridges will simply reinforce suburban sprawl.

...the Appropriations Committee version of the stimulus bill shrinks ... rail and transit spending while leaving highway and bridge funding...

... Icon architecture is no longer the issue du jour. It's sustainability—and survival.
See also, the End of the Bilbao Decade.