• Think Globally, Tax Locally

    Most northwesterners believe that governments pay for roadwork from gas tax revenue. And they’re right about the federal and state/provincial level. But they’re wrong about city and county road spending. That comes out of property and sales taxes. Regionwide, we spend several hundred million local, general-fund dollars a year on the infrastructure for cars and trucks. (Read details here.) A citizen panel in Seattle has studied the city’s roads and...
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  • Street Smarts

    Northwest pedestrians, especially in Seattle, are known for being peculiarly law-abiding. We wait patiently at crosswalks for the walk signal, even when a car is nowhere in sight. But we might be better off—even safer—with a little more anarchy on our asphalt, according to this fascinating Salon article (you have to register for a one-day pass, then go to the Tech section). Portland writer Linda Baker describes a trend called...
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  • Seek Transit

    Here’s yet another way of looking at the health benefits of reducing sprawl: denser cities with more transit ridership tend to have fewer traffic deaths. Take a look: Fatalities (on the vertical axis) include deaths among pedestrians, transit riders, and automobile drivers and passengers. The upshot is that U.S. cities with high levels of transit ridership—especially those with large rail systems—also tend to have low traffic fatalities. But cities that...
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  • Safe at Home?

    One out of five older Americans can’t drive. And most of these non-driving senior citizens stay home on most days. This leads to obvious health risks: sedentary lifestyles and social isolation are both associated with higher rates of disease and earlier death. The interesting thing, though, is that in denser areas—cities and suburbs with at least 15 people per acre—most senior citizens get out of the house every day, even...
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  • The Price of the Next Trip

    Gasoline prices are at their highest in recent memory and they appear likely to stay high for months. Is this a dream come true for climate defenders and transportation reformers? Far from it. Short-term price spikes, such as the one we’re enduring now, have surprisingly little impact on driver behavior. But they constitute a massive drain on the economies of fuel-importing regions such as ours. And they enrich oil companies,...
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  • We Are Multi-Family

    BC continues to rack up impressive numbers in smart growth: its booming home-construction economy is producing three times as much multifamily housing as detached, single-family housing. Construction of multi-family housing in greater Vancouver reached an all-time high of some 1,900 apartments, condominiums, and townhouses in April. Construction of detached, single-family houses trailed at under 600 units. The largest increases were in the city of Vancouver and in neighboring Burnaby, while...
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  • Getting railroaded II

    Christopher Arkills, a key aide to King County Councilman Dwight Pelz wrote a rejoinder to my post on rail. His critique and my full response are here. But here’s the crux: Christopher: You build mass transit, not to get folks out of their cars today, but to influence land use patterns over the next 20, 30, 50 years. . . . You tout BRT [bus-rapid transit], HOV, vanpools, and carpools...
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  • Then and Now

    Further to yesterday’s post: To understand how much Vancouver’s downtown has grown as a residential neighborhood, look at the before-and-after panoramas on this page. Anyone know of similar photos of other Cascadian cities and towns? 5/3 Update: Rachel Severson sent in this link for a downtown Seattle comparison. It shows 1907 (!) and 2002.
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  • The Condo Gap

    In the bid to create walkable, exciting, live-work-play downtowns, Vancouver’s enormous lead over Seattle and Portland just keeps growing. New developments in the heart of Vancouver – which already has four times as many residents as the geographically larger downtown of Seattle – continue to sprout at a phenomenal rate. The city core has added between 1,500 and 2,500 new housing units each year for the last decade, with 3,000...
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  • Go Tell Anti-Roadie

     (This post is part of a series.) It appears that a growing number of Seattle residents are questioning whether the Alaskan Way Viaduct—the elevated highway that hugs the Seattle waterfront through downtown—ought to be torn down and replaced with…well…nothing at all. There has been a lot written about this in the past few years—especially recently. This is not nearly as radical an idea as it might seem. Portland removed a...
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