Despite the Seattle grey, 75% of SvR staff members flocked together to celebrate Cascade’s F5 Bike to Work Day: stopping at the various commute stations and indulging in free Starbucks coffee for riders.
Posted May 17th, 2013 by Jessica Strain
Posted May 10th, 2013 by Brice Maryman
A curated selection of visual inspration this week. Enjoy!
The pheonomenal blog, Iconic Photos, explores the untold story behind some of photography’s greatest achievements. Beware: time sink. Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez is below.
A few weeks ago, Peter Cromwell, a UW MLA candidate, came by the office to present his research findings about how cycling can be a cultural act. His work is a fascinating reframing of something many predominantly think of as recreation or transportation. Check out his video below.
And speaking of biking as a cultural act, yesterday was Bike to School Day and the good folks over at Seattle Bike Blog made a movie of Bryant Elementary’s Ride/Party. Go Bryant Elementary!
What is beauty? A landscape, it turns out.
We have an abiding interest in multi-use urban spaces. But this video of a farmers market in Thailand may set the bar too high.
Justin found this lovely video vignette of kids playing in NYC from 1948. Lenore Skenazy would be proud.
In the Street (1948) by Lost_Shangri_La_Horizon
An online map library with 38,000 historical maps? Yes please.
StreetFilms pops a hole in transportation funding gospel.
Finally, photos that make waves turn into ice. Gorgeous.
Posted May 7th, 2013 by Justin Martin
We’ve rolled out yet another translation of our How High Point Works diagram, thanks this time to our illustrious civil engineer Sakaru Tsuchiya. Some green infrastructure elements, such as pervious pavements are fairly common in Japan, yet others such as bioretention systems are much less common, according to Mr. Tsuchiya. While undoubtedly the extremely dense development in many areas of the country creates a challenge for the use of green stormwater infrastructure, we hope that this translation can help explain techniques that we have used in the US and inspire new and innovative solutions abroad.
Click the image above for the Japanese version of How High Point Works (or here for that graphic as a PDF). Other translations of the graphic include Spanish and Danish, as well as the original in English of course. Check out our Resources page for additional graphics, presentation, and links related to green stormwater infrastructure and sustainable design and development.
Posted May 3rd, 2013 by Brice Maryman
What a week it’s been. On the downside, scientists reported that the atmosphere is reaching the tipping point toward registering 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide. For years, scientists and activists have been arguing that we need to maintain an atmospheric balance of 350 ppm if we are going to avert catastrophic climate change. Now we’re veering into an irreversible climate spiral.
Ok, that’s the bad news. Stop. Cleansing breathe.
On the upside, Wednesday saw the start of the Bike to Work Month Commute Challenge, which was kicked into high gear at the Bike to Work Breakfast yesterday. With nearly 1,000 attendees, it was a powerful convergence of bike advocates and bike-friendly community leaders. Speakers made a powerful case for cycling as an important climate mitigation strategy. Mayor McGinn noted, in introducing Governor Inslee, that, “I know you support technology to fight climate change; bikes are awesome tech to fight climate change.” Seizing the challenge, Governor Inslee went a step further, challenging the audience to put: “more carbon in our frames and less carbon in our atmosphere.”
And both men had facts to support them. For example, we know that carbon emissions from cycling are significantly less than other modes of transport, and yet cyclists make up just a fraction of commuters on the street in most American cities. And even though Washington State was ranked the most bike-friendly state in the country, we didn’t even crack the top 20 bike-friendly cities internationally, according to the good folks over at Copenhagenize. (In fact, only one city in North America did; can you guess which one?)
Of course climate benefits are just one reason why cycling is a net positive for society. A recent American Public Health Association report documented not just the GHG reductions, but also the health co-benefits from cycling in the Bay Area, concluding, in the obtuse language of academia:
[Integrated Transport and Health Impacts Model] demonstrated that active transport has the potential to substantially lower both the burden of disease and carbon emissions and can be used to complement other modeling strategies in the transportation sector. By combining a modal shift in favor of active transport with [low-carbon driving] technologies, the Bay Area and other locales will be better able to achieve carbon reduction goals.
Or, as Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control put it this week: “Physical activity is closest thing to wonder drug.” Then he laments, that only 1 in 5 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity. We can, and must, do better.
So here’s the challenge: May is Bike to Work Month. The weather is beautiful. The weekend looks amazing. Hop on your bike for yourself, for your kids, for our climate. If you need help, Cascade Bicycle Club Education Foundation and other organizations offer amazing classes to get you comfortable on a bike, on the street, with a kid on the back. It’s quite the ride and maybe by the end of the weekend, you’ll decide to sign up for the Commute Challenge.
Posted April 26th, 2013 by Brice Maryman
Exploring Portland during a weekend trip, we came across these tree “price tags” along the South Park Blocks near PSU. A phenomenal public outreach campaign, they also reminded us of the multiple benefits of the urban forest that continue to be uncovered by researchers.
For example, DesignBuild Source reminds us about the importance of software like i-Tree in quantifying the value of our urban forest canopy (and perhaps more importantly, provides the nifty graphic below). It also suggests that Portland may have been low-balling their trees’ value.
ACTrees runs down the latest research about how the urban forest affects carbon storage and sequestration, which refines previous research papers. The research found:
Total tree carbon storage in U.S. urban areas (c. 2005) is estimated at 643 million tonnes ($50.5 billion value; 95% CI = 597 million and 690 million tonnes) and annual sequestration is estimated at 25.6 million tonnes ($2.0 billion value; 95% CI = 23.7 million to 27.4 million tonnes).
Download the full research paper here.
“Perhaps we should start thinking of trees as part of our public-health infrastructure,” says this fascinating article from Scientific American about how the presence of trees in your neighborhood serves as a predictor of your public health. Studying an area of Michigan where there was a large die off of trees due to the emerald ash borer, the researchers found:
“According to their mathematical model, the presence of the borer, and the subsequent loss of trees, was associated with 6.8 additional deaths per year from respiratory causes and 16.7 additional deaths per year from cardiovascular causes per 100,000 adults. That’s more than 21,000 deaths in total.”
Fast Company brings us the story of South African photographer Dillon Marsh who studies the “peculiar nature” of cell phone towers dotting the urban landscape, disguised as trees. Some examples of his work is below but be sure to also check out his website.
Interested in learning more about value of trees and green infrastructure in the urban environment? APA has a new publication, Green Infrastructure: A Landscape Approach, that gives all of the latest, greatest research. ASLA interviews the author.
Posted April 26th, 2013 by Teresa Damaske
With construction beginning on the first of four blocks of Bell Street Park (between 1st and 2nd Avenues), one of the most dramatic changes to date has been the removal of the existing hedge maple (Acer campestre) trees. The decision to remove the existing trees on Bell Street was given a great deal of thought, taking into consideration safety (i.e. eyes on the street), ambient light, utility conflicts, location of the trees in relation to the existing buildings and the proposed street and sidewalk alignment, as well as tree health and life expectancy. While we could have worked around some of the trees through construction, the long-term damage would have limited their overall lifespan and would have conflicted with other community desires like an enlarged pedestrian realm and a greater diversity of tree species.
That said, we know that trees in the urban setting provide many benefits including wildlife habitat, traffic calming, shade, stormwater management and pollution removal. With urban trees in the right-of-way—especially in this case since Bell Street is a major utility corridor—it is a challenge to locate trees so that they will have enough soil volume and adequate clearance from utilities to ensure their long-term success.
For Bell Street Park, the team initially looked at Silva Cells—a system that we used at Winslow Way to suspend the pavement around the tree pits to provide additional uncompacted soil volumes—for the large trees located in the smaller planting beds. In addition to providing uncompacted soil for the trees, the soil in the Silva Cells can also help to intercept and manage stormwater runoff. Due to budget constraints and concerns by Seattle Public Utilities about the placement of Silva Cells around existing utilities, the project instead specified a structural soil mix, CU-Structural Soil, to support surrounding pavements while providing increased rooting area for trees beyond the planters.
In just a few short months, Bell Street Park will be home to a diverse mix of large and small deciduous trees–tulip poplars, tupelos, amelanchier and a variety of colorful maples–as well as a number of shore pines to provide evergreen interest and performance. We look forward to Bell Street becoming a great street park with a generous tree canopy for generations to come!
Posted April 24th, 2013 by Jessica Strain
Bike to Work Month is just around the corner and SvR is hosting the design firm Commute Challenge for the A/E industry. If your firm has riders interested in some friendly competition and a chance to get their hands on the coveted Golden Helmet please contact Jessica Strain at firstname.lastname@example.org. Firm and rider details are required by the 29th of this month to be included. New faces (and firms) are always welcome!!
Posted April 24th, 2013 by greg
It is not hard to look around the society that we live in today and recognize that we place a high value on convenience. As Americans we almost demand it. We need our convenient stores that have everything from groceries to auto parts, coffee on every corner complete with single use disposable cups, and front door parking at every destination. This has led us to be the most disposable oriented country in the world. No where do we value convenience more than in how we get around.
Consider that last year a parking space in New York was put on the market for $1 million dollars. It is difficult to imagine how one would exactly measure that value of parking spot, but as a New York Post article put it, “purchasing it would be equivalent to paying a $115 ticket for illegal parking every day for 24 years.” This single 12-foot by 23-foot space most certainly has an inflated value, but this example represents a larger issue in how we value parking generally.
- Based on estimates, construction costs for a parking garage are approximately $60 per square foot. Based on the original New York example of a 23-foot by 12-foot parking space, the typical construction cost of a parking spot is $16,560.
- The lost cost of using that space as commercial space, based on $30 per square foot per year comes to $248,400.
- Assuming a typical commute, a vehicle produces about 5.1 metric tons of carbon per year, or 153 metric tons of CO2. Note, the US per annual per capita emission is approximately 17 metric tons per year.
- In contrast, the revenue generated from that spot at $285 per month over 30 years (no adjustments for net present value or price change) would be $102,600. According to a study conducted by the Urban Land Institute, on average, city-wide parking is supplied at 1.4 spaces per dwelling unit but is only used at about one space per unit; meaning that approximately 30% of all spaces are under-utilized. Therefore the true revenue over 30 years would be 70% of the expected revenue or $71,820.
The cost of our parking addiction quickly adds up to roughly $6,470 per year and 5.1 metric tons of tailpipe carbon dioxide for each car that parks in downtown Seattle. Considering the median income of a Seattleite is $52,048, we have to ask ourselves if the convenience of a parking spot is really worth 10% of our annual income and a third of our annual per capita emissions.
Posted April 19th, 2013 by Brice Maryman
Didn’t you know? All the cool kids are talking about rivers. Movies, articles and reports are re-focusing attention on our traditionally under-considered and undervalued waterways. This renewed attention comes on the heels of a recent EPA funded study that, as the Atlantic reports, found that more than half of all US rivers are now deemed to be too polluted to be safe from a human health perspective, reporting:
the majority of rivers and streams in this country can’t support healthy aquatic life and the trend is going in the wrong direction. The report labels 55 percent of the nation’s water ways as being in “poor” condition and another 23 percent as just “fair.” Only 21 percent of rivers are considered “good” and “healthy biological communities.”
With this in mind, a recent article from GreenBiz.com seems especially prescient. Arguing that stormwater management agencies spend untold millions in grey infrastructure to replicate the natural, ecosystem services of the forest, the author notes:
In the United States, most gray infrastructure was built 40-50 years ago with large federal grants and few provisions for maintenance. This aging infrastructure needs significant investment to keep pace with population growth and to repair wear and tear.
Yet funds for investment in water infrastructure are drying up in an era of fiscal austerity. Naturally, water utilities, reservoir managers and storm water managers are seeking lower-cost solutions to meet water demands of the 21st century.
That’s where green infrastructure can play a significant role.
And a new report from American Rivers and Green for All, called Staying Green: Strategies to Improve Operations and Maintenance of Green Infrastructure in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed focuses on how the operations and maintenance of green infrastructure systems can create long-term green jobs. The report is quite good and closes an important hole in our discussion of green infrastructure by addressing the long-term care for these facilities and the social justice aspect of maintaining this infrastructure.
The interest in rivers isn’t reserved for the waterways we can see, but is also about re-discovering and re-claiming those hidden waterways that were long-ago covered over in our cities. A new movie, called Lost Rivers, chronicles the urban explorers, the activists, the archivists and the politicians who are leading the charge. We think that the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel was also an example of one rediscovering a lost river. The trailer for the movie is below.
Another interesting manifestation of the urban waterway meme comes via the New York Times. Los Angeles, it turns out, has horrid beaches after it rains. Combined sewer overflows make them putrid and polluted due to stormwater runoff, but now the City is trying to improve their beaches and reuse that stormwater runoff as drinking water. The Times reports:
The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued new rules that include strong incentives for cities to work together on projects that capture and filter rainwater in the ground. Not only would those projects keep runoff pollution out of the waterways, they would also bolster groundwater supplies, which could eventually be used for drinking water.
Over at Sustainable Cities Collective, Adrian Benepe pens an excellent exploration of the many ways New York City is using green infrastructure strategies within its parks and school grounds. It’s forward thinking urban policy that many other cities are looking at and trying to emulate, because, as Benepe notes, “As we work to create sustainable, resilient cities, green infrastructure, with appropriate planning, will be a way to create new, well-funded, multi-functional public parks and open spaces, large and small.”
Surprising no one, we completely agree. In fact, on Wednesday Brice and Amalia presented to the WRPA conference in Vancouver, WA on very similar themes in a talk entitled Stormwater and Parks: 10 Ways Washington’s Revised Stormwater Regulations are Good for Parks. You can find a PDF of their presentation here.
Posted April 12th, 2013 by Brice Maryman
Several of our staff members have tumblelogs (here here here), but we wanted to highlight a new Tumblr find that we think is fantastic: Parks of Seattle. The brainchild of Dave Battjes, a Seattle-based graphic designer, the site consists of a custom-made logo for each one of the more than 400 Seattle parks. Some of our favorites include:
Speaking of parks’s role in the City, we were alarmed then charmed by a short article on Atlantic Cities about the disparities not in the quantities of parks, but in the qualities. Lower income neighborhoods, for example, were less likely to have nice landscaping, trails and playgrounds, resulting in the author’s simple conclusion: “These findings also suggest one simple strategy (among many needed) to address health disparities in low-income communities in any city: Make sure public parks seem like places a 7-year-old would actually want to spend the day.” Good advice for city-making all around.
One of the ways that we make cities safer for kids, of course, is to make sure that pedestrians come first. That’s just what Chicago plans to do as part of their exciting Complete Streets Manual makeover. As part of their design process, the City is taking on one of the age-old challenges of turning the big ship of city government: how do you institutionalize a new mode of thinking?
For the past decade or so, forward-thinking cities have hired pedestrian or bicycle “coordinators” to advocate for amenities like bike lanes and better crosswalks. But the resulting strategy can be scattershot; if a given project manager happens to know the ped guy, maybe he’ll be wrangled for input. The big idea now is to integrate the perspective of all modes of transportation into everything the department does.
“What we’re saying is this is a complex environment that we live in in a city,” [Chicago's Transportation Director Gabe] Klein says, “and the national and state standards that we’ve been using for a long time aren’t necessarily complex enough to meet the needs of our constituents.”
This new 138-page document is about breaking down that complexity for all the people in city government who will be charged with touching city streets and public spaces. But it’s also intended for consultants and contractors who want to work with Chicago going forward. “It indoctrinates them,” Klein says, “to how we want to look at our city.”
Chicago’s efforts are great, but will we ever see England’s Play Streets again? (Hat tip to @grescoe).
Finally, we’ve been trying to find a spot to highlight Gordon Price’s brilliant deconstruction of Las Vegas’ pedestrian realm. Failing to find an elegant way to slide it in, we will just say it’s a great piece both in the original blog or as one of his priceless PriceTags PDFs.