Tag Archives: New York City

A Study on Regional Governments

I’m finally finished with the regional governments project that I’ve been working on for something like six weeks and that has kept me from writing in that time.  In the future I may want to use more accurate measures and publish this, so I’m going to practice by presenting this as scientific research.  So here goes.


I wanted to study the possibility of creating regional governments in the United States for three reasons.  First, because I agree with The Charter of the New Urbanism when it states that “The metropolitan region is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. Governmental cooperation, public policy, physical planning, and economic strategies must reflect this new reality.” Also, I feel that the lines that divide government designations in America are arbitrary at best and, in many cases, don’t reflect reality on the ground.

It is interesting to compare government designations in Europe and America.  If you look at a map of Europe, you will notice that none of the boundaries are straight lines.  This is because the boundaries do a much better job of reflecting things like topography and real cultural divides.

The US, on the other hand, was drawn up for ease of division by immigrants who considered it to be essentially uninhabited.  Many counties, particularly in the Midwest, are just boxes laid out along the survey lines created by Jefferson, regardless of the topography on the ground.  There is only one state in the US that doesn’t have a straight line for a boundary, and that is Hawaii.  I don’t believe that this is advantageous.  Take my hometown of Pittsburgh, for example.  Pittsburgh is within the state of Pennsylvania, which it shares with Philadelphia.  This is about all the two cities share.  Their economies, populations, ethnic groups, and cultures are very divergent.  When the two cities are thrown into competition, often for State funds, Pittsburgh, with its lower population and generally higher standard of living, often does not get as much as Philadelphia.  According to Pittsburgh Quarterly, “It is often lamented that the Pennsylvania legislature tilts to the east, favoring Philadelphia over Pittsburgh.”  It would be advantageous to Pittsburgh to not be as closely linked to Philadelphia, which it in reality has little relation to.  At the same time, there are areas in Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland that are closer to Pittsburgh than to any major city in their respective states, and would do well to be involved with the politics of that city.  At a lower level, there are people who live just outside of Alleghany County, where Pittsburgh is, so that they don’t have to pay the higher taxes in that county, yet they still use Alleghany County roads and services without paying their fair share.  I believe that, along with state borders, county borders should be amended to reflect the reality on the ground of how central city services are used.

This brings me to my third point: I don’t think, in many parts of the country, that county governments serve a needful purpose in the way that they did in the past.  When the country was made up of many small, independent towns, counties worked to unite them in common purpose.  Now, in our metropolitan world, counties are often used as tax havens or otherwise don’t serve their original purpose.  Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts have done away with their county governments, streamlining political processes and ironically creating “small government” in some of the most liberal states in the Union.

But how does one define a region?  For an answer, I turned to Christopher Alexander, as I often do, who, in A Pattern Language, encourages us to, “Wherever possible, work toward the evolution of independent regions in the world; each with a population between 2 and 10 million; each with its own natural and geographic boundaries; each with its own economy; each one autonomous and self-governing; each with a seat in a world government, without the intervening power of larger states or countries.”  With that in mind, I began my research.


I relied heavily on Wikipedia and Google for this research, which is why it isn’t publishable in its current state.  To begin, I set benchmarks for regions.  I wanted to make three maps to visualize regions of different sizes, so I decided that, so as to be in line with Alexander’s requirements, I would have one map with a minimum population of 2 million per region, another map with a minimum of 5 million per region, and a third with a minimum of 8 million.  Then I got a list of cities in the US with a population of over 100,000.

I went through every county in the country and measured the distance from the county seat to the nearest city of over 100,000, marking them on a map with a different color to designate different cities.  I used Google Maps’ walking distance feature because I felt that it would do a better job of reflecting topography than simple as-the-crow-flies measurement, while at the same time being more accurate than the car distances since cars are expected to travel on highways over large distances, which may be faster but not as direct.  Also, I wanted to measure it as if some sort of catastrophe happened and people were unable to use cars, thus being forced to walk.

After finding out which counties were closest to what cities, I counted up the population of the counties that were marked for a given city based on the most recent data on Wikipedia.  Some of this information was as recent as 2009 estimates, while some was as old as the 2000 census.  Hopefully when the new census comes out I can redo this project with better results.  If the population of the area was below the population benchmark that I had set, then the city was removed from the list and the counties were remeasured and marked for the next closest city.  I then mapped them out on large national maps.


This work generated three maps with corresponding lists of cities and the populations of the regions based on these cities.

This first map is based on regions with a minimum population of 2 million, with the following cities anchoring the regions and their given regional populations, from highest to lowest population of the central city:

  1. New York City, NY (10,861,700)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (11.624,092)
  3. Chicago, IL (7,312,584)
  4. Houston, TX (5,807,864)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (6,662,822)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (7,398,857)
  7. San Antonio, TX (3,836,400)
  8. San Diego, CA (3,322,432)
  9. Dallas, TX (3,742,720)
  10. San Jose, CA (3,329,396)
  11. Detroit, MI (2,384,057)
  12. San Francisco, CA (4,318,813)
  13. Jacksonville, FL (3,040,268)
  14. Indianapolis, IN (3,652,091)
  15. Austin, TX (2,079,499)
  16. Columbus, OH (3,736,506)
  17. Fort Worth, TX (3,586,057)
  18. Charlotte, NC (3,878,660)
  19. Memphis, TN (2,502,573)
  20. Boston, MA (6,831,829)
  21. Baltimore, MD (4,243,534)
  22. El Paso, TX (2,874,140)
  23. Seattle, WA (7,070,662) (This includes both Alaska and Hawaii, as will be explained below)
  24. Denver, CO (5,896,137)
  25. Nashville, TN (2,909,035)
  26. Milwaukee, WI (3,184,691)
  27. Washington, DC (3,031,043)
  28. Louisville, KY (2,949,715)
  29. Portland, OR (4,607,152)
  30. Oklahoma City, OK (2,542,568)
  31. Atlanta, GA (6,151,488)
  32. Kansas City, MO (3,814,650)
  33. Fresno, CA (3,032,183)
  34. Sacramento, CA (5,691,903)
  35. Omaha, NE (2,506,874)
  36. Miami, FL (2,785,746)
  37. Cleveland, OH (2,249,989)
  38. Raleigh, NC (2,252,861)
  39. Tulsa, OK (2,843,868)
  40. Minneapolis, MN (4,490,267)
  41. St. Louis, MO (5,069,109)
  42. Tampa, FL (5,049,680)
  43. Santa Ana (Orange County), CA (3,121,251)
  44. New Orleans, LA (2,534,949)
  45. Cincinnati, OH (3,472,024)
  46. Pittsburgh, PA (4,470,907)
  47. Riverside, CA (2,088,322)
  48. Toledo, OH (2,019,458)
  49. St. Paul, MN (2,573,057)
  50. Buffalo, NY (2,782,734)
  51. Greensboro, NC (2,678,241)
  52. Madison, WI (2,070,908)
  53. Orlando, FL (3,625,795)
  54. Birmingham, AL (2,896,134)
  55. Baton Rouge, LA (2,841,516)
  56. Arlington, VA (2,615,764)
  57. Akron, OH (2,307,186)
  58. Montgomery, AL (3,057,149)
  59. Richmond, VA (3,725,124)
  60. Shreveport, LA (2,146,547)
  61. Des Moines, IA (2,092,903)
  62. Augusta, GA (3,286,871)
  63. Grand Rapids, MI (2,311,561)
  64. Little Rock, AR (2,377,037)
  65. Knoxville, TN (3,215,185)
  66. Fort Lauderdale, FL (3,511,282)
  67. Salt Lake City, UT (4,773,812)
  68. San Bernardino, CA (3,454,754)
  69. Fayetteville, NC (2,047,029)
  70. Aurora, IL (3,986,086)
  71. Springfield, MA (3,183,813)
  72. Paterson, NJ (2,285,085)
  73. Syracuse, NY (2,641,398)
  74. Bridgeport, CT (3,876,777)
  75. Warren, MI (2,393,541)
  76. Elizabeth, NJ (4,235,727)
  77. Lansing, MI (2,543,980)
  78. Manchester, NH (3,289,238)
  79. Allentown, PA (2,559,796)

This second map shows regions with a minimum population of 5 million.  They are listed below in the same manner that they were previously.

  1. New York City, NY (15,100,008)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (15,562,860)
  3. Chicago, IL (12,213,121)
  4. Houston, TX (6,568,198)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (8,490,543)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (10,845,050)
  7. San Antonio, TX (5,398,906)
  8. Dallas, TX (5,916,711)
  9. San Jose, CA (9,241,701)
  10. Detroit, MI (8,757,618)
  11. Indianapolis, IN (7,153,419)
  12. Columbus, OH (7,066,082)
  13. Fort Worth, TX (6,422,682)
  14. Charlotte, NC (9,064,119)
  15. Memphis, TN (5,335,220)
  16. Boston, MA (9,275,561)
  17. Seattle, WA (8,755,217)
  18. Denver, CO (10,039,895)
  19. Nashville, TN (5,631,919)
  20. Milwaukee, WI (6,167,922)
  21. Washington, DC (11,269,595)
  22. Portland, OR (5,263,530)
  23. Atlanta, GA (11,943,974)
  24. Kansas City (9,015,985)
  25. Sacramento, CA (6,370,171)
  26. Miami, FL (6,297,028)
  27. Cleveland, OH (6,605,216)
  28. Raleigh, NC (6,911,460)
  29. Minneapolis, MN (8,704,527)
  30. St. Louis, MO (5,438,438)
  31. Tampa, FL (11,235,143)
  32. New Orleans, LA (6,317,469)
  33. Pittsburgh, PA (5,274,967)
  34. Riverside, CA (9,002,191)
  35. Springfield, MA (5,943,610)
  36. Paterson, NJ (6,595,744)

This final map is for regions with a minimum population of 8 million, based on the following cities.

  1. New York City, NY (24,002,264)
  2. Los Angeles, CA (15,562,860)
  3. Chicago, IL (17,521,680)
  4. Houston, TX (14,995,203)
  5. Phoenix, AZ (8,493,518)
  6. Philadelphia, PA (11,376,896)
  7. Dallas, TX (12,594,912)
  8. San Jose, CA (15,669,851)
  9. Detroit, MI (10,047,016)
  10. Indianapolis, IN (14,442,659)
  11. Charlotte, NC (14,787,271)
  12. Memphis, TN (9,796,539)
  13. Boston, MA (12,318,503)
  14. Seattle, WA (13,493,324)
  15. Denver, CO (10,100,944)
  16. Washington, DC (13,875,208)
  17. Atlanta, GA (15,249,097)
  18. Kansas City, MO (10,585,310)
  19. Cleveland, OH (14,161,269)
  20. Minneapolis, MN (9,192,555)
  21. Tampa, FL (17,532,171)
  22. Riverside, CA (9,044,828)


There are a number of inferences that can be made from these findings.  The first that I would like to discuss is that, despite using county data, there are still a lot of straight line boundaries.  This is going to be the case as long as counties have boundaries as arbitrary as states.  A more thorough and accurate analysis would include a municipality-by-municipality, rather than county-by-county, analysis, but that would take more time than I am willing to put into this project at this juncture.  The arbitrary straight lines on the map can lead to some unusual results.  For instance, Grand Junction, CO, the county seat of Mesa County, is closer to Salt Lake City and to Denver on the first map, while most of the rest of the counties on the border follow the state line, leaving Mesa County jutting awkwardly into Denver’s region.

Another odd effect is what happens when water transportation is a factor.  Google’s walking directions take regular ferry service into account, so areas such as San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, Lake Michigan and Massachusetts Bay have many more connections than areas such as Chesapeake Bay.  While in all reality the residents of Northampton County, VA may be more willing to ride a boat to Virginia Beach than to walk to Philadelphia, this isn’t taken into consideration here.  Rivers with infrequent bridges, or at least bridges lacking in pedestrian walkways, also pose a problem.  There are many counties in Arkansas, for instance, that are much closer to Memphis, TN than to Little Rock; however, the lack of bridges and regular ferry service across the Mississippi River made it so that the Google analysis gave many more areas to Little Rock.  Also, Google’s directions from Honolulu to the Mainland included “Kayak across the Pacific Ocean,” and no matter where you wanted the final destination to be, it went through Seattle, thus making Hawaii, as far as this discussion goes, a part of Seattle.

Another issue is the methodology used in selecting which cities would anchor areas.  After having attempted this analysis before with a top-down approach and being unsuccessful, I tried a bottom-up approach, starting with the smallest cities on my list and moving up.  This creates some situations that are somewhat awkward; for instance, Newark, NJ is much more of a population center than either Elizabeth of Paterson, NJ, yet it didn’t make the cut.  Tampa, FL, is another example; it is more likely that Jacksonville and Miami would split the state, rather than Tampa eliminating both of them.  I may in the future consider another top-down approach to see how the results differ.

There is also the fact that this search was limited to cities in the US.  If we were to do a more complete analysis, we would include neighboring countries and, time permitting, the whole world.  There are certainly cities in Alaska, for instance, that are much closer to Vancouver and even Victoria than they are to Seattle.  However, for the purposes of this study, it made sense to limit the scope to the United States.

The last problem with the model is the fact that I set minimum benchmarks.  This worked very well for the first map, which only has two regions exceeding Alexander’s limit of 10 million people, and those not by much.  However, when we get to a minimum of 8 million, nearly all of the regions exceed the limit.  It may be better to next time set a maximum number and split regions in two as they exceed that limit.

These weaknesses being established, there are a few recommendations that I would like to make after doing this research.  First of all, all counties should have one county seat.  There are a number of existing counties that have two seats, and even a few counties that have no seat.  Counties with more than one seat should settle on one and move on, while counties with no seat should either establish one or be dissolved.  Second, if counties are to exist, then all cities should lie within one.  I feel that there is a little bit of leeway in here for state capitals, such as Carson City, NV, which are just following the example of our nation’s capital, but most of the 39 independent cities in Virginia, for example, shouldn’t be independent.  Many of these cities are even the seats of the counties that they are not a part of!  Unless a city has the same boundaries as its county, like Miami and Boston, they should not function independently.  Counties should also be contiguous.  There are a few counties in Louisiana and Kentucky where changing river course or other events have cut certain parts of a county off from the rest of it.  These areas should become part of another, adjacent county.

Also, I will again refer to Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language: “Decentralize city governments in a way that gives local control to communities of 5,000 to 10,000 persons. As nearly as possible, use natural geographic and historical boundaries to mark these communities. Give each community the power to initiate, decide, and execute the affairs that concern it closely: land use, housing, maintenance, streets, parks, police, schooling, welfare, neighborhood services.”  While there is a lot in there, Alexander does seem to set 5,000 persons as a baseline for a functional community.  With that being understood, I propose that any counties under 5,000 in population be dissolved.  If this were done, the country would have 292 fewer administrative units to deal with.  The interesting thing is that most of these counties that would go away are not in the sparsely-populated regions of the Rocky Mountains, as I had supposed; they are in the Plains States, where counties were created arbitrarily after Jefferson’s survey and without any sort of requirements for a population to support them.  These counties have no reason to be there, and their citizens would be better off being a part of a real, larger community.

With these suggestions being made, there are still many things that we can learn from these maps.  I personally prefer the first map and think that it could be a good basis for establishing regional governments and possibly eliminating county governments, particularly in the East and in California, where the population is the most dense.  To properly follow the borders of these regions, state borders would also have to be amended.  In this process, States which don’t have significant population centers would be eliminated, including Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The second map, with the much fewer and larger regions, might not be as good for establishing regional governments, but may be more useful for realigning state boundaries to better reflect reality.  If this were the plan, then county governments would probably still be needed, but only if they conform to the requirements stated above.  The last map, with the fewest and very largest areas, might not function either as regions or states, but may be one example of how the country might be equitably divided if it were to break up into small countries.  It is interesting to compare this map to others of how the US could potentially break up, as seen here.

Finally, it should be remembered that mere numbers are not what links people to a city or a region.  Few people would ever say that San Jose is the heart of the Bay Area, despite it being considerably bigger than San Francisco.  The only way you would really be able to truly find a dividing line between New York and Boston would be to go door to door through Connecticut and ask people if they are Yankees or Redsox fans.  The only true way to establish a regional identity is through years of tradition and cultural association with an area.  In the words of Lewis Mumford from his epic The City in History, “Contrary to the convictions of census statisticians, it is art, culture, and political purpose, not numbers, that define a city.”

Back to the City

Ania Wieckowski of the Harvard Business Review brings us this article on why companies are returning to downtown locations.  United Airlines and Quicken are moving downtown (to Chicago and Detroit, respectively), and Walgreens is buying Duane Reade, a New York City drugstore chain, indicating their interest in inner cities.  These companies are ahead of the upcoming transition away from suburbia and toward cities, and companies and municipalities that don’t understand this shift will be left behind.  Whereas the suburbs where the exciting new frontier in the 1950’s and cities were dirty, run-down places that everyone wanted to leave, cities are the center of new and exciting developments and will continue to be for many years.

This change is partially due to taste, but mostly due to the exposure of the shortcomings of the suburbs.  Wieckowski cites the suburban link to obesity and the negative mood created by commuting.  She mentions the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and their work to combat these ills, partially by putting uses closer together and by creating places for pedestrians and cyclists.

Companies should invest in cities to make them more attractive to talented workers.  Wieckowski specifically mentions that funding education in a city can lead to massive profits.  She also indicates that many corporations that are used to strip mall operations would need to update some of their plans to compete in cities.  Buildings should be designed without parking and highway visibility as a priority and instead adapt to smaller blocks, building on multiple stories.  As far as marketing, branding is less important than creating connections with customers and the community.  This is also indicative of the shift to the experience economy.  We can hope that more businesses will have the necessary forethought to begin reinvesting in cities.

The End of the Automobile Era?

Is this wishful thinking on my part?  Probably, but at least it’s good to know other people are thinking the same thing.  Norman Garrick of Planetizen brings us this story on a possible turn of events away from cars and towards people.  On Thursday, the Portland, Oregon City Council voted 5-0 to approve a plan that has the goal of increasing bike ridership in the city from 6%, already the highest of any major city in the country, to 25%.  On the same day, the New York City Department of Transportation announced the permanent closing of sections of Broadway to vehicular traffic.  These two cities are and have always been on the leading edge of urban planning in America, and their support of alternative modes of transportation sends a strong message to other cities in the country.  Garrick makes a point that this trend has spread from blue states to cities like Oklahoma City and Little Rock, indicating that this is growing beyond a political issue to a more general planning one.

There are a number of signs indicating that the car culture is on the decline.  The number of vehicles per person has been declining since 2001, and vehicle miles traveled have been declining since 2004.  Garrick points out that both of these peaks are well before the most recent economic downturn, which has probably hastened the decline of these numbers.  Cities have also realized that it is cheaper for them to cater to pedestrians, bicycles and transit than to the car.  Garrick points out that Portland’s fifteen years of bike infrastructure building has cost the same as about a mile of freeway ($60 million).  It is also becoming cool to go car-lite or car-free, and areas that are more pedestrian-friendly are attracting tomorrow’s movers and shakers.

With oil floating at $80 a barrel with nowhere to go but up, chances are we are on the verge of a new era.  If car companies new what was good for them, they may start getting into the streetcar manufacturing business as cars continue to phase out.  Garrick finishes his story with this hopeful message:

The really good news in this story is that this could be a transition to a time when the carnage from motor vehicle crashes will no longer be considered an accepted part of modern life. A time when our urban places will once more be designed for people and not be trashed to accommodate cars. And when the profligate burning for mobility of the earth’s finite store of petroleum will be looked at as a quaint relic of the past. A past not unlike the one now regulated to the movies where people smoked in doctor’s offices and on airplanes. A past that causes us to say: what were they thinking?

Conventional Planning May Be Contributing to Cleveland’s Decline

This article by Samuel Staley of Planetizen discusses they problems being faced by Cleveland and how they could be addressed.  He criticizes “end-state zoning,” saying that it is inflexible, doesn’t allow for fine-grained development (one of the major issues Jane Jacobs had with development in New York City at her time), and wastes time and money.  Zoning is prescriptive, a “thou shalt” law that doesn’t allow for innovation.  Most cities have many more zones than they need.  The German federal zoning code has only eleven mixed use zones, and the transect six, while the average city in Ohio has seventeen.  This makes codes unnecessarily long and hard to understand.  Staley also mentions that zoning assumes growth, not decline, which is the sad reality of much of the Rust Belt.  Part of zoning’s weakness is the general weakness of our human ability for long-term forecasting.  It is near impossible for planning commissioners, often not educated in planning, to make long-range decisions about the future of urban development.  This protects the status quo and inhibits innovation and adaptation.  The costs of zone changes and other approvals, not to mention the time that they take, can make any sort of adaptive, unconventional development economically unfeasible.

Staley advocates adopting regulations similar to that of Houston.  Now, as many people who have been there know, Houston is not a great world city.  A good aerial view of downtown will show entire city blocks dedicated to surface parking.  So keep in mind, Houston has its fair share of weaknesses.  One of these is relative youthfulness, and one would hope that Cleveland or cities like it, with a longer tradition of urbanism and better examples of good development, would have an advantage in this regard.  That being said, Houston’s performance-based regulations and focus on speedy, administrative approval allows for faster and more innovative development, reflecting what the market demands and not what the zoning allows.  To switch immediately to these sort of regulations would leave local developers scratching their heads for a long time and could halt all development for a while, so it may be best to implement these slowly over time, or to implement form-based zoning so that building use can be flexible as long as it fits into a neighborhood.  But allowing more market flexibility than is currently allowed in conventional zoning is a great idea for many American cities.

Steps in the right direction

This opinion piece by Gina Tomaine brings up some of the benefits of walking in our car-dependent society.  Despite the numerous benefits of walking, people often prefer to drive because it is often faster (although not always, especially if you have to circle the block to find a parking spot), and as we all know, time equals money.  Unfortunately, people don’t realize that walking has the advantages of better health, lower financial and environmental costs, and less traffic congestion and road rage.  Tomaine notes that many professionals in London don’t even have driver’s licenses because their public transit system is superior to almost all in America and they choose to walk instead of drive.  Few cities in America (most notably New York City) come anywhere near this sort of car independence.  Tomaine cites Thom Hartmann’s Walking Your Blues Away, a book about how getting out of your car is good for your mental health because it allows for a change of scenery.

Of course, many (if not most) Americans don’t have the option to walk to work, because they live in single-use areas far away from work areas.  That’s where New Urbanism comes in.  A greater mixing of uses that comes with New Urbanism would be of benefit to even some of our largest and oldest cities, which have unfortunately torn down old mixed use areas in the pursuit of “progress,” eliminating people’s freedom to choose their transportation method in the process.  Even though many of us can’t start walking everywhere right now, we should pressure our local governments to plan better and allow for the freedom to choose walking, biking and transit as viable transportation modes along with the car.

B&LT a leader with LEEDS for Harbor Point

Richard Lee of NewsTimes brings us this article on the Harbor Point development in Stamford, CT, outside of New York City.  Though the second word in his report is “sprawling” (apparently he didn’t know that that is a dirty word in the development world), it does a great job of highlighting some of the great things about this new development.  The first of these is that Harbor Point has been awarded LEED-ND Gold Certification by the US Green Building Council.  It is among one of the first developments to do so.  It’s transit-friendly location, brownfield redevelopment, and New Urbanist patterns helped it get this award.  The development consists of five neighborhoods each centered on a park.  The streets are lined with trees and ground-floor retail, with wide sidewalks and bike lanes.  The structures themselves employ green building techniques.  Construction waste is being recycled and historic buildings preserved.  There will be a small transportation system that will take people from the development to the train station and downtown.  The development includes 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 350,000 square feet of office space, a hotel, 4,000 residential units, a marina, 11 acres of new parkland and a waterfront promenade.  Developers expect this gren recognition to help them fill office and residential spots even in a slow economy.  The developer, Cart Kuehner, sums up the spirit of the development: “Generations screwed this up, and this will be the generation that will fix it.”

Pedestrian-friendly Miami 21 zoning code approved

In case anyone in the planning world hasn’t heard yet, Miami recently approved Miami 21, making it the largest city in the world to approve a form-based code.  Read about it on the Miami Herald, the Congress for the New Urbanism, Planetizen, and Streetsblog.  After four years of debate, editing, and over 100 neighborhood meetings, the commissioners voted 4-1 to pass this plan which will encourage walkability, mixed use, concealed parking, and an appropriate scale of development.  Mayor Manny Diaz said that this plan will finally allow Miami to be classified with New York, Chicago and Paris as great cities of the world.  “I’m going to tell you that history will judge us right,” he said.  The code is based on the SmartCode template, adapted to have a variety of higher-intensity transect zones for the many skyscrapers of Miami.  This vote is the culmination of years of work from Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of the University of Miami and Duany Plater-Zyberk, as well as city staff and others.  Miami leads a growing trend of large cities adopting form-based code, with Denver close on its heels.  Miami will be a living laboratory to test the effects of form-based code on large cities.  This is the greatest victory yet for form-based codes and arguably one of the greatest for the New Urbanism movement as a whole.

NYS Commission: Private Sector Could Boost Transit-Oriented Development, Bridges

Steven Higashide brings us this story on the New York City area’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).  The state’s financial situation has been better, and “virtually every New York transportation agency is facing serious funding challenges.”  One of the chief sollutions for this problem is the development of public-private partnerships.  The state has a few high priorities for partnerships, mostly including various bridge, high-speed rail, and TOD projects.  TOD also fulfills the goals of the MTA’s sustainability report.  Ray LaHood, federal Transportation Secretary, has indicated that public-private partnerships would be a large part of the next federal transportation bill.  Hopefully the private sector will be able to assist governments in poor positions to implement good plans.

Lose the Traffic. Keep That Times Square Grit.

Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote this review in the New York Times about the recent closing of Times Square to vehicular traffic.  He says that there are both pros and cons to the development.  It does allow for more room than the pedestrian-clogged sidewalks used to, and it allows for a better idea of what the City looks like than the sidewalk, but the way it is currently set up it lacks a feeling of permanence and it took many years to successfully implement this model in Copenhagen, and New York City may just not be that patient.  But hopefully the City will work to make the plazas more attractive and the residents will be willing to wait for a better tomorrow.

Blueprint America: Road to the Future

PBS has put together this documentary.  I found out about it from a Denver news source, critisizing it for painting Denver in a negative light.  I would have to agree that it does neglect some of the progress that Denver has made recently.  Denver has been agressively pursuing light rail and the LoDo neighborhood downtown is an extremely vibrant posterboy for TOD in the West.  And really, they could have gone to any major city and found car-based sprawl, so to say that Denver is the worst of the worst is misleading.  That being said, it did a great job of portraying why I love Portland, and a great job showing what is so great about New York City and what is being done to make it even better.  I would highly recommend this video to anyone.