Describing Cities, Suburbs, and the Places in Between

by  NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Do you live in the slurbs? Work in an Exit Ramp Economy? These are only a few of the concepts identified by Taylor and Lang in a list published in the The Shock Of The New: 100 concepts describing recent urban change. It is a pretty amazing list. I’ve provided the 50 concepts below that have been developed to talk about the edges of cities.

City Lists

Many of these terms appeared in the 50s and 60s as our society and researchers began to grapple with and describe the vast changes at the edge of cities, such as “Rururbia,” Slurbs,” and “Urban Galaxy.” New terms were also invented as the economy of cities and the geography of employment changed in the 80s and 90s,  such as “net of mixed beads” and “edge city.”

The list, which was published in 2004, would certainly be longer today. For example we could add to it Richard Florida’s Mega Regions and Megalopolis, John Kasandra’s Aerotropolis, and Ryan Avents Gated City.  The popularity of some of the terms over time can been seen in the chart below. Exopolis, Edge City and Penturbia seem to be on the rise.  Do we really need all these concepts? It is helpful to urban studies?

Google Ngram Viewer Results for eight terms

Google Ngram Viewer Results for Eight Terms

Taylor and Lang do not think so. In fact, they “suspect that there is more than a little incoherent thinking abroad in contemporary urban studies.”

Clearly, there is a time and place for many of these concepts. Our cities outgrow some and require new ones when older concepts are found lacking. For example, Slurbs seems to have peaked in the 60s, Outer City in the 80s. Overall, a very interesting list that probably tells us as much about the people studying cities as it does about cities themselves.

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What I’m Reading: Downtowns Booming

Photo by simon.carr

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. But I do want to highlight some themes that emerged from this week and then provide a brief summary below. This week’s theme:

Downtowns

Downtowns rental markets are growing in the US. The IndyStar and Pittsburgh Post Gazette both wrote this week about the high demand in rental construction:

In Indianapolis:

“The reality is….. we’ve never seen (so much new development) concentrated in a small market like Downtown before. Never had this many units at once,” said George Tikijian of Tikijian Associates apartment brokerage. “But Downtown is very popular. I do think they will be absorbed.”

In Pittsburgh:

“From working with developers and folks from the Urban Redevelopment Authority, there’s a clear demand and need for more housing Downtown,” he said.
“At this point, we can’t build it fast enough.”

Meanwhile here in Toronto, the Star is doing a great series focused on Density and Toronto. Toronto is coming to the end of an intense decade long condominium boom, yet the applications for taller new building keep on coming. In the last month three 80-85 storey and two 70 storey condominium towers were announced. The Star investigates the causes and discovers:

“It’s a trend fuelled in part by large swaths of the population wanting to live downtown.
‘People are willing to pay for luxury apartments in the urban centre in a way they weren’t a few years ago,'” .

Personally, I fear it is connected to Barclays Skyscarper Index study which showed “an unhealthy correlation between construction of the next world’s tallest building and an impending financial crisis: New York 1930; Chicago 1974; Kuala Lumpur 1997 and Dubai 2010.” But the Star did not take that line of investigation.

Back to the theme, having more people moving downtown is great, whether its here in Toronto or in Pittsburgh.  However, there are challenges in creating a high quality of life for downtown residents. Luckily the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City posted an excellent interview with Jeff Speck, author of the Walkable City, who highlights the economic, health, and environmental benefits for residents by creating walkable downtowns.  A great article, please do read it.

To summarize, downtown living is popular, but effort is required to ensure that with growth there must also be an improvement in quality of life.

What I’m Reading: History and the City

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. But I do want to highlight some themes that emerged from this week and then provide a brief summary below. This week’s theme:

History and the City

From Horse Power to Horsepower is an article I stumbled upon. Its an engaging look into urban life in the pre-automobile age. The article is a trove of stats. For example, almost 3 billion flies hatched per in horse manure in the US in 1900, or in 1880 New York City carted 15,000 dead horses from the street everyday.  I highly recommend you give it a read. It will cure any nostalgia you might have about living in a 19th century city.

The Global Urbanist calls for looking into the past for lessons on urban reform.  argues that the means and ends of 20th century reforms resemble are own. For example, tactical urbanist has much in common with the early 20th century playground movement who similarly attempted to convert under utilized space for neighbourhood needs. Take a look and discover what we have in common with reforms a 100 years ago.

Lastly, an article on Denver’s LoDo provides a great example of how historic preservation can be used to create a sense of place and generate real estate value and economic growth. LoDo (Lower Downtown) went from being systematically demolished for parking in the 1980s to one of the most popular and successful urban neighborhoods in the Rocky Mountain region.

So to sum it up, this week I learned the past was harsh, has much to teach us, and left us a flexible and valuable legacy.

What I’m Reading: Tolls and Apps

by mcfcrandall

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. The previous several weeks I was just listing a bunch of articles, however I found that did not add a lot of value. This week I’ll try a new approach. Instead of listing everything, I want to highlight some themes that emerged from the list and then provide a brief summary below.

Themes

Tolls and Polls

Apps

Summary

This week I spotted two themes that I felt were worth highlighting, tolls and apps. From the first, the Globe and Mail published an article on the results of a poll that focus on funding transit in the GTA. The results;

27.1 per cent of respondents named road tolls as their first choice for revenue collection. An increase to the gasoline tax ranked second, with 15.8 per cent selecting it as their preference, followed by a hike in transit fares at 12.1 per cent.

The New York Times meanwhile posed the question “You pay the toll, Where should the money go?” to five experts with different view points. The responses are excellent and well thought out. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

The second theme I saw in this weeks list was the rise of civic minded apps. Governing.com wrote new technologies and the way it was transforming how government interact with citizens and employees. Philly.com reporting on the free CityHall App, complements Governing’s article perfectly  The app, CityHall, is being used to report landlords and tenants who blight their blocks. It has apparently been effective;

Henon, who introduced his CityHall App last spring and quickly saw hundreds of Northeast residents download and use it, discovered that when property violations go viral, most offenders cave. If they don’t, he’ll summon them to public hearings and alert Licenses & Inspections – which is never good news for a noncomplying city property owner.

To wrap up the list, Fast Company is reporting on another app, LocalData. Three young American Fellows have develop the app the provide a digital tool kit to let communities collect data about the places they live. For example;

They used an early version of LocalData to help a community track urban blight, and later, to help urban planning students carry out a sweeping commercial parcel study. “They mapped 9,000 parcels [of land] in a matter of weeks, which they wouldn’t have been able to do using traditional survey methodologies,” Rouault explains. “It proved our hypothesis–that this could be a useful tool not just for community groups, but for experts.”

Enjoy!

What I’m Reading

Photo by Tilling 67

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. So here is a list of some of the articles I read this week that you might have missed:

Community

Development

Planning

Transportation

 

What I’m Reading

Photo Credit: Free Light! by gorbould

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. So here is a list of some of the articles I read this week that you might have missed:

Community

Development

Planning

Transportation

What I’m Reading

Photo Credit: Marc Falardeau, One Block

There is a lot of great stuff being written every day.  I can’t blog about it all. So here is a list of some of the articles I read this week that you might have missed:

Architecture

Community

Planning

Transportation