What comes after The Death and Life of Great American Cities ....
July 12, 2017 6:57 AM   Subscribe

What one book | article | study | blog | film | video | (podcast if you must) has changed how you think about urban planning particularly in relation to holistic urban transportation planning and/or citizen engagement in the planning process?

I've just been appointed to the City of Pittsburgh's Complete Streets Advisory Board as a citizen representative. Turns out books about urban transportation planning are expensive - help me figure out what I should be reading.

I'm broadly familiar with the current thinking around pedestrian | bike | public transportation | cars | trees et. planning., although not with particular authors / schools of thought in the field. But rather than general surveys, I'm really looking for writing etc. that changed how you thought these issues yourself; that gave you one of those "huh- hadn't-really-thought-of-that" moments or approaches that rang especially true to you.

I'm also interested in critiques of the Complete Streets methodology such as this book. On the other hand, analysis of where and why it's been successful would also be helpful. Or your own experience if you've worked within that framework.

I would also appreciate discussions of strategies for getting meaningful input from the community for urban planning, Those doesn't have to be limited to transportation planning but would probably be most useful if they were pitched to midsize cities. Extra credit if it includes data / methodologies for measuring success including ethnographic approaches but not just general descriptions.

Assume I'm familiar with Jane Jacobs. I read Next City. My academic background is in archaeology/anthropology and I can get access to University libraries so I'm happy to get suggestions for academic papers. I prefer written materials rather than videos/podcasts but I'll consider any format. Fiction would be awesome. :)

posted by DarthDuckie to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Oldenburg’s “The Great Good Place” is not as systems-focused as you’d like, but I find it helpful to keep it in mind while thinking about how to improve systems.
posted by metasarah at 7:37 AM on July 12, 2017

I'm really looking for writing etc. that changed how you thought these issues yourself.

A few years ago I went to a talk by Jan Gehl and he really changed my thinking about how we plan our cities and challenged me to think differently than the status quo. His book, Cities for People is very good. There's also How to Study Public Life, I have it, but haven't read it yet so can't say how helpful it is, but it is meant to be a guide. I like his approach of observing people in cities.

It's on the academic side, and specific to Toronto, and not necessarily directly about Complete Streets, but I found some of the essays in Subdivided to be excellent and applicable to any city. I particular like it's focus on how city building initiatives affect more marginalized communities. I think this is important to consider in any urban planning context.
posted by My Kryptonite is Worry at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2017

Jarrett Walker's blog and book are a clear examination of the trade-offs involved in public transit.
posted by Banknote of the year at 8:35 AM on July 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

Seconding Jarrett Walker (though he is unrealistically optimistic about BRT vs rail solutions). He is at his best when he focuses on geometric constraints on transit systems and on the ways in which car-centric thinking clouds the way people think about how transit should work. I'm also a fan of Alon Levy's blog. Levy is a mathematician who also takes a pretty systems-level view.
posted by enn at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

From a technical side, the NACTO design guides (Pittsburgh is a NACTO member!) cover a lot of 'best practice' stuff. (On preview, let me third Walker on transit - he has a book, but it's largely the Basics section of his blog - which is the most critical stuff.)

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William Whyte is really about urban planning and is a movie, but it's an anthropological approach you may get benefit from. Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere is now pretty basic stuff for anyone on the progressive side of the urban professions, but it's sometimes good to hear someone so angry about the situation.

Honestly, the clearest revelation I ever had was when I was walking from a Staples to a Toys'R'Us in December, thinking about transit-oriented design, and I just had a visceral realization about the importance of land use to non-auto transportation, and how it will never be possible to make it a pleasant walk when it's 400m to walk between ostensibly adjacent stores. So I'd also recommend doing some walking, some cycling and some transit travel - even (maybe especially) to places that aren't the best case for those modes - and thinking about how you feel, and what the transportation facility is telling you, and seeing how others feel.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:08 AM on July 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

One of my favorite authors on how to live and plan cities is Bernard Rudofsky. Some of his material is a little dated now but the principles remain. Take a look at Streets for People: a Primer for Americans which has been updated to address America specifically.
posted by MovableBookLady at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2017

two classics:

Allan Jacobs, Great Streets
Donald Appleyard, Livable Streets
posted by gyusan at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2017

A good modern summary of what is going on in this sphere, where it came from and why it's beneficial would be Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs by Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley, the latter of whom is the former Co-Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver in the era of its nascent climb into a model for New Urbanism.

Reading the book is great, but they also offer a free MOOC of the same name.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:02 AM on July 12, 2017

I just saw this list of 5 books on urban planning linked on a library blog. Some duplicates of works above, but a couple of different ones too.
posted by asperity at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2017

Streetfight from the former Transit Commissioner in NYC. Not so much changed my view, but helped me understand her views and what she did during her tenure during the Bloomberg administration.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:14 AM on July 12, 2017

Jeff Speck's Walkable City is very accessible book that gets a lot of references in the Complete Streets discussions around my office. It's touted as a modern day successor to Jacobs, which is an overstatement, but it's definitely driven by that spirit.

Jan Gehl and William Whyte, mentioned above, are standard academic reading in planning programs and would be enjoyed by anyone with an Anthropology background. I'm reading Streetfight right now and it's good as well, particularly from a policy perspective, though it's naturally a bit New York-centric.
posted by gordie at 10:33 AM on July 12, 2017

City of Quartz opened my eyes to the many ways that planning can be used to keep undesirables in their place. It is a fairly entertaining read as well.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:51 AM on July 12, 2017 [4 favorites]

Congrats on the appointment, and thank you for thinking hard about this topic! As a transportation planner, I love when people get involved and want to learn more.

When talking and thinking about complete streets, don't forget about trucks, both those traveling through the city, and those stopping to make deliveries and do pick-ups. Unfortunately, some traditional complete streets strategies clash with best practices for trucks (tree-lined streets are great for pedestrians, but can limit visibility for taller trucks).

I would also appreciate discussions of strategies for getting meaningful input from the community for urban planning, Those doesn't have to be limited to transportation planning but would probably be most useful if they were pitched to midsize cities. Extra credit if it includes data / methodologies for measuring success including ethnographic approaches but not just general descriptions.

Public input is tricky, as I'm sure you're aware. I don't have anything data-based, but I have personal experience in trying to get public participation. I see planning and outreach as part education, part engagement. The education is necessary, to ensure you're talking the same language, and that comments are coming from an informed place, recognizing the limitations and realities of not only your role, but the potential for change at the agency level. In part, that's timelines, budgets, and jurisdictions.

You can try to engage people through currently active public forums, including online forums, community groups and even churches - go to the people, don't try to get them to come to you. Tell them why you're looking for input, what they could change, and when that change might come. Make sure you're not meeting just to meet, planning just to plan - meet to change something, plan to get something built.

If you want to get people to respond to a survey, you can attend local events like farmers markets, and for even more engagement, tie their response to a raffle - a bike would be great, if you could work with local bike shops and/or community partners, but bike gear might be more feasible.

If you're looking to set up a public forum, food and drinks are always a good draw, and make sure you plan around common scheduling conflicts (for example, in college, my class scheduled a public meeting on a Football night, but there's also school and regional events).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know the best book on these subjects but the most recent areas that I've been trying to do some learning about are the different mobility experiences and challenges faced by immigrants, low-income residents, people experiencing homelessness, and people living with disabilities. People can be traversing the same physical space but looking at it through very different lenses and with very different resources. Just as one "for instance," transit ridership rates are much higher for recent immigrants, not only because they sometimes lack alternatives but also because transit is more prevalent in many other countries than it is in the US. But, with language barriers, etc, the wayfinding challenges are higher. Thinking "whose perspective do I currently not understand and how can I learn it" got me reading new things and finding events to attend that I otherwise might not have known about.
posted by slidell at 11:49 AM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to recommend Human Transit also. It's very good if you haven't given a lot of thought to the way the physical world imposes design constraints on transit--the underlying math, as it were.
posted by praemunire at 11:50 AM on July 12, 2017

This blog post on green space requirements made me rethink a few things about how I approach that topic. I'm not sure reducing those requirements is always a good idea, but I'll be paying a lot more attention to location and layout of green space in the future.
posted by asperity at 2:33 PM on July 12, 2017

Seconding The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces! On the subject of roads themselves, this report on Road Design Factors and Their Interactions with Speed and Speed Limits is worth a read.
posted by panic at 3:05 PM on July 12, 2017

Incomplete Streets is great. In that vein, check out Bike Lanes Are White Lanes at www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/nebraska/9780803276789/
Dolores Hayden's The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History gets at some of the less obvious issues around urban access. Whyte's lesser known Rediscovering the Center is excellent.

Am procrastinating from dissertation writing, so will come back to add more later, but (self link) my Tumblr tags cover lots of what I'm reading as an urban planning grad student with a focus on public space and participation.
posted by spamandkimchi at 6:23 PM on July 12, 2017

Seeing Like A State.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

The blog Strong Towns has a lot to offer. Here's an example of a recent article: What Have We Sacrificed for Transportation Independence?

Andrew Alexander Price's blog has a lot of well-explained, well-illustrated ideas about things like walkability, human-scale streets, places vs. non-places, and green space.
posted by stellarc at 12:37 AM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's not focussed on transportation, but The ludic city : exploring the potential of public spaces by Quentin Stevens opened my eyes to the possibilities of playing in/enjoying public spaces.
posted by goofyfoot at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2017

« Older Searching for an article about class, risk, and...   |   Bookfilter: Cloud Atlas Edition Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.