Historic preservation and updating at Camden Yards

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Orioles, so I was happy to see this story about the updates planned for Camden Yards:

Changing Camden Yards, Without Changing Camden Yards – NYTimes.com

This part is particularly nice:

Her view of the stadium has been enhanced, she said, because she remained a season ticket-holder in the years since she left the Orioles, attending about a dozen or so games a year and sitting in a box seat instead of an owner’s suite. Surely to the relief of ballpark purists, Smith will use a chisel, not a jackhammer, to reshape Camden Yards.

Using a chisel rather than a jackhammer.

HT to Jenny Scheutz

The state of Arizona

I don’t have a lot intelligent to say about Arizona’s new and highly covered law except that there should be at least two standards in public policy: policy shouldn’t be a) futile or b) mean.

I’ve heard people on the news describe Arizona as “libertarian” and this should be challenged a clarified a bit. Libertarians weight freedom very heavily in justice disputes, over other issues we typically consider under justice such as welfare and virtue. Constraining the movement of labor is inconsistent with that position. Since Robert Nozick has unfortunately passed away, we can’t ask him, but the law is a priori a taking from personal liberty according to the strictest application of libertarian principles.

It’s Read Great Poetry Day today! Some James Dickey to celebrate…

James Dickey is perhaps best known for his work, Deliverance, which I hated, but he was also the Poet Laureate of the US. Here’s my favorite:

At Darien Bridge


The sea here used to look
As if many convicts had built it,

Standing deep in their ankle chains,
Ankle-deep in the water, to smite

The land and break it down to salt.
I was in this bog as a child

When they were all working all day
To drive the pilings down.

I thought I saw the still sun
Strike the side of a hammer in flight

And from it a sea bird be born
To take off over the marshes.

As the gray climbs the side of my head
And cuts my brain off from the world,

I walk and wish mainly for birds,
For the one bird no one has looked for

To spring again from a flash
Of metal, perhaps from the scratched

Wedding band on my ring finger.
Recalling the chains of their feet,

I stand and look out over grasses
At the bridge they built, long abandoned,

Breaking down into water at last,
And long, like them, for freedom

Or death, or to believe again
That they worked on the ocean to give it

The unchanging, hopeless look
Out of which all miracles leap.

Take a look at the Poetry Foundation page

TOD versus vehicle technology….again

Michael Lewyn is a blogger for Planetizen, and in fairness, blogging is not always an easy gig. It’s hard to come up with stuff to say. Nonetheless, this entry (Waiting for a miracle | Planetizen) has me just hitting my head up against a wall. I understand that people like Wendell Cox and Randy O’Toole are frustrating for planners, but we were having this “New Urbanism vs. technology” discussion when I was a master’s student in 1995. That’s over a decade and a half ago (yes, I’m old, shut up). Are we still discussing that topic? Really? Lewyn portrays the technology side as magical thinking because technology hasn’t saved us so far.*

Let’s break this down. First of all, it’s a tired and false dichotomy regardless of which side (the technology or the transit side) makes the argument.

Second of all, what? Ok, I get it. People see the technology argument as the urban equivalent of people who think they’ll be able to take a pill to prevent heart disease in a few years. Sure. I also get the more ideological point: people who hate cars want them to go away, and altering vehicle technologies is no way to make cars go away.

But ok…how do you really get off thinking that a lot of our transit hopes and dreams aren’t magical thinking? How can we explain the faith that “transit will save us” when we have poured money into it since the 1970s, and it hasn’t really saved us thus far, either, no matter how many nice places have transit and no matter how many nice things transit does. Transit has done very good things, and I’m a big fan of it, but it doesn’t seem to be saving us very fast either, not if you are hard-nosed about what “saving” means.

The usual answer to my question from those who are vehement: “Oh, all we need to do is pour more billions into transit! Those car people gots lots more billions than us, so it’s only fair for us to get some more billions. So when we get those billions, then transit will save us. So we have to convince Congress to give us billions. And we’ll need more billions for HSR because HSR will save us, too. Then we just need to build all that new infrastructure which will get done before we all know it. Oh, and we’ll need to pour some billions into walking and biking infrastructure–we should have federal funding for those, too and so we’ll get those billions, too—and oh, while we’re at it, we’ll get affluent Americans to change their home-buying behavior and their residential location decisions; we’ll get employers to change their employment locations, completely remake manufacturing so that we won’t have large-scale facilities breaking up urban walking environments (or maybe we can just chase all that icky manufacturing to poor countries internationally; doesn’t effect me, I don’t work there), and entirely re-form metropolitan regions to be like Paris, London, and New York, and Tokyo including the parts of Paris, London, and New York that don’t look like their downtowns or Tokyo, by changing municipal building codes and zoning codes and tax codes and, then we just need to convince a whole bunch of recalcitrant neighbors that density is *great* and more kids in their children’s classrooms is a swell idea, as is paying for parking that is now free; oh, and we can just quadruple the gas tax even though right now we can’t get a one-cent increase in it; but gasoline will be $20 a gallon due to peak oil practically tomorrow so that relieves us of worrying about petrol taxes, and we’ll resolve all those land assembly and/or brownfield problems you get with infill, and then after that we’ll be all set to go! Man, those people who think changing engine technologies is a practical way forward–c’mon! like *that’s* ever happened (the catalytic converter, sensors)–those people just lack common sense.”

I’m being sarcastic, but nothing annoys me more than people who minimize or obfuscate the very significant challenges–social, economic, political and physical–in implementation surrounding a sustainable city vision on all fronts. These problems with implementation plague all strategies–transit, land use, and technology—and planners diminish the significant skill and complexity of their professional work when they act like planning reform is all just so easy and anybody not on board is just dumb or a craven advocate of the status quo.

The Moving Cooler report strikes me having the right take, even if you can dispute their assumptions/methods: we’ll need reductions from pricing and taxation AND technology AND transit/land use in order for us to make a dent in climate change, and that the timing matters here tremendously: pricing and taxes for near-term reductions, technology for mid-term reductions, and transit/land use for long-term reductions.

I also like technology use WITH transit. I don’t think we’re going to get a lot choice riders on transit quickly without real-time routing and arrival systems, new, comfort-enhancing on-vehicle technologies, and a bunch of other distributed applications for technology like Routesy. (Has Routesy come back? I hope so.) Changing vehicle, engine, and fuel technologies on the rail side would do a lot to help out freight rail’s residential neighbors. How anybody thinks we are going to green freight without technology is way beyond me.

And portraying people who buy three cars for a family as being “impoverished” annoys me a lot. Yes, being forced to own a car to participate in social and economic life is a burden. But..it’s not the same as really belonging to a group that faces violent and systematic impoverishment.

*Technology has helped us out quite a bit. Take a look at this table.

On noticing older women

I was recently listening to a panel on African Americans and television, and one of the speakers noted the well-known and quite real bias towards light-skinned African American women, even on relatively revolutionary shows like the Cosby Show. The speaker was challenged on this point. While certainly Felicia Rashad, Lisa Bonet (whom I’ve wanted to look like my entire life), and Sabrina LeBeauf are all very light-skinned, it wasn’t clear to some members of the audience that the younger girls were particularly light.

I think the point was well-made; beauty standards for black women too often mirror those for white women, which are just plain screwed up in the first place so by the time those ridiculous standards get chewed up and passed along on the racism platter, black women get a nice serving of double invalidation for being who they really are. Even though the Cosby show maintained these mainstream standards in many regards, you do have to admit the women on the show were singular: educated, intelligent, successful. A breath of fresh air on a significant show.

However, I was also struck by how nobody mentioned Clarice Taylor, shown below, who played Cosby’s mother, Anna Huxtable, along with her real-life husband, distinguished theater actor Earle Hyman, as Russell Huxtable. Clarice strikes me as both not particularly light and exceptionally beautiful. I don’t want to play that rhetorical game of finding one exception/contradiction to what is a sound argument about color bias in a racist world, but…I wish the panel would have at least noticed the older woman on the show as a woman capable of being beautiful. That’s all.

I close with one of my favorite beauties of all time, the late Esther Rolle, who in many respects epitomized how to age well. That smile! That bone structure! And when her hair turned silver, she looked incredible.

How is anybody supposed to understand WTH is going in energy?

I’ll admit that even though I had have some very good teachers (JR DeShazo from UCLA) and brilliant colleagues (Adam Rose and Donald Paul from the USC Energy Institute), I don’t understand large things about the economics of energy delivery. It’s not like water; it’s not like transport. I clearly need to do more reading.

What isn’t helping, or perhaps it is helping, is the fact that my home state has become the battleground for climate change and energy policy. Every day we have a new development, but I have yet to really understand what it means. I am not sure that the answer is to have municipalities getting into the energy business: I am also not sure that wouldn’t be a great idea. Here’s a write up from the NYT’s new Green blog:
Dollars and Daggers in California’s Energy Battles – Green Blog – NYTimes.com

I know the attempt to dismantle AB32 is bad news:I doubt they’ll succeed on that. But the other proposition? I am confused.

David Levinson, The Transportationist, on High Speed Rail

David Levinson is one of my absolute favorite thinkers, and he has been ever since I first encountered him interviewing at the University of Iowa a million years ago. He’s penned some thoughts on HSR that you should go read:

Some thoughts on high-speed rail – part 1: Introduction – The Transportationist

Some thoughts on high-speed rail – part 2: Hubs and Spokes – The Transportationist

Some thoughts on high-speed rail – part 3: Accessibility – The Transportationist

Some thoughts on high-speed rail – part 4: Land value creation – The Transportationist