My 5 favorite blog posts of the year, by others
In the spirit of year-end reflection, I thought I'd take a moment to share some posts from 2017 that I particularly enjoyed. There's so much high-quality content now in the world of urban design, cities and transportation that it's impossible to keep up. The explosion of content in recent years has been great to see, and also helps to challenge the sectors of the planning and transportation world that are so reluctant to adapt and change. Here's hoping to read more from you and many others out there in 2018.
Here's my top five:
Strong Towns is a site routinely filled with top-notch content. If you're not already reading it regularly or listening to the podcast, you need to change that for 2018. One lovely truth bomb that Chuck Marohn dropped in 2017 was this piece, "The Real Reason Your City has No Money." The fact that it received so much pushback in the comments illustrates how much of a nerve he touched, and how deep the denial is nationwide about the state of our public finances. I have many private conversations with people that get this and can see the light, but rarely do people want to talk about it publicly. Three cheers for the good people at Strong Towns who continue to shine a light on the fragile financial situation our cities and towns are in, and how that ties directly to our decisions regarding planning, transportation and development.
A second favorite also came from Strong Towns, but this time from contributor Spencer Gardner. His piece, "The 5 immutable Laws of Affordable Housing" should be required reading for every planner in America. It continues to amaze me how many otherwise smart people think that housing operates outside of the laws of supply and demand, and that our regulatory apparatuses can somehow manage housing effectively from the top-down. As people continue to rediscover cities, this issue is only going to get louder and more desperate.
A third choice from 2017 came from City Observatory, which has quickly moved to the top of my weekly must-read list. The authors had a number of terrific pieces this year on housing, but I want to highlight one on transportation. OK, OK, I admit it - this is technically from 2016 (albeit late December). It's called, "Reducing Congestion: Katy Didn't." The story is about the $2.8 billion (yes, that's billion with a B) expansion of the Katy freeway in Houston, which of course solved all congestion problems on the highway. Spoiler alert: No, it didn't. 70+ years of highway and street expansion projects in North America, and we still don't understand that these extraordinarily expensive projects don't ever solve the problems that we are asking them to solve. Maybe, just maybe, we should rethink what the problem is?
Next to last piece for 2017 came from Jason Segedy, a planner in Akron that writes a blog called Notes from the Underground. Jason also took on the gentrification topic, with a post called "The "G" word: What it means in the context of the Rust Belt." Jason's post did a great job of drilling into a pet issue of mine: how the narratives from our largest coastal cities (which dominate most media outlets, blogs and social media) do a great disservice to the 90% of the country that has very different issues. His great finishing quote:
"We don’t need more top-down economic silver bullets. We need collaborative, incremental change - person-by-person, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, informed by humility, prudence, sensitivity, wisdom, and love for our neighbors.
Working together, we can become a much better-connected, more cohesive, coherent, and equitable place. The only people who can stop us from becoming that place are we ourselves.
It’s not enough anymore to be against something. It’s time to be for something."
Finally, my favorite of the year came from none other than Dan Savage, called "Doing Something Real about Gentrification and Displacement." It's a terrific read, and written brilliantly as can often only be done by someone not directly working in the field. I don't agree with all of it (do I ever totally agree with anyone??), but I do agree with a lot of it. One particular money quote:
"People are choosing to move back into the cities. We can't restrict free choice, freedom of movement, build a wall around the city, or declare certain sections of the city off-limits to newcomers...But there's only so much we can do. People are going to be displaced. We can shake our fists and put up posters—and refuse to make any actionable demands—but that's not going to change anything or help anyone. Snark and pranks masquerading as activism aren't going stop people from moving back into the cities. It's time to do something that might actually make a difference."
Here's to a happy and healthy 2018,