Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

I feel like I'm writing book reports for what I'm reading but if I find a book with some insightful information or causes me to think differently about things, I want to write them so I don't forget. Walkable City was read by my sis-in-law last year and she was telling me enough about it to make me read further. I thought this was book was interesting it's not necessarily a "must read" unless city planning is totally your thing.

Speck's theory of walkability is that it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting. Millennials grew up watching Friends, Seinfield, Sex and the City, and so their idea of life lived is in the city where in Gilligan's Island time period it was more about the suburbs. But the problem for Speck is downtowns aren't making it as cost effective, efficient, and pleasant to be around because they haven't focused their cities on walkability. 

The more roads you build, the more traffic it causes. What it's doing is it's welcoming people to drive more. "The cities with the most congestion are often the cities that provide the best alternatives to being stuck in congestion." They found other ways. Transits are becoming more popular for that reason. 

Then there's the side of parking. The cost of parking spaces are so expensive that it exceeds the cost of cars and may exceed cost of all roads. But a lot of these parking areas are empty lots but you still had to pay them with your tax dollars. At least a half a billion parking spaces are empty at a given time. If there were areas where you could do all your shopping in one area without the hassle of getting your car there, you save so much more money by not having those parking spots in the first place.

When given a choice, more people choose transit as their preferred method of travel. Transits though need to be smartly situated so when you get off at a stop, it's not in some lone place. It should be close by structured neighborhoods. The whole point of transit is to reduce traffic so if it's not, it wasn't set up right. 

I didn't realize but small blocks to walk means smaller streets which is great for reducing traffic. And there is a safety measure as well. Pedestrians crossing two lanes of traffic is a lot safer than trying to cross six. And the wider the roads are, the more likely the car is to speed.  

In general, biking makes people happier and healthier. Whenever there are bikeways, the more values the houses around them go up. In San Francisco, they did a bikeshare where you check out a bike from one of the stations, 30 minutes is free, after that a nickel per minute. I do have to say that I'm pretty proud to be from the Portland area because Portland has done a lot of things right in terms of walkability. The transits, small streets, bike areas, and even the trees make it more walkable. Businesses are booming and people are coming from all over the country to live there. That and the fact that it's just a really cool city. :) 

I have noticed the benefit of living in a town where there is more walkability than other places. It's the best walkable town in Idaho but it's still a meager 45 on the walk score. But this book has helped me identify areas what makes a good downtown and helped me to decide what I value in the places I live. 

The jist of it is making the downtowns more walkable can really shape the value of where you live.

You can check out your walk score of your city here: https://www.walkscore.com

Do you agree or disagree with his theory?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting facts and information. Too bad about all those empty parking lots!