December 4, 2020

Malaysia. Where’s Malaysia?

KUALA LUMPUR — I had no idea what to expect from Malaysia when I accepted an assignment from Mongabay to report on the consequences of a prodigious wave of infrastructure development that is remaking this country’s economy and geography. What I’ve found is a nation contending, like so many others, with political disruption, but fully competent to develop the new muscles and bones to support the contemporary needs of this century. People here are suspicious …

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Where Cars Don’t Dominate, Rapid Transit and Strong Economies Do

BERLIN — There are few more impressive places to arrive by intercity train anywhere in the world than this city’s central rail station, the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. A colossal steel and glass building opened in 2006, the Hauptbahnhof (pronounced hote-bonn-off) soars up four levels, from east-west high-speed platforms to high-speed trains running north-south. Stainless steel and glass elevators, and stainless steel escalators tie together the platforms and the various levels of the station, which is stocked …

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Casual Carpool Plus Transit, A S.F. Commute

SAN FRANCISCO — Since late March I’ve been living in a one-room cottage behind an old Craftsman-style home in Berkeley, and commuting to downtown San Francisco. It’s not your typical daily trip. But as gas prices rise, congestion mounts, and family incomes fall, it may well become a new kind of commuting norm in the United States. Of course it may not, too. This being San Francisco. And the weather is just unbelievably good most …

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About Those Suburbs and Cities

As the dimensions of the mortgage crisis both expand and get clearer, a new picture is emerging of a nation in pain that simultaneously is coming to new conclusions about what it means to be safe and secure in America. For the first time since post-war federal policy ganged up on cities to promote suburban expansion, cities are rebounding in remarkable ways and suburbs appear to have reached some kind of new limits to growth. …

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Geoff Anderson Takes Helm at Smart Growth America

Don Chen, the very sharp founding executive director of Smart Growth America, announced late last year that he was taking a position with the Ford Foundation. Interesting move for a canny advocate and non-profit executive with the sort of keen entrepreneurial instincts to take an eight-year-old organization from a Washington-based start-up to a national leader in new designs for development. Smart Growth America has a $2 million annual budget and a 10-member staff that includes …

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In Seattle, A Change of Heart on Harbor Highway

Cary Moon, the founder of the People’s Waterfront Coalition in Seattle, and one of the country’s premier advocates for alternatives to wasteful highways, wrote me this week about the progress she and her colleagues are making to replaced the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct with a less expensive, neighborhood conserving, energy efficient alternative. “You might find this joint press release from the governor, the county, and the city interesting,” said Ms. Moon (see pix). “Quite a …

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Fresh Food, Rapid Transit Meet In Grand Civic Space

  NEW YORK — The day after Thanksgiving it was as though no one had ever eaten a square meal, judging from the lines that formed at Zaro’s Bread Basket or the Little Pie Company or Two Boots Pizza. Like everyplace else in midtown Manhattan, the ground floor, the “dining concourse”  of Grand Central Station was mobbed. Some of what New York City presents to the world these days is familiar to those of us raised there …

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$100 Barrel Oil Nears; Streetcars in Portland

  Two items caught my eye today. World oil prices reached $93 a barrel this week, which is why gasoline at the Wesco down the road is $3.07-a- gallon tonight. The other news is the announcement on Monday that city leaders in Oregon want to dramatically expand the number of neighborhoods served by Portland’s spectacularly successful streetcar. The two developments are related, of course, because as fuel prices rise the sanity and fuel-efficiency of streetcar lines makes ever …

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At Notre Dame, Coming of Age For Young New Urbanists

  I visited South Bend earlier this month to join a group of students from Notre Dame and several more of the nation’s best universities who held the first Congress of the Students for New Urbanism. The University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, it turns out, was an apt choice for the gathering. Notre Dame reframed its architectural curriculum several decades ago to concentrate on traditional neighborhood and urban design, one of the few architectural schools to …

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Mitt Romney Has A Smart Growth Record; But He Keeps It Hidden

  There’s never been a time in my life, which now spans 51 years, when the conversation in communities is so distanced from what state lawmakers choose to talk about. And the gulf only gets wider between the concerns knocking around state capitols and what Congress and the White House think is important. This isn’t a partisan problem. It’s a national disgrace. Our state government here in Michigan, for example, is led by a two-term …

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