Thursday, May 1, 2008

Cities. What works. What Doesn't

One of the side benefits of a research trip like this has been the chance to see how a lot of different cities function.

Some of the cities that surprised me in livability were Nashville, Philadelphia, Toronto, and Louisville. Some of the things that they had in common were:

- A functioning downtown with mixed use with residential and business together. Large numbers of classic row houses seem to work for this.
- Lively, diverse neighborhoods that were close to each other. Philadelphia really shows this where neighborhoods have lots of regular, ordinary people living there. It wasn't just gentrified yuppiedom with plaques that talked about what was there years ago.
- For Toronto, esp., public transportation (read streetcars) was a major plus.
- The grid system!!!!!
- Local restaurants
- Funkiness. Am increasingly convinced that funkiness is a sign of health. It we don't handle the funky side of things, we probably aren't really open to a lot of other innovations.
- Local markets, including farmers' markets.
- Places where people can walk and be out and about without having to drive.
- A central waterfront that is accessible and walkable. This could be a lakefront, like Erie, PA, or a riverfront like Philadelphia and Louisville.
- A concentrated area of activity, including activity that is covered, like Cleveland's arcades.

Some things that may not work as well:

- Loooong traffic lights (Nashville is one of the worst. Philadelphia, one of the best)
- Downtowns that are so over-planned that all the life is organized out of them (Camden, NJ is a good example)
- Downtowns consisting of a handful of major, big facilities but little else. (Downtown Cincinnati is an example)
- Illogical highway systems (western New Jersey a negative example, Louisville a positive one).


cheryl said...

When you're a stranger a town/city/state, it's fun to see what works/what doesn't.

The blog is a great idea, Jay. Will be following your travels! :-)

Kris said...

When you return to Wichita, please conduct an analysis on Wichita. It would be an incredible op-ed piece.

Danifesto said...

Soooo interesting- the comparisons and contrasts btwn cities. Thanks for sharing them with those of us who lack that perspective! All I could do is compare and contrast international airports. Ones with the good shopping and free internet would rate high (Singapore) while those with no diversions whatsoever would rank low (Bangkok)