London Underground - reimagined!

Alternates to the London Underground map

The Death and Life of...

Planning for our future (figuratively speaking)...

Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

Chicago Green Art on Rails

It's live plants on Chicago's trains. Why? Because art you, that's why.

Read more and see more pictures here.

The End of Motoring?

Young people today would rather have the latest smartphone than a flashy car. And the number of them who can drive is plummeting. Is Britain's love-affair with the car really over?

The Guardian tackles the changing nature of car ownership in Britain. The kids don't care about cars, they'd rather an iPhone, the traffic is hellish, the petrol costs too much and the congestion charge is keeping cars out of the city.

 In Britain, the percentage of 17- to 20-year-olds with driving licences fell from 48% in the early 1990s to 35% last year. The number of miles travelled by all forms of domestic transport, per capita per year, has flatlined for years. Meanwhile, road traffic figures for cars and taxis, having risen more or less every year since 1949, have continued to fall since 2007. Motoring groups put it down to oil prices and the economy. Others offer a more fundamental explanation: the golden age of motoring is over. 
The article looks at more than just a decline in car-ownership. Car companies can clearly see the writing on the wall, and are doing what capitalism does best when faced with economic pressures- adapting.

Peugeot, for instance, has launched a European project called Mu," says Pollard. "You become a member and can then rent whichever Peugeot best suits your mobility needs that day. So you can borrow a van to move house at the weekend. Then get into a 308 for the school run, Monday to Friday. Then hop into an electric car to scoot silently around town. Then borrow a Peugeot bicycle to cycle to the pub in the evening. It's an attempt to second-guess how we'll run cars in future, and a pilot scheme at present, but you can do this today in London. Other car manufacturers are studying similar ideas."

Read more at the Guardians website here. 

What do you think of Peugeot's idea - would it work in Aus?

The Never Ending Docklands Debate: Evolution Over Time or 'Soul' Design

Another day another series of articles ragging on the poor old docklands. Once again it's the Age swinging in, with this piece in today's paper:

Lack of 'soul' has Docklands tenant ready to leave

Medibank Managing Director is disappointing in the ole 'docks, saying it lacks 'soul'. Presumably, it should have been designed with one. Saying the Docklands lacks soul happens a fair bit in such debates, but what does it really mean? The Age has a larger piece in todays paper that goes some way to explaining what honestly most people just 'feel' when walking around the 'docks. A lack of public space, interesting alleys and smaller shops, a diverse range of...well anything just isn't available. Buildings are big, the ground floors are catalouge-picked shops designed to service the local well-off apartment owners, but none of it is...interesting. I've never found myself thinking "gee i'd like to visit that place in the docklands" because there's nothing interesting going on or being sold. But that's just, like, my opinion, man.

The question is: can one design-in soul into a new large scale development? Is 'soul' a feature of a gradual organic evolution of a space, or is it built environment feature that we can 'design'. A classic problem, evolution or design. 


Read more: here.

The Bicycle Visionary That's Changing New York

Against what can only be described as a hysterical, fanatical opposition, New York's transportation commissioner Sadik-Khan has championed bike infrastructure and bike use with amazing results.
Since the mayor appointed her in 2007 and she began to bring her agency’s work more closely in line with his vision of a greener New York, the city has roughly doubled its miles of bike lanes, to about 500.
This article in the New York Times looks at the small amounts of recognition being received, and the problems of bringing change to a world that loves its cars.

Biking, it seems, is an uphill ride, due largely to mathematics and a sort of Catch-22: with only a small percentage of Americans using bicycles as their primary method of transportation, there’s no huge public outcry for — or immediate political benefit to — remaking city streets so that they’re a little less friendly to cars and a lot more hospitable to bikes.
But without that hospitality, primarily in the form of better bike lanes and more bike racks, biking isn’t convenient and attractive enough to win all that many converts and thus a political constituency.
So if a city believes that biking is part of a better future, it must sometimes muscle through a reluctant, rocky present. That’s precisely what Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan have done, in a fine example of the way the mayor’s frequent imperiousness and imperviousness to criticism can work to the city’s long-term advantage.

Read on at the New York Times.

Much To Do Without a Car in Melbourne

An entertaining write-up in The Age about things to do in Melbourne that are all in walking distance from train stations. Ordered by line, it gives a good list of places to go and things to do without needing to be stuck in traffic! Remember kids, you aren't stuck in traffic. You are traffic.

Read on here.

VCAT Reintroduces Major Cases List, For a Price

In an attempt to speed up the often slow VCAT process, the Tribunal has brought back the Major Cases List that proved so popular it rapidly exhausted its own funding. Rather than waiting 40 weeks for your case to be heard, developers can now drop 3 grand, then 3 grand per day onward, to have it heard in under 18.

Will it be worth it for developers? You bet. Will it speed up VCAT? Probably, as they'll be able to afford more sessional members to hear more cases.

Understandably, some justice organisations are mildly concerned. The idea that paying more brings swifter justice is...not really what justice is about. In an ideal justice system, ones financial situation doesn't influence the outcome - but should it influence the speed at which that outcome is reached. I've no doubt the VCAT members will treat every case with objectivity, whether they are paying through the nose or not, but the ability to pay up and move up the queue does seem...dangerous.

How else could they have free'd up VCAT to process appeals quicker? Any ideas - post below.

Read the article at The Age here.

Melbourne - The Most Livable City?

So unless you've been living under a rock (or overseas like me), you'll have heard Melbourne has been rated the most 'livable' city on Earth, ahead of Vienna and Vancouver by the Economist Intelligence Unit. I won't bore you with the obvious reasons (healthcare, political stablity, crime etc), but a few of the metrics they used are far more interesting. The ones that make me pause are: 'Culture' and 'Environment'. Firstly, how do you assess culture, that's absurd. Secondly, how is Australia (who had several cities in the top ten) ranking so well in environment - we have one of the highest per capita emissions in the world. This seems critical to me, but is apparently not a factor. There are many more questions about what metrics are used, and how subjective so much of it is, but an opinion piece in the age focusses on one other aspect: density.
From a planning point of view, the Economist Intelligence Unit analysis is a catastrophe, because it confirms our resistance to urban density. It now seems provident that we have so many obstinate building restrictions and setbacks to maintain our low density. Alas, the Australian fear of living close to other Australians has had the unfortunate consequence of creating a vast sprawl which is unliveable without millions of cars.
The question is: will Melbourne rank so well when petrol prices are triple what they are now?

Don't get too cocky, we have a lot to do yet...

Have a read of the BBC article here, and the Age Opinion piece here.