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

'Make My City Work' Says Property Council of Australia

The Property Council of Australia has launched a snazzy website, calling on everyone to join them and Make My City Work. The site encourages interaction and feedback and so far is generating some interesting debate. The vision calls for a New Deal for Australia's Cities. Have a look here.

How Green Are Electric Cars? Well...

It all depends on how you charge it.

This NYT's article looks at a hypothetical situation in which two electric Nissan Leaf's drive the same distance in light traffic in two different parts of America. One might assume they are both being good and 'green' and doing their part. But, they produce wildly different levels of carbon emissions, with one being comparable with a regular (though quite efficient) petrol car. Why, you ask? Because electric cars charge using electricity which comes from power plants, which - depending where you are - are either clean renewable stations, or more likely, filthy coal power plants.

This is alarmingly relevant to Australia. We don't exactly have world leading renewable technology powering our little island nation (unlike California it seems, the example in the article). We have monstrous old coal plants relying on black and brown coal.

Even if every car on our roads were electric, all we'd be doing is amping up our reliance on coal. Down in Victoria, with Baillieu attempting to reverse 20 years of gradual growth in sustainable technology, we may as well just resign ourselves to the fact that the big polluters have won and all buy Humvee's.

For those that haven't given up hope, the story really proves that if we want a sustainable future we have to change our base-load power supply. We have to ditch coal and embrace renewable's - everything else is a band-aid on a bullet wound. 

Read the story in full detail at the NYT here.

Darebin Housing Strategy Goes Digital

The in-process Darebin Housing Strategy website has 'gone live'. The site is something of a step-up from the average, allowing significant feedback, live interaction with data and digital public consultation. 

The website has this to say about itself:

Welcome to the Darebin Housing Strategy website, an innovative online initiative aimed at developing a new plan for the future that will better equip us to meet our housing needs and create more living choices and better neighbourhoods. 

If you're intrigued, and especially if you live in the lovely Darebin area - be sure to check it out here.

Technology in Planning - Motion Sensors That Count Cars AND People

Planning seems to me a perennial late arrival to new technologies. While other fields of human endeavour embrace each advance in web technology, interactive data, cloud computing, social media and so forth, planners seem to just trod along looking at plans and trusting their instincts.

Meanwhile, there are companies doing some cool stuff. Check these guys out for instance: 

Motionloft, a San Francisco-based startup backed by Mark Cuban, wants to track your every move, whether you’re on foot or in a car. Don’t panic: The startup’s sensors, which are in the process of being installed around San Francisco, track anonymous data--and it will all be used for good, if Motionloft can help it.
I recently took a trip to Motionloft headquarters, where I looked up close at the company’s product. The five-inch-by-five-inch nondescript sensors need only to be attached to a window with a view of the street to unobtrusively start counting all the people and cars outside. All of the information is funneled into the cloud, where it ends up in Motionloft’s online dashboard. The startup already has sensors placed throughout San Francisco (and is in the process of installing more), so it has a relatively complete picture of traffic in the city.
There is an infinite number of uses for Motionloft’s data, but the startup is beginning with real estate developers and businesses. A coffee shop could use this kind of information to choose a location that has lots of mid-day traffic. A restaurant could use it to decide whether to focus on breakfast, lunch, or dinner."There are no other sensors that can do anything like this," says Motionloft CEO Jon Mills. "The sensors use only 11 watts of power and they send data in real time."

Take note!

IKEA to Build an Entire Neighbourhood In London

Before you start, all the jokes have been done. Yes, each neighbourhood will be put together with an allan key and take hours. Yes, you can only walk around it in one direction and you buy Swedish meatballs at the end.

But they are actually planning a 1,200 apartment village in East London, on 11ha of land. A company like Ikea entering the developer/designer field is a very interesting proposition. It brings back memories of attempted utopian, company master planned communities from the suburb of Pullman (built by the train carriage people in the USA) to Bournville in the UK developed by the Cadbury chocolate people and Port Sunlight in the UK that was founded by the soap manufacturer W. H. Lever.

I love the idea of a 'design led' companies like Ikea stepping into the planning/design field. They bring a whole new angle of efficiency that many land developers may just not be aware of. Ikea has decades of experience designing the minutia of each store, to maximise the user experience and maximise their own profit. I honestly think that their background could lead to some really interesting concepts being built in what will hopefully be a 'sustainable, liveable' and enjoyable community.

Read some more detail here, and check out the montages.

UPDATE: Check out even more info about this here, including videos and photos of the concept and construction.

New Study Confirms that More Bike Lanes = More Bikers

This may of course seem like common sense, but hey, so does acting upon the threat of climate change, and we can't seem to agree on that.

From the article:

Buehler and Pucher found that the presence of off-road bike paths and on-street bike lanes were, by far, the biggest determinant of cycling rates in cities. And that’s true even after you control for a variety of other factors like how hot or cold a city is, how much rain falls, how dense the city is, how high gas prices are, the type of people that live there, or how safe it is to cycle. None of those things seem to matter quite as much. The results, the authors write, “are consistent with the hypothesis that bike lanes and bike paths encourage cycling.” 
If that sounds overly obvious, the authors do note that previous research was somewhat scattered on this question. A few studies had found that more bike lanes in a city were associated with more cycling, though it was unclear which was causing which. Perhaps cities were building bike lanes because theyalready had a group of devoted cyclists. And this causation question still hasn’t been fully settled, but Buehler and Pucher’s regression analyses — going through a dataset of 90 of the 100 largest U.S. cities — suggest that the relationship between bike lanes and cycling is quite robust. (Previous studies on biking had often just looked at single cities in isolation.)

Hopefully this helps out those out there arguing for building more bike lanes.

Read on.

A City With No Vision - What is the Plan for Melbourne?

The following is an article by Max Walton, Senior Urban Planner at David Lock Associates. 

Whilst the announcement of a ‘bold’ new vision for Melbourne’s Central Business District was identified by the Minister for Planning as the prelude to much broader engagement on the new Metro Strategy there remains a genuine lack of transparent discourse on city planning in Melbourne and Victoria.  The lack of such an open and honest discussion on the future of Melbourne has created a vacuum of strategic planning policy.  This could be a missed opportunity to re-evaluate city planning in Melbourne and the State.  This paper argues that a more spatial approach to planning in Victoria is required, one that results in a clearly understood and agreed city vision and framework.

To frame this discussion, firstly it is important to understand the recent and significant planning policy work delivered by the State.  Melbourne 2030 and Melbourne@5 Million have provided a sound framework for strategic planning in Melbourne.  They outlined key principles of intensification in Activity Centres and locations well served by public transport.  They should be remembered for delivering some key planning and development successes.  The DPCD has worked with Councils to facilitate activity centre structure plans.  The GAA is working tirelessly to produce PSPs for the delivery of sustainable growth areas whilst the establishment of Places Victoria has positioned urban renewal back towards the top of the development agenda.