Wednesday, June 18, 2008

One Man's Dream Is Another's Nightmare

A article headlined, “Is America’s suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare?” has proven to be pretty provocative, judging by the volume and tone of comments posted in response.

The author proposes that in the not too far off future, market forces like the mortgage crisis, gas prices and a housing surplus will change homebuying tastes so drastically that the idyllic suburban McMansion may become the new American slum.

According to the article, demand will rise so sharply for walkable, transit-accessible housing in urban areas that the poor could be priced out of today’s ghettos and forced to move to the outlying suburbs. The writer conjures up visions of abandoned cul-de-sac neighborhoods swamped with for sale signs and overgrown grass. These large homes will be split into multi-family dwellings, and neighborhoods will be in danger of street gang infiltration.

Perhaps more fascinating than the glum future outlined in this article was the feedback it generated. I’ve read theories along these lines before on websites geared toward hardcore planners, but not on CNN, one of the most widely trafficked mainstream news sites in the world.

The interactive comments section became an entertaining battleground between those who view the New Urbanist movement with an almost religious seriousness and suburbanites and country folk who view the word “urban” as code for crime, pollution and a hostile way of life. At last check, there were hundreds of comments posted, apparently so many that they shut down the interactive feature.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Book 'Em, BART

By Karl Vilacoba

What a novel idea!

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) has teamed up with a local library to set up a book-lending machine at its Pittsburg/Bay Point Station. According to BART, they are the first transit system in the nation to offer such a service.

Riders can choose from 400 fiction or nonfiction books for free by inserting a valid Contra Costa County library card in the machine. They can borrow up to three books at a time, as long as they return them to the machine within three weeks. The public will have access to the machine during BART’s normal hours of operation.

The county public library plans to install three other machines at a transit village at a BART station in Pleasant Hill, a site in Byron/Discovery Bay and another location that has not yet been determined.

It is also unclear whether standard library silence rules will now apply to the station.