Thursday, April 22, 2010

"An Eruption of Unresilience"

On Planetizen, a blog about how the volcanic eruption in Iceland is requiring people to fall back on other forms of transportation, and do without goods the normally get via air transport.

Fortunately, Europe has a relatively advanced high-speed train network in several nations; were this eruption affecting North America, where rail service has been denuded dramatically over decades and new investments in high speed rail are only now being planned, the conditions would be more chaotic by several magnitudes.

While we have heard a great deal over the years about the need to diversify our transportation systems to reduce greenhouse gases and to prepare for peak oil, the Eyjafjallajokull eruption demonstrates that our present transportation monoculture is simply not sufficiently resilient even under normal conditions, for it is incapable of responding adequately to unexpected stressors. The lack of diversity and redundancy in our transportation infrastructure thereby threatens the stability of every other system that interacts with it, including food, business, tourism and the countless human needs dependent on it.  

The blogger, Michael Dudley, points out that if the volcano erupts for up to a year (which apparently it has in the past) it could make a dramatic difference in lifestyles and transportation patterns.

For their part, supporters of rail can also look at the eruption for something else: an alternative vision for urban and intercontinental life. With air traffic absent from the sky – and the harried business schedules it makes necessary – many people are finding that the eruption has yielded a silver lining. Doug Saunders of the Globe and Mail finds that London has fallen “strangely, peacefully quiet” as the constant roar of jets has ceased, while others are rediscovering the wonders of leisure time, renewed friendships and unhurried urban sight-seeing. In the absence of exotic imported food, grocery chains are once again turning to British suppliers, demonstrating the need for viable regional agriculture. 

Since I don't have any current travel plans, I haven't been following the volcano very closely.  I did live in Portland, Oregon when Mount St. Helens erupted, and I remember the strange and dramatic events during those days - including hosing ash into the storm sewers and wearing surgical masks around in public.  However, the Eyjafjallajokull fallout is bigger, both literally and metaphorically.  Will we adapt? 

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 22, 2010 in Globalism, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang

They imploded Texas Stadium recently, which was in the suburban city of Irving in the DFW metroplex.  What is Irving going to do with all of that land?  Turns out they have a plan, as described in this story: Texas Sprawl Goes Out With a Bang: Development Sprouts on Irving Transit Line.  

Once the last traces of Texas Stadium are cleared away this summer, Irving intends to dust off plans drafted 10 years ago to transform the Cowboys’ former home and the surrounding acreage into the densest, most walkable neighborhood in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex outside of downtown Dallas. An extension of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Orange line is slated to run through the stadium footprint on its way from downtown to Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) International Airport. . . . The stadium site is the next piece in its urban puzzle.

That piece has three owners -- Irving, the neighboring University of Dallas, and Southwest Premier Properties, a private developer -- whose holdings comprise 468 acres. The plans the three chipped in for 10 years ago (and resulting zoning) call for things like four- or five-story apartment blocks with ground floor retail rather than single-family homes. (The Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce tossed some renderings up on its Web site Monday. “’Urban-suburban,’ is a phrase we’ve been using a lot lately, says Maura Gast, the executive director of Irving’s Convention & Visitors Bureau, referring to the notion of urban densities in a suburban setting. “Everywhere the DART is going is driving more density. The market will support it; developers have started jockeying along that path.” Where the stadium once stood, Gast would like to see something like Chicago’s Millennium Park -- at least she has the acreage.

Part of the reason for the assessment of market demand for urbanism is that the nearby Las Colinas area that is home to corporate offices but lacking in other dimensions.  

The glittering towers featured in the opening credits of Dallas -- one pair seemingly clad in gold leaf, another as black and viscous as an oil slick -- lie not in Dallas proper, but in the remnants of El Ranchito de las Colinas, the 12,000-acre “Little Ranch of the Hills.” The same year DFW opened just west of it in 1973, owner Ben Carpenter unveiled his master plan for a wholly-owned-and-operated city carved from those mesquite-shrouded hills -- the largest urban development in the country. Before a single plot of land was sold, he ordered the dredging of lakes and canals, stocked them with gondolas, and ran a monorail overhead. "It is Disney World for the affluent," Texas Monthly reported in the 1980s.  [paging Chad Emerson!]  "In fact, when executives from Disney World visited the development a few years ago, one of them commented that it was a shame ol’ Walt couldn’t have lived to see the real thing."

What’s most interesting about Irving’s plans to add density in its last undeveloped corner is the tacit admission that Las Colinas’s gold-plated office parks and single-family homes are no longer enough. "The piece that has always been missing from Las Colinas is the human density that’s missing on weekends and at nights," says Gast. The reason for adding that piece is an eminently practical one -- it’s what those corporate tenants, their workers and developers all want. Irving is embracing transit-oriented development because it thinks it can make money doing it.

Matt Festa

April 20, 2010 in Density, Local Government, Planning, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Texas, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Forum: Land Use in the Unzoned City (@ South Texas)

The South Texas College of Law is pleased to invite the public to what promises to be a very interesting forum called Land Use in the Unzoned City: Regulation, Property Rights, and Smart Growth in Houston's Future.  From the program:

Houston is the only major city in the U.S. without traditional zoning.  What should the government’s role be in regulating land use and development?  How should the law and the land intersect?  Should Houston stay as it is, adopt zoning, or consider Smart Growth principles to reduce sprawl and protect the environment?  Do regulations and policies to promote New Urbanism or transit-oriented development work, and are they right for Houston?  Our panelists will offer their perspectives on the future of land use in Houston and across the U.S.


David Crossley, President & Founder, Houston Tomorrow

Kendall Miller, CEO, Houstonians for Responsible Growth

Prof. Craig Anthony Arnold, University of Louisville & University of Houston (visiting)

Prof. Asmara Tekle, Texas Southern University

Moderator: Prof. Matthew Festa, South Texas College of Law

When:  Tuesday, April 13, 12:00 noon
Where: South Texas College of Law, 1303 San Jacinto, Downtown Houston, Garrett-Townes Auditorium

The event is being hosted by the student Real Estate Law Society, with co-sponsorship from Houston Tomorrow and Houstonians for Responsible Growth.  I'm very much looking forward to it.  If you can be in Houston next Tuesday, we'd love to have you attend (did I mention free lunch?).  Contact me if you have any questions. 

Matt Festa

April 8, 2010 in Community Design, Conferences, Density, Development, Form-Based Codes, Houston, Lectures, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Smart Growth, Smartcode, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Don't Text and Drive: Take the Bus

Wired Magazine is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures. A friend gave us a subscription awhile ago, and while it's not something I would ever buy for myself, I really enjoy reading it. Also, almost every issue has something that's somewhat land use related.  For example, the February 22 issue has a suggestion to solve the deadly texting-while-driving problem - better public transit. Also, as I posted in January, they had an article dedicated to "superfast bullet trains."  Is public transportation tech savvy?  Apparently the folks at Wired think so.

Jamie Baker Roskie

March 3, 2010 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

NYT Book Review: "The Routes of Man"

Janet Maslin of the New York Times has reviewed a collection of essays by Ted Conover, The Routes of Man:  How Roads are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today."  Click here for a link to Maslin's review and here for a link to an excerpt.  The essays are not an attempt to survey the effects of road building on land use law, but rather treat the topic of roads in a series of six essays and discuss more broadly the effects of roads on everyday life.  For a look at some of Conover's photographs, the Times provides a few here.  Maslin ultimately finds the collection disjointed.  Nevertheless, Conover's book attempts to shed new light on a facet of transportation in unanticipated ways.

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

February 20, 2010 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Report from the Seattle Smart Growth Conference

Awhile back I posted the announcement for the annual New Partners for Smart Growth conference.  I wasn't able to attend, but here's a report from Anthony Flint at the Lincoln Institute:

Members of President Obama’s “green cabinet” vowed to implement smart growth at the federal level by coordinating the agencies responsible for housing, transportation, and the environment, delighting nearly two-thousand planners and local government officials gathered for a sustainability conference here.

Shaun Donovan, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, and Lisa Jackson, director of the Environmental Protection Agency, detailed how they were working together to favor funding for initiatives for housing with better proximity to jobs, schools, and transit, for example, and give more priority to transportation projects that helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, over traditional criteria such as relieving congestion. They also said the agencies have also stopped working at cross purposes in the array of programs they administer, unifying disparate initiatives under the mantra of sustainability.  “It’s time the federal government spoke with one voice,” said Donovan.

Read the entire article here.  See more in his Citiwire post here. I also posted the news release about this new initiative from the Obama administration here.  I'll try to keep up with developments about this program as they evolve.

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 19, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Conferences, Development, Federal Government, Planning, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Info on the Juergensmeyer Symposium

From the student committee at GSU:

Georgia State University College of Law's Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth is hosting a symposium to honor the career of Julian Conrad Juergensmeyer. The symposium titled, A 2020 View of Urban Infrastructure: A Festschrift in Honor of Julian Conrad Juergensmeyer on the Occasion of his 45th Year of Law Teaching, will be held in Atlanta on March 25 & 26, 2010.

Topics to be discussed include: Infrastructure Planning: Challenges and Visions – Focusing on current infrastructure needs, planning trends, and potential solutions to problems many communities are now facing. Future Directions – Dealing with the impact of environmental concerns on the future of planning and how planning professionals can incorporate sustainable technology and smart growth principles into planning practices. Infrastructure and Property Rights – Discussing the legal interests and rights of landowners, zoning officials, and government organizations. Transportation Infrastructure and Control of Sprawl – Addressing transportation issues facing many large metropolitan regions and offering perspectives on controlling sprawl through transportation infrastructure. Social Infrastructure – Focusing on the importance of providing necessary affordable housing for low-income families and addressing how environmental concerns impact affordable housing. Financing Infrastructure – Comparing fee generating methods to cover the rising costs of infrastructure, including a cross-national perspective on the use of developer agreements and exactions. Water Infrastructure – Looking into wastewater management through new directions and changes to the law and policies.

Georgia and Florida attorneys attending the symposium are eligible to receive 9 hours of CLE credit. Planners will receive 9 hours of AICP for CM credit, including 1.5 hours of law credit. Engineers attending will also be eligible for individual application through the Georgia Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. If you have any further questions please contact us at or visit us at

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 12, 2010 in Conferences, Development, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sustainable Communities Initiative

From the Obama administration:

February 4, 2010

THURSDAY: Top Obama Administration Officials to Promote Sustainable
Communities, Environmental Justice at Smart Growth Conference

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun
Donovan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will visit Seattle on
Thursday, February 4, to address the 9th Annual New Partners for Smart
Growth Conference. They will be joined by Environmental Protection Agency
Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus.

Speaking before an audience of more than 1,500 key planners, public health
professionals, developers, government staff and elected officials
Secretaries Donovan and LaHood and Assistant Administrator Stanislaus will
discuss the ways their agencies are working together through the Obama
Administration’s Partnership for Sustainable Communities to improve access
to affordable housing, provide better transportation options, and protect
public health and the environment.

“EPA, HUD and DOT are working together to rebuild our foundations for
prosperity, a process that starts with rethinking the ways our communities
grow,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “The interagency Partnership
for Sustainable Communities is working to give our communities what they
need to grow and thrive with economic resilience and environmental

“I am proud to announce HUD’s brand new Office of Sustainable Housing and
Communities today,” said Donovan. “Working with our partners at DOT and EPA,
this new office will help us streamline our efforts to create stronger, more
sustainable communities by connecting housing to jobs, fostering local
innovation and building a clean energy economy.”

“Our Partnership really is a new way of doing business in Washington, to
help our nation meet 21st century challenges,” said LaHood. “Working
together, we’re creating jobs to revitalize our economy, while helping state
and local transportation agencies to build the capacity they need to promote
livable, walkable, sustainable communities.”

The President proposed $527 million in his budget for an ambitious new
livability initiative at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Its Office
of Livable Communities will be a focal point for initiatives such
as expanding transit in low-income neighborhoods.  It will fund a grant
program to help state and local transportation agencies provide more
transportation choices that spur economic development.

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, taking place Feb. 4-6, is the
premier national smart growth conference, bringing together experts from a
wide range of disciplines to discuss transportation, housing and urban
development, public health, equitable development, environmental protection,
and other topics. The partnership agencies are working together more closely
than ever before to meet the president’s challenge to coordinate federal
policies, programs, and resources to help urban, suburban, and rural areas
build more sustainable communities.

The New Partners for Smart Growth Conference is managed by the Local
Government Commission, in partnership with EPA, DOT, and other public and
private sponsors.

More about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities:

More on EPA’s Smart Growth Program:

More information on HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities:

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 5, 2010 in Clean Energy, Climate, Community Design, Conferences, Development, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Federal Government, Housing, HUD, Planning, Politics, Race, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Superfast Bullet Trains are Finally Coming to the US"

Earlier today Matt Festa posted about Obama's funding for high speed trains.  Wired Magazine also has a great spread this month on high speed rail coming to the US.  The writers are breathless about the technology, of course, but the article also covers some very interesting land use aspects of the scheme.  Catch the sidebars about how NIMBYism threatens part of the route of the California train, and how the train will reduce travel time from exurbs like Merced to population centers like Sacramento, making those exurbs a more viable housing option for big-city workers. There's also an analysis of how high speed rail, while expensive, will ultimately be cheaper than maintaining our current car culture.  The article has maps of the proposed routes and a history of fast trains. I'm not normally much of a train buff, but I found the whole piece really fascinating.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 30, 2010 in California, Development, Exurbs, NIMBY, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 29, 2010

President Obama Announces $8 Billion for High Speed Rail

The President announced $8 billion in grants for various regional high-speed rail initiatives around the country, under the auspices of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  The White House press release is here.

Tampa, FL – President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will today announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is awarding $8 billion to states across the country to develop America’s first nationwide program of high-speed intercity passenger rail service.  Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), these dollars represent an historic investment in the country’s transportation infrastructure, which will help create jobs and transform travel in America.  The announcement is one of a number of job initiatives the President will lay out in the coming weeks that follow up on the continued commitment to job creation he discussed in last night’s State of the Union Address. 

What's kind of interesting, if you read the press release, is that it focuses on jobs, economic impact, and more jobs . . . much more so in my opinion than did the DOT/Federal Railroad Administration "Vision for High Speed Rail in America" strategy document from last year, which focused more on the inherent urban/land use/environmental benefits of moving America toward high speed rail. 

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood says that President Obama delivers on American High-Speed Rail on his Fast Lane Blog.  You can also check out the ARRA list of to-be-funded HSR projects

Matt Festa

January 29, 2010 in Environmentalism, Federal Government, Financial Crisis, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

President Obama's New Strategy for Urban America

The President spoke recently to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  The video is here and the transcript is here.  He explains his strategy as follows:

Our strategy to build economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, opportunity-rich communities that serve as the backbone for our long-term growth and prosperity -- three items:  First, we'll build strong regional backbones for our economy by coordinating federal investments in economic and workforce development -- because today's metropolitan areas don't stop at downtown.  What's good for Denver, for example, is usually good for places like Aurora and Boulder, too.  Strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America.

Second, we'll focus on creating more livable and environmentally sustainable communities.  Because when it comes to development, it's time to throw out old policies that encouraged sprawl and congestion, pollution, and ended up isolating our communities in the process.  We need strategies that encourage smart development linked to quality public transportation, that bring our communities together.

* * *

Third, we'll focus on creating neighborhoods of opportunity.  Many of our neighborhoods have been economically distressed long before this crisis hit -- for as long as many of us can remember.  And while the underlying causes may be deeply-rooted and complicated, there are some needs that are simple:  access to good jobs; affordable housing; convenient transportation that connects both; quality schools and health services; safe streets and parks and access to a fresh, healthy food supply. 

He indicated that this strategy will be reflected in the budget submitted next month.

Matt Festa

January 26, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Development, Environmentalism, Federal Government, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Transportation, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rule Change for Federal Funding of Local Transit?

Administrative law buffs will take note of the recent news that the Administration Loosens Purse Strings for Transit Projects (NYT). 

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will make it easier for cities and states to spend federal money on public transit projects, and particularly on the light-rail systems that have become popular in recent years, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday.

Administration officials said they were reversing guidelines put in place by the Bush administration that called for evaluating new transit projects largely by how much they cost and how much travel time they would save.

Transit advocates have long complained that such cost-effectiveness tests have kept many projects from being built — especially light-rail projects, since streetcars are not fast — and made it much harder for transit projects to win federal financing than highway projects.

Here's the DOT press release.  Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says

“Our new policy for selecting major transit projects will work to promote livability rather than hinder it,” said Secretary LaHood. “We want to base our decisions on how much transit helps the environment, how much it improves development opportunities and how it makes our communities better places to live.”

Sec. LaHood discusses it further on his Official Blog, Welcome to the Fast Lane.  He states that under the new rule the feds will evaluate local projects by six criteria:

  • Economic development
  • Mobility improvements
  • Environmental benefits
  • Operating efficiencies
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Land use

For an example of how this federal rule change might affect one local government's light rail plans, see this Houston Chronicle analysis.  The Federal Transit Administration will soon be initiating a rulemaking process, with notice and comment.  Stay tuned. 

Matt Festa

January 18, 2010 in Environmental Law, Houston, Local Government, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 8, 2010

"Rest Stops R.I.P."

From the very eclectic website "Good" comes a story about the death of the American rest stop.  My husband found this story after we passed a closed rest stop on I-95 near Richmond, Virginia over the holidays. This is another Virginia budget-saver, along with banning cul de sacs.  Virginia, however, isn't the only state closing its rest stops.  If, like me, you're a sometime solo female traveler who enjoys a safe, warm place for a pit stop, this is not a happy trend.  Also, if you're a fan of the kitschy mid-century modern look of many of the rests stops, or a preservation advocate in general, the loss of these rest stops is worrisome.  Of course, we can always stop at Starbucks or McDonalds to use the loo and top up on caffinated beverages.  But, for me, rest stops are an integral part of the interstate highway system, and I mourn their loss a little.

Jamie Baker Roskie

Follow up - Another article, this time from The New York Times, about a political kerfuffle in Arizona over closed rest stops.

January 8, 2010 in Architecture, Historic Preservation, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

French Lessons

Strasbourg Cathedral

The beautiful cathedral city of Strasbourg, France, has some lessons to teach the US about inner-city transit.  It's interesting to note that the debate in Strasbourg wasn't over whether to build more public transit (or eliminate it), but whether to build it above-ground or underground.  Ben Adler writes:

"This being France, where the entire political spectrum is to America’s left, the conservatives running for city council in 1989 actually favored building a subway. But the socialists, led by Catherine Trautmann and Roland Ries, wanted to build a new tram. Conservatives and local business owners objected, arguing that a tram would take precious lanes away from cars. But that was exactly the point: to transform streets from hectic, unpleasant gasoline alleys into vibrant, multi-use communal spaces. “The tram means that you change the city,” explains Jonathan Naas, transportation policy coordinator for Roland Ries, who is now mayor. By creating a buffer from the cars, he says, “You create places to walk, outdoor cafes to sit outside.”

Click here for a link to Ben Adler, "The French Revolution:  How Strasbourg Gave Up the Car (And Why Midsized American Cities Can Too)," Next American City (Winter 2009).

Will Cook, Charleston School of Law

December 29, 2009 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Are HOV lanes a good idea?  They are controversial, to be sure.  Some think that they are essential to disincentivizing traffic and rewarding carpooling.  Others think that they are inefficient or infringe too much on liberty.  But for those commuters who live in areas with HOV lanes, the practical question is how to adapt. reports on the emergence of one response to HOV lanes: Slugging.

HOUSTON – Would you jump into the car of a stranger? Hundreds of Houstonians do it every morning on the way to work to save time and money.

The phenomenon called "slugging" developed in the northeast and has caught on in Houston over the last few years.

The "sluggers" park at a Metro Park and Ride lot and form a line to get into cars with drivers who are looking for a passenger so they can legally take the HOV.

Slugging seems to have originated, or has been most successful in, the DC area.  I think it would be creepy to rely on a commute in a stranger's car (plus, the story doesn't say how they get home).  But on the other hand, I kind of like the free market ordering response to regulatory restrictions--when the government creates an HOV lane, the commuters establish a new informal but effective institution, the slugging line. 

Matt Festa

December 19, 2009 in Houston, Sprawl, Suburbs, Texas, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Virginia Bans Cul de Sacs

Cul de sacs are a love 'em or hate 'em phenomenon - either you think they're a fantastic safe enclave for kids to play or a blight on the environment.  But now, the state of Virginia has gone so far as to ban them entirely from new developments.  A recent article in the Washington Post explains why:

The changes come as cash-strapped states and localities can no longer afford the inexorable widening of secondary roads that are overburdened with traffic from the subdivisions, strip malls, schools and office buildings that feed into them. The system forces drivers to enter these traffic-choked roads to go even 50 yards or so to the neighborhood coffeehouse or elementary school. North Carolina and Portland, Ore., are moving on similar fronts.

"When you have 350 to 400 miles a year of new roads you have to maintain forever, it's a budgetary problem," said Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who pushed the new regulations through the Commonwealth Transportation Board last month. Virginia has had to cut more than $2.2 billion from its six-year transportation spending plan. "But it's not just about the money. It's about connecting land-use and transportation planning and restricting wasteful and unplanned development."

Virginia will enforce this by withholding road funding and snow removal services from cul de sac streets.  Is this the beginning of a trend? I have always lived in traditional through-street neighborhoods, and have always found the cul de sac a strange phenomenon.  Given New Urbanist trends, it may already have been on its way out.  Still, this is the first effort I know to force them out by state-wide regulation.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 11, 2009 in Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Konefsky on the Charles River Bridge Case

Alfred S. Konefsky (Buffalo) has posted Simon Greenleaf, Boston Elites and the Social Meaning and Construction of the Charles River Bridge Case, forthcoming in TRANSFORMATIONS IN AMERICAN LAW: ESSAYS IN HONOR OF MORTON J. HOROWITZ, Vol. II, Daniel Hamilton & Alfred Brophy, eds., Harvard University Press.  The abstract:

This essay examines the complexity of the social and cultural forces in antebellum Boston that led to the framing and resolution of the legal and constitutional issues in the Charles River Bridge Case. Though often viewed as a clash between models of economic development, the lines of conflict in the case in reality were first honed in pamphlet wars in the early Jacksonian turmoil of the 1820s focusing on other often overlooked contemporaneous Boston free bridge disputes and the birth of a free bridge political party. Boston elites were pejoratively termed “aristocrats” for their support of the Charles River Bridge franchise and accused of defending the creation of exclusive and monopolistic privilege and property through government grant, while proponents of a new competing - and ultimately free - bridge were castigated as “agrarians” and accused of forcibly taking property in order to equalize its distribution in the face of a state-sanctioned privilege. The driving force of the dispute, therefore, turned out to be the acute social anxiety and stress of Boston’s investors and commercial elites. No one better signifies the contours of the struggle than Simon Greenleaf, recently arrived in Cambridge as a law professor at Harvard. Greenleaf, as one of the lawyers for the competing Warren Bridge, stood in opposition to the established Charles River Bridge interests and was responsible for shaping the legal arguments that ultimately prevailed. For that sin, he was pilloried in the public press and ostracized in the community. Greenleaf’s unhappy experience then becomes a metaphor of sorts, allowing us to appreciate how understanding a social environment can assist us in cracking the code of legal arguments, particularly in this instance early Contract Clause and Takings jurisprudence. In the process of examining this historical episode, we might wish to consider under what conditions legal history might be entitled to call itself a form of social history and to speculate whether the critical question for legal historians interrogating these events is not whether law matters, but rather of what matter law is made.

Matt Festa

November 27, 2009 in Property Rights, Scholarship, Takings, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Juergensmeyer Symposium in March 2010

Georgia State University has announced a symposium in honor of Julian C. Juergensmeyer's 45th year of teaching, to be held in Atlanta March 25-26, 2010.  Entitled "A 2020 View of Urban Infrastructure," the draft agenda offers both national and international perspectives on topics such as "Infrastructure and Property Rights" and "Transportation Infrastructure and Control of Sprawl."  Scholars and practitioners presenting include Robert Freilich, Patricia Salkin, and Jerry Weitz.  For more information contact GSU's Center for Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth at

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 17, 2009 in Conferences, Georgia, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bikes & Cars & Cities

In Los Angeles, a doctor has been found guilty of reckless driving, battery, assault with a deadly weapon (his car), and "mayhem," and could face ten years in prison, for braking in front of two bicyclists.  Here's the story (with video) on the verdict.  The LA Times article from just before the verdict indicates that the case has drawn national attention from the cycling community: 

For the last three weeks, the assault trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson has drawn the attention of cyclists nationwide but has especially galvanized the swelling ranks of Los Angeles' tight-knit cycling community, whose members have long felt like second-class citizens in a city in love with its cars.

The case is being tried at a time when more people are turning to two wheels for commuting and recreation. Cyclists are asserting their rights as never before. In Los Angeles, advocates are pushing for more bike lanes and other road improvements, a cyclists' bill of rights and more protection from police.

At a time when there seems to be more and more momentum against automobile dependence and in favor of personal ambulation in the city for health, environmental, and civic reasons, cycling activists are pushing for more laws and policies to promote bike lanes and bike-friendly development.  Vancouver seems to have found some success with a bridge bike lane, as reported by the Vancouver Sun:

The Burrard Bridge bicycle lane trial has been a success with cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, according to a survey conducted this fall. That approval could result in bike lane access to be extended well past this February’s 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

It's not entirely clear from the article why the bike lane is a result of planning for the Olympics, but I presume it has something to do with pedestrian traffic for the events.  Meanwhile, though, in Paris, a much more utopian scheme to put the City of Light on two human-powered wheels seems to have stumbled.  The New York Times reports on the significant theft and vandalism that have hurt Paris's urban bike rental program in French Ideal of Bicycle-Sharing Meets Reality

PARIS — Just as Le Corbusier’s white cruciform towers once excited visions of the industrial-age city of the future, so Vélib’, Paris’s bicycle rental system, inspired a new urban ethos for the era of climate change.

Residents here can rent a sturdy bicycle from hundreds of public stations and pedal to their destinations, an inexpensive, healthy and low-carbon alternative to hopping in a car or bus.

But this latest French utopia has met a prosaic reality: Many of the specially designed bikes, which, when the system’s startup and maintenance expenses are included, cost $3,500 each, are showing up on black markets in Eastern Europe and northern Africa. Many others are being spirited away for urban joy rides, then ditched by roadsides, their wheels bent and tires stripped.

With 80 percent of the initial 20,600 bicycles stolen or damaged, the program’s organizers have had to hire several hundred people just to fix them. And along with the dent in the city-subsidized budget has been a blow to the Parisian psyche.

“The symbol of a fixed-up, eco-friendly city has become a new source for criminality,” Le Monde mourned in an editorial over the summer. “The Vélib’ was aimed at civilizing city travel. It has increased incivilities.”

Somewhere between utopia, land use regulation, and the market may lie the plan to increase bike friendliness.

Matt Festa

November 7, 2009 in Environmental Law, Local Government, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scary Parking

Chad Emerson has posted a couple of times about parking requirements in land use regulations.  Architect Roger K. Lewis takes on parking garage aesthetics in his Washington Post column yesterday called Where You Park Doesn't Have to be Scary

Think of all the parking garages you have visited where lighting is dim, visibility is constrained, way-finding signage is obscure and orientation is elusive. No wonder garages can feel unsafe, threatening and even spooky.

Lewis calls parking garages "the Rodney Dangerfield of architecture" because they get no aesthetic respect.  He points to a new exhibition at the National Building Museum called "House of Cars: Innovation and the Parking Garage," which runs through July 2010.  According to Lewis:

But "House of Cars" demonstrates that parking garages do not have to be ugly or scary. Indeed, some architects and their clients have aspired to make attractive, artfully designed garages.

Publicly visible, multi-level garages, essentially stacks of horizontal or sloped concrete plates, entail three basic design issues: how to form the structural skeleton, how to clad the exterior and how to relate the garage to its context. At the National Building Museum, you will see how architects have dealt with these issues while you also learn about the 100-year evolution of parking garage architecture.

Sounds like a good reason to visit the National Building Museum.

Matt Festa

November 1, 2009 in Architecture, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)