suburbs

So I find myself in Clive waiting at Holmes Auto for my passenger-side axle to be replaced (yes, a twenty-minute oil change turned into a four hour repair). Of course, I should have expected it when I said "...and would you also check out the clunking noise coming from the passenger front tire?"

Not my favorite way to spend a beautiful Summer day - I'd much rather be working on my front porch! For lunch I declined the offer of a ride from the friendly repair manager and decided instead to venture out and take the one-mile stroll up NW 114th to University.

This post addresses the pedestrian experience on my walk.


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The Census Bureau releases annual population estimates by City. The most recent (2009) estimates were released last week.

I pulled statistics for the Des Moines metro area and created a couple graphs to show trends over time. Here are the top five things I noticed in these graphs:

1 - The City of Des Moines has clearly turned a corner

Like many central cities that have experienced declines in population, the City of Des Moines is is now gaining population in absolute numbers. This is good for the City and good for the region.

Des Moines MSA Population Trend by CityDes Moines MSA Population Trend by City

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Johnston Park and Ride at City HallJohnston Park and Ride at City HallJohnston City Council voted Monday to withdraw from the Des Moines Regional Transit Authority, effective in 18 months. There is currently one "express" route that connects Johnston City Hall to Downtown - the 91 line with two trips in the morning and two trips in the afternoon. City leaders cited lack of service and upcoming DART levy changes as reasons for the decision.

According the the Des Moines Register, the City of Johnston found 16 regular riders on the Northwest Express (91) line. Dividing the Johnston DART levy by the number of regular riders equates to an annual cost to the City of Johnston of approximately $12,000 per rider. If the annual levy is $192,000, dividing by the population of Johnston (13,600 as of 2006) equals a per capita annual contribution of $14.

The problem with Johnston's approach to this decision is two-fold.

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As I was browsing Google Maps around Raccoon River Park, I came across a street called Scenic Vista Drive. What would you expect this to look like?

I picture a country road that winds its way across the ridges overlooking a river valley. Every so often, the tree cover breaks to reveal a slightly misty valley hundreds of feet below, where deer romp through wildflower fields. Imagine my surprise when Street View revealed this:

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Defining Urbanism

04 Aug 2008

While I am a self-declared "urbanist", this does not mean I think everyone should live in a Manhattan or a Chicago (or even Des Moines). This post will discuss my approach to urbanism and why I actively promote urban policies and urban (re)development.

Normally to start a post like this, I would do a quick Google search for "urban" and check out what other people think an "urban" is. It's a standard timesaver used by the net generation - no need to reinvent the wheel (many blog posts are reactions or responses to something that already exists). As an aside, this approach isn't new. How many high school essays start out "Webster's Dictionary defines [my topic] as..."?

However, for the purposes of this exercise, I am forgoing that maneuver. I'm going to start from scratch and see where "urbanism" takes me.

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...then at the very least, you should build a plaza.

Country Club Office Plaza Entry MonumentCountry Club Office Plaza Entry Monument

Country Club Office Plaza is located in West Des Moines off Jordan Creek Parkway.

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Don't Even THINK About It!Don't Even THINK About It!This fountain is located at the entrance to the Country Club Office Plaza in West Des Moines. Evidently the idea of fun doesn't sit well with their insurance company. The big brown sign on the fountain reads "NO TRESPASSING" in big bold helvetica.

This is a great example of how suburban developments use representational ideas (a fountain) designed to make people feel comfortable. When you drive past at 45 miles per hour, they often work as intended. A closer examination, however, can lead to the discovery of awkward conflicts.

What could be more inviting than a fountain on a 90 degree day? But.... place that fountain 15 feet from a six lane automobile thoroughfare and it looses a bit of appeal. A large sign shouting "NO TRESPASSING" takes away a little more appeal. Placing it between a fast food drive-thru and an automobile-oriented bank building kills whatever remaining appeal the fountain had.

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