Designing My Fair City

This is a list I've been building in my mind for a very long time. Basically, every time I engage in urban wanderlust, I end up ruminating on all the things I want to see improved on in my city. If I ever got the big idea to hold my city hostage, this would be my list of demands (barring any assumption that my city can defy the laws of physics)*. But it's important to preface my list by explaining that my city is already quite lovely. We have many walkable neighborhoods, a lot of green space, and a considerable amount of public art and character. Still, there's always room for improvement.

  1. I want all of my city's waterways to be fishable and swimmable. Water being necessary to sustain human life, I've always considered this to be a top priority and find it fairly unconscionable that we can't even meet this very low standard.
  2. I want all of my city's green spaces to be connected. I want to be able to wander through our entire park system without ever having to cross a street.
  3. For every foot of roadway, I want to see triple the space devoted to pedestrian paths, bike paths, and urban railway.
  4. Whenever road construction interferes with pedestrian/cyclist paths, I want to see a clear, short, and safe detour for pedestrians and cyclists.
  5. Also, I want more safe ways to cross roads for pedestrians/cyclists, in general.
  6. I want native plant barriers between roadways and pedestrian/cyclist paths.
  7. I want commuting by train/bus to be more convenient than commuting by car for everyone.
  8. I want more public waterfront space. A lot more.
  9. I want smoking to be eliminated from all public (indoor and outdoor) spaces. Air being necessary to sustain human life, this one seems like a gimme.
  10. I want roads to be designed for their speed limits and speed limits to reflect the design of the road.
  11. I want tighter boundaries around my city--an even stronger focus on density as opposed to suburban sprawl.
  12. I want more and better signage directing me to community/cultural spaces.
  13. I want a bus schedule at every stop.
  14. I want an easy-to-find and navigate comprehensive resource enumerating all of the public spaces and events available to me at all times.
  15. I want more community/cultural spaces open at all different times of the day and night. And holidays too. Presidents' Day should offer me more than the ability to buy a cheap mattress. Public space should be available when the public has time to use it, which often includes after-hours.
  16. I'd prefer more public amenities: restrooms, public phones, etc.
  17. And I would love to see wireless publicly available all throughout the city. And actually have it work.
That's all I can think of for now, but I'm sure I'll be adding more later. Sadly, I'm guessing that I represent the very last stakeholder group my city actually considers when planning urban improvements, so this list will likely be around for a while. Developers, large business owners, and even soccer moms probably all take precedence over my childless, youngish, pragmatic, low-consuming demo. Nonetheless, a girl can dream.

*=The Tick reference:

UPDATE: Interesting commentary on how writing things down can simplify them. After writing this list, it became clear that accomplishing a few of the bigger changes I want would directly obviate many of the smaller changes. I guess that's what planning is all about.

Nothing New byslag at 9:13 AM

3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

Gye Greene said...

Good stuff!

Non-exhaustive comments:

#2 - Tricky. One work-around would be to delete all but one: tah-dah! Otherwise: dimensional portals?

#7 - Yay! :)

#9 - Sure. But then , need a solution as to where the smokers go. (Air-conditioned, air-filtered rooms in all public buildings?)

#11 - Not sure what you mean by this. There are cities (or water) butting up on all sides: no where left to "sprawl" **to**.

#13 - They used to do this; isn't any more?

Even better, GPS'd dots for each bus servicing that stop, overlaid on a map, so you have a sense of how long/far 'til the next bus. (Touchscreen kiosk? We **have** the technology...) Maybe at every 5th stop...?

#15 - only if the workers get paid extra for having to work on a holiday...

#16 - harder and harder to find public phones; I think the perception is that more people have cell phones, so the (real!) usage rate of pay phones makes them even less efficient(?) than before.

#17 - Hm. Providing for free what ISPs charge for? And: does this include data-logging by the govt?


slag said...

#2 Not tricky at all. Just buy up narrow strips of land connecting them all. And build bridges. In fact, I looked into this a while back, and it appears that the city did have some plans to do it back in the 70s but shelved them for budgetary reasons. I want them back.

#9 Private smoking houses are probably the best solution, I suppose. But honestly, I could tell them to put plastic bags over their heads and puff away. Just keep their wantonly carcinogenic air to themselves.

#11 Not entirely. Call them suburbs or exurbs, but it's all the same really. We've kind of blown it as far as designing for density goes and have enabled these crappy commuter towns to pop up all around us. But it doesn't have to be that way.

#13 Not consistently. I don't care what form bus schedules take as long as they're there. And include a map of some sort illustrating the bus route.

#15 Yuppers.

#16 Indeed. But phones are important for public safety. And watching them disappear is no good.

#17 Well, the city government would likely be contracting out to some provider. There's already free WiFi in many libraries and they're working on making it available on buses (or so it seems). It's just a matter of transferring costs from the individual to the collective, thereby enabling blanket--rather than sporadic--wifi coverage.

Gye Greene said...

#13: bus schedules -- hm. Well, there were always bus schedules on the posts in the two neighborhoods The Lady and I used to live in. Either your neighborhood is under-serviced, or they've deprecated that amenity over the last few years.


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