March 2009 Archive

Daily Links

March 31st, 2009
  • Kent’s diversity is easy to take for granted, Chris Magdamit readily admits. The technical writer says a recent business trip to Oklahoma City was an eye-opener.
    "I saw two Asian faces the entire week I was there, and I was actively looking because I wanted to talk to them to see why they ended up there" in Oklahoma, says Magdamit, who is Filipino American.

    Magdamit, 31, shares a Kent house with his brother and sister-in-law, both of whom were lured by the city’s lower housing prices after searching homes in Seattle, the Eastside and the North Puget Sound. Even though there is a concentration of Filipinos in Kent, Magdamit says the Filipino community is not as tight-knit as that of his hometown of Port Orchard. Because there were so few, Filipinos tended to stick together, Magdamit says.

Daily Links

March 27th, 2009
  • Oklahoma City, so far, has sought to preserve the image of the street grid — new east-west streets are expected to be numbered in accordance with their position on the grid — but hasn’t demanded greater traffic connectivity in new subdivisions. And they probably won’t, since neighborhoods fear additional traffic, especially if it’s above the speed limit and/or involves people who Don’t Live Here.
    (tags: dustbury)
  • I heard recently about a family that has what sounds like an ideally quiet living situation — on a cul-de-sac, backing up to a park, in a well-regarded suburban school district. But their house has been burglarized and vandalized repeatedly. Neighboring homes have been hit as well. The park, open only to homeowners, makes it easy for idle youths to sneak unobserved into someone's backyard. They wouldn't be noticed from the street, as few cars or pedestrians would go past — it's not on the way to anywhere. (See Jane Jacobs' Death and Life of Great American Cities for more about the problem with parks that extend too far from the nearest traffic.)
    (tags: batesline)
  • The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.
  • On the other hand, nine of the 10 least walkable cities are inland. In most of them, largely unfettered expansion and low densities were possible from the get-go. Boston’s growth was restricted by the presence of the Atlantic Ocean, and San Francisco’s growth was restricted by the Pacific Ocean; Oklahoma City’s growth was restricted by, well, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

OKC Walkability Topic of Fast Company Article

March 25th, 2009

Looks like people are paying attention to Oklahoma City’s efforts to improve walkability…

From Alissa Walker’s Blog at Fast Company:

“New Yorkers today are upset over mass transit fares being hiked from $2 to $2.50, and nationwide, many light-rail and other mass-transit projects await stimulus funding. The best way to blow off some of that steam? Take a walk!

A city’s walkability is not only good for fostering healthy development in urban areas, but it can also affect its economic competitiveness, says design consultant Jeff Speck. Since walkability is one of the most important aspects that 20- and 30-year-olds look at when moving to a city, he says cities must make improvements to their walkability or they will be losing out on attracting tomorrow’s work force.

Take Oklahoma City, a city that has been declared not OK when it comes to pounding the pavement, says Speck, former director of design for the NEA. Oklahoma City scored dead last in walkability according to a study by Prevention magazine last year (Cambridge, Massachusetts, came out #1). So this year, the city decided to get serious about their bipedal citizens: They hired Speck to tell them how to make their streets more pedestrian-friendly in a city that was built–overbuilt, really–for cars.

In Oklahoma City, Speck looked at traffic patterns and saw a “shocking disconnect” between the size of the streets and how fast cars were moving. The streets had density and traffic volume comparable to a city the size of Chicago or Manhattan. He also was quick to point out the health benefits to a walkable city: cleaner air, lower health-care costs. “To be walkable, a street needs to be safe, comfortable, and interesting,” Speck told the city. “You guys lose it at safe.” Ouch!

For those who can’t hire Speck to walk your streets and suggest improvements, a few Web resources are at hand, er, foot. WalkScore can rate your neighborhood for its walkability and tell you what’s nearby so you don’t have to climb in the car. And America Walks is an advocacy group that fights for infrastructural improvements that benefit walkers and bikers. Now get going. ”

So maybe they aren’t paying positive attention, but at least we have now acknowledged the problem and we are headed in the right direction?  At least I think that is the direction we are headed…

ULI: Round II

March 24th, 2009

Hey Everyone,

I am tied up working on stuff for our final round ULI presentation which will take place in Denver next Wednesday. Sorry for the dearth of post this week (and probably next week as well).

I have some new stuff (good stuff) related to OKC history that I will try to post soon, so if that is of interest then try to check back in a few days.

Thanks! Blair

Daily Links

March 23rd, 2009
  • Oklahoma State Attorney Drew Edmondson. (AP Photo)


    A survey conducted by Oklahoma news organizations and FOI Oklahoma as part of Sunshine Week found at least nine cities are not posting either calendars or agendas for city council meetings on their Web sites.

    City officials in Kingfisher, Sapulpa, Jenks, Mustang, Waynoka, Wagoner, Okmulgee and Warr Acres all said they were unaware of the requirement and pledged to start posting the information as soon as possible.

  • Senat said he hopes the concept of government transparency is catching on with the public and with government officials.

    "This can’t be just a one-week effort,” Senat said. "It really has to be a year-round focus by the press and the public to remind officials who may not get it. The basic principle is that these records belong to the public, and government officials are simply the caretakers of the public’s right to know.”

Daily Links

March 21st, 2009

Walkability consultant tells it like it is

March 20th, 2009

I have to say, the article from Steve Lackmeyer gave me a reason to smile this morning.  Hearing that a walkability expert concluded that our downtown streets are overly accommodating cars, gives me hope that maybe this time something will be done to address the long-standing problem.  I have said plenty about walkability in the past, so I will spare you an additional rant. I have copied the article below for your reading pleasure and hope it will spur a discussion about our design and spending priorities downtown – especially with MAPS 3 around the corner.

Lastly, I want to give it up to Mayor Cornett who brought in the consultant to study the issue.  The Mayor has talked about making downtown more pedestrian-friendly for some time and he deserves credit for taking the initial steps towards making that happen.  It was a good move on his part and as someone that cares deeply about the issue – thank you!

From The Oklahoma, “Oklahoma City streets not made for walking, design consultant concludes”

By Steve Lackmeyer

Jeff Speck, who first introduced himself to Oklahoma City by announcing “your codes are bad,” is back with a new message: the sidewalks and streets aren’t great, either.

Speck, who was hired to look at how to improve pedestrian access downtown, is coming out with a report that suggests Oklahoma City must make a dramatic change if it wants to compete for tomorrow’s work force.

“The jaw dropper for me is the city’s traffic count map,” Speck said. “If you walk the city, and you look at the streets, you would think because of the size of the streets that traffic is two to three times what is actually experienced. There is a shocking disconnect between the size and speediness of all of your downtown streets with a few rare exceptions.”

‘It’s ridiculous’
Streets getting the most critical eye from Speck include Hudson Avenue between Reno Avenue and Robert S. Kerr Avenue. Those trying to cross the six-lane street Thursday included Henry Jerome, 34, who was on his way to the Oklahoma County Courthouse.

“This is why I don’t come downtown,” Jerome said. “I thought parking would be bad, but it really wasn’t. But this street — it’s ridiculous. And all these one-way streets are scary. Why does it have to be this way?”

According to Speck, it doesn’t. Speck showed the downtown street configurations to traffic engineers outside the state and their first response was to guess the street grid was set up for a downtown density and traffic volume comparable to Chicago or Manhattan.

“They said this is a street network that will support three to four times the density it is handling,” Speck said. “Then you look at the traffic counts, and only a few carrying 10,000 a day. And 10,000 cars a day is easily handled by a two-lane road.”

Speck cites three reasons the city should be more concerned about being pedestrian friendly: less traffic translates into cleaner air, and more walking promotes health and reduces health care costs, and a pedestrian-friendly community is high on the list of amenities sought by 20- and 30-year-olds as they look at where they want to live and work.

“To be walkable, a street needs to be safe, comfortable and interesting,” Speck said. “You guys lose it at safe.”

Making progress
Speck applauds the city for making some progress in the interests of pedestrians, including the conversion of several downtown streets from one-way to two-way traffic. The city is wrapping up a study on how to improve downtown’s streets, sidewalks, lighting and other amenities.

Speck will be presenting his full findings and recommendations to the city council on March 31, followed by a public presentation that night at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel. His audience will include Jane Jenkins, who started her new job this week as president of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc. and is regularly walking from her home at the Sieber Hotel Apartments and her office at the Oklahoma Tower.

“It could be better, because there aren’t a lot of pedestrians yet downtown and so I’m not meeting enough people walking,” Jenkins said.

“But it’s better than I thought. There are buttons for people to cross and the sidewalks are done well. But we could certainly use more pedestrians.”

Jenkins also looks at Hudson Avenue and agrees it’s not very busy, but adds that actually makes it safer than it might appear. She agrees, however, the street needs more “buffers” to make it more pedestrian friendly.

“We need to get people walking,” Jenkins said.

Daily Links

March 20th, 2009
  • Highlights:
    – Convention Center = JOBS! (that is debatable, but at least we all agree it is not about QoL)
    – Intimates that we should be more like Indianapolis with a "super giant convention center."
    – States that we must retain the cox convention center

Boston in Motion

March 18th, 2009

This is not the first time I have posted a time-lapse video, but this is the first time I have posted one that I produced. I worked on the video as part of a studio site analysis project that I presented earlier this week. It is my first time-lapse attempt and there are definitely some kinks to work out (most noticeably the fact that every time a train passes the camera shakes a little). Still, I think it is pretty cool. Watch it and let me know what you think. If you have a short attention span then fast-forward to around the 50 second mark and watch from there. Cheers!

Back Under Center

March 16th, 2009

The Oklahoman‘s Monday Morning Quarterbacks section has once again written a blurb about imagiNATIVEamerica.  This time referencing the “A Convention Center IS NOT About Quality of Life” post.  Here is what they had to say:

MAPS for who?

Who will MAPS 3 be for? That’s one question on the mind of Oklahoma City native Blair Humphreys. “My impression has always been that MAPS was about focusing less on what outsiders want and more on what the people of Oklahoma City want,” Humphreys writes on his blog at Humphreys said he has asked for and wants more information about the report recommending the city build a bigger, better convention center and doesn’t know if such a move would take too much focus and money away from quality-of-life type improvements that were the hallmark of the original MAPS.

Is this the start of an transparent public discussion?  I’ll cross my fingers.