Jon Talton: A Brief History of Phoenix
High Country Nocturne: A David Mapstone Mystery (Coming in June)
The Night Detectives: A David Mapstone Mystery
South Phoenix Rules: A David Mapstone Mystery
Deadline Man: A Novel
Powers of Arrest: A Cincinnati Casebook
The Pain Nurse: The First Cincinnati Casebook
Includes my short story "Bull.": Phoenix Noir
Arizona Dreams: A David Mapstone Mystery
Dry Heat: A David Mapstone Mystery
Camelback Falls: A David Mapstone Mystery
Cactus Heart: A David Mapstone Mystery
Concrete Desert: The First David Mapstone Mystery
« Keep out the vote |
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Edward Jensen was kind enough to interview me on the history of downtown Phoenix and the issues facing it. Listen to the Downtown Phoenix Podcast here.
If you want a deeper dive, try the Phoenix 101 columns, "What Killed Downtown." Understanding this history is important for future progress.
Posted at 10:45 AM in Downtown & central Phoenix, Phoenix | Permalink
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Side-note: important information regarding Inmarsat's new erroneous analysis claiming that the plane's path most likely took it into the southern Indian Ocean near the current search area off Australia, has been added here:
Emil Pulsifer |
March 24, 2014 at 01:05 PM
I reposted a cleaned-up version of the text with the prefatory paragraph deleted; also posted is a new postscript:
Emil Pulsifer |
March 24, 2014 at 02:15 PM
After listening to the podcast, I'd like to comment on the problem about "cheerleading" for downtown Phoenix. I know some really good people who think it's virtual treason to say anything negative about downtown. I understand why but the problem at this point is systemic. The Phoenix "paradigm" - low density, emphasis on a real estate economy, the one person-one car transportation system, and a stifling lack of urbane values - is self-perpetuating and self-magnifying. You don't - and can't - retrofit the sprawl. At best, you knit together a piece of fabric here or there that best resembles something city-like (with eyes very much squinted). If Phoenix still had good urban neighorhoods, it's unlikely the downtown would have ever lost its functionality as a core. Midtown Phoenix would be healthy, too. That the areas just outside downtown are mostly barren is partly the market handing down its verdict and partly the natural outcome of real-estate interests cannibalizing the city they should have nurtured. Downtown cannot be rescued either through good intentions or demonstration projects. It's much too late.
The Phoenix problem is holistic. How does a city completely reinvent itself? There is, perhaps, one example of a city doing this, which would be LA. But downtown LA didn't clear-cut its urban fabric like Phoenix did (granted, not much there to begin with, but still.....). It's interesting that those areas in DTLA that were clear-cut like Bunker Hill are the most inert areas of downtown. There's hope that some Frank Gehry buildings might revive it. Uh, I don't think so.
At this point, all we can do is read our Jane Jacobs and mourn for what might have been. Phoenix was lost before most of us knew any better. The bitter - and rather expensive - tears we shed today will not raise our Lazarus. We might push it a bit in a positive direction but that's probably as good as we can do.
BTW, here in Portland, I've come to the kind of conclusion that you can have too much of a good thing. What makes this city wonderful is its economic and social diversity. It really shows up in the cultural scene, particularly music, film, and art. Well, Portland being a very cool place, and with lots of people moving here, rents are far outstripping inflation. It's not San Francisco or Seattle yet, but you can tell which way the wind is blowing. And when Portland finally gets there, it won't be nearly as interesting. All those signs demanding Keep Portland Weird may be for naught. I wish it weren't so, but we're probably living on borrowed time.
March 24, 2014 at 02:26 PM
Side-note: I just added a second postscript ("P.P.S") providing additional information that might shed light on exactly what data is and is not available from Inmarsat.
Emil Pulsifer |
March 24, 2014 at 02:28 PM
That was a great holding-forth, Jon - your writing is of course iconic and clear, but once you got going I could see your vision presented more holistically.
Kudos to the interviewer for giving you the space to elaborate.
And good observations by soleri, above - particular the bit about trying to unravel and re-knit this sprawled mess. There are a lot of Midwesterners (*cough* ex-in-laws *cough*) "enjoying" the fantasy version of Phoenix that Jon spoke of, and they vote Arpaio and freeways and charming privatized "museums."
I sympathize with these folk. I was just a poor east-coaster youth when I hit this town, and the romance of the rocks and the blazing sun is very overwhelming when you come from a place that is relentlessly lush and full of life. Of course I could not see the wealth (woods, seasons, wildlife) I left behind due to the psychological blinders of poverty... so "shade, shade, shade" sounds like indulgent heresy to me. But I think I finally get it after this talk, Jon. I loved what you said about what could be in-filled around the areas of the Science Museum, for example. And that is a consequence of, really, me alighting from the WBIYB every morning on my commute.
I'm still in love with Phoenix (proper.)
Final note: I really wanted to stay in Portland, soleri, and was sorry to have had to limp back (family and economic issues,) but I'm glad I did. A person has to die somewhere, and this town, with all of its faults, sings to me. After all my years in Phoenix, at the end of the day (because of the ambient liberalism that Phoenix lacks,) Portland was just a very friendly stranger.
March 24, 2014 at 06:27 PM
Sorry about the mudslide. :(
March 24, 2014 at 07:36 PM
Petro, as a Phoenix native, I know the melodies by heart. But the magic had been dying slowly for several decades. For as long as I can remember I wanted Phoenix to become a better city. Never mind good, least of all great. Just better. And it wasn't happening. But I'll recount a few of the places where the magic lived in my bones so this doesn't sound like a rant.
First, the Arizona Canal, flanked by eucaplyptus trees, as it cut toward Squaw Peak. Or the desert there, Dreamy Draw, which through the 1960s was as beautiful as any place on Earth on a moonlit night. Or the old Roosevelt neighborhood, majestic and dignified in the 1950s prior to the 1-10 clear-cutting. Or the vibrant downtown we all loved, and even the neighborhoods around the State Capitol, that were stately in their old age. All gone, all irretrievable.
I'll always be a desert rat in my heart. Portland is a foreign substance my body still wants to reject (fortunately, not as much as in the beginning). I've immersed myself in its history and lore, partly to deepen my sense of the place. What Portland offers is the visible linkage between past and present, of a city whose history is as manifest as its geography. Old buildings really help, and so do the stunning near-ruins of its industrial past. This city sparkles with the phosphorescence of a definite past.
That's what I wanted from Phoenix - memories that touched a vital nerve and what I would call love for want of a better descriptor. Phoenix had so little and it was wanton in discarding even that treasure. The Big Bright Tomorrow that defined our love of progress became a bad trip over time. All the newness turned old except it wasn't beautiful because it never rooted in something other than a way to make money. What's frightening about Phoenix today is that sense of age without dignity, the once voluptuous startlet staring at her 45 year-old face in the mirror and realizing her one triumph - sex appeal - was now betraying her. That's Phoenix. All that copulating gratification couldn't produce a ghost worth being haunted by. When I said goodbye, I didn't look back. No need. It may be in my DNA but it's not in a heart that still beats.
March 24, 2014 at 07:50 PM
What an enchanting response. Thank you.
I was forced to "go Emil" and haunt the local library for Internet access when I was in Portland. While waiting, I found this awesome history book of the Northwest, copyright somewhere in the 1860's, and it was a fat piece of candy that disseminated info on the settlement up there, the "railroader war" that settled the routes that are in place today, the origin of the Portland "Rose" tradition, the iconic Hawthorne mental facility, the mesmerizing racism against locals of Chinese providence. I digested (most of) this tome while waiting to get online.
March 24, 2014 at 08:08 PM
Petro and Soleri thank you for the enlightening dialogue. Phoenix is where I call home but Portland is the city where I smile with the residents and can do without a car and nutty politics . Financial ties hold me in Phoenix and a future in Portland is questionable as Soleri accurately assesses escalating rents in Portland. Maybe Vancouver?
March 24, 2014 at 10:22 PM
Jon my old puter wont do the pod cast but I love the Phoenix 101 stuff. My friend and I both went to the Fox and Rialto many times, even though we didnt know each other at the time. And the Penney Arcade where I could make the electric shock machine smoke and of course for great Greasy food, it was the Busy Bee Cafe, ran by the Greek brothers.
cal Lash |
March 24, 2014 at 11:00 PM
Homeless, I suggest Uruguay.
cal Lash |
March 24, 2014 at 11:32 PM
@Homeless. I think Vancouver is MUCH more expensive to live in than Portland. Check out Indianapolis, Columbus (Ohio), Pittsburgh or Cincinnati. Places with a good urban vibe but affordable. I’d put Birmingham on the list, but you really live here without a car.
wkg in bham |
March 24, 2014 at 11:55 PM
OOps, that would be "you really can't live here without a car"
wkg in bham |
March 25, 2014 at 12:05 AM
Google how easy it is to move to Uruguay. Good clumate. Good people.
Better than "THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA"
cal Lash |
March 25, 2014 at 12:28 AM
Thanks Cal for the suggestion. I guess I should have written Vancouver, Washington.
March 25, 2014 at 05:17 AM
Homeless, Vancouver, WA is cheap for a reason. I used to hear the same thing about Phoenix. The trouble is you would probably still need a car. Portland's east side is cheap too, and there's good transit. The disadvantage is that it's Phoenix with trees, and not the best part of Phoenix, either. Indeed, you can really see how Phoenix and Portland are complete opposites in this way. While central Portland is vibrant, the suburbs are dreary. Still, I hold out hope that the hippies, who are gradually being priced out of Portland, will recreate their funky magic in Gresham. This same phenomenon has happened in many other gentrifying cores around the nation. I'm guessing Portland has about 10 years left before the yuppies claim complete victory.
The one problem with my scenario is that the tragically hip had good city bones to work with. This is why Phoenix, cheap as it is, can't really leverage their energy to good effect. Where are the old warehouses, the dilapidated houses, and ratty retail districts? We mowed 'em down. Phoenix is mostly a blank slate advertising "high-rise potential". Grand Avenue probably has the most artifacts but I would never trust the city to preserve it. One modest uptick in real-estate values and the vultures will descend on the area.
March 25, 2014 at 06:41 AM
Is the light rail plan between Portland and Vancouver still in process?
March 25, 2014 at 09:21 AM
No. The CRC is dead, which included extending the MAX line to Vancouver. You would think the folks there might appreciate more transit options to Portland but you'd be wrong. Even with the universal examples of enhanced property values, the locals tend to see transit as a conspiracy to let minorities into their lily-white burbs. Portland is extending a south line to Milwaukie and Clackamas (aka, Clackastan) County. Lots of upset burghers there as well. They seem to think modern life is a conspiracy to take away their guns and cars.
March 25, 2014 at 09:51 AM
At the risk of using a broad brush, Vancouver WA is the Mississippi of the Northwest. Very red. Most of Washington state is red and in the legislature this doomed the Columbia Crossing project, which included light rail. Seattle is the cash cow for net-taker rural WA, but they see Seattle as the devil and try to hurt it at every turn.
Rogue Columnist |
March 25, 2014 at 10:34 AM
Soleri if U get back to Phoenix, grab a hot dog at the Duce, 525 S Central.
Grand avenue is failing except for the green stripe on the roadway.
City Scape es mas feo.
In 1980 Edward Abbey in his book The Good News, page 235, wrote, "You know, Colonel, poor Phoenix never was a real city."
cal Lash |
March 25, 2014 at 11:03 AM
More Washington state context:
Rogue Columnist |
March 25, 2014 at 11:20 AM
Diane a comment from me for U on previous blog
cal Lash |
March 25, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Today I had the realization while reading posts from ex-Phoenicians about the agenda put forth. When I could see many waxing nostalgic for movie theaters, and greasy spoons it became apparent. While I do not disagree that Phoenix is useless, I don't agree with the mindset and the like.
One of the few ways for you to have your nostalgic cake and eat it to is to have an infrastructure to support said cake. While several lamented about Portland having a history of industry, somehow Phoenix pissed off what was a claimed industry, and now there is nothing. Perhaps seeing the major issue has motivated some to seek the Apples, Teslas, Boeing and others to revitalize sectors. Building an infrastructure around solid business models makes sense. It worked for certain cities, that is until the economy changed. You have to roll with the changes, and grow to meet the needs of society. Unfortunately, a strip center on every corner does not make for an infrastructure.
Now when is Google going to install fiber optics in my house? Between 9 and noon? What does the truck look like?
March 25, 2014 at 12:59 PM
Joe I ll go with most of your post but
"grow to meet the needs of society."
Grow is the key word here. Sounds like progress. Lets see, grow more people? 6 billion not enough. Progress: draining groundwater sources. I kinda prefer words like shrink or stabilize.
At the current growth rate we will fall back to the bean people for advise on how to survive day to day.
In 1950 Phoenix was a "nice Town" now its just a big dirty air place where no one seems much interested in doing more than making a buck and leaving for Portland.
cal Lash |
March 25, 2014 at 01:30 PM
What’s wrong with Phoenix: It grew too big too fast.
A little personal history: I was born in 1948 Washington D.C. and grew up in Prince Georges County, Maryland. At the time, Washington may have been the most segregated city in the country. My dad worked for the Navy Department. When I was 14 we moved to Florida, my dad transferred to NASA at Cape Canaveral. We lived in “Cocoa”. Cocoa is in quotes because we lived out in the county and Cocoa was the nearest town. It really didn’t take all that much time to fit in. Maryland and Florida really weren’t all that much that different culturally at the time. Orlando was the “big city” where you needed to go to buy everything beyond normal day-to-day necessities. Orlando and Phoenix were very much alike; agricultural based with citrus, cattle and winter vegetables were the primary products. There was a little tourism, but it was minor league compared to Miami.
Then Disney happened. It grew explosively like Phoenix. It’s pretty much sucked ever since. It stopped being Orlando and became something else – something not nearly as good.
I’m going to take a time out and reflect: was the change one of physical layout of the city, or just the character of the people who live there?
wkg in bham |
March 25, 2014 at 07:40 PM
wkg, apt comparison between Orlando and Phoenix. If I may participate in your reflection, the change had everything to do with the physical nature of autocentric sprawl. I spend a lot of time online looking at pictures of cities from the past, particularly the pre-WWII era. What always gets me is how tightly woven their urban texture was. Why? Because cars and their spatial requirements had yet to tyrannize cities like they did later. Land was too valuable to squander on things like big lawns or huge parking lots. And the result were cities and towns where people knew one through proximity, where the physical form of the city was respected and dignified. After WWII, not so much.
I accept the reality of cars, and I'm not going to issue a fatwa against them, at least right now. But there is nothing that has done more damage to this nation, its physical character and architectural legacy than these monsters. All the great cities on Earth, all the wonderful places you can visit, and all the spectacular things there are to see exist in spite of cars. Cars ruin everything, including the character of people addicted to them. If social conservatives were truly serious about "morality", they would do everything they could to limit cars. They're not serious, of course, which is why most people regard their moralism with suspicion and even contempt.
March 25, 2014 at 09:04 PM
Soleri, since and traded the Honda Ridgeline PU for the Honda Fit I struggle to keep from getting run down by the Arizona cowboys in their High rise 4 wheel drive trucks going 85 in a 65. But I do like the ride,the 34 to 50 MPG and with all the seats that fold down there is room for my sleeping bag and a dog. And then there is that REI cot you know. Great for stargazing.
Plus I do not miss that huge living space and upkeep I left behind when I downsized from 2800 Square feet to 300 square feet.
And I can keep moving it further into the Great Sonoran Desert, whats left of it.
cal Lash |
March 25, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Soleri, re cars: For sure. As a kid, even two places such as close together as Washington and Baltimore were two distinctively different places. My mom was from the Boston area, and our obligatory summer “vacation” trips to visit her family was like traveling to a foreign country; albeit one that spoke English- sort of.
The last paved road in Cocoa was “Range Road”. This was all of maybe five miles inland from the coast. Although not strictly true, because there were a lot of fenced in orange groves and pastures, everything past Range Road was “range” until you got to Orlando 60 miles away. There were basically wild cattle wandering around that we called “range cows”. There was an almost distinct line drawn in the sand. On one side was town where land had value and on the other was “range” that had no value at all.
@cal: my regular drive for the last seven or eight years has been a Miata. I don’t think people who drive more or less “normal” cars can really appreciate the term “defensive driving”.
wkg in bham |
March 26, 2014 at 01:28 AM
Cal, no worries. The People's Republic of Soleri will leave your Drive in peace. Still I think you might agree with me that if it were possible to time-machine civilization to a pre-automotive state, not only would our cities be wonderful but Earth itself would be in much better shape. But that's nostalgia, so let's look and see who's really getting the future right. Say, Copenhagen where half of all commutes are by bicycle. Danes obviously hate freedom but they're on the forefront of ethical living in a perilous world. The Dutch, too, who are leaders in minimizing destructive habits of consumption. Needless to say, Europeans are much healthier than us, too (denser environments lead to more walking, for one thing) with an average BMI much lower than the average American's. The lowest among "advanced nations" appears to be South Korea, btw. Here's a nice way to measure yours and make a global comparison: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-18770328 Tiny houses are a big deal up in the NW, although I wish they'd stay parked instead of being Winnebagos for Millenials. That said, they're quite amazing. You Tube has a wonderful array of videos about them. One final note: the most destructive things we do to our bodies involve lack of exercise and eating too much sugar and processed food. Mark Bittman in this morning's NY Times goes one step further, coupling meat consumption not for anything inherently unhealthy but for what it does to the planet: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/26/opinion/bittman-butter-is-back.html?ref=opinion
March 26, 2014 at 07:06 AM
I can understand your want, your need to blame things on the car. It takes people to operate and do dumb things in that car. I would, and have commuted to downtown Phoenix by bicycle. I currently use light rail to get to Central and Van Buren. Frankly I miss my car, or even my bike since my time is now planned via making the train, and being somewhere not of my own schedule per se. Yet again, this is not the vehicles fault, it is the relation of humans in the equation. I want to be independent, and relying on public transit cramps that independence.
I don't really like public transit. I get a bit miffed when I have paid my $64 and see others that have not paid a cent. I also get irritated about the disrespect of others, the lack of a social collective. I just want others to live up to the social bargain that we are offered, which means being responsible citizens and paying your fair share to use services. I keep quiet, because my next alternative is wasting hours on I-10 stuck in traffic. I am researching a reasonable bike for commuting 12-14 miles, one way. I have bikes, but I am not excited about risking an expensive bike to the racks, and possible thievery. It is a shame that I would enjoy the exercise, but have to worry about others actions- again a human issue.
We can easily go into the history of the car, and don't get me wrong, I love the individuality that automobiles afford us. But again, this is another human failure. We can so easily express ourselves through the car, or some other inanimate object, but we fail to express ourselves directly, such as through words, art, or some other methodology. Don't blame cars, blame humans for their errors. Blame our own addictive behaviors for our downfall.
March 26, 2014 at 07:47 AM
Joe, in the 80's for three years I rode 34 miles a day on an 18 speed. 31 avenue and Thunderbird to 620 West Washington.
At lunch time I ran from 620 West to Encanto Park and back.
In the seventies I rode buses. In 75 as president of the Police Union I asked the city council to give city employees free bus passes. The council saw fit to give passes to cops, fire fighters and postal employees.
A few years later the council worked a deal for all city employees to get a reduced rate..
Today due to physical issues I ride a low rider 2 wheel recumbent.
cal Lash |
March 26, 2014 at 08:03 AM
I probably reached the apogee of my love affair with the automobile when I finally had a job that paid enough to buy a new Camaro. During the owning of that vehicle, I got not one date. Not one. From there, my satisfaction with single-occupancy car driving was all downhill, especially as I lived in different cities, traveled more and saw a wider world.
I haven't owned a car for some four years and don't miss it. (Even while living in Phoenix, Susan and I had gone down to only one car). It's easy to get a Zip Car or other ride share in Seattle. Best of all, mass transit is abundant is one is willing to live a transit-oriented city life. In Phoenix, I do everything I can to use light rail. Sometimes renting a car is unavoidable.
But the joy of driving was lost for me long ago. Too many people. Too many cars. Too many people who become monsters when they get in their cars.
I actually prefer mass transit because I can read, work, listen to music or a podcast, people-watch to create characters for a novel... It is rare that I run into a problem. Everybody rides transit in Seattle, not just the poor. And the built environment of Seattle offers dense neighborhoods with easy access to most everything. Plus, one can live in a suburb and drive, if one chooses. There are choices.
The tragedy of Phoenix, like so many Americans cities, is that the choices were largely taken away and cars and sprawl aggressively subsidized.
Rogue Columnist |
March 26, 2014 at 08:26 AM
It is so difficult to criticize Phoenix Public Transit and it not come off as a diatribe against the poor, or the homeless. I had read on this page the stories of others, and hope that light rail would connect jobs, and a quality of life above the apparent poverty level. The hope that young professionals would populate and help build the downtown into something to behold. I too was expecting to see more professionals, but that is the extreme exception, not the rule. Perhaps people pictured a San Jose/Silicon Valley situation, where thousands of professional "coders" and similar bilk commute to a chaotic structure that is constantly moving forward in a no holds barred progression towards the future. Banking jobs downtown do not equate to the Silicon Valley instant millionaire schema.
Perhaps a column, or a focus on investment in Phoenix would be a reasonable focus. There was a push 6 or so years ago, when people saw the benefits of projects like Skysong, to have significant investment into developing industries. I think there was a point where everyone was so happy that $250 million and then nearly $400 million was pledged by venture capitalists for projects like Genome, and DNA mapping. Then San Diego came onto the scene in a huge way. They boast $1 billion in research and capital in an ongoing basis. It is beyond hard to find current VC statistics locally now.
Back in the mid 90's US West was boasting completion of a Sonet ring for data and internet connectivity. Sonet runs of fiber optics and this specific ring looped right in front of the State Capitol through downtown Phoenix and out to ASU to complete the ring. Effectively the same path that light rail takes. When you take light rail to the east, once you pass 7th street, what do you have? If Phoenix wanted to emulate the Silicon Valley, the ring would be littered with buildings, companies, start ups all tied to the information age that seems to be driving so much now. Since the 90's there are other fiber optic networks available in the valley. There are a few information technology based companies splattered about. The reality is we had a chance to capitalize on the future. We still do. Nearly 6 years ago I jumped out of IT into the Education sector. With Google, and others attempting to come into the area, I felt that educating the youth to be successful in this new world was going to be important. How wrong I was. Education is so far behind the real world that it is losing its effectiveness at an alarming rate. Of the hundreds of teachers that I came into contact with, few worked outside of education, and even less know what it takes to compete in the current job market, such as IT.
We seriously need to grow up and get things fixed here so that we can live and work in the here and now. Budget cuts to education hurt. We don't have pathways built that put our kids on the doorstep of Google, or whatever company for that matter. Look for statistics on who Intel is hiring, it is not overwhelmingly local. Common Core is a joke. As a former English teacher, the only way to make myself look good was to teach toward the tests. Nobody cared if the kids understood Orwell, or could read Huck Finn. Forget The Jungle, few would get past chapter 1. Simply put, there is a reason why Phoenix is the way it is, we are not competitive in a variety of ways, lack the imperative to build our infrastructure, and effectively we sweat the small stuff far too much.
March 26, 2014 at 09:17 AM
Joe, I applaud you for going carless, but I want to re-emphasize that I don't hate blame cars qua cars so much as what they've done to our urban form and texture. Rather than regurgitate arguments that are either too abstract or too vague, let me ask you to ponder why people world-travel. What experiences are they looking for? I contend that it's exactly the qualities of civilization that exist beside or beyond modern life. No one goes to Paris to see a bunch of honking Peugeots or Citroens. They go to see a magnificent city that is best toured on foot and the occasional Metro ride. Ditto London, Venice, Munich, Prague, and Vienna. I would contend life is better there than in Phoenix, Las Vegas, or Orlando. And I would also contend that life is better in Portland, Seattle, Boston, or San Francisco. Phoenix has one really good thing going for it - its cheapness. It goes downhill from there.
Your negative experiences of living carless in Phoenix are completely understandable and, ahem, tautological. The price you pay for living in a car town is that mass transit isn't good, and that, as Rogue says, better choices have been taken away. What the libertarian right says is that we're all free to earn more money so we can drive cars and live anywhere we want to. That's their definition of freedom. Be rich. I don't blame the cars for our fixation on cars, but if you don't point out the mess created by them, you're not paying attention.
March 26, 2014 at 09:23 AM
I can yearn for the Republic of Soleri, but I’ve got to live in this one.
The only thing worse than being car-dependent is being transit-dependent. That said, the best place to live is one where a lot of life’s routines are within a comfortable walking distance; and that’s comfortable under most weather conditions. I don’t find the cost of a car to get back and forth to work or the occasional trip to be all that burdensome. I certainly don’t think of the car as personal statement. It’s just a tool. Well……I’ve got to admit every once in while it’s fun to go find a twisty road and cut her loose.
Here’s the trouble with bikes in Birmingham: hills, weather and safety. One of the good things about Phoenix (and there aren’t many) is that it’s nice and flat and you could find a reasonably safe route to bike. On the other hand, I can’t see riding a bike in 95+ degree weather being all that pleasant. Also, after sundown, it’s just not all that safe.
I gave buying a RV as a place to live some serious thought at one time. Plenty of room for a single person. Where to park it was the problem. Trailer parks have been pretty much zoned out of existence in the Birmingham metro area. I would have had to live way outside of my 20 minute commute guideline.
An aside: an easy way to attain dense, affordable housing is via trailer parks. Just can’t see the new urbanism crowd getting into this idea.
wkg in bham |
March 26, 2014 at 09:38 AM
"No one goes to Paris to see a bunch of honking Peugeots or Citroens"
God forbid, those things are hideous.
100 Octane |
March 26, 2014 at 09:39 AM
wkg, Phoenix has near-ideal topography for bike riding but you don't really see many commuters. I'm an avid cyclist and I really didn't enjoy it that much. Sprawl is not the best scenery, of course, but I think there's something else going on. Cycling is a creative-class activity. Phoenix, I dare say, is not a creative-class city. Aside from a few kids and homeless types, there weren't many of us out there.
I don't see transit-dependency as somehow worse than car addiction. Indeed, I'll say it's superior, at least on an ethical level. Granted, if you don't have to take transit, chances are you won't. That's why convenience is a double-edged sword. We often do things we shouldn't for no other reason than just that. And it becomes a compounding problem after a while. The less you do the right thing, the less you're going to do it in the future after you and others have starved the collective good for individual convenience.
City officials and planners are forced to play god for this reason. In Portland, there's hardly any free parking left in the center city. This is deliberate policy. Make car trips more inconvenient so people are more apt to take transit. People grouse - "it didn't use to be this way!". Yeah. Glory be.
I'm not a big fan of new urbanism because it feeds a conceit that architects can simply impose civic values tabula rasa. The results are often arrogant and ineffective. But that said, I don't oppose trailer parks although more needs to be done to make them blend aesthetically with the city around them. Some are actually quite good. And others, if homely, at least show a talent for intimate place-making. I saw this a lot in my old neighborhood of Sunnyslope. In some ways, they were desperately poor. And in other ways, unfathomably rich.
March 26, 2014 at 10:19 AM
An aside: an easy way to attain dense, affordable housing is via trailer parks. Just can’t see the new urbanism crowd getting into this idea.
If you could get the hipsters on it, you never know... After all, they are rescuing Airstreams and hideous 60's and 70's tin can trailers and restoring them. BTW, I went the motorhome route while living in northern San Diego for a short time. It can be done, and you can save a ton doing so.
--How did the hipster burn his mouth? He ate his food before it was cool.
March 26, 2014 at 10:20 AM
When you spoke of the investment in downtown Seattle by Paul Allen, it reminded me of a conversation we had about the differences between Salt Lake City Ut. and Mesa Az. The reason it reminded me of that is because shortly after our exchange here comparing Mesa to Salt Lake, I read an article that described how the Mormon Church recently invested $1.7 billion in ‘City Creek Center’ a shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake. (I wondered how much of that investment came from families who live here in the East Valley in the form of religious tithe.)
I thought this story emphasized your point.
March 26, 2014 at 02:14 PM
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