No, Historic Preservation Does Not Inhibit Urban Growth

While the development boom being experienced in New York City, Paris and London isn’t quite the same in Cincinnati, the Queen City does share in some of these issues surrounding historic preservation. Some believe that protecting and preserving historic structures is a barrier for development.

This has been seen most recently in the easy approval of the updated Lytle Park Historic District boundary, which is now much smaller than it once was. The reason such changes received easy approval at City Hall is because of the promise of new development, but is that the correct way to think about it? More from Next City:

American preservationists, too, have become so accustomed to pushing for the enforcement of preservation laws that they often are stereotyped as gatekeepers of nostalgia. Those who fought New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan for upzoning part of Midtown Manhattan were demonized as anti-development. In truth, they were trying to protect the existing development. Polyphonic streetscapes of buildings of varying heights, styles and forms blended with smart new design attract people.

[…]

Preservationists are mediators between cultural heritage and economic demands, and they often don’t win what they want. The rambling mass of buildings joined under La Samaritaine’s walls and the stately mass of Cleveland’s Fifth Church of Christ, Scientist are far from evident in the remaining fragments. Yet what has actually been saved in both cases is invisible: the integrity of preservation laws, the enhanced value of developments that incorporate elements of the past and the continuity of urban character that makes cities continue to be desirable places. Years later, no one will see the battle scars from these fights, but they will see interesting works of contemporary architecture based on historic elements, thanks to preservation activists fighting overbearing design.

Metro Has Begun Installing New 24-Hour Ticketing Kiosks Throughout City

The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) has made a new push to expand ticket and stored-value cards by adding new locations and options for riders to make their purchases.

The first announcement was that Metro would begin selling passes at Cincinnati City Hall, starting April 1, inside the city’s Treasury Department in Room 202. The sales office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm, and will offer Zone 1 and 2 Metro 30-day rolling passes, $20 stored-value cards and Metro/TANK passes.

The new location marks the twelfth sales office for Metro including three others Downtown and locations in Walnut Hills, Tri-County, Western Hills, North College Hill, Over-the-Rhine, Roselawn, College Hill and Avondale.

The region’s largest transit agency also installed its first ticket vending machine. The new kiosk is located at Government Square and is available for use 24 hours a day. The machine only accepts cash and credit cards, and offers Metro 30-day rolling passes including Metro/TANK passes, and $10, $20 and $30 stored-value cards.

According to Metro officials, this is the first of more ticketing machines to come with the stations in the Uptown Transit District to be the next locations to get them. Future additions, officials say, will be chosen based on the amount of ridership at given transit hubs throughout the system.

The new sales options come after Metro introduced a new electronic fare payment system in 2011. The new modern options of payment and ticketing proved so popular that after just one year, Metro officials cited the updated technology as one of the primary drivers for its ridership growth.

While the new initiatives show progress for the 41-year-old transit agency, they also show just how far behind the times it is.

The best fare payment systems in the world are tap and go systems that allow riders to charge their cards with whatever value they would like, thus eliminating any confusion of needing specific cards for certain time periods or values. Such cards also allow for perfect interoperability between various modes of transport including bus, rail, ferry, bikeshare and taxi.

In other instances, like Seoul’s T-Money Card and London’s Oyster Card, the systems even allow for the tap and go payment systems to accept credit cards and bank cards enabled with the technology – totally eliminating any barrier for potential riders wary of signing up for a new card they may not use all that often.

Similar to the fare payment cards, the new ticketing machines are outdated on arrival. Transit agencies throughout the United States that have had ticketing machines for years, like Chicago and New York, are currently in the process of transitioning to touch screen kiosks that are more user-friendly.

PHOTOS: Riding the Rails in Europe

Last summer I visited several cities in Europe and photographed a few of the scenes going on across the pond. My travels took me to Brussels and Oostende in Belgium; Cologne, Germany; and to London, Cardiff and Brighton Beach in the United Kingdom. The photo set below is premised on several observations:

Quality of  city transportation: Brussels has the cleanest trams of the whole trip. These trams are Bombardier 4000 series trams delivered to the city in 2010. The seating is very comfortable, the trams feature LCD screens and wood panel finishes. Trams running underground featured the traditional turnstile system found in many other underground systems.

Cologne’s trams are older and feature on-board payment systems both above and below ground. Their system consists of two joined rail cars. In some instances such as around Neumarkt Square also use the same transit right-of-ways reserved for trains.

London’s Tube system is the largest subway system in the world. However the city also features an aerial tram known as the United Emirates Line. The tram runs continuously, unlike a similar system in Portland, Oregon, and connects London’s former Olympic Village to the O2 Centre.

Cardiff also featured rail transit, however the system was antiquated and utilize heavy diesel trains that were sometimes as small as a single rail car.

Bicycle Infrastructure: Bicycle share was available in many of the cities I visited including Brussels and London. In Cologne bicycle lanes were placed on the road side of sidewalks and were delineated with either special paint or pavers in some areas. There were similar observations in Cardiff.

Placemaking: From the Dom in Cologne to Grote Markt in Brussels, Europe is filled with beautiful community gathering spots.

Enjoy the photos!

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Are pay-per-minute cafes the next generation of coworking spaces?

Cincinnati has seen its ups and downs with coworking spaces, including our favorite but now closed Cincy Coworks in Walnut Hills. The idea was and still is great – especially for the growing number of freelance or independent professionals who would like a space to work that isn’t either their living room couch or a congested coffee shop. Well this new company out of Russian has a slight twist on the traditional coworking space, if you can call coworking spaces traditional. What they do is operate a bit like a coworking space and a bit like a café, but instead of charging monthly memberships or for the latte; they charge users for occupying the space. More from Grist:

Ziferblat, a Russian company that just opened its first branch in London, works on an unusual premise: It charges you for the time you spend in its space, rather than what you consume there…The charge for the space is 3 pence (about 5 cents) per minute, and it works out to about the same rate you’d pay in a coffee shop, if you bought a small item for every hour to 90 minutes you linger. But it’s your choice — do you actually need a fancy latte? Do you want a sandwich? If you’re not hungry or caffeine-deprived and you just want a space to work or hang out — well, that’s all that’s required here. It’s sort of like a private park, but inside and with couches and free coffee.

Has the United States given up on building subway systems?

Everyone knows that America’s roadways and bridges are crumbling, but the United States has also seemingly given up on its subway systems. Atlanta’s subway system was the last subway system started in the U.S., and its construction commenced in 1979. Since that time no other American city has been able to figure out the financing of a subway system with the disappearance of federal funding support. More from Governing:

The rapid pace of subway construction, especially in developing countries, has driven the number of systems in the world to more than 190, according to the Economist. One reason for the boom has to do with government stimulus programs that followed the financial crisis, allowing investment in subway construction to soar. One country that’s noticeably absent from the project lists that appear in trade publications is the U.S.

With transit funding still uncertain, given the lack of a stable, dependable funding stream from Congress, all but a handful of cities have decided to stay clear of such money-draining projects…Some might argue that we don’t need such large-scale transit systems, which are not only expensive to build but expensive to run. Indeed, debates over the pros and cons of a subway system have killed many plans while delaying some construction projects for decades, not just in the U.S. but in other countries as well. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that the U.S. is becoming an increasingly urbanized country, with more people working and living in cities every year.