Will Detroit actually demolish 117,000 buildings over the next five years?

At the end of 2012 we sounded the alarm about a new grant from the State of Ohio that would allow for Hamilton County leaders to demolish approximately 700 buildings in the name of blight removal. Well try this on for size: the City of Detroit has proposed increasing its blight removal budget so that it can demolish 400 to 450 buildings a week over the next five years. For those keeping score, that would be anywhere from 104,000 to 117,000 total demolitions. More from The Detroit News:

Orr filed his debt-cutting plan of adjustment last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court and continues to meet opposition from retirees and other city creditors, but says his main focus is getting Detroit on track for its 700,000 residents.

Orr’s plan calls for the infusion of $1.5 billion into capital improvements over the next decade. Among them is an ambitious plan to target Detroit’s blight that Orr insists is “doable.” Orr dedicated about $520 million to blight removal over the next five years. The funding would ramp up demolitions from 114 a week to between 400 and 450.

URBANexchange Hosts Vice Mayor at Short Vine Taste of Beligum

Snow may still be on the ground but we will have warm waffles at this month’s URBANexchange event! That’s right, we are pleased to announce that for this month’s event we have moved to Taste of Begium’s Short Vine location. Come down for some waffles and chicken or some Belgian beers this Thursday from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. This is a great opportunity to check out the new development that has opened in Uptown.

As always, the event will be a casual setting where you can meet others interested in what is happening in the city. We will gather in a space near the bar so that each person can choose how much or little they buy in terms of food or drink. Although we do encourage our attendees to generously support our kind hosts at Taste of Belgium.

We are pleased to announce that Vice-Mayor David Mann (D) has indicated he will be attending the event. Mr. Mann has a distinguished career in the city as a former Mayor and Councilman. He returned to City Council last November.

Short Vine Taste of Belgium

As always URBANexchange is free and open to the public. This month we are giving away two $25 gift cards  to Taste of Belgium as door prizes so be sure to drop your name into the raffle.

We will be situated near the bar in the center of the restaurant but you can also ask the host where the UrbanCincy group is located and they will be happy to assist.

Taste of Belgium is located on Vine Street in Correville between the University of Cincinnati’s east and west campuses and is located just two blocks from a future uptown streetcar stop. If you choose to bike there is free and ample bike parking is available outside the building. The venue is also served by Metro’s Metro+ bus , as well as routes  #19, #78 and #46 buses.

Photo by Jake Mecklenborg

What would moving Hamilton County BOE mean for those without cars?

Unsurprisingly, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (R) has sided with his fellow Republicans in Hamilton County and cleared the way for Hamilton County’s Board of Election offices to move from Downtown to Mt. Airy. The ruling came as a result of the Hamilton County BOE’s deadlocked vote on the matter, which went along party lines.

Such a move will not happen for several years, but when it does it will make Hamilton County the only urban county in Ohio without its election offices located in its downtown.

Democrats seem to fear that the move will make early voting more difficult for the tens of thousands of residents who do not own a car. Republicans, on the other hand, seem giddy with the prospect of the new site being surrounded by an abundance of “free” surface parking options.

So what would the move mean for those living without a car in Hamilton County? In short, it would make voting a lot more difficult – especially for those in the eastern part of the county. It would also mean that the elections office and lone early voting location for Hamilton County would be moving further away from the population center and where most people work.

Those coming from the transit center at Anderson Towne Centre would see a four-hour round-trip, if they made all of their transfers seamlessly and nothing ran behind schedule. Those in the center city, the most densely populated area in the county, would need to block out several hours to account for the two-hour round-trip journey from Government Square.

If you are trying to get to the new Mt. Airy location from the Glenway Crossing Transit Center, Uptown Transit District or Kenwood Towne Center, your travel time would largely remain unchanged. That is if those people lived within a close walk to those transit centers like those near Government Square. The reality is that each of those three areas are much less walkable and would take considerable time accessing on their own right, thus adding significantly more time to the journey.

Cincinnati Population Density Cincinnati Employment Density

Should Greg Hartmann (R), Chris Monzel (R) and Alex Triantafilou (R) move forward with this it will in fact make the elections office and lone early voting location more accessible for those with cars in the western and northern parts of Hamilton County. It would also, however, make it less accessible for those with cars in the central and eastern parts of the county, and also worse for those without a car at all.

What is troublesome is that those with a car have access to the existing site. Yes, they may have to pay to park, but that is a minor inconvenience that absolutely must be weighed against creating hours-long journeys for those without a car.

The burden would be shifted to those who already have the least in our community. We hope Hartmann, Monzel and Triantafilou realize this would be morally wrong and decide to keep non-back office and early voting operations of the Hamilton County Board of Elections downtown.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Abandonment of Cincinnati’s 1914 Subway and Rapid Transit Loop

Cincinnati’s abandoned rapid transit project is a subject of continual interest. Although many are familiar with the unused two-mile tunnel beneath Central Parkway, little remains of the ten miles of surface-running right-of-way built in the mid-1920s between Camp Washington and Norwood.

This graphic by Andy Woodruff, from the UW-Madison Department of Geography, illustrates which sections of the so-called Rapid Transit Loop were built, which parts were replaced by expressways, and which parts were planned but not funded and built.

Cincinnati Subway System

So why was the Rapid Transit Loop started but not completed?

The project had several forces working against it, especially wealthy Downtown landowners who stood to lose money and influence if the city’s most valuable property shifted from Fountain Square north to Central Parkway. The likelihood of that happening was heightened by the Rapid Transit Commission’s decision to forego construction of the Walnut Street Subway as part of the project’s first phase.

Those who owned property lining Central Parkway knew that construction of a tunnel under Mt. Adams, linking the Loop’s never-built eastern half, would likely cost less than construction of the Walnut Street Subway and cause the loop’s traffic to bypass the city’s established epicenter entirely.

The second interest acting to scuttle the subway project was the consortium of seven steam railroads that commenced construction of Cincinnati’s spectacular Union Terminal in 1929.

An ancillary feature of the Rapid Transit Loop was its intention to serve the area’s electric interurban railroads at a multi-track terminal centered beneath the intersection of Race Street and Central Parkway. The interurban terminal’s more convenient location promised to erode the redundant services of the steam railroads.

Editorial Note: In addition to focusing on UrbanCincy’s transportation coverage, Jake authored a book about Cincinnati’s infamously abandoned subway and rapid transit project. First published in 2010, Cincinnati’s Incomplete Subway: The Complete History is considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of the events leading up to and after one of the city’s most notorious missteps.

What is the future of cities where driverless cars rule?

I met Jonathan Geeting in Salt Lake City during the Congress for the New Urbanism annual conference. We were roommates during which we both participated in a training session led by Streetsblog, for which UrbanCincy is a long-time partner, and studied the city’s transportation while also taking part in the conference. During that conference Jon also filed daily reports for Next City, and has become an increasingly popular writer there.

Jon’s latest piece, which is quite excellent, is this week’s feature story, and it examines what a not-so-distant world might be like for cities when driverless cars are the norm. What might it mean for jobs, parking supply, sprawl or mobility, and when might it all come to fruition? Some of the possibilities may surprise you. More from Next City:

The driverless, or more accurately, self-driving car is widely predicted to revolutionize mobility by knocking humans out of the driver’s seat as soon as 2030. The technology offers the possibility of infinitely safer travel. Human error — a mistimed turn, a heavy foot on the gas pedal or any one of countless other driver mishaps — caused or contributed to more than 90 percent of car collisions, according to a landmark study done by Indiana University. With automated acceleration, braking technologies and crash-avoidance technology, driverless cars could make highways exponentially less deadly.

Yet there is another opportunity at stake: The chance to dramatically reshape the relationship between public space and the car. For the last 100 years, urban planners have designed cities to accommodate personal vehicles. Every home comes with a driveway or curb for your car. Asphalt seas of parking spaces or costly multistory garages surround schools, shops and office buildings like carbon-spewing moats. What if instead of driving our own cars, we relied on 21st-century carpools — sharable autonomous vehicles?

Ohio Republicans rebuke LEED chemical disclosure requirements

We’ve see Art Deco, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Queen Anne Style, Italianate and many other periods of architectural expression, style and function. We are now currently in a period of Sustainable/Ecological architecture, but some Ohio politicians would prefer the state not participate in the most widely used and accepted rating system for such design and construction practices. More from Columbus Business First:

Ohio Concurrent Senate Resolution 25 was introduced last year by Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, and Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, to stop state government from using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building practices. Instead, the resolution advocates using American National Standards Institute practices because, it says, they’re more grounded in science.

The resolution got its first hearing earlier this week and chemical and manufacturing boosters laid out their case against some of the Green Building Council’s credits. Specifically, chemical trade groups say, LEED rules are not transparent and don’t conform with environmental industry consensus.

A building project still can achieve LEED Platinum, the highest rating available, without obtaining these credits. But that didn’t stop the chemical industry from voicing its concerns. The council has exhibited “discriminatory and disparaging treatment of vinyl in LEED credits,” testified Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs of the Washington, D.C. Vinyl Institute.