Archives for the month of: March, 2012

Just a quick plug for Good Food Day LA, which is a series of city-wide events and a festival promoting our local food systems.  Check out the website to see if there is an event happening near you!  Also, heres a map of all the events going on, and the Facebook event.  I’m going, and I’ll be sure to post pics and all about it after Saturday!

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No, I’m not referring to the newest Arcade Fire album (although its basically an urban planning manifesto, and they should come play at APA 2012).  I’m talking about the cul-de-sac bearing, strip mall flaunting, track home producing haunts in which so much of today’s American offspring have grown up.  Its a topic thats been tackled before, but heres one more person’s thoughts on our changing perception of suburbs, specifically as a place to call home.

Before I get into the modern conception of suburbs and its impact on our lives, lets remember that there have been “suburbs” as long as there have been a form of centralized urban civilization.  When you focus a physical environment around one location, there are inherently residences near that, and further away.  Before the time of the automobile or any sort of reliable transportation, it was the richest who lived closest to the center of town, and the poor lived further away.  Cars may have revolutionized our lives in many, many ways, but one of the most profound impacts is the complete reversal of what the outer urban limits mean as far as desirability and socio-economic class.

It was my grandparent’s generation that was the last to really live in the city, walking to school and work in Hollywood and downtown.  And it was that generation, that took somewhat for granted the pros of living in such spaces, that bought into cars and detached homes, and decided to rear their children in the relatively new concept of the modern suburb.  This is obviously not universal, and in cities like NYC and Chicago, and of course all over the world, people did stay downtown.  But in the sunbelt cities, this was a relatively common trend.  My parent’s generation grew up there, and for the most part has stayed there.  Its my generation that is reverting back to the city- but why?  Like our parents, we were children of the suburbs.  We had to wait for rides from our elders, don’t know how to ride the bus, and think that all grocery stores and supermarkets.  Why is it that we’re the ones who want to move more centrally? Read the rest of this entry »

A friend of mine is currently in graphic design school, and he was recently assigned a project designing materials to fix a problem he saw in Los Angeles.  His first thought was public transportation, and therefore he immediately came to me, as his token urban planning friend, to bounce some ideas around.  He had lots of great concepts about what needed to be fixed, but there was a catch- everything we discussed that seemed feasible in the foreseeable future is either already in effect, or is in the city’s upcoming plans.  In frustration, he ended up settling on a completely different project (one relating to job creation, actually), and I was left to ponder the most troubling result of our conversation:  the people in Los Angeles have no idea whats going on with public transportation.

This lack of knowledge of the buses, trains, and light rail systems that criss-cross our city shouldn’t be surprising.  In a city where most are commuting in 5-seaters all alone, often from one side of the metropolis to the other, it probably doesn’t cross the mind of most Angelenos to even consider another option.  For those of us who grew up in the suburbs, having a driver’s license (or cool older friends with one) was considered the only way to get anywhere.  While Los Angeles in certainly not known for its transit in the past, and is still given the evil eye for the destruction of the Red Cars, its a city that is currently focusing heavily on revamping the system- and many of the residents have no idea.

I’m not trying to point fingers here- but I do want to make a difference.  So before I get all preachy, and shout about riding buses I know nothing about, I’m starting to ride them.  I’ve been taking the subway to downtown, the buses around once I get there, and the train to go inland.  There are so many different bus and rail systems with Metro that it can be confusing at first, but like any other system, it just takes some getting used to.  Check out Metro’s Trip Planner, Mobile Resources, and all the timetables and maps you’d ever want.

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Besides what already exists and everyone should be checking out, Metro has many interesting new projects in the works, including but not limited to:

For all kinds of transportation news, I highly recommend one of my new favorite article collections, The Metro Library’s Blog, and of course its fun to see what LA is thinking for the future with the 2009 Long Rage Transportation Plan.

Happy Travels!