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November 23, 2022  

These 3 Cities Are Eliminating Parking Minimums. Are They Going About It the Right Way?

It's #BlackFridayParking week at Strong Towns, which means we've got a special parking-related episode of the Upzoned podcast today. Host Abby Kinney, co-host Chuck Marohn, and special guest Edward Erfurt (director of community action at Strong Towns) come together to discuss three stories from three different cities—Burlington, Vermont; Nashville, Tennessee; and Cambridge, Massachusetts—all of which are taking big steps to eliminate parking minimums. And in some cases, the cities are even looking at establishing parking maximums!

Does it make sense for cities to have a blanket policy on parking, one way or the other? How can communities have these conversations about parking, especially when there are people—residents and developers alike—who argue and push back against parking reform?


November 16, 2022  

Why Is It So Expensive To Build Public Transit in the U.S.?

A recent VICE article shares the conclusions of a report published by an NYU research group. The research, led by Alon Levy, spans some 15 years and demonstrates the extent to which transit projects in the U.S. are inflated compared to other countries around the world—and what we can do about it.

For instance, the cost of constructing a subway in New York is double what it costs in Tokyo and 10 times what it costs in Paris. The research found New York to be the most expensive place to build transit in the world, and the lack of efficiency means we get less transit for more money, and we have a lot of public sector debt.

Why is this the case? Levy offers several reasons, which Abby and Chuck unpack in today's episode.

And by the way, it's Member Week at Strong Towns! We’re celebrating our members and everything that they do to make their communities stronger and more resilient. If you want to join this movement of a million local heroes, then do so by becoming a Strong Towns member today.

November 9, 2022  

This Man Overcame Homelessness by Building His Own Tiny Home…on Hollywood Boulevard!

An army veteran who was homeless in Los Angeles got tired of having his tent cleared out by the city's sanitation teams...so he decided to build his own house. By working with the community, the man, who goes by "Q," gathered the materials necessary to build a tiny home, complete with a generator and potted plants.

Q earns money fixing electric scooters and wants to start his own business, stating that he hopes to be an example for others in his situation. Given that, what can we learn from Q's housing solution, and from others who are responding to the housing crisis in unique—yet logical—ways?

Find out on today's episode of Upzoned, featuring host Abby Kinney and co-host Chuck Marohn!


November 2, 2022  

What Does the ”Airbnbust” Mean for the Housing Market?

There's been much speculation on the internet lately—to the point of almost becoming a meme—about whether we are witnessing the great "Airbnbust." In other words, people are saying that short-term rentals are a bubble that is popping right before our eyes.

As reported in Market Watch, many short-term rental owners are voicing concerns on forums like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook about their bookings plummeting over the past three to four months. In some cases, hosts say they were at 80% occupancy, but now find themselves all the way down to zero.

At this point, it's not completely clear what's happening or why it's happening, but host Abby Kinney and co-host Chuck Marohn unravel what we do know on today's episode of Upzoned.


October 27, 2022  

This Seattle Highway Is Facing a $29 Million Financial Crisis

During the winter of 2019, a tunnel for State Route 99 (SR 99) opened, running beneath downtown Seattle, Washington. It was a long-anticipated project with a price tag of $3.3 billion—with an accompanying tolling program to cover $20 million in construction debt and operating costs.

The tunnel was toll-free for the first nine months after opening, so that drivers would be enticed to change their routes. However, only a couple of months after the tolling began, so did the COVID-19 pandemic. This drastically changed traffic patterns, and even now in fall 2022, traffic patterns have not picked up to 2019 levels.

Consequently, the tunnel is now facing what some call a "financial crisis," even after imposing an urgent 15% toll rate increase to make up for 2020 losses. In all, SR 99 is estimated to have a $29 million deficit right now—which podcast host Abby Kinney and Strong Towns Editor-in-Chief Daniel Herriges explore on this week's episode of Upzoned.


October 19, 2022  

We Need More Housing—But Also More People Who Can Build More Housing

Are there enough construction workers to build the housing we need in the U.S. and Canada? According to The Globe and Mail, the Ontario government has stated that the province will need 100,000 new construction workers and 1.5 million homes over the next decade.

However, a current shortage in skilled trades and labor means that the process of building homes now takes longer than before, and the situation has only been exacerbated since 2020, as many construction workers retired during the pandemic. As such, industry leaders are not optimistic about meeting forecasted housing needs, as there are just not enough new people to replace those who recently retired—along with those expected to retire in a looming retirement boom.

This is one of those acute problems that feels overwhelming to the point where you want to step back and say, "How the heck did we get here?" Tune in to today's episode of Upzoned to find out.


October 12, 2022  

Yes, Getting Rid of Parking Minimums Is Good for the Climate—But That’s Just the Tip of the Iceberg

According to a recent article from TIME, a new law mandates that cities in California will no longer be able to impose parking minimums for housing, retail, or commercial development that sit within half a mile of major public transit stops. While this isn't a blanket elimination of parking minimums, is it at least a step in the right direction? And was it helpful or not for the law to be framed around climate concerns?

Today on Upzoned, Chuck Marohn is stepping in as host for Abby Kinney as he talks with Strong Towns Program Director Rachel Quednau about the impact of this state-wide reform, what it means for this decision to have been made at the state level rather than locally, the myriad benefits of eliminating parking minimums (beyond just being good for the climate), and more.


October 5, 2022  

We Have Plenty of Land in the United States. But Can All of It Support Housing?

A recent article from The Wall Street Journal posits that “The U.S. Is Running Short of Land for Housing.” Land values in favorable locations are booming right now, and land owners across the country are, in some cases, making extremely high returns on their long-term holdings—so long as conditions enable their land to support development.

Such opportunities are, according to the article, very limited. The U.S. is filled with a lot of open space, and one might think that means we have plenty of space for housing. But in order to support housing, this author believes that land needs to be positioned in a few different ways.

So, what are the three major requirements, according to The Wall Street Journal, that enable development potential in any given plot of land—and what’s the Strong Towns take on this?


September 28, 2022  

The Paris of the Plains Can’t Afford Its Fountains Anymore

If you’ve ever been to Kansas City or have any awareness about Kansas City, you may have heard it called the Paris of the Plains or the City of Fountains. A lot of people associate the city with its fountains, and it’s a big source of civic pride.

However, recently the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department was forced to shut down its 48 fountains, citing unmanageable operating costs. This has left residents up in arms, claiming that the out-of-operation fountains are attracting vandalism and causing issues for their neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, though, Parks and Rec has its hands tied, since the city has gone over its water budget for the year and can’t afford to keep fountains running. Today on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and co-host Daniel Herriges analyze this story against another article, produced a few years ago by the Urban Land Institute, that discusses the issue of Kansas City’s park system, the history of its park system, the costs, and—particularly relevant to this story—the deferred maintenance issues.


September 14, 2022  

E-Bikes: The Frankenstein’s Monster of Transportation?

How cool are e-bikes? How revolutionary will they be? During 2020 and 2021, e-bike sales surged 2.4 times over previous periods and essentially transitioned from a fringe product to an almost mainstream purchase in North America.

E-bike sales could be considered a huge win for micromobility and alternative transportation advocates, but don’t tell that to Ian Bogost, whose recent Atlantic piece paints e-bikes in a humor-laced take as an awkward, doomed-to-fail Frankenstein of the motorcycle and bicycle. In “The E-bike Is a Monstrosity,” Bogost derides e-bikes as unsafe, awkward to ride, and less cool than a motorcycle or a $5,000 road-racing bicycle. 

Clearly, Bogost is examining e-bikes through a cultural lens, rather than one focused on transportation.

Today on Upzoned, host Abby Kinney and co-host Chuck Marohn discuss the e-bike’s potential to hasten a transition to more thickly settled places with slower-moving streets, allowing families to own one car and then supplementing it with other micromobiity options.


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