Tag: survey

I think I finally figured out the purpose of making plans

No, not plans with friends for dinner at Ian’s Pizza in Wrigleyville (which was great last night, by the way).

I graduated in May 2010 and I’m just now figuring out why we should make plans. What did I come up with?

Plans are to give a basis for the future so that the future is shaped from what people collectively need and want. They keep you on track so you focus on what’s most important and not the things that will derail the path to the plan’s stated goals.

(You can quote me on that. But I wouldn’t rely on that statement to stay the same – it’s still a work in progress.)

For example, you go out and survey the bike parking situation at all transit stations in your city. You collect data on how many bike parking spaces are available, how many bikes are present (both on bike racks and other objects), and bike rack type.

You then gather information like ridership, access mode, and surrounding residential density. From this you can list the stations in order of which ones need attention now, which ones need attention later, and which ones won’t need attention. Talking to people who work at the stations, who use the stations, and others will help you fine tune the ranking.

That’s the plan. The plan might also include narratives about the rationale for having high quality, sheltered, upgraded, or copious bike parking at transit stations (hit up the Federal Transit Administration for that).

Then the plan sits. Two years later, someone reads the plan and decides to apply for funding to build bike parking shelters at the transit stations in most need.

What stations are those? Oh, the plan tells us.

Urban planning the stuff of dreams, says David Brooks

David Brooks’s article at the New York Times today is making the “urban planning rounds.”

I think the most important idea to take away from this article, and one I picked up on in the second sentence, is this:

Don’t plan for dreams!

Also, I think the writer has failed us – urban planners – simply by mentioning that urban planners dream about the day that Americans will “repent.” This is definitely not the way to attract readers to “our side.”

Or my side. And my side is just, rational, grounded, objective planning, for the existing and possible future needs of those for whom a plan is being created.

Right now, I’m working on a plan to serve bicyclists with better parking at transit stations. It took me a long time to develop the criteria to help me choose 40 stations, which I will eventually whittle to 10. After I chose the 40 stations, I will use different methods to find the “top 10.”

I would really like to “disrecommend” this article because it paints the picture of urban planners as holier than thou, and not in need of repentance like everyone else – this picture is created in the first two paragraphs and it really turns me off to the whole article. Unfortunately, though, thousands of people have already read the article: it’s in the Top 10 for emailed and blogged. 

Even though if you disregard this section, his points are unclear. In the tainted section I’ve already discussed, he introduces the article by saying that urban planners want American cities to be like those in Amsterdam, but in the remainder of the article Brooks talks about a Pew survey that says Americans are basically optimistic, want to move, and lists some places they’re moving. 

Brooks gives no direction to the urban planners who’re reading this (except perhaps not to try to Amsterdamize our cities), and no motivation for Americans to pay attention to urban planners.

I will not be forwarding this…

I’m not alone in my criticism of this article: Read Streetsblog’s take. I continue to hold that the New York Times is one of the best news and opinion source for armchair planners.