Great seaports from space – East Asia

Some of the best seaport images yet, come from East Asia. Enjoy!

Inchon, South Korea - Source:

Incheon, South Korea – Source:

Kaohsiung, Taiwan - Source:

Kaohsiung, Taiwan – Source:

Kobe, Japan - Source:

Kobe, Japan – Source:

Tainjin, China - Source:

Tainjin, China – Source:

Tokyo, Japan - Source:

Tokyo, Japan (great view of Haneda International Airport too) – Source:

Vladivostok, Russia - Source:

Vladivostok, Russia – Source:

Great seaports from space – Northern Europe

Rotterdam, Netherlands -

Rotterdam, Netherlands –

While preparing the satellite photos from the “Can you guess the city” series, I noticed how interesting the images were of great seaport cities. The harbour channels are very evident and in combination with the natural and urban geography present a quite stark contrast. So, to start this series of posts off, here are satellite images of seven great seaports of Northern Europe – Antwerp, Belgium; Copenhagen, Denmark; Gydnia, PolandLe Havre, France; Gothenburg, Sweden; Rotterdam, Netherlands (above); and St. Petersburg, Russia. Enjoy!


Antwerp, Belgium – Source:

Copenhagen, Denmark - Source:

Copenhagen, Denmark – Source:

Gydnia, Poland - Source:

Gydnia, Poland – Source:

Gothenburg, Sweden - Source:

Gothenburg, Sweden – Source:

Le Havre, France - Source:

Le Havre, France – Source:

St. Petersburg, Russia - Source:

St. Petersburg, Russia – Source:


A new tower to rise in Boston

Below is an artist’s rendering of the new mixed use skyscraper planned for the Back Bay district of Boston. The 58 story, 691 foot triangular-shaped building will contain both condominiums and a hotel, making it the tallest residential building in the city and the city’s third tallest skyscraper overall. City regulators have approved the project and construction should begin soon.

“Bikenomics” – a landmark planning book!



Certain books become a classic in their field of study because of their comprehensive nature (i.e. The City in History). Others do from their advocacy and groundbreaking nature (i.e. Silent Spring).  In the case of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economyboth of these reasons apply. Author Elly Blue has written “the” definitive book on bicycle planning that clearly identifies the societal, physical, environmental, and economic benefits of bicycling, while also completely debunking the myths, fables, urban legends, half-truths, and outright lies spread by naysayers and automotive apologists.

Facts are funny things. They tend to get in the way of spurious and superfluous arguments. In Bikenomics, Ms. Blue lays down the gauntlet with factual truths about bicycling and how a vibrant cycling culture can go a long way to curing many of our nation’s ills. If one could quote the entire book in a blogpost, I would.  There are so many quotable gems contained within this publication, that I could fill gigabytes of pages with them. But alas, you should read the book, so I have only provided a few of them at the end of this post.

Believe me when I say this is a book that every planning professional must read and own. It will single-handedly serve as your go-to resource on the benefits of bicycle planning in your community. Kudos to Ms. Blue providing all of us with a fantastic source of information. Enjoy!

Here are a sampling of quotes from the book:

“People who ride bicycles also pay taxes, which means they often pay more into the road system than they cost it. By one estimate, a carfree cyclist would overpay by an average of $250 a year — a few dollars more than the amount that the average driver underpays.” (page 13)

“As it turns out, gas taxes have paid for about 70% of the construction and maintenance costs of the Interstate system to date, with that percentage going down with each passing year. Local roads fare worse when it comes user funding. If you take the nation’s road system as a whole, only 51% of its cost over the years has come from direct user fees.” (page 39)

“When you brush away the rhetoric, though, even the fanciest bikeways are a screaming bargain. For the cost of one freeway interchange, you can completely transform your city and immeasurably improve the wealth, health, and happiness of its citizens.”  (page 49)

“Large road projects are often funded in a down economy because they create jobs. But roads are actually the least job-intensive of any transportation investment. Bikeways are the most, creating more jobs per million dollars spent than roads-this is because there are so few materials involved and most of the budget goes to workers.” (page 51)

“Bikes may not be able to solve our health care crisis singlehanded…But bicycling is one of the rare areas where people can directly and concretely address our own health and the health of our community, and quickly see big results. In this light, bicycling for transportation isn’t so much a lifestyle choice as it’s a form of civic action.” (page 61)

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars’ – Donald Shoup.” (page 89)

“In the US, 99% of trips by car end up in a free spot [parking spot]. The value of that land—and to a lesser extent, the costs of paving, sweeping, policing, and maintaining it—makes [parking one of the largest subsides going.” (page 90)

“In a car-oriented world, old age becomes a disability for many, long before it might in a more walkable neighborhood. The more car-reliant your daily life, the lower the threshold becomes for frailness, injury, or failing eyesight to be experienced as outright disabling.” (page 104)

“Portlanders drive 20% fewer miles every day than the average resident of a comparable metro area. The total money that we save on those miles we don’t drive is $1.1 billion dollars a year.” (page 113)

Cities with the best 2013 rental occupancy rates in the USA



Here is a newly released list by Multifamily Executive magazine of the 10 American metropolitan areas with highest multiple-family housing occupancy rates in 2013. It is interesting to note that only one of these urban areas is situated in the Western United States – Santa Rosa, California.

1. Naples, Florida 97.5 percent

2. Lansing, Michigan 97.0 percent

3. Santa Rosa, California 96.9 percent

4. North Port, Florida 96.4 percent

5. Providence, Rhode Island 96.3 percent

6. Nassau, New York 96.3 percent

7. New York City, New York 96.3 percent

8. Minneapolis, Minnesota 96.0 percent

9. Nashville, Tennessee 95.8 percent

10. Miami, Florida 95.8 percent

National Average = 94.0 percent


Reenergizing first-tier suburbs



While there is generally more press about the decline of many of our post-industrial cities, there are a number of first-tier suburbs that struggle economically as well. In fact, as many older inner cities have seen a millennial generation revival, a number of older suburbs have not been quite as fortunate. Instead of harboring an industrial legacy from which to revive into trendy lofts, hip artisan studios, or active live/work space, these suburbs may be beset with neighborhoods full of nameless tract housing and other “less than chic” land use legacies.

But, all is not lost. The more fortunate first-tier suburbs may still have some areas of industrial legacy from which to establish a new foothold, or perhaps even  have historic districts which could be used to stabilize parts of the city.  Beyond those two fronts, here are some other suggested ideas:

  • An active commuting advantage – first-tier suburbs are generally close enough to the central business district where they offer a clear advantage to those who prefer/enjoy active transportation (cycling, walking, transit) over traditional commuting methods.
  • Traditional commuting advantage – instead of commuting 30 minutes or more each way, many first-tier suburbs off locations with 10 to 15 minutes of the central business district.
  • Existing transit options – instead of waiting for transit to someday arrive, most first-tier suburbs already have transit options already available.
  • Location, location, location – the great in-between – being midway between the central business district and outer ring suburban employers can provide a competitive advantage to first-tier suburbs as they are often equidistant to both. This is provided that transit/transportation options operate in equitable bi-directional manner.
  • Convert closed/abandoned institutions into mixed uses – one of the coolest brewpubs I have ever visited is in a converted chapel for a former mortuary in Grand Rapids. I have also been to office and brewpubs that were once churches.  In Greater Lansing, former schools now serve as corporate offices, a community center, and a care facility.
  • Smaller lot – smaller carbon footprint  – first-tier suburbs often have residential areas with smaller lot sizes. These may be very appealing to an aging population as they require less time and effort to maintain. The same may be true for first time homeowners or those who prefer to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
  • Established infrastructure and amenities – this includes roads, utilities, railway lines, parks, even airports. Infrastructure improvements can ignite redevelopment of inner suburbs by bringing improved access and services. For example, the suburb could become much more desirable upon the opening of a new commuter rail, light rail, or BRT station serving it. There are plenty of examples of this, including areas around Washington, D.C. after the metro opened.
  • An actual identity  – unlike nameless suburbs fanning outward across the landscape, first-tier suburbs often have some actual identity from which to create a brand. There is actually a there, there. Granted, sometimes the identity is less than positive (i.e. Camden, NJ), but in many other cases the brand name is very marketable (i.e. Evanston or Oak Park, IL or Royal Oak and Ferndale, MI).
  • Historical roots – while they may not necessarily have established historic districts, first-tier suburbs often do have an established history from which to build community identity and spirit around.
  • Trendsetting conduit of change – consider being a trendsetting community that tries new and innovative ideas first.  This could be anything from using alternative energy, to EV charging stations, to new education paradigms, to you name it.  All many not work, but those that do could set your first-tier suburb apart from the rest and make it a magnet for new investment.
  • Accentuate the positive too – always address the negative in an honest and forthright manner. At the same time don’t indulge in a pity party. Never (never) forget to also accentuate the positive, for positive attributes can be found in every community.

Any additional suggestions for helping to revive first-tier suburbs would be most welcome.


“Small towns?” – Who are they kidding?


With all apologies to Business Insider, since when are cities that exceed 100,000 in population, or even exceeding 60,000 in population, considered to be “small towns?” At least they included the population of each community in their list of the ten best small towns, but 113,000 and 60,000 residents hardly constitute a “small town” in this urban planner’s book.

Both Denton, Texas and Burnsville, Minnesota are very nice growing cities, as well as suburbs – Denton of Dallas-Fort Worth and Burnsville of Minneapolis-St. Paul. If these are “small towns,” then New York City must be virtually a ghost town.

Anybody think I am incorrect with voicing concerns about them including Denton and Burnsville in a list of the best small towns?

Ten planning lessons from Boulder



I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended four-day weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for many communities across the nation, including here in the Great Lakes Region, as well as around the world, from this charming city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have some manner of unique attribute(s).

Here are what I would quantify as the top ten planning lessons that were taken away from my visit to Boulder, Colorado last weekend.

  • Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
  • Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
  • Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
  • Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
  • There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
  • Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community - sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
  • Create third places and amenitiesdowntown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
  • Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
  • Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
  • People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.
View of Boulder - photo by the author

View of Boulder – photo by the author