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Comment Re: And there's still a year to go. (Score 1) 309

It is a little ridiculous, but as I was telling my kids a few hours ago, parliamentary elections are inherently easier and quicker than a Presidential election would ever be. Party slates and party voting is just a lot easier than publicly selecting your party's standard bearer. In most parliamentary elections, the party has already decided its leadership internally (via party conferences) and generally puts forth it's slate fairly easily. The actual election season is thus just the race between the various parties. That's sort of equivalent to the US race after the big party conventions - which take place in late August for an early November election, which works out to around 60-70 day campaigns. That's roughly in line with your elections.

Back before we made the nominating process so open, American campaigns were shorter. If we went back to the days of the party picking the candidate, we'd be pretty close.

Comment Re:Our ancestors wanted car-centric (Score 1) 259

I'm well aware of PRT (even covered it once for a publication back in the 90s). PRT has been a pipe dream for decades and will remain so until it gets a technological reboot (probably in the form of autonomous cars). We simply don't live in the type of society that can do big infrastructure any more - it's too expensive. Most forms of PRT are not distributed enough - if a main track has a problem, the entire system has a problem. That's really a non-starter.

Now, I'd love to see something like an Elon Musk fantasy come true - autonomous electric cars that pick you up from wherever you are and take you to your local destination or take you to the nearest local Hyperloop which might deliver you to a longer-distance Hyperloop or airport for longer transit. Most supplies delivered to your doorstep by autonomous delivery vehicles. It leverages the infrastructure we've already built with a more cost-effective solution for longer trips.

It's theoretically doable in 20-30 years (in some locales, sooner) but it's an enormous task with a lot of societal and infrastructural inertia. And, ironically, easier to implement in the suburbs than the cities.

Comment Re:Goldman was right, with a caveat (Score 1) 259

People who like to live in cities should live in cities. Cities have a lot of fantastic aspects that appeal to a large number of people. But they have significant downsides too - your ability to affect what goes on in your community is effectively nil when you are one of a few million. Politics, graft and pull is a necessity in cities to an extent that simply does not apply to smaller towns.

If your lifestyle is perfectly orthogonal to city living (you are a user of services, most of which are provided to you without any input but are satisfactory to you, and your concept of "community" is primarily hanging out with friends and lots of strange faces are exciting/meaningless to you - or - you're a political animal and want to be involved in organizing groups of people), you should live there. If, on the other hand, you want to be more involved with your kid's school and school district, you don't really see the need for politics in trash collection and you want to recognize most of the people you see each day, a suburb may be a better choice.

(I have both aspects to my own personality - I'm suburban at the moment because it feels right for my family as it is now, but I could easily see myself living in the city when the kids are gone.)

Comment Re:Our ancestors wanted car-centric (Score 1) 259

Except we already had that utopia. The early part of the 20th century had better, faster, more reliable and regular inter and intra city transit with lots of overlapping service providers (light rail, urban rail, streetcars, etc.). And for the most part, it was ripped up and abandoned - and not, pace urbanist conspiracy theory, because GM had some nefarious plan to do away with it all.

Cars were just a whole lot more convenient - transit is great there is a break down, or a strike, or a budget crisis, or an urgent need to get somewhere *now*, or the need to go to a destination that isn't on your line, or to get more supplies than you can carry. Which happened so often that the car seemed like a dream - and people flocked to its distributed model and fled the centralized model of transit whenever they could.

I say this as a transit enthusiast - I love an good streetcar and have purposefully chosen to live within a few blocks of transit (and use it) my entire adult life.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

You're describing Arlington Heights (16 miles west of Evanston), which attempted the same thing around its mass transit hub - a single Metra stop. It's not exactly a disaster, but it's not a roaring success. Transit-oriented development makes sense in real cities with real transit. Even in Evanston, with all its college students and transit links, it really only works in a north/side direction for the 8 blocks to each side of the rail lines and mostly just in the east, lakeside/campus portion. For anyone outside that zone (or anyone in that zone who needs to go in an east/west direction), it's made things worse and, as a side benefit, just sucked the money out of the rest of the city.

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

The answer is that "walkable" Evanston is only walkable in a handful of spots - downtown, parts of Chicago Avenue, Dempster/Main shopping districts. Effectively, only the part of the "city" that is east of Ridge Street or the 8 blocks nearest Lake Michigan.

Which is a tiny part of actual Evanston - the majority of which is an old-line suburb with a mix of single family homes and small apartments with lots of cars. You have two other business "districts" (Central/Green Bay and Emerson/Dodge) but the two block Central district is the only one that's "walkable" and it doesn't have a grocery store. Dodge is a high crime area (and location of the high school) - walking is a daylight operation only and even then there's parts you don't walk.

The Evanston city council is basically made up of goo-goo types from the richer East Side attempting to buy off the poor South/West side with services that no one can afford. It sort-of works - unless by "works" you mean has a reasonable budget and tax base and schools that perform on par with surrounding communities, in which case it doesn't work at all. But they do have better restaurants...

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

Actually, I moved out of Evanston (lived there for years) precisely because our stupid city council adopted all that high-density, "smart growth" strategy in the worst possible ways. There have been some reasonable successes (the core downtown area) but even those were the result of years of failure and really poor civil planning.

The funny thing is that even the most successful portion of the strategy effectively just recreated the downtown that existed in the 30s-60s. Downtown Evanston used to be defined by the Sherman corridor - it was a hub of shopping (a gorgeous fieldstone Marshall Fields being the anchor), entertainment (a large theater), shops and restaurants and a large parking garage. Over the years, the mix of business changed (the Fields and theatre closed, Barnes and Noble moved in) because Old Orchard and the like siphoned away all the energy and retail (with lots of parking).

The new downtown is just... newer. It hasn't really changed all that much. A few things shifted (the Barnes and Noble moved across the street, the old parking garage was knocked down and rebuilt with some new, low quality retail, the theatre is now Maple) but Sherman is still struggling, Davis is in the midst of rebuilding mostly due to fires and the same restaurants have just moved around (Dave's Italian Kitchen, the Chinese place, Lulu's, etc.).

Major retailers still can't stay open (the Gap is gone, Borders is gone, the Buffalo Wild Wings is gone, Puck's is gone) and while some of them have been replaced with similar or lower quality entrants, chunks of it are now being bought up by our wildly expansionist hospital system for doctors offices. The big new opening of late is a tiny Sprint store on the prime Sherman/Church corner that is the exact center of "downtown" Evanston. Half the building is still vacant but will probably be fronted by an ATM branch of some national bank while the core of the building is empty.

And the TIF financing did no great favors for the school district or city coffers - the city still has endemic budget problems that were supposed to be solved by "smart growth" - bring in childless Gen Y/Millenials and get all that yummy tax money with no kids and no cars... But those people start having kids and then need cars because there are no grocery stores (one of the "smart growth" plans knocked down the only neighborhood grocery on the south side of the city and replaced it with a high-density townhouse development with inadequate parking - all of whom have to drive to Chicago just to get groceries).

The whole thing is a mess. 20 years from now, it will be redeveloped again. The only reason Evanston survives its crappy city council is because 25K Northwestern students keep the downtown at least somewhat viable. Which is great for those of us ex-Evanstonians who live close by and can park at the two big garages and walk to the same restaurants that we ate at when we were kids (Buffalo Joe's!).

Comment Re:So? (Score 1) 259

Evanston actually used to be home to a bunch of car dealerships and still has a number of them. They are clustered around the main north/south street (Chicago Avenue). I bought my current car at one of those dealers.

Ironically, the main "density corridor" in Evanston is also along Chicago Avenue. Both the CTA and Metra rail lines run parallel to Chicago Avenue and most of the stops on the south side of the "city" exit to Chicago Avenue. In fact, two of the stops (Dempster and Main) are within a few hundred feet of a car dealership and South used to be until they tore down one of the dealerships for a condo complex.

Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously; and do not take what happens either to yourself or your work seriously. -- Booth Tarkington