Monday, April 11, 2005

Alex Marshall Speaking at Vibrant Downtown Program

Alex Marshall, author and columnist on urban and transportation issues, will be one of the speakers at The Vibrant Downtown program to be held on April 26 at the Wells Fargo Building (see earlier blog post).

I read Marshall's book, How Cities Work, which I liked a lot. I thought he had some great ideas and insights into how our metro areas develop and grow, and what we might do about them. Here's a couple of excerpts:

"Every city built has grown from the spine of its transportation system, like flesh around bones, whether it be a river, a trail, a railroad, or a highway. If we want to shape a city, we have to shape its transportation system."

"It's transportation, stupid! In many of the efforts to redirect city planning, there has been a misplaced emphasis on zoning, as if zoning caused our cities to be laid out a particular way. This mistake is understandable, because this appears to be true at first glance. ...But in reality, zoning no more causes this than a posted speed limit causes cars to drive fast. Like most government regulations, zoning just tidies up what would be the basic form of the city anyway. The essential dynamic of the suburbs, which is separation of uses, and the essential dynamic of inner cities, which is mixed uses, are determined by their transportation system. No amount of rewriting zoning codes will change this."

To get an idea of what Marshall may have to say about revitalization of Salt Lake City's downtown, see his recent column entitled "Cities Back from the Edge." He reviews Roberta Brandes Gratz's book "The Living City," and notes that he likes her approach away from big projects in favor of small, individual, "organic" changes.

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