Brain Canvas

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Transportation and Suburban Renewal

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This month’s Brain Canvas theme on transportation is a bit above my head from a technical standpoint, as I don’t have the benefit of an engineering degree from THE Georgia Institute of Technology like my colleague Preston.

So rather than try to write about the future of transportation by speculating about innovative new technologies, I’ll instead talk about some of the exciting outcomes society might realize from alternate transportation regimes and leave how to get from A to B to the engineers.

I recently viewed a TED talk by Ellen Dunham-Jones (also of Georgia Tech) on the topic of Retrofitting Suburbia, laying out the argument for reclaiming abandoned strip malls and big box stores that are the hallmark of the suburban landscape. In addition to the reclamation of abandoned existing structures she also points to the importance of building on top of existing structures as well.

One community that Durham-Jones holds up as an example is the D.C. suburb of Hyattsville, Maryland (10:25 in video linked above). Hyattsville has experienced over a decade of growth and renewal in its downtown. What was in the early 90′s a suburban office building and not much else, connected to the rest of the world only by conventional highway transportation system, is now a vibrant community featuring a downtown arts district, and a mixed use residential and retail site.

Importantly for this month’s topic of transportation, this development coincided with the opening of two DC Metro stations in Hyattsville. In 1993 D.C. Metro extended service connecting Hyattsville with Washington D.C. providing more convenient transportation for commuters living in the city to reach office jobs in the suburbs and for suburban dwellers to enjoy the best parts of the city life.

This is one of the indirect benefits of transportation technology like the Maglev trains profiled on Brain Canvas last week by Preston. Trains that can easily reach speeds of 500 mph extend the radius of commutable communities by hundreds of miles, opening up the distant suburbs and exurbs to the exiting outcomes described by Dunham-Jones and realized by Hyattsville, Maryland.

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Written by Andrew

July 26th, 2010 at 12:23 am

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