Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pharmacy deserts in (weak market) urban areas

Because in DC, CVS stores are so ubiquitous (they acquired the hometown company, People's Drug, in the 1990s, and that was a big company in itself) it's sometimes easy to forget that access to a pharmacy can be difficult in other areas.

I remember working a conference in the mid-1990s in St. Louis, and to get various sundries we had to drive many miles to find a CVS.

Yesterday's Chicago Tribune has an article ("'Pharmacy deserts' a growing health concern in Chicago, experts, residents say") about the issue there, about limited access to pharmacies, typically geographies dominated by low income households, but it turns out that academic research predates the media coverage:

-- "'Pharmacy deserts' are prevalent in Chicago's predominantly minority communities, raising medication access concerns," Health Affairs, 2014

Interestingly, while Chicago among other cities has pharmacy deserts, Walgreens was started in the city and is still based in the Chicago suburbs.

In general, in competitive markets, it's difficult for independents to compete with chain pharmacies and supermarkets ("Marshall pharmacy closing after 34 years in business," Fauquier Now), but this may not be an issue in "pharmacy deserts." From the article:
But, consolidation and the power of large insurance companies more recently have made it almost impossible for independents to compete, according to Mr. Trumbo and Mr. Spellman.

In some cases, the Marshall pharmacy paid more for prescription drugs than it received in payment. In others, insurance companies will pay for only the first three fillings of a prescription, forcing patients to buy from mail-order pharmacies or pay the entire cost at a local store.
1.  National city/county organizations could create a store development initiative with independent pharmacy buying and branding groups, such as the Good Neighbor Pharmacy group, a support organization for more than 3,000 independent pharmacies ("Good Neighbor Pharmacy empowers independents," Chain Drug Review). (Similarly the National Grocery Association is a trade association for independents, and the National Co-op Grocers is a trade association for food co-ops.)

2. Linking pharmacies and public markets/grocery stores.  I have been thinking about an element of this as it relates to public markets. I argue that the public market model is a way to "deliver" grocery functions to impoverished areas anyway.

But in thinking about how to keep DC's public market, Eastern Market, relevant I've been suggesting  delivery (well, I've actually advocated that the market consider delivery for going on 11 years...) and how to be more useful and cost effective and to support another local business, the market could do this in conjunction with the nearby independent pharmacy, Capitol Hill Care Pharmacy. But also thinking about how many traditional supermarkets incorporate pharmacy operations also.

Note that this particular pharmacy is part of a group of three, including one East of the River, and there are buying groups/programs out there to support independent pharmacies even as the industry is increasingly concentrated.

3.  Similarly, cities could work with independent grocers to incentivize adding pharmacy functions ("CVS-Target deal could spur supermarkets to find pharmacy partners," Reuters; "Supermarkets Offer Patients Accessible Pharmacy Services," Pharmacy Times).

As it is, grocery stores with pharmacies are already offering clinic functions such as flu shots, workshops on food-related health care management for diabetes, etc. ("Grocery store or Doctor's Office: does it matter where you get your flu shot?," LiveScience).

The Greenbelt Co-op Supermarket also has a pharmacy, and that store is a one-off, not part of a smaller group.

But typically independent and ethnic groceries don't have pharmacies.  While difficult to spur, it would be an opportunity.

4. Why not create a pharmacy recruitment program oriented to supporting independent business.  Just as cities have incentive programs to lure supermarkets, the same could be done for pharmacies.

I remember when I got involved in Main Street commercial district revitalization work back in 2001, that at one of the trainings an example of how to recruit a pharmacist/create an independent pharmacy in a town that was under-served was the community mailed letters to every member of the community pharmacy association in that state.

Still, we must recognize that independent businesses like pharmacies are especially difficult to keep going generally, let alone in more profit challenging locations in impoverished areas, so such businesses need more and ongoing support than may be normally be offered.

5. But at the same time, laws need to be changed to require pharmacy benefit management programs to utilize the independents in the others otherwise deemed as "pharmacy deserts" and to not stint on the reimbursement, which generally is a problem for independents -- not too that the main two national drug chains, CVS and Walgreens, own PBMs.

Such arrangements to support independents should be developed on anti-trust grounds as it relates to PBMs ("Independent Pharmacies File Suit Against Pharmacy Benefit Manager," press release).

6.   Incorporating pharmacies into public health/community clinics/hospitals.  In terms of broader wellness planning, in impoverished areas without pharmacies, it would be possible to include a pharmacy as part of a community health operation, run by a city or county, a hospital, or a nonprofit.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Unintentional video art created by a nonworking digital ad display at Union Station, Washington, DC

Digital ad display systems could also display digital art, as well as community information, transit information, etc.

Unintentional video art created by a nonworking digital ad display at Union Station, Washington, DC

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Interesting piece/maps about homelessness from the Seattle Times

In response to a reader's question about how does the number of homeless in Seattle/King County compare to other places, the Seattle Times looked more deeply into the question, ("Is Seattle’s homeless crisis the worst in the country?") comparing their community to others at different scales. Interestingly, DC in one of the rankings comes out as the #1 place for homelessness, as having the greatest number of homeless measured as a rate per 10,000 residents.

Observationally, I've always felt that homelessness is "worse" out west, but maybe that's because it is more visible, because more people "sleep outside" and not within shelters, in large part because of the weather.


One of the maps makes the point that the top 10 locations of cities where the homeless sleep outside are all out west--not even Florida makes the cut.

While out this morning to grocery shop (since I had access to a car), I saw a couple people panhandling, which surprised me since these are neighborhood areas, not central business districts.

Similarly, there was a "brazen" burglary of a neighborhood 7-11 a couple days ago, where people drove a truck into the building and stole the ATM.

Generally, these kinds of acts are a measure of desperation and tend to increase as times get rougher (e.g., back in the 1990s when people were breaking into/stealing parking meters--"Remembering the District's great parking meter massacre," Washington Post).

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Separately, as Orange County, California removes homeless encampments, advocates there are trying to organize opposition to the action ("Advocates launch last ditch effort to change public opinion about river bed homeless encampments," Orange County Register).

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Right for Life demonstration and counter protestors in front of the US Supreme Court

While I moved to Washington thirty years ago "to get involved in national policy and do good things" and for a time I worked for a national consumer advocacy group concerned with health policy, for a long time I've been more locally focused than nationally focused, and co-exist without national politics having too much effect on me personally.

I happened upon this yesterday, walking from the Library of Congress to Union Station.  Yesterday was the annual Right to Life march.  Again, it doesn't affect me much normally, except that I was riding the subway rather than biking, and the train cars were more full, with people who blocked the doorwells.

Today is the Women's March ("Why you should join the Women's March," Guardian).

Right for Life demonstration and counter protestors in front of the US Supreme Court

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Quote of the day: Federal Government Shutdown

From the Guardian column "With government shutdown, Republicans reap what they sow":
During previous shutdowns, calm heads ultimately prevailed: people who cared about good government, or at least worried about the polls that pointed to widespread public disgust. But this is now Donald Trump’s Washington and there are no calm heads to be found.During previous shutdowns, calm heads ultimately prevailed: people who cared about good government, or at least worried about the polls that pointed to widespread public disgust. But this is now Donald Trump’s Washington and there are no calm heads to be found.
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In any case, it seems unbelievable that Congress is incapable of doing one of the only things they are mandated to do, which is to pass an annual budget for government operations.

Still, while I concede the idea of a "swamp" as it relates to lobbying, especially in favor of the interests of capital, the reality is that "Washington" isn't created in or by "Washington" but by the electoral choices they make when voting who to represent them in their House Districts and as their state's Senators.

DC government.  Because DC is a federal district, local government gets mixed up in the crosshairs of shutdown.  With the last shutdown, DC carved out its locally-generated monies and made the argument that spending local monies shouldn't be held hostage to the federal budget, and it continued to operate and function.  Mayor Bowser is taking the same course this time ("'DC is open' If Federal Government Shuts Down, Mayor Says," NBC4).

DC also plans to step in and maintain NPS properties that will go unmaintained during the shutdown.  From the article:
If the government shuts down, crews with the D.C. Department of Public Works (DPW) will pick up trash from 126 federal properties in the city, including the National Mall, Pennsylvania Avenue and Dupont Circle. If it snows, the same crews will clear roads the National Park Service usually would clear.

"People from across the nation and around the world come to visit our nation's capitol, and we take great pride in our city and want to ensure it looks clean and its best, regardless of what's happening at the federal level," DPW director Christopher Shorter said.

The work will cost an estimated $100,000 per week. D.C. could request reimbursement from the federal government for costs incurred during the shutdown, or could include these costs in federal payment budget requests.
Federal shutdowns and national parks.  In the past I've written about the impact of the shutdown of national parks on local economies, but this time, Republicans aimed to allow parks to be open to the public but without staff ("What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for National Parks and Park Visitors?," National Parks Conservation Association). T

hey're doing this because parks shutdowns seemed to generate the most negative reaction on the part of communities and the electorate (along with cutbacks of TSA personnel at airports).

According to the
US Travel Association ("Shutdown Would Cost U.S. Travel Economy At Least $185M per Day"), a federal government shutdown would cost the U.S. travel sector at least $185 million per day in economic output due to lost activity and affect 530,000 travel-related jobs due to temporary layoffs, reduced wages and fewer hours worked.

Local residents complain about the closing of the Grand Canyon National Park
Protest: Locals complain about the Grand Canyon National Park closure which is costing the community in lost tourism.  Image via the Daily Mail.

In those parts of the country with federal parks and public lands that are key elements of local tourism, there are more specific and hard felt effects on local economies from shutdowns.

This is why for some time I have argued that local and state parks and tourism planning needs to include contingency planning for federal shutdowns, and state and federal budget cutbacks ("Federal shutdown as another example of why local jurisdictions should have more robust contingency and master planning processes" and "Contingency planning in parks planning: Montgomery County Maryland edition").

According to the NPS report Effects of the October 2013 Government Shutdown on National Park Service Visitor Spending in Gateway Communities:

• A 7.88 million decline in overall NPS October visitation resulting in a loss of $414 million NPS visitor spending within gateway communities across the country;
• Gateway communities near forty five parks experienced a loss of more than $2 million in NPS related October visitor spending;
• Five states experienced a decline of over $20 million in NPS October visitor spending;
• Each dollar of funding for the 14 parks opened with state funding before the end of the shutdown generated an estimated $10 in visitor spending.
It turns out that the National Park Service does allow states to step in and pay for operation of facilities during shutdowns ("Feds will let states pay to reopen national parks," Associated Press).

But it's best to plan ahead and have those agreements in place before a shutdown, not once a shutdown is underway.  Which is what DC is doing in terms of committing to providing trash pick up and snow clearance.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Amazon second headquarters list of finalists

-- "Here’s how cities are reacting to being finalists for Amazon HQ2," CNBC

See the past blog entry, "The Amazon second headquarters "****show": Part 1 | Where could it go?"

Sadly, Baltimore and Detroit didn't make the list, and landing this "whale" would have been an economic game changer for those communities.  Although Newark is on the list, and Philadelphia.


The finalists:
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York City, New York
  • Northern Virginia, Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Washington, D.C.
The issue to me comes down to maybe 3-4 criteria:

1.  Economic nationalism.  While Toronto makes a great argument, and national health insurance means huge savings for companies in Canada, I think that were Amazon to locate a new headquarters outside the US they would invite serious attacks from the current administration/federal government, especially because Amazon's founder owns the Washington Post, which President Trump sees as an opponent.

2.  The cost of housing for employees.  Many of the cities making the cut--Boston, DC/Northern Virginia/Montgomery County, New York City--have high housing costs and a small increase in demand could make an already frothy market that much more turbulent comparable to what is happening in Seattle and San Francisco now.

Since part of the reason for Amazon to build a second headquarters is to provide employees with more reasonably priced housing options, I can't see a high housing cost city being chosen in the end.  

3.  Proximity to higher education institutions with leading programs in information technology, engineering, and business.  To be honest, I think that dings the DC area, Indianapolis, and Nashville.

It should make us appreciate former Mayor Bloomberg's initiative to create a world-class engineering and technology graduate school in New York City to better develop and attract business ("New York's Silicon Alley Is (Still) No Match for Silicon Valley," Bloomberg).
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4. Transit/Urbanism/Placemaking/Quality of Life.  I would think this factor would eliminate cities like Dallas and Atlanta and Denver, although they have transit systems.  And even Northern Virginia because the sites proposed to Amazon aren't "close in" to the center, but more distant locations that would be termed suburban, almost exurban.

Not sure how to handicap Los Angeles.  It's cool, but the housing market has rebounded and Western Los Angeles City and County doesn't have low cost housing.

I think it might give Montgomery County, Maryland a boost because of the ability to do some large developments along the Red Line, even to extend the Green Line out New Hampshire Avenue as I've suggested in the past.  There's enough room around the FDA campus there, but it isn't particularly dense and urban.

There is opportunity in Silver Spring, especially given that Discovery Channel will be leaving, but to put the Amazon project in perspective, Discovery has one big building capable of supporting 2,500 workers and Amazon is demanding the capacity for 20 buildings of that size...

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Comments

WRT DC's bid ("DC discloses part of the Amazon HQ2 incentive package," Washington Business Journal, I was surprised to see such a huge incentive offered for each "veteran" to be employed.  I don't see why that would matter that much to DC specifically, compared to supporting DC business development and employment of residents.

WRT the likelihood of DC not being picked, I hope it will spur the city to take a deeper, harder look at the necessary antecedents for economic development and diversifying the local economy beyond its dependence on the federal government.

I think it means looking at DC's higher education institutions and figuring out how to up their game, along the lines of what Mayor Bloomberg started in NYC, collecting and publishing metrics on businesses developed out of DC universities and local research, etc.

See the past blog entry "Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC."

Where's the Catholic U research park? Along those lines, for more than a decade Catholic U has talked about creating a research park adjacent to their campus and they haven't done much of anything.

See the past blog entry, "Naturally occurring innovation districts | Technology districts and the tech sector".

Meanwhile, UMBC's business incubator keeps on generating new businesses ("UMBC eyes major expansion at research and technology park," Technical.ly Baltimore; "15 companies graduate from UMBC's bwtech, ready to grow on their own," Baltimore Business Journal).

Montgomery County, Maryland.  For all the hand-wringing about Montgomery County's competitiveness vis-à-vis Northern Virginia ("Montgomery County's real economic development problem: it's not part of the military economy," 2011 blog entry), Maryland's supposedly faulty business climate, and just announced decision of Discovery Channel to leave Silver Spring for New York City ("Discovery’s departure is ‘shot across the bow’ for Silver Spring, state and region," Washington Post) it says a lot that Montgomery County is a finalist.

Like DC, they need to look at this result in a very detailed way and figure out how to better leverage, strengthen, and market their competitive advantages.  (Personally, I don't think it's by outsourcing their economic development functions to the private sector, but that's me...)

My own belief: go for it.  It's worth aiming to recruit Amazon and to spend a fair amount of incentives to do it.  But recognize there will be some negative impacts to go along with the good.  See e.g., "Amazon has brought benefits - and disruption - to Seattle," AP and "How Amazon's Nonstop Growth Is Creating A Brand-New Seattle," Fast Company.

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Toronto: Vision Zero/Zero Vision?

1. I have written that the King Street streetcar prioritization initiative in Toronto is one of the most important transportation initiatives underway in North America right now, because few cities are so bold as to prioritize transit and total passenger throughput over motor vehicles, because the automobility lobby tends to be vocal and virulent and elected officials tend to defer to the motor car when it comes to policy and counting votes.

The King Street streetcar prioritization is getting pushback from businesses, who have seen a drop off in their night-time business. About 10 days ago, the Mayor launched an "activation program" including ice sculptures and other activities to draw attention to the street with a hope it will stoke business ("Mayor John Tory's plan aims to boost visitors to King St.," Toronto Star) while businesses angry about the change have created ice sculptures "flipping off" the street ("Some businesses give an icy middle finger to King St. pilot," TS).
Businesses protest King Street streetcar prioritization, Toronto
Businesses protest King Street streetcar prioritization, Toronto


The solution though is pretty simple, which I hope to write up as a letter to the editor or op-ed for the Toronto Star.

2. Early results from the test find a 25% rise in transit use -- to over 80,000 riders per day ("King St. pilot boosting streetcar ridership: TTC," TS). As Star columnist Edward Keenan points out ("King Street pilot project has been a phenomenal success — and brought challenges, to be sure") that's a huge increase in ridership for a cost of $1.5 million (Canadian) as opposed to costs of billions for ill-conceived subway expansions to Scarborough. From the article:
In time, we’ll have reliable numbers for ridership over a sustained period. But if even just this 25 per cent number holds true and is true throughout the day, it’s hard to overstate the level of success that indicates. It would represent an increase of more than 15,000 riders per day, to over 80,000 total riders on one streetcar route. For a change put together in months for an implementation cost of $1.5 million.

For comparison purposes: The planned $3-billion-plus subway extension in Scarborough is expected to carry, in 2031, about 15,000 more riders per day than the RT line there today carries (for a total of 64,000). In ridership terms, King Street may be seeing a Scarborough subway’s worth of passenger increase (and much higher total ridership) in just a few weeks, for .05 per cent of the cost.
3. Keenan also writes ("Stop driving children to school: It could be a lifesaver") about driving kids to school -- that people should stop doing so -- in the face of a tragic death on Monday of a 5-year old crushed by a car in a "drop off/pick up zone" outside her elementary school ("Girl dies after being pinned between vehicles while picked up from school").

4. A new campaign on road safety is criticized because 3/4 of the messages focus on pedestrian behavior when 2/3 of the responsibility for crashes is borne by motor vehicle operators ("Police launch safety campaign as traffic deaths spike"). From the article:
Brown argued that although pedestrians have a responsibility to “use common sense and take care,” most people walking on the street won’t deliberately do anything to put themselves in danger.

“You don’t have to make a huge educational effort on that,” he said. “Where the effort should be directed is at drivers of vehicles that don’t understand that travelling at 100 km/h, or 80 km/h, or 50 km/h or 40 km/h even, with a two-tonne vehicle, you’re going to kill somebody. That’s where the effort should be directed.”
This reminds me of my point about re-engineering road pavements to better fit desired operating speeds.

-- "The plight of pedestrians," 2014

That's not a response I've seen being developed, although arguably, creating more pedestrianized intersections is a step towards this.
Pedestrian cross the new diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus in London
Pedestrian cross the new diagonal crossing at Oxford Circus in London.  British Transport Society image.

A car engorged Yonge Street in Toronto
Mayor John Tory opposes a proposal to cut the stretch of Yonge St. between Sheppard and Finch Sts. down by two traffic lanes to allow for bike lanes and wider sidewalks, despite the local councillor and city staff's approval. (COLE BURSTON / TORONTO STAR)

5. Mayor John Tory doesn't favor the Transform Yonge initiative ("Reimagining Yonge Study Progressing Toward 2018 Final Report, Urban Toronto; "Fight brewing over bike lane location in north Yonge remake," TS), which is focused on better balancing the position of sustainable transportation modes vis a vis cars along with improving the environment for retail and activation on Yonge Street but somewhat distant from the Downtown core. From the article:
Mayor John Tory opposes removing two vehicle lanes on a six-lane stretch of north Yonge St. as part of a plan to build separated bike lanes and wider sidewalks, despite city staff and the local councillor saying that’s the best way to improve the area.Tory’s continued opposition to the “Transform Yonge” plan, after city staff looked at alternatives, is frustrating Councillor John Filion, Ward 23 Willowdale.

“Downtown North York should be more than a sea of highrises with six lanes of highway running down the middle,” said Filion, who will make his case to the public works committee Friday. “This area has been neglected for far too long. The city needs to invest in creating a beautiful (main street) that connects the buildings and the people who live in them.”

The $51.1-million plan would see Yonge from Sheppard Ave. to just north of Finch Ave. get: separated bike lanes on both sides; wider boulevards; better pedestrian crossings; and a landscaped centre median. To make room for cyclists and more sidewalk, one vehicle lane in each direction would be removed between Sheppard and the Yonge intersection with Hendon Ave. on one side and Bishop Ave. on the other.
In general, Mayor Tory's transportation agenda has been more focused on suburban interests, which seem to have the upper hand in Toronto's amalgamated city, although the addition of new council seats in the city's core should help to address that imbalance. See "Three seats being added to Toronto council for the 2018," TS.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Whole Foods rooftop patios

Years ago I wrote about the Whole Foods flagship store in its headquarters city of Austin, Texas, which has a patio, garden, and playground on the second floor. 

From that point forward, the company has developed more inside spaces that function more like restaurants and taverns, although for the most part, these spaces are within the standard footprint of the store.  For example, the new Whole Foods on H Street NE has a tavern on its mezzanine level.

The Roof, Brooklyn Whole Foods.  Photo credit: DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal.

A new Whole Foods store in Exton, Pennsylvania (outside of Philadelphia) will have a roof top patio with food and drink service. 

It turns out that they already have such a facility in Brooklyn, called "The Roof," which can even be rented out for special events.

Since 2010, Eataly has a rooftop restaurant called Birreria, with special beers produced on site by Dogfish Brewery.

It would be cool, in the various buildings that have supermarkets on the ground floor, to think about how they might be able to deliver rooftop restaurants as part of mixed use developments, activation, and destination retail.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday

-- MLK Day, National Day of Service, Corporation for National and Community Service
-- "National parks free to all on Martin Luther King Jr. Day," ABC News

Is an opportunity for reflection on the rise of white nationalism and its support from segments of the Republican Party and President Trump.

-- "Why Donald Trump said 'shithole countries': He was playing to his racist supporters. Afterward, conservative pundits tried to defend him," Joan Walsh, The Nation

From the article:
Let’s look at what really distinguishes Norway from Haiti. Norway is a social-democratic country with a high tax base, one that invests in its people, providing health care, college education, and childcare. It has also made a remarkable commitment to gender equity. The reason we don’t have a lot of Norwegians clamoring to live here is that it would, for most of them, likely represent downward mobility. Haiti, meanwhile, is a failed experiment in colonialism, capitalist brutality and, yes, racism. The tiny island country has never recovered from the global punishment imposed by slave-holding, colonial powers after a slave revolt made it a free if impoverished nation more than 200 years ago. The mentality that chooses to compare the essential worth of the residents of the two nations, rather than the conditions that prevail in them, is just a high-falutin’ variation of racism. ...

Meanwhile, it must be said: Trump is working hard to turn the United States into a shithole country—one that is run by a corrupt kleptocracy, that funnels money to a comparative handful of ruling families and impoverishes the rest of us. One that imposes work requirements on Medicaid recipients. One that imposes tax cuts for the wealthy and refuses to provide medical care to children. If Trumpism succeeds, Norway might have to make room for refugees from another shithole country. What a global embarrassment this is.
2. Jerry Large, columnist for the Seattle Times, has a column ("Martin Luther King Jr. predicted backlash against economic and racial progress") discussing the forthcoming book “To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice,” (W.W. Norton, April 2018). From the article:
King aimed for a deep transformation of America, not just the sweet vision of children holding hands that is so often celebrated on his birthday. We need to understand more about that if we are going to get back on a road to what he called “the beloved community,” in which all people would be valued and treated with dignity.

Michael K. Honey has spent decades studying King and writing about him, and he is determined that more people understand King the way historians do.

Civil rights for all Americans was just the beginning of what King sought, Honey said. King wanted to eliminate poverty, assure everyone could have good health care, education and housing, and turn the country away from war. ...

Since King’s death, we’ve seen voting rights under attack in many states. We’ve seen the tremendous progress that civil-rights laws made possible stalled in the decades after. Affirmative-action efforts have been pared down, schools resegregated, and economic inequality is increasing.
3. Jon Talton, business columnist for the ST also took the opportunity to write about Dr. King ("King on capitalism: The uncomfortable MLK).
... people of color still face significant disparities in the economy and society. For example, December’s jobless rate of 6.8 percent for African-Americans compared with 3.7 percent for whites and 5.1 percent for Hispanics. Minorities are segregated in poorly funded schools, too, an impediment for future achievement.

Which brings us to the uncomfortable MLK, the one you’ll hear little about as we mark the holiday. Although King believed — like Frederick Douglass in the 1860s — that the vote was essential to minority empowerment, he increasingly focused on economics and inequality toward the end of his too-short life. ...

When he was assassinated, King was planning a Poor People’s March on Washington. He advocated a universal basic income that would raise everyone — poor minority, poor white — to middle-class level. And remember, this was the late 1960s, when the (mostly white) American middle class was at its high point, and the rich were taxed at 70 percent. Yet he said:

“We have come a long way in our understanding of human motivation and of the blind operation of our economic system. Now we realize that dislocations in the market operation of our economy and the prevalence of discrimination thrust people into idleness and bind them in constant or frequent unemployment against their will. The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent.”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

A very basic (and excellent) ad promoting bus transit by GRTC/Richmond, Virginia

Photo by JAMES H. WALLACE/RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH.


I have written a lot about:

-- the graphic design of bus liveries
-- how transit agencies like the Port Authority in Pittsburgh use their buses as rolling billboards to promote transit; and
-- exemplary examples of transit promotion in advertising

but the idea of being so very direct in the way that the GRTC is in Richmond escaped me--an attractive ad on the side of a bus communicating how many people ride/use the transit system each day.

In a city like Washington, the daily ridership is much higher 500,000 people or more, even if ridership is dropping, and many lines have between 10,000 and 25,000 riders per day.

Obviously, most people don't have this kind of information, aren't aware of it, etc. For example, how 300 bus runs/day carry upwards of 40% of the total person throughput on a main arterial like H Street NE -- 300 bus runs over 23 hours compared to 20,000 to 25,000 motor vehicle trips.

So this kind of advertising on a bus makes a lot of sense and there is a lot of opportunity for transit agencies in developing marketing campaigns along these lines.

I can also see doing this by line, so that there would be ads on the 16th Street bus lines saying, this line carries 25,000 riders each day and compare it to motor vehicle traffic on the same road, etc.


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Better understanding of how to benefit from sports tourism

The Boston Globe has an article, "Tourism and sports win big by teaming up," extolling the value of sports-related tourism, such as the creation of halls of fame, the under construction Olympics Museum in Colorado Springs ("U.S. Olympic Museum breaks ground in Colorado Springs," Denver Post), and people who go on "pilgrimages" visiting every baseball stadium in the US, etc.

The story didn't mention any sports tourism failures, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame ("Nascar Hall of Fame Leaves Charlotte Home With Bank Debt"," Bloomberg).  And the difference between focusing on the sports industry, such as how Indianapolis has made attracting association headquarters a key economic development initiative ("(i) on Economic Development: Indy Doubles Down on Sports," Inside Indiana Business), how Oklahoma City is developing a focus in white water sports ("Oklahoma City's RiverSport Rapids, 'revitalized Oklahoma River," Daily Oklahoman), Colorado Springs being the headquarters of the US Olympic Committee, how increasingly the value of football bowls is as television programming, not as an augur of economic activity in the place where the game is played ("How college football bowl game system mixes socialism, capitalism," USA Today), or the lack of much economic return from supporting training camps for professional football teams ("Redskins camp is a bad deal for the RVA," Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Separately, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot is covering the plan to construct a new "sports tourism" oriented field house in Virginia Beach, one specifically built to attract tournaments and other events generating hotel rooming nights, rather than a facility designed to meet the needs of area residents ("Virginia Beach selects firms to build and operate a new field house at the Oceanfront").

This coverage reminds me of the failure of many communities to replicate "the Bilbao Effect" ("Why can't the Bilbao Effect be reproduced? | Bilbao as an example of Transformational Projects Action Planning").

Like with the success of Bilbao's broader economic redevelopment agenda as well as the related insight that arts museums tend to be better at generating high attendance than other museum forms, the success or failure of "sports tourism" is more complicated, and ephemeral events such as the Olympics ("Big sporting events (World Cup/Olympics), economic development and trickle down economics" and "More thinking on "return on investment" from different types of sports facilities and DC, and an Olympics in DC") or annual events like the Super Bowl or All-Star Game rarely have the kind of immediate economic impact that is touted ("Economics of the Super Bowl and other big sports events") because these events stoke very narrow segments of the local economy -- food and beverage, some labor associated with hotels, and some limited transportation.

Certain types of events and activities are likely to have great positive impact, other types are not, and it is important to develop a framework to distinguish between the various types, comparable to the framework I have been developing concerning sports arenas and stadiums -- it's not that I think public funding is a good idea, I don't, but recognizing that the likelihood of successfully warding off public funding in most cases is remote, let's figure out how to best capitalize on the spending, to reap the greatest possible amount of benefit.

For arenas and stadiums, I came up with this framework:

Characteristics that support successful ancillary development associated with professional sports facilities: 
  • isolation or connection: how well is the facility integrated into the urban fabric beyond the stadium site and does it leverage, build upon, and extend the location and the community around it;
  • size of the facility (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer), bigger stadiums--football stadiums specifically--are harder to integrate in the urban fabric;
  • frequency of events held by the primary tenant--baseball has 82 home games/year, football about 10 including pre-season, basketball and hockey have 41, soccer about 17--so football stadiums are very rarely used (according to the Chicago Sun-Times article "Emanuel mulling 5,000-seat expansion to Soldier Field," the facility holds about 22 events including annually, 12 non-football events);
  • how many teams use the facility, maximizing use and utility of the building--for example, Verizon Center in DC is used by professional men's and women's basketball, hockey, and one college basketball team for more than 100 sports events each year;
  • are events scheduled in a manner that facilitates attendee patronage of off-site businesses--a business isn't an anchor if it aims to not share its customers; the earlier events are scheduled, the harder it is to patronize retailers and restaurants located off-site, at night during the week, there is limited post-game spending as well, on the weekends it's a different story with more opportunity to patronize off-site establishments--teams manipulate scheduling to reduce spending outside of their on-site and 100% controlled facilities;
  • use of the facility for non-game events drawing additional patrons--such as concerts and other types of programming; and
  • how people travel to events: automobiles vs. transit--if automobiles are the primary way people get to events, then large amounts of parking usually in surface lots needs to be provided, making it difficult to foster ancillary development because of lack of land and poor quality of the visual environment, whereas if transit is the primary mode, then more land around a facility can be developed in ways that leverage the proximity of the arena. 
which is discussed specifically in this 2014 entry, "An arena subsidy project I'd probably favor: Sacramento," and is based in part on the arguments laid out in this 2012 piece, "Hampton Roads-Virginia Beach Kings professional basketball team."

Past entries that complement this listing include "Stadiums and economic effects," "Sports stadiums (and arenas) and local economic development and a DC soccer stadium," and "Stadiums and arenas as the enabling infrastructure for "money-making" platforms ."

WRT other sports tourism elements, more criteria need to be added to the above list, and a more honest evaluation of the economic impact on food, beverage, lodging, transportation, and other retail.

Like with Indianapolis, and note that Richmond's SportsBackers initiative is similar ("Case study in created events: Richmond's Sports Backers," Sports Planning Guide), a wide ranging plan specific to sports on the scale of what I call a "Transformational Projects Action Plan" is likely to be more successful than various one-off ventures.

... who knew that there is Sports Destination Magazine?

Note that wrt local-regional museums and exhibits on local sports, the Heinz Center in Pittsburgh does a particularly good job with its Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.  The failure of the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore ("Sports Legends Museum closes its doors," Baltimore Sun) likely demonstrates that stand alone regional museums dedicated to local sports are less likely to be successful than those programs which are part of larger museums.

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Making lemonade out of lemons wrt Hawaii's false ballistic missile emergency warning

In the 1950s and 1960s, the US had a very active program for promoting "civil defense" and creating a system of shelters in urban areas to help the nation respond to the threat of nuclear war.  "Robert Blakeley, Who Created a Sign of the Cold War, Dies at 95," New York Times.

In recent coverage of the ability of citizens to deal with an earthquake in Mexico, much was made of the fact that Mexico City held their annual earthquake emergency drill just two hours before ("Hours after an earthquake drill in Mexico City, the real thing struck," CNN), so that people were well prepared to deal with an actual earthquake. From the article:
Each year on September 19, cities across Mexico stage emergency disaster simulations and evacuations that bring people out in droves. The drill falls on the anniversary of an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that shook Mexico's capital in 1985, burying nearly 10,000 people amid its rubble.

The annual drill began in Mexico City around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, just like it does every year. The alert went out over radio, television, phones and public loud speakers. People left homes, offices and shops and headed to designated safe areas promoted days ahead of time. ...

The irony of the situation was apparent to Mexicans, for whom the drills are a way of life, even a minor annoyance. Many noted the contrast between the orderly, almost mundane quality of some drills and the chaos of real life.
Hawaii nuclear missile warning. While there is no question that Hawaiians had to be terrified ("'This Is Not A Drill': A False Ballistic Missile Alert Shakes Hawaii," NPR) by the false warning of an incoming ballistic missile--likely from North Korea--why not try to make lemonade from the failure?  From the article:
Hawaii residents and tourists alike were shaken shortly after 8 a.m. local time Saturday when a push notification alerted those in the state to a missile threat, causing an immediate panic until officials confirmed it was a false alarm.
"BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL," read the message, which also blared across Hawaiian televisions stations.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, confirmed the false alarm on Twitter 12 minutes after the errant message was sent. But it took about 38 minutes for another push notification to arrive on phones declaring there was no real danger. ...

In a televised press conference, Vern Miyagi, the agency's administrator, apologized and said the false alarm was caused by a "human error," when the wrong button was pushed during a shift-change drill.

"It was a procedure that occurs at the change of shift where they go through to make sure that the system, that it's working," Gov. David Ige told reporters. "And an employee pushed the wrong button." These shift changes happen three times a day, every day of the year, he added.
What about instituting nuclear missile disaster drills in the west?  This sounds crazy, but by instituting emergency drills in the Western states most at threat from such a terror, not only would people be better educated about what to do in case of a dire emergency (and yes, when I was an 8 year old, I sent away for a Civil Defense brochure on how to build a backyard bomb shelter), but wouldn't it put greater pressure on the federal government to engage with North Korea?

Or is this a sign of weakness?  OTOH, it could be argued that instituting such drills would "weaken" the perception of US superiority, which would be used against North Korea to try to get them to stand down from the posturing and other threats they've been making.

OTOH/2, preparedness demonstrates the country's ability to ward off, withstand, and respond to such threats.

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