Urban Boom: A Documentary Film

From: Carbon Trace Productions and The Rhetorica Network

The Baby Boomers were children of the post-war suburbs and raised their own children in the sprawling communities at the edges of American cities. Owning an individual home outside of a city has long been an essential part of the American Dream.

That dream is changing.

The Millennial generation is changing it. Young people today are showing a strong preference for living in dense, walkable urban communities. And an increasing number of their empty-nest parents are following them.

The Carbon Trace Production Team today announces its first, full-length documentary film project. The working title is Urban Boom. The film will tell the story of Baby Boomers who are leaving the suburbs to find a new American Dream in the cities.

The film will cover the social, political, and economic issues involved in this trend and deal with the problems associated with challenging the past 70 years of cultural mythology.

You may follow production news and details on our Facebook page.

Follow us on Twitter @UrbanboomDoc.

I will also post updates here from time to time.

Want to help? Please “like” our page, tweet our news, and help us find stories to tell. We are now looking for interview subjects — Boomers who have left the suburbs to live in cities. We need a range of experiences and rationales. If you know someone, if you are someone, who would like to contribute a story, please contact me by any method.

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Solar Roadways Cannot Happen

Here’s the idea:

These solar panels might find limited use in some specific types of projects. But roads? In anything but limited and isolated situations?

Joel Anderson, writing for equities.com, offers a stinging take-down of this latest dumb and desperate idea to keep people driving automobiles.

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Surviving in the Urban Jungle

OMG! We’re number 5!


Springfield, Missouri is ranked 5th most dangerous among mid-sized cities, according to some number-crunching by Movoto.

This little bombshell dropped on 15 May. I’m only now getting around to mentioning it because … yawn.

I feel safe living downtown. I do not feel threatened in this urban environment. The reason for my comfort has a lot to do with why such lists can be less-than-true while also being 100 percent accurate: there is a geography and a sociology to crime. For a middle-aged, middle-class guy such as me to be a likely victim of violent crime, I would need to hang out in places where such crimes regularly occur and hang out with people who regularly commit such crimes. I do neither. So I walk the streets without fear.

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Pedestrian Fatality Map

Check out the map of pedestrian fatalities at Smart Growth America. Here’s a screen shot drilled down to Springfield:

ScreenHunter_24 May. 21 09.49


There’s nothing surprising here. Pedestrians tend to take the hits on arterials with high volumes of traffic and higher speeds.

The city has been building and improving sidewalks all over town. That’s a good thing. The problem, as I see it however, is not a matter of sidewalks but a matter of priority. Motorists and their machines are the primary consideration of our traffic designs. Gotta keep ‘em rolling at speed because anything else is just unthinkable. You just won’t hear any solutions that include making motoring more difficult or inconvenient.

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There is a new sign on the parking garage near the Heer’s Building:

Are there many electric vehicles in Springfield? Do there need to be in order to start offering services such as this? Will this encourage anyone to buy an electric vehicle?

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Video Just For Fun in Downtown SGF

Here’s a draft of a little thing I’m working on — entirely produced on the iPhone:

The soundtrack is just something I found for free on YouTube. The final version of this will have something more noir ;-)

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Positive (local) Economic Benefits

Check out this infographic from the recent American Planning Association conference (via Planetizen):

So, basically, in general, the fewer cars people own the better it is for local economies.

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Culture Studies and Disciplinarity

I earned my Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. When asked my discipline, I simply say “rhetoric” because that’s entirely true, and it’s a shorter answer than explaining I also took courses in communications, linguistics, and political science because, well, you know, rhetoric is a really big thing encompassing all of human communication and therefore all of human action, and so I ended up studying why it’s important for students in the humanities and social sciences to write publicly.

Yeah, rhetoric.

I’m the quintessential interdisciplinary academic animal.

So I’m totally down with the idea that urban planning is/should be interdisciplinary.

Let me suggest another discipline that ought to be considered in planning the “equitable” city (or any other kind of city that strikes your rhetorical fancy): culture studies.

Because … the study of culture explains things that, say, engineering cannot (just as engineering explains things culture cannot). One of the things that culture studies explains is why, for example, the Dutch ride bicycles so much for basic transportation. I have argued many times (with success?) that their mode share has less to do with infrastructure (especially the terrible stuff in Amsterdam) and more to do with culture (I don’t agree with the spin of this article, but the importance of culture comes shining through).

So listen up urban planners: culture studies. Check into it.

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Going Down Hard

It’s tough to be a pedestrian.

But three cities are getting grants to make walking safer. From the USA Today article:

Every two hours, on average, a pedestrian is killed. One is injured every seven minutes.

“This is not something that just happens in some other place,” David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), said in an interview. “That’s somebody’s child, somebody’s grandchild, somebody’s grandparent.”

As more and more people choose to walk, federal transportation safety experts are trying to figure out how best to keep them safe.

On Friday, the NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration will award grants totaling $1.6 million to Louisville, Philadelphia and New York for public education and enforcement programs designed to improve pedestrian safety.

The hope is that programs developed in those cities will eventually serve as models for other cities, Friedman said.

While the article almost certainly does not mention all the strategies under consideration, the ones mentioned seem to me to be more of the same ol’ same ol’. In other words: More pasting of stuff onto a car-centric system. Examples: pedestrian education, designated safe walking routes, better enforcement of crosswalk laws, police training, and social media alerts about dangerous areas.

It is the system itself — the car-centricity — that’s the problem. It’s the culture that believes that streets are for cars, not people, that’s the problem.

We have to be willing, as a culture, to inconvenience motorists more.

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Spotted in the Wild 2

Something I saw this morning on my way to work (I was on my bicycle):

Heading east into the rising sun on Elm this morning, I came upon a policeman starting his campus bicycle patrol. I was controlling the lane for an extra reason this morning: The shadows at the edge of the road can hide you from motorists squinting into the sun. As I passed the officer, I saw him in my mirror pull into traffic, also heading east — hugging the gutter so tightly that he appeared almost attached to it.


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Spotted in the Wild

Something I saw this morning on my way to work (I was on foot):

A woman in normal clothes riding a “townie” bicycle (i.e. upright seating, fenders, chain guard, rack) on Walnut. She stopped at the light at Kimbrough. Then she continued east on Walnut avoiding the door zone. And she didn’t dip to the right in areas where there were no parked cars.


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How to Celebrate Earth Day

Live in a place like this…


…and use 1/3 the energy of a suburban home.

It’s like getting a raise ;-)

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On The Record

Just FYI:

In the bicycle advocacy world, I am a traffic safety advocate as opposed to a participation advocate.

Participation advocate: A person whose primary goal is increasing the number of people who ride bicycles (aka. mode share). A participation advocate’s primary measure of success in advocacy is increased mode share.

Traffic safety advocate: A person whose primary goal is teaching and encouraging those who ride bicycles to drive their bicycles in traffic as traffic. A traffic safety advocate’s primary measure of success in advocacy is change in bicyclists’ behaviors.

Obviously, there are many advocates who cross this dichotomy and many others who would reject the dichotomy or offer other dichotomies. I point out this dichotomy because I like it, and I fall squarely on the traffic safety side of things. I do not care if another person takes up bicycling. I care that the ones already on the streets drive safely. If mode share can be increased in ways that promote traffic safety, the rules of safe movement,  and proper driving behavior, then that’s wonderful.

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Downtown Needs A Full-time Farmers’ Market

market_goodiesI spend my money downtown. If you want my money, then open your business downtown — or at least in Springfield’s urban core, an easy walk or bicycle ride from downtown.

That’s not to say I do not spend money elsewhere. I do because I must in some cases. But I work hard to limit those cases.

I have not yet visited the new(ish) Farmers Market of the Ozarks. I’m not likely to go anytime soon. It’s a suburban amenity. If I spend money there, it’s a vote for placing such businesses outside the urban core. And I don’t go to the Greater Springfield Farmers Market for the same reason.

I do go to the C-Street Market on Commercial Street.

I’d rather walk, however, to one downtown. It’s time for Springfield to seriously consider the attractiveness of a permanent downtown market — especially as developers continue to build loft apartments (and student housing) and the population continues to grow.

Check out these 10 characteristics of successful city markets. Everyone of them could be reproduced downtown through an infill redevelopment project. Here’s a truncated list from the article:

  • Full-day hours of operation — because people need food everyday all day, not just as few hours per week.
  • Accessible, central location — because, well, obviously.
  • Protection from the elements — because a market should be a comfortable hang-out, a destination.
  • Affordable — most markets hereabouts seem to be.
  • Food service and seating — again, think hang-out and destination.
  • Integrated with public space — again, think hang-out and destination.

And go visit the Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis. It meets all ten characteristics from the article. It’s a hang-out, a destination. How cool would that be here in #downtownSGF?


One of these is illegal, considered an eye-sore, and will be removed asap. The other — not so much.

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