Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

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Prince George
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Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#1 Post by Prince George » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:16 am

With some of the recent outbursts - on these forums and elsewhere - on how this attitude or that behaviour is "an Adelaide thing" or "only in Adelaide", I thought it may be a good idea to collect some counter-examples to help deflate that notion. Let's make this a collection of evidence that the same kind of small-mindedness and self-flagellation people complain about here is actually a more global pattern; that while there are things that we don't like about local attitudes, we are hardly unique.

To get the ball rolling, a quick sample from the Emerald City of Seattle. I've mentioned before the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the 50+ year old elevated highway along the waterfront that's at serious risk of collapsing during an earthquake. For more than a decade they've been "debating" what to do about it. Short history:
  • it's a state highway, so the state says "we'll replace it with a new elevated road";
  • Seattle council says "no way, it runs through our city and we want a tunnel";
  • State says "fine, here's a cut-and-cover tunnel, but it's going to cost you extra", council says "sure, whatever";
  • voters in the city say "absolutely not, no way, we don't want to pay for this, just decommission the road and leave it at that", they overwhelmingly reject the tunnel option;
  • state says "here's our new plan - a 54 ft wide deep-bore tunnel. And we'll pass a law that says if there's any budget overrun, Seattle has to pay not the state";
  • voters dump the old mayor and elect Mike McGinn who ran largely on a No Tunnel platform;
  • State presses ahead soliciting bids for construction, Seattle council may sign agreements with the state against the wishes of the Mayor, even though the mandatory environmental impact assessments haven't started
(More here) And the level of talk about what all this means for the city could have come right from the comments of our own papers. From the comments at the bottom of this pretty good article:
NorthWesterners are chumps. Who cares about any of this. It may happen, it may not happen... at the end of the day it will always be slow-paced in Seattle, always boring, always filled with socially timid xenophobic passive-aggressive smug pretentious douche bags. Tunnel or other option in or out, what ever passes will not take decades to complete in sleepy slow-ass Seattle.
God. This town sucks. If anyone is new to Seattle, please note: Get the F**K OUT. These people are all about government beaurocracy, bickering, ...anything that would provide an assertive direct decision, becuase that would not be passive aggressive. Tunnel or not, it will take DECADES until a 'solution' is provided here. In the mean time you could be in another city that acutally can offer people who respond socially let alone provide eye contact on a general basis. If the Stranger was not pretentious and smug, it would be the Seattle Weekly. But hey, you could stick around and see if will work with this tunnel thing, because maybe it wont be soo dismal next winter... yeeeah, riiight

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#2 Post by Will » Mon Jul 12, 2010 2:19 pm

Thanks Prince George for starting this thread.

From my perspective, I think the reason why people have such cognitions relates to the explosion of extreme capitalism in the last few decades.

In the past, people were educated to be grateful for what they had, and to have moderate ambitions. Now, we are educated by the market to be shallow, materialistic, never be satisfied, have unrealistic expectations and want everything now.

I wish people took a deep breath and realised how much we already have, and not focus on the little we don't.

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#3 Post by Prince George » Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:44 pm

Continuing some Seattle topics (while they're fresh in my memory :) ), I was a big fan of the blog Hugeass City. The author - Dan Bertolet - is an urban planner, a tireless advocate for increasing density, and a frequent critic of poor design. The blog is silent now because Dan moved to join Publicola. There are many postings that are about the influence that backward looking groups were having over development policy in the city. Here's a sample that will be interesting to readers here:

No Density In My Backyard - a 3-storey mixed use building (apartments over retail) gets vocal protests for being too big. They complain it's “enormous compared to its neighbors”, but there's already a 3-storey apartment across the street. Dan mentions:
The term NIMBY (not in my backyard) was originally coined to label people who had at least somewhat justified objections to uses such as incinerators or prisons. Amazingly, what we have here is NIMBYism against an appropriately scaled, nicely designed and finished, relatively high-end building that will be positive addition to the Madrona neighborhood business district. The building will replace a surface parking lot, which is pretty much the least sustainable land use possible in a city.
An Open Letter To The Livable Seattle Movement - Dan's response to a particularly large and well organised anti-density group. This group got themselves a pile of attention in the local papers (etc) with their argument that increasing density and infill encourages sprawl - yes, that's right, they claim that increasing the number of people that can live within the city will encourage sprawl outside. Dan again:
So then, how in the world could allowing more people to live in the city possibly contribute to more people living outside of the city (i.e. sprawl)? The primary explanation you give is that when higher density housing is built, families with children who don’t like that type of housing are forced to go find what they want out in the burbs. This can happen, but it is not nearly the whole picture. The gaping flaw in your argument is that it neglects to account for the people who do end up living in the higher density housing. If zoning were such that new high-density housing could not be built, then all those people would end up competing with families for low-density housing, because that’s all that would be available in the city. This would reduce availabilty, drive up prices, and force far more people to seek housing outside the city — in other words, it would increase sprawl, not reduce it.

Still you conclude, “Ironically, attempts to concentrate densities end up driving sprawl. This can be seen in the large population increases in suburban areas.” Yes, density causes sprawl, and ignorance is strength! Can you not see the mathematical impossibility of your theory? And sorry, but there is a large body of research demonstrating that growth management (which almost always means increasing density in centers) reduces sprawl. (The Sightline Institute would be a good place to start doing some reading.) So where is the evidence for your theory? Or are you just making stuff up?
The Truth About Density Advocates,
A Criminally Unfair, One-Sided, Amateur Blog-Style Q&A With (Or Without) David Miller, and
It’s Miller Time (Again) (Sorry)
A trio of articles about a conservative member of the Seattle council who blocked upzoning and planning changes while still claiming not to be opposed to density. His rhetoric runs along the lines of "I'm for good density", where "good density" seemed to mean "the density that we've got right now and no more". From the last one:
What I am more concerned about ... is the attitude among many in Seattle that single-family zones are untouchably sacred, such that the planning process hits an automatic dead end whenever the possibility of upzoning single-family is merely hinted at. To most electeds it’s totally radioactive. And this is the same attitude that you, David, displayed when you twice dodged my question about upzoning single family

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#4 Post by ricecrackers » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:57 pm

i think a lot of people in this forum take themselves and things too seriously

maybe thats an Adelaide thing
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If 50 million believe in a fallacy, it is still a fallacy..." Professor S.W. Carey

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#5 Post by chrism4549 » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:39 am

Here's an article in my local paper about our trolley system. A little background - we built one leg of a light rail system with a 1/2 cent sales tax increase and a lot of federal funding. We're working through getting some more fed money to pay for two more legs and coming up with the rest of the cash for that in the economic downturn. In the meantime, we've increased the bus routes and are starting to develop a cross-city trolley system. Locally, we've come up with a 1/3rd of the cash for the first leg and the feds are coming up with the rest. The idea is to encourage public transportation, in-fill the city, reduce traffic and emissions

Not popular. The main reasons are typical. Our taxes are too high already (our personal tax burden here is about 15% less than Australia, roughly, on average). It's socialism. We can't afford it as a country. Who is going to ride this (which is probably code for black people are on it, I'm not using it). Why does the city get the money. Nobody wants to live in the city. Etc.,

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/0 ... rails.html

The people here are pretty nice. I've been actively supporting public transportation efforts and separation of church/state and I've been told to leave the country, I'm not a real American, I hate the country, I should die, go live in Saudi Arabia if I like it so much. I've literally been threatened to be shot recently. It's really great. :sly:

I don't know if you guys are representative of the whole country but it's nice to see people being polite and trying to make their city better.

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#6 Post by monotonehell » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:55 am

chrism4549 wrote:...The people here are pretty nice. I've been actively supporting public transportation efforts and separation of church/state and I've been told to leave the country, I'm not a real American, I hate the country, I should die, go live in Saudi Arabia if I like it so much. I've literally been threatened to be shot recently. It's really great. :sly:

I don't know if you guys are representative of the whole country but it's nice to see people being polite and trying to make their city better.
I don't know if you should come to Adelaide then Chris, I mean we get really cranky and post dumb messages on Adelaide-Now. That's worse than shooting people... right? ;)
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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#7 Post by crawf » Thu Jul 15, 2010 11:18 am

It was the worst decision ever made by News Limited to allow people to post comments on their news websites.

Adelaide Now is the worst, though Perth Now, Courier Mail, Herald Sun etc aren't far behind.

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#8 Post by Wayno » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:36 pm

chrism4549 wrote:I don't know if you guys are representative of the whole country but it's nice to see people being polite and trying to make their city better.
We're part of a growing trend - and there's plenty of nice people here, that's for sure...
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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#9 Post by monotonehell » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:34 pm

crawf wrote:It was the worst decision ever made by News Limited to allow people to post comments on their news websites.
Adelaide Now is the worst, though Perth Now, Courier Mail, Herald Sun etc aren't far behind.
Again, claiming something as Adelaide specific. I've seen exactly the same calibre of comments on news websites in the UK and USA.
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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#10 Post by Hooligan » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:39 pm

Claiming something to only happen in Adelaide is something that only happens in Adelaide

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#11 Post by Prince George » Thu Jul 15, 2010 5:02 pm

chrism4549 wrote:The people here are pretty nice. I've been actively supporting public transportation efforts and separation of church/state and I've been told to leave the country, I'm not a real American, I hate the country, I should die, go live in Saudi Arabia if I like it so much. I've literally been threatened to be shot recently. It's really great. :sly:
You support public transport and separation of church and state and therefore, "if you like it so much", leave the country and go live in Middle East where there's no public transport and frequently theocratic governments? I imagine it's not worth responding to that kind of talk.

Funny too because from the outside I hear good things about Charlotte and it's plans - articles like this Charlotte transit plans leave Atlanta in slow lane, that have much bigger places like Atlanta worrying that Charlotte's gonna come and cut their lunch. Apropos quotes from the article:
Charlotte's leaders were polite when asked how they view their competition with Atlanta.

"Anybody who has driven to Atlanta knows that congestion is just more pronounced than it is here," said Jennifer Roberts, chairwoman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, who also chairs the Metropolitan Transit Commission. "What Charlotte has tried to do is be a little bit more ahead of congestion and have public transportation be more of the solution."

Parker told Atlantans: "You all have had a bigger struggle coming up with a big collaborative vision, and saying: 'Let's move forward.' "

Sam Olens, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission and Cobb County Commission chairman, put it in perspective.

"We are letting a city that historically has been way behind us gain ground quickly on us," Olens said. "I've spent enough time watching. I want to DO."
"Spent enough time watching, I want to do" - and I thought that talk was only in Adelaide and not bustling megacities like Atlanta!

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#12 Post by Prince George » Wed Jul 21, 2010 9:39 am

Heard this on ABC radio's "PM" yesterday - Vic Govt backflips on house buyback.
MARK COLVIN: With a state election due in late November the Brumby Government has been going through a public relations nightmare over the Regional Rail Link project in Melbourne's west.

It's one of the largest single infrastructure spending projects in Australia so on paper it could be a vote winner. Instead the Government has been forced to apologise to residents who found out through the media that their houses would be bulldozed as part of the project.

And the story had another twist. Five homeowners realised that they'd been left out of the acquisition process. The result - they could end up as an island surrounded by high-speed rail lines.
So the story's a pretty typical example of a very large public project that's suffering from some poor planning choices, an apparent lack of regard for the affected community, and possibly some dubious self-interests being pandered to. But what really struck me were the comments of Dr Paul Mees, "a senior lecturer in transport planning at RMIT University". Bear in mind, these aren't comments pulled from random punters, this is a respected expert being interviewed on the ABC. I was surprised by the vitriolic rhetoric.
PAUL MEES: If the project had been planned properly far enough in advance it wouldn't be necessary for the Minister to be running around last night door-knocking people's homes. You know that is transport planning by the Keystone Cops rather than transport planning of the kind that you'd expect in an advanced industrialised country.

...

PAUL MEES: Basically infrastructure projects giving the appearance of being planned by the hollow men in the press offices of various ministers and projects kind of dreamt up with no notice and next to no evaluation and disappear again when the minister changes.

We don't have the organisational capacity to run an effective public transport system. Our public transport system carried many, many more passengers 50 or 60 years ago than it does now so we do have the capacity to handle a lot more passengers if we were just prepared to run our public transport system at international best practice standards rather than at barely third-world standards.

...

PAUL MEES: There's in fact plenty of room to run long-distance services through the existing tunnel, freeing up the surface routes for suburban trains. It's just that nobody thought to investigate that possibility during the rushed so-called planning process for this project.

The whole point of transport planning is supposed to be to ensure that we don't spend money unnecessarily on infrastructure. So the first thing you do is say: what have we already got? We should be using that to the maximum level of efficiency before we spend billions more on additional infrastructure that probably wouldn't be needed if we used what we've got at anything approaching international standards of efficiency.
"Barely third-world standards", "transport planning by the Keystone Cops" - if you read it on AdelaideNow, you might say "only in Adelaide" ...

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#13 Post by Prince George » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:31 am

Here's another one from Cincinnati, OH. The "Queen City" has been in a slow decline for a long time (arguably since rail took over from rivers as the most important form of transport in the US) and has been another victim of the "hollowing out" pattern that many older cities show. To spark a regrowth of the inner city areas, in 2008 the council proposed a 3.9-mile streetcar loop through some underused neighbourhoods. For sake of comparison, the tramline from the railway station to the entertainment centre is about 2 miles, so there and back makes a 4-mile loop. So it's a pretty modest proposal, budgeted in the low $100-millions, and goes through areas of the city that have 92 acres of surface parking lots (so there's plenty of opportunity for development around the line). There was an attempt in 2009 to block the project that was soundly voted down, all in all it seems that there's some pretty well developed support and good reasons for it.

Enter the Cincinnati Enquirer, the local paper. Inspite of their claims that "[a]s we have written before, The Enquirer does not oppose the streetcar", their coverage provides a steady flow of negative press about the project and regular opportunities for the streetcar's opponents to have their opinions printed.
Enquirer poll buoys streetcar foes
A new poll showing strong opposition to the proposed Cincinnati streetcar, particularly to borrowing tens of millions of dollars to build it, has redoubled opponents' determination to block the project ... "Once again, we see that Cincinnatians are a lot smarter than their politicians," said leading streetcar opponent Tom Luken, a former Cincinnati congressman, mayor and councilman.
Tom Luken gets 3 more quotes, and 4 other councillors who oppose the streetcar all get attention to. On the pro-side, only one person gets a mention. And who was that survey from? The paper themselves, of course. Indeed, they liked the poll so much, they gave it their headline that day - Poll: Most oppose streetcars.

(In fairness, several days later they did give a supporter the chance to criticize the survey in a guest editorial - Streetcar poll biased, misleading)

And here's another marvellous piece of editorializing - Streetcar could reduce number of parking spaces for Cincinnati residents which comes with the sub-heading "City thinks people won't need cars, wants to change zoning code". The actual content of the article is better written than the deliberately inflamatory headline; in the area around the streetcar stops, why not reduce the number of parking spaces that developers are required to provide:
By a unanimous vote, the Cincinnati Planning Commission on Friday approved a zoning code change that would allow the city to reduce by 50 percent the parking places required for any residence within 600 feet of a streetcar stop. If that reduction lowers the number required to fewer than three, the building’s developer or owner would not have to provide any spaces for residents.

Currently, Cincinnati’s code requires between one and two spaces per residential unit, according to city planner Cameron Ross.

The theory behind the proposed change, which must be approved by City Council, is that many people living near the streetcar route will depend on it for much of their daily transportation, reducing their use of cars. That in turn would lower the number of residential parking spaces needed in buildings along or near the streetcar route, which will extend from Downtown’s riverfront to the Uptown communities around the University of Cincinnati.

Historic preservationists also like the idea of reduced parking requirements, because space mandates often consume more land and complicate efforts to save older buildings.
So there's almost a note of regret when the city received a federal grant for part of the costs - Cincinnati gets $25M for streetcar line. "The long, contentious debate over whether Cincinnati’s proposed streetcar system will be built has effectively ended, with a $25 million federal grant announced Thursday having made the controversial project all but a done deal." But that doesn't mean that they're going to go down quietly, as the next paragraph says:
The ferocity of the verbal salvos on both sides Thursday, however, demonstrates that the debate over whether the streetcar should be built likely will continue unabated for years.
And they make good on that threat - err, I mean comment - giving the afore-mentioned Tom Luken et al another airing in that very article, and with blog postings like Moving beyond the old streetcar questions (which seemed like all the same old questions all over again).

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#14 Post by monotonehell » Mon Jul 26, 2010 4:50 pm

"Streetcar plan could lead to premature baldness and erectile dysfunction."
Exit on the right in the direction of travel.

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Re: Only in Adelaide? Hardly!

#15 Post by skyliner » Thu Dec 30, 2010 2:11 pm

Will wrote:Thanks Prince George for starting this thread.

From my perspective, I think the reason why people have such cognitions relates to the explosion of extreme capitalism in the last few decades.

In the past, people were educated to be grateful for what they had, and to have moderate ambitions. Now, we are educated by the market to be shallow, materialistic, never be satisfied, have unrealistic expectations and want everything now.

I wish people took a deep breath and realised how much we already have, and not focus on the little we don't.
Best comment on the thread IMO. As Prince said these thoughts and comments are widespread - the only place I have not heard much like this is in Sydney. Wanting everything now is the panacea of the times mate.

As I have once said, especially in the above context, I find it hard to be negative about Adelaide. 'Adelaide now' makes up for the negativity.

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