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Living in Gin

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  1. Yeah, I agree with this completely, except can we please not use the term "urban pioneer"? It makes it sound like more affluent folks moving into urban core neighborhoods come bearing smallpox-infected blankets. They just come bearing yarn-bombed bike racks and $12 hot dogs.
  2. I've long maintained that opposition to the streetcar is fundamentally about race. Smitherman wants a dysfunctional black ghetto upon which he can build a Detroit-style political machine to fulfill his own megalomaniacal ambitions, and COAST wants lily-white suburbs that they can keep lily-white by whipping up fear and resentment against the city (and in the process, line the pockets of the suburban developers who are the bread and butter of Finney's law practice). A healthy urban core with effective rail transit means more affluent white people moving to the city and more black and brown people moving to the suburbs, which ruins both Smitherman's and COAST's vision for how Cincinnati should be: an inner city with poor blacks who ride the bus because they have no choice, and wealthy white suburbs where people can afford to drive. This type of de facto segregation has been the natural order in this region for decades, and "leaders" like Smitherman and Chris Finney have done quite well for themselves under that system. As John Schneider has said here repeatedly: their worst fear isn't that the streetcar will be a failure, but that it will be a success. It's no different than how, back in the civil rights era, white supremacist groups like the KKK would occasionally hold joint rallies with radical black nationalist groups, because they both wanted the same thing: the continuation of the segregationist status quo. Both Smitherman and COAST are savvy enough to know they can't just come out and say they hate the streetcar because they want to see the Cincinnati region remain segregated, so they couch their opposition in terms of "fiscal responsibility" and a fight against "wasteful spending". But those arguments fall apart under the slightest factual scrutiny; their silence regarding the Brent Spence Bridge or any other freeway project speaks volumes. All that remains is the race angle. Just look at what they say in their less-guarded moments on Twitter: for Smitherman, it's all about keeping OTR from being gentrified by white people, and for the COASTers, it's all about rail transit as a form of welfare for criminals and smelly homeless (read: black) people. As I've said here before: Nobody musters up such passionate hatred over a dry fiscal debate. But watch how quickly the pitchforks and torches come out when a black family moves into an all-white suburb, or when some white hipster decides to be an urban pioneer in the ghetto.
  3. Living in Gin

    NYC-Area Transit News and Info

    To start things off with a bang, the MTA has posted some incredible photos of the excavation work for the East Side Access Project, which involves the creation of new commuter rail tunnels from Long Island to Midtown Manhattan, and a new station directly underneath Grand Central Terminal. This will allow LIRR trains to access GCT for the first time. The photos are by the MTA's Patrick Cashin. Full gallery on the MTA's Facebook page
  4. Living in Gin

    NYC-Area Transit News and Info

    I skimmed through the current topics on the Mass Transit board and didn't see a similar thread, so I thought I'd create a catch-all thread for news and discussion regarding transit in the New York City area. Topics of discussion include news regarding: Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA): NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Railroad, and MTA bus service The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey: PATH, AirTrain, NYC-area airports, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal NJ Transit: Commuter rail, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, Newark City Subway, local bus service in New Jersey Amtrak news specific to the NYC region. Have at it...
  5. The problem is when you try to go anywhere besides Uptown, Downtown, or Northside. The rest of the region is essentially off-limits unless you're willing to make multiple transfers and/or stand at a bus stop in the rain for 30 minutes. Metro does the best they can with the limited resources they have available, but there's no comparison between Metro's bus service and an extensive rail system. Chicago's rail transit system is pathetically inadequate for a city of that size, but far more of the city is easily accessible via public transit than in Cincinnati. Unlike Cincinnati, major shopping districts like North Michigan Avenue, the Clybourn Corridor, the South Loop, and many neighborhood business districts that contain high-quality urban grocery stores are accessible via rail transit in Chicago. And none of those cities can begin to compare with NYC, where almost the entire city (save for Staten Island and some more remote areas of Queens) are accessible with frequent, 24-hour subway service that usually includes express and local routes.
  6. Anybody who thinks architecture is only about "aesthetics" needs to read Blair Kamin's Why Architecture Matters and William Whyte's City: Rediscovering the Center cover-to-cover before coming to UO and spewing ignorant nonsense.
  7. I love driving and would even consider myself somewhat of a car enthusiast (I love watching BBC's Top Gear, and if money were no object I'd buy the new 2013 Range Rover in a heartbeat), but after spending $5+ gallon for gas in California over the summer, and $3000 for a new transmission on the drive back to Cincinnati in December, I'm quickly coming around to the idea that I'd rather spend what scarce money I have on things that aren't car-related. Out of curiosity, I ran some hypothetical household budgets based on salary figures and expenses I could reasonably expect to have in Cincinnati, New York, London, and Los Angeles. Much to my surprise, NYC actually came out on top in terms of the amount of money left over at the end of each month, even though I'd be paying at least double for rent there compared to Cincinnati. The reason? A higher salary there is certainly a big factor, but the kicker is the fact that I'd only be paying $104 a month for a subway pass, as opposed to several hundred a month for car payments, gas, parking, maintenance, and insurance. (Los Angeles, as you might imagine, came in dead-last in my hypothetical budget, as it combines a cost of living that approaches NYC with the need to own a car. London comes out only slightly ahead of LA because the cost of living there makes NYC look like a bargain by comparison.) Combined with the fact that I've lived in NYC before and already have good friends, an extensive professional network, and a great church community there, the burden is already on Cincinnati to convince me why I should stay here long-term. A few trendy bars and restaurants in OTR won't cut it alone, as there are a hundred in Manhattan for every one here. I have roots here in Cincinnati, but I've spent almost my entire adult life in Chicago and NYC. Building the streetcar shows that Cincinnati is serious about joining the big leagues in terms of being a real city, but if Cincinnati can't pull that off with a project as simple and inexpensive as this, then it will demonstrate that it doesn't deserve to be in the big leagues and that my future lies elsewhere.
  8. ^ I'm curious about many things; I just don't need to see UO threads being hijacked for off-topic chatter. Back to the streetcar: It needs to be made clear to Mallory and Qualls that abandoning the streetcar project at this stage is simply not an option. We've come this far, and this is the closest Cincinnati has come to having rail transit in generations. If it fails now, the streetcar will join the subway and other projects that are routinely held up by naysayers to demonstrate that the city is fundamentally incapable of building rail transit, and the naysayers would be proven right. While the city's renaissance may continue without the streetcar, it would certainly be drastically curtailed, and possibly even reversed. It would certainly cement my decision to move elsewhere once I'm done with grad school here.
  9. I'd argue that "public good" should be defined broadly to include factors beyond mere function and adherence to building codes. Beyond just "looking pretty", building design can have a huge impact on behavior, livability, return on investment, and other factors. It's why we hire architects to design buildings, and not just engineers and contractors.
  10. I think pedant is the word you're looking for.
  11. Having worked at one of the firms in question, I can say for a fact that nobody there wants to be Gehry, Eisenman, or whatever. (In fact, not a single person I know at DAAP aspires to be one of those architects. And Eisenman is so 1985.) Their biggest ambition was to leave the office by 5:00, collect their paycheck, and give their clients exactly whatever they demand and nothing more.
  12. The politicians themselves may not be experts, but they had experts like HDR, Parsons Brinckerhoff, and streetcar officials from Portland involved in the project from the very beginning. And there's nothing about the bid process on this project that's inherently different than on any other construction project the city is involved in.
  13. This begs the question of why one of these contractors (such as Messer) wasn't involved on the project as a consultant from very the beginning, including the initial feasibility studies where the first cost estimates were prepared. Their input earlier in the project could have identified ways to keep costs down, and/or provided for a more realistic initial cost estimate for the city to work from. This is becoming the norm on more and more public projects, to avoid surprises like these when the bids come in.
  14. This has nothing to do with "starchitect" mentality; quite the opposite. There are maybe fifty architects worldwide who legitimately fall into the category of "starchitect", and none of them are involved in either the U Square or casino projects. These projects are horrible because the developers wanted something that could be built cheaply and turn a quick profit, and they hired architects of mediocre talent who would roll over and give them exactly what they wanted, regardless of any detriment to the urban context. Architects have a legal and ethical responsibility to create projects that benefit the public good, but some architects take that responsibility more seriously than others. A few can get away with abandoning that responsibility because of the sheer power of their egos, but most get away with it simply because they don't give a damn as long as they're getting paid. I know it's fashionable to bash architects here on UO, and the architects of these projects certainly deserve it, but please make sure you're bashing them for the right reasons.
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