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New Richardson, TX trails and Bond Election March 11, 2010

Posted by bibliosk8 in transportation, urban/suburban life.
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I wrote this on Bike Friendly Richardson this morning, after seeing trail construction on my morning bike ride to work.

As I just read what I’ve written below, I realized it somewhat, errrrr…, well, it’s kind of like a rant. So please just cut me some slack.

Richardson is holding a bond election for some improvements to city infrastructure and amenities on May 8.  The entire package will raise the property taxes on a home of about $180,000 valuation by about $110 a year. Amazingly, some nutcases are against this. C’mon people, that is NOTHING. It isn’t like they’re gonna flush that money down the toilet. They are maintaining and improving our city — doing things to try to attract talented, educated, good people to live here, to get excellent companies to locate in Richardson.  Good grief, if we left things up to these teabaggers, we’d have no public life at all.

Seriously – do we want to end up like Garland? I don’t think so.

And before some teabagger brings this up — YES – I am a homeowner. In fact, I actually own my home, rather than renting it from the bank. I don’t mind paying an extra $110 per year to keep our city moving in the right direction. It’s all part of living in a good civilization.

Stickers And Buttons March 7, 2010

Posted by concreteguy in bikes, urban/suburban life.
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Stickers And Buttons

Originally uploaded by dickdavid

Richard W’s new stickers and buttons for Bike Friendly Richardson. It sure is nice to have an artist in the group. Richard does great posters and flyers for the events.

Oh…this is the 100th post on this blog. Yay.

Highway projects in DFW — so depressing… February 24, 2010

Posted by bibliosk8 in politics, transportation, urban/suburban life.
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Saw these two stories today in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Highways are really, really expensive.  I hear people complain sometimes that not everyone on the DART train buys a ticket — that there are cheaters. Compare that relatively small loss to the massive investment in freeways…it just doesn’t compare.

The money involved in just these two projects totals to over three billion dollars. That would finance a lot of light rail and bike lanes and street cars.  I’m glad my friends who have to drive in these parts are perhaps looking at less misery, but there’s got to be a better way of doing things….

http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/02/23/1992005/stretch-of-ne-loop-820-has-dallas.html

http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/02/23/1990762/work-begins-on-dfw-connector.html

Joe Urban on biking in Portland February 15, 2010

Posted by bibliosk8 in bikes, urban/suburban life.
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Enjoyed this article on biking in Portland, by Joe Urban.

Biking in Portland (and thoughts on what makes it such an urban mecca)

Texas Electric Railway October 20, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in sustainability, urban/suburban life.
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railway 007I’ve been working in downtown Plano, Tx, for a few years now, and during that time my interest in transportation and urban planning have grown. Every time I’m driving around town and I see the DART light rail train, it just makes me smile. I love it.

Many people don’t know that between 1908 and 1948, North Texas had a very cool commuter rail system – the Texas Electric Railway. The system ran north/south from Denison in the north, down through Plano, Richardson, and Dallas, and all the way to Waco. It was a passenger system that ran electric trains that looked like street cars. Back in those days, Plano and Richardson were very small rural towns. The system allowed people to travel to the city efficiently. The cars could apparently reach speeds of 60mph.

I won’t try to tell the entire history of it here. The only place you can see one of the cars and learn about the system is the Interurban Railway Museum, in downtown Plano. Their website tells you a lot about the history.

Also, here is a D Magazine story from 1977: When Dallas had Mass Transit.

I’m going to try to make an appointment to go interview the historian there. I spoke briefly to one of the mean giving tours, who told me as a private company, the railway was not able to continue when faced with increasing requirements for more sophisticated control systems. Of course, as automobiles became popular, and the highway system was built, that probably put the final nail in the railway’s coffin, as it runs roughly parallel to Central Expressway and IH-35.

It is a shame that the government didnt’ help out. And its amusing that now, as the DART system expands, we are trying to recreate something we had 100 years ago. Over the last year of reading about these kinds of issues, I’ve learned that many of the great old street car systems that American cities used to have were bought up by the auto/highway companies, and shut down. They simply bought up the competing system of transportation, with the help of some government scumbags.

Anyway,  here are some pictures from the museum.

Farmer’s markets and luxuries October 20, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in sustainability, urban/suburban life.
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Saw this on a thread on the message board of kunstlercast.com, relating to the recent podcast there about food. One of the participants brings up some common objections to farmer’s markets as being mostly for the wealthy. I enjoyed Duncan’s (the host) reply. I think he’s exactly right.

Quote from: jarober on October 01, 2009, 03:42:32 PM

What you miss is simple: farmer’s markets are expensive luxury items, not a sustainable way to feed a large population.  For that matter, being a vegetarian by choice is an affectation of wealthy socities; poorer ones grabat tge (rare) opportunities for meat. 

There’s also this: “eating locally” means giving up on a lot of very healthy foods during off seasons – say hello to a whole range of banished 19th century nutrition problems.  If modern habits are so bad for us, how does life expectancy keep rising?

The whole farmers market-as-luxury argument makes me laugh.  Most of the really high prices at the farmers’ market are literally for “luxury” items — like fancy cheese, or gourmet peanut butter. Those items are priced as luxury items — DUH!

But I find that most of the food is reasonably priced. Although I do make it a habit of looking around before I buy. One farmer might be charging more or less for the same item.

Either way, you get what you pay for in terms of nutrition.  The eggs I buy at my local farmers market cost more than the runny, nutritionally-vacuous factory farm eggs at the supermarket. But they cost the same as the “organic” eggs in the supermarket. So I’d rather buy them from farmers who live in my community and whom I see every week.*

A lot of people who bitch and moan about the cost of food at farmers’ markets have X-boxes, plasma tvs, huge DVD collections, big houses and big cars out in the burbs. They have Jet Skis for the summer and Ski Doos for the winter. They take the kids to Walley World (or Six Flags or Disney World) once a year. Etc. Etc.

One of their favorite delusions is to pretend they can’t afford things like food at the farmers’ market because they’re just hard workin’ middle class folks who don’t have money for that fancy “green” food. That is their verbal patriotic totem. We’re not supposed to make them feel bad because they “can’t afford” to shop at the farmers’ market.

But the reality is that they can afford to shop at the farmers’ market. They just don’t want to. They don’t want to deal with the human interaction. And they don’t want to spend money on local food when they could be spending their money on trinkets at Target.

They could skip one meal at a restaurant per week and spend it on the “additional” cost of farmer’s market food. They could not buy that DVD set of Lost Season 5. They could cancel their cable subscription. They could carpool. They could pass on buying that nifty plastic banana slicer that they’ve had their eyes on at Wal Mart.

There are million ways they could make up for the “extra” cost of shopping at the farmers market. And in doing so they could also be help out their local farmers who usually belong to the real middle class in this country.

As far as the seasonal thing goes. If you need to supplement your winter diet with Frankenberries and Frankenanas, then go for it dude! Don’t use that as an argument not to shop at the farmers market at all!

My city has a year-round farmers market. And there’s an amazing amount of great fresh food available during the winter. The greens are grown in green houses. Some of the fruits — like the apples, have been frozen.

As far as life expectancy goes, if you believe that the corn syrup generation will outlive the previous generation then by all means…. dig in brother.

(* Another thing to consider: When I support my local farmer, I am also helping to pay for them to help conserve the agricultural landscape which I enjoy looking at and being in. I’m helping them keep the cul de sacs out of the country. Which also helps my city in many ways.)

« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 08:07:02 PM by Duncan »

Cars and community September 26, 2009

Posted by bibliosk8 in urban/suburban life.
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This post is kind of random, just kind of brought on by some experiences from this week and a book I’m reading.

I’ve been spending a lot of time at my parent’s house due to a family illness, which has put me more in the car traffic pattern than normal. My typical commute, by car or bike, is pretty short. 7 easy miles of fairly slow streets – about 15 minutes.

Commuting from my folks house is a little longer, and uses busier streets. A more intense commute. More people driving like assholes. More people taking unnecessary chances with their driving.

My normal commute is really pretty tranquil, so the alternate commute is really a wake up call, just reaffirming how stupid our cities are laid out.

Over the last week I’ve been reading this book It’s a Sprawl World After All. The book is about, obviously, suburban sprawl, and its negative effects on our national culture — the destruction of “genuine communities”. Anyway, I’m about 2/3 the way through the book. The book is a little repetitious. I don’t disagree with most of the issues he discusses, but there is a lot of fluff. A lot of “filler” text. But I digress…

Experiencing this commute while reading this book has been kind of weird. We’ve been lucky enough to arrange our normal, day-to-day life with very little commute. So this week I had a chance to observe the crazy lifestyle, lack of civility, and overall stupidity described in the book first hand.

Now, on the other hand, our neighborhood had our yearly picnic today. We have a really good, voluntary neighborhood association. Not the kind that enforces dead restrictions, but rather one that promotes a sense of community within our area, known Greenwood Hills, in Richardson, Tx.

Turnout was good, and its just always nice to get people together like that. While we do live in an inner-ring suburb, it is an older suburb, and it feels practically urban compared to the newer, outlying communities. We can actually walk to the grocery store, pharmacy, nearby schools, banks, etc. The firefighters from the neighborhood fire station were there with a fire truck to show people, several of our city council members were there.

So while we aren’t Mayberry, we do try to get to know each other and have some interaction.

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