All posts by owain-james

Eden Center Watches Doors Close One-By-One During the Pandemic

Businesses all over the country are struggling with the economic fallout of COVID-19. Declining traffic and sales are hitting immigrant businesses especially hard. NPR’s Eliza Berkon reported on the effects of the pandemic on the Eden Center in Falls Church, a hub of the Northern Virginia Vietnamese community since the decline of Clarendon’s Little Saigon in the 1980’s.

Professor Morton is quoted in the article:

“Clarendon in the late ’70s and ’80s proved to be fertile ground for this nascent immigrant community. The neighborhood stores had lost much of their business, as shoppers flocked to the Parkington Shopping Center in Ballston or elsewhere, says Elizabeth Morton, an urban planning professor at Virginia Tech’s Arlington campus. (Parkington would be redeveloped as Arlington’s first modern mall, Ballston Common, in 1986.)

‘The traditional kind of Main Street walkable center — which now we planners are desperately trying to re-insert into an urban environment — was sort of falling out of fashion,’ Morton says. ‘And that was only exacerbated by the Metro.’

While construction of the Clarendon Metro stop tore up the area around Wilson Boulevard in the 1970s, building owners offered short-term leases that were ideal for refugees with entrepreneurial ambitions, Morton says. But years later, after the station opened in 1979, development boomed, rents rose, and many of Little Saigon’s business owners found better opportunities at the Eden Center, named for a shopping center in Saigon.

The full story can be read on NPR’s website

Greg Rogers and Jyot Chadha

Our planning studio was lucky enough to have Greg Rogers and Jyot Chadha come and present the latest developments in new mobility to our class.

Greg Rogers is the Director of Government Affairs and Mobility Innovation at Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). In this role, Greg advocates for federal and state policies that will enable the safe and expeditious adoption of autonomous vehicles and other emerging technologies.

Greg presented on the opportunities that open up for cities with the introduction of autonomous vehicles. AVs, he pointed out, won’t be a silver bullet for fixing transportation, but they can help in many areas including safety, transportation costs, and carbon emissions. Since the vast majority of vehicle crashes are caused by human error, AVs could mean a significant safety increase and the dynamics of fleet operating AVs mean that AVs are likely to be electric from the start.

Greg also emphasized that taking full advantage of AVs requires rethinking how we allocate urban space to vehicles currently. Right now, significant portions of public and private space is dedicated to storing vehicles for long periods of time. For AVs, short term pick up and drop off zones make more sense than parking, since less people will be driving themselves to their destination and leaving their car.

Jyot Chadha leads the New Sustainable Mobility practice at the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities. She works with the fastest growing mega cities in the developing world to understand the disruption taking place in transport today. Her work involves harnessing shared, electric, and driverless innovations for societal, environmental, and economic benefit.

Jyot talked about the opportunity AVs provide us since AV deployment will mean a turnover of a significant portion of the vehicle fleet. She pointed out that we have underpriced personal vehicle use and dedicated lots of public space to their use. The roll out of AVs will allow us an opportunity to rethink our cities.

David Rouse and Veronica Davis

The Autonomous Vehicles in Arlington Studio Class was grateful that David Rouse and Veronica Davis came and shared their wisdom about how autonomous vehicles should and do fit into the existing transportation field.

David Rouse is the Managing Director of Research and Advisory Services for the American Planning Association in Washington, DC. David is active in APA’s Smart Cities and Sustainable Cities initiative, focusing on the implications of autonomous vehicle technology for cities and regions.

David presented to the class on the current research efforts by the APA into AVs and the current planning efforts. He warned that even though we are less than a decade out from the roll out of AV pilots, 95% of large cities have no AV plan. Rouse warned that if cities are not prepared, AV roll out could resemble the dockless scooter and bike systems that have taken cities by surprise and forced local governments to quickly update their rules and regulations.

David pointed out that the new vehicles could resemble dockless vehicles in more ways than just the chaotic roll out, with operators acting more like a technology company than a traditional transportation provider or manufacturer. AVs would likely operate in fleets for short term use by individuals or groups. When planning for an autonomous future, David is adamant that technology should not guide urban design, but instead technology should be focused on serving better human centered design.

Veronica Davis is co-owner of the environmental and urban planning consulting firm Nspiregreen and the co-founder of Black Women Bike. She oversees transportation and urban planning projects for Nspiregreen as well as advocating for multimodal transportation focused on people first.

Veronica was optimistic about the prospect of a shared AV future but also stressed the importance of incorporating sustainable and equitable goals into AV policy from the very beginning and not as an after thought. She pointed out how readily the kids of today are taking up the shared model of bikes and scooters and how these same kids would be the ones using shared AVs in the future.

Veronica also pointed out that AVs would come with downsides as well as benefits. AVs present new road obstacles to people with disabilities and when planning for AVs, its important to consider all voices and include all in the conservation at the table.