Tag Archives: Indianapolis

Doing laps around the “Circle City”

Source: flickr.com

My hometown of Indianapolis has been a logically designed community based on traditional geometric shapes ever since it’s designer Alexander Ralston first put pen to paper. Monument Circle (source of the ‘Circle City’ nickname) sits at the heart of the original mile square, with a radiating street pattern extending outward from there, though it becomes more grid-oriented in the midtown areas. Later, an outer loop (not circle) was created by Interstate 465 and a near perfect oval was constructed for high-speed excitement and adventure in the suburb of Speedway. Because of Monument Circle and the I-465 outer loop, the motor speedway was not the only place you could do laps in and around Indianapolis. You just could not do them at 230 miles per hour.

Ralston Plan - Source: ratioblog.com

As a young person, I found the grid layout rather boring compared to the winding streets elsewhere. For the longest time, Kessler Boulevard and Spring Mill Road were my two favorite streets because they had curves in them. In the end, I realized it was not the street pattern that bothered me, it was the lack of topographic change that was more of the problem. The big advantage of the city’s spatial form, you rarely if ever got lost.

Now that I have not lived in Indiana for many years, I find the city’s original spatial form to be inspired. However, the nickname of Circle City may have been co-opted by its rapidly growing neighbor to the north.

en.wikipedia.org

Today, if you want to do laps in metropolitan Indianapolis, the place to do them is in the burgeoning northern suburb of Carmel (2011 est. population of 85,000). The City of Carmel has the distinction of having more roundabouts than any other municipality in the United States – more than 80 built or planned at last count. By comparison, the suburb of Greater Lansing where I live has less than one hand’s worth. Compared to Carmel, we have only stuck our pinky toe into the whirling roundabout waters.

Because of Carmel’s documented leadership in roundabouts, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) held its third annual International Roundabout Conference there in 2011.

The advantages of roundabouts are numerous. A few of them are cited below, many of which are also included in a very useful brochure the city has published:

  • Roundabouts keep traffic flowing, which is much more energy efficient than stopping, idling, and starting at traffic signals.
  • Roundabouts force the vehicular traffic to slow down considerably at intersections which improves safety for pedestrians and cyclists and allows for freer movement of non-motorized traffic.
  • Despite the higher up-front construction cost,  roundabouts are much more cost effective over the long haul.
  • Repairs from accidents that occur in roundabouts are less costly.
  • Injuries suffered in accidents in roundabouts are less severe.
  • Roundabouts prevent head-on collisions.
  • Roundabouts are much more aesthetically pleasing, especially when landscaping and artwork are incorporated into the center island – a requirement in Carmel.

Roundabout on the western edge of downtown Carmel

Are roundabouts perfect for every intersection – of course not. Some intersection have insurmountable natural or manmade features. But as Carmel, Indiana has proven, they can be successfully employed in a variety of locations, even expressway exits (see photo above from the Keystone Parkway in Carmel). Kudos to Carmel, Indiana for being an innovative worldwide leader in roundabouts.

–Rick Brown

 

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Filed under architecture, Featured, Good Ideas, sprawl, Uncategorized, Urban Planning

Brookings: Great Lakes Metros Should Boost Exports

USA-ECONOMY/TRADE

The folks at Brookings released a report Monday on the importance of exports to the economies of Great Lakes cities.

Among the findings:

– Exports support 1.95 million jobs in Great Lakes metros

– Cities in this region have some of the highest volumes (dollar-wise) of exports and the greatest reliance on exports. Out of the nation’s top 100 metro areas, Chicago ranks third and Detroit ranks ninth in total dollar volumes of exports. Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis all rank in the top 20, the study states.

How does your city compare?

“Now is a particularly critical time for Great Lakes areas to be smart about their export strategies,” the report’s authors write.

“There is new national attention to increasing the volume of US exports.  In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a doubling of US exports in the next five years.  Administration officials have also cited greater exports as a way to bolster the condition of the hard-hit manufacturing communities in the US.”

It’s part of a larger Brookings report on how the nation’s cities can lead export growth.

What conclusions should we draw?

“The metropolitan areas of the Great Lakes region are among the most globally engaged metros in the country,” says the report.

“They produce goods and offer services that are in demand around the world, particularly in rapidly emerging markets like Brazil, India, and China.  A national effort to double exports in the next fi ve years holds great promise for these metros that are already fairly export-oriented.  But this opportunity may be squandered if Great Lakes metros do not focus intensely on innovation, both in terms of expanding the range of products and services that they offer and in their specific product and service lines.  A legacy of success in exports does not guarantee future dominance, a lesson that Great Lakes metros should have learned through rough experience.”

What do you think?

-KG

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, regionalism, U.S. Auto Industry

Welcome to the Forefront of the Housing Crisis, Cincinnati, Columbus and Indianapolis

It’s kinda nice to read a story about the housing crisis that isn’t set in my backyard (Cleveland) for once.

This time, my hometown of Columbus is front and center in the sad story of houses without owners. A neighborhood in west Columbus was found to have the highest vacancy rate in the country, according to an Associated Press analysis, based on Housing and Urban Development and Postal Service data.

This is kinda unusual because Columbus is generally regarded to be the golden child of Ohio in these parts.

I know the Columbus neighborhood well. Continue reading

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Filed under Urban Planning

Population Matchup: Winners Indianapolis, Columbus; Losers Detroit, Cleveland

The Urbanophile blog has aggregated and analyzed the results of the 2008 census, showing modest gains for regional winners Indianapolis and Columbus while reflecting continuing decline in Detroit and Cleveland.

The national story is that migration has slowed, the Urbanophile reports, but that is likely due to the strained economy offering fewer attractive distant positions and bringing home sales to a standstill.

Sun Belt cities, of course, lead the pack, with Austin and Charlotte topping the list. Meanwhile, Detroit and Cleveland he refers to as “basket-cases.” He notes however, that while Detroit’s population has “fallen off a cliff,” Cleveland’s population loss has leveled some.

It’s important to note that this is all pre-economic-apocalypse.

Anyway, check out the post, it’s loaded with neat charts and numbers!

http://theurbanophile.blogspot.com/

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