Archive for January, 2017

Comparison of Baton Rouge and New Orleans Streetscapes

A Tale of Two Networks: Growing up in the suburbs, visiting the city

As part of our series documenting transportation systems that shaped our views, I follow Chanceé and Fabiana in discussing my early experiences with transportation systems. I’m from Louisiana and I spent most of my childhood in Baton Rouge. My maternal grandparents lived in New Orleans in the house where my mom made her debut, graduated, and where family holiday celebrations were still held. Growing up, Baton Rouge and New Orleans had very different transportation options.

The neighborhood in Baton Rouge where I grew up was a typical “Levittown” style suburb, with single family detached homes on lots with front and back yards. Day to day people got around by car, but our neighborhood has sidewalks that connected to retail, school, and recreation centers. The streets in our neighborhood were low volume, so as kids, we walked or biked wherever we needed to go, such as our friends’ houses, without a problem. It was pretty walkable, with most things we might need within a mile. For the first few years we lived there, a grocery store and a big box store were within an 8-10-minute walk. We would walk or ride our bikes there when we just needed a few things, but would drive if we were making a grocery bill. My first official job (besides babysitting) was within walking distance. I knew that there were city buses, but never saw them in our part of town until recent visits home. My only experience with a bus of any sort were the yellow ones that I would take to school every day until my friends got cars and we carpooled. We were a 1 car household after my brother was given his car and had to do a lot of organizing to chain trips to drop everyone off or pick everyone up. There were times when I had to wait to be picked up, but once I had enough money, I bought my own cell phone and could call for a ride.

In contrast, my maternal grandparents lived in New Orleans, just two blocks off the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Napoleon. New Orleans has an iconic heritage streetcar system and a network of streets designed for walking and horse and buggy. Until Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans had one of the longest continuously running streetcar systems in the country. I grew up riding them with my grandparents on the way to our destinations like the zoo, the Childrens’ museum, and the aquarium. To travel between the Aquarium and zoo, we took a ferry that shuttled people along the Mississippi River. We could easily walk to restaurants, grocery stores, retail, and other amenities. New Orleans drivers are notorious in Louisiana for their, shall we say, ‘bravado’, so we didn’t ever bike in the city. Back then, New Orleans didn’t have the bicycle network it does now. We did drive places, when they were outside of the city or not served by streetcars or other modes. We never took the city bus system in New Orleans, because we had other options to access our destinations.

My early contact with public transit in New Orleans and opposing lack of network in Baton Rouge helped shape my view of transportation and the need for multimodal systems that create that sense of connectivity and thus, freedom of choice and increased quality of life.

Comparison of Baton Rouge and New Orleans Streetscapes(Right- Baton Rouge Suburban Neighborhood, Left- St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans) Images via Google Streetview

 

 

Christine E. Mayeur is an urban planner with a unique set of skills and interests. She has been called a “renaissance woman” by her coworkers and is interested in all things creative and challenging. Christine uses her history of working with communities through grassroots organizations along with her planning skills to help plan transportation systems that meet the needs of all users. 

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DC’s Urban Forest

Trees help with reduction of storm water and watershed issues, heating and cooling of areas (e.g. the urban heat island effect), improve the quality of the air and the overall aesthetics of the environment.

The District of Columbia has addressed a study that suggested a decline in the District’s tree canopy by offering several programs for its citizens to become involved in the re-planting of its neighborhoods. Some of these programs include a Water-by-Cycle program, which uses bikes to water trees in difficult to navigate areas, a Summer Crew program, which takes 10 high school students every summer to weed, water and mulch trees in the hopes of improving their chances of survival in the critical early stages of growth. As a result of the effort since 2002 the district has installed 350,000 square feet of green roofs.

DDOT Urban Forestry Administration has been doing great work in tracking its progress to restore the District’s urban tree canopy. They recently won a GIS award from ESRI for their use of the the ArcGIS platform to improve street tree management.

Recently, New York City has taken on an initiative, MillionTrees NYC, to plant and care for one million new trees across the City’s five boroughs over the next decade. MillionTrees NYC is a public-private program aimed at increasing NYC’s urban forest by 20% so that the residents may benefit from the environmental impacts that trees provide.

The District and New York City are not alone in this initiative. Americanforest.org lists the 10 Best Cities for urban forests as: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Washington, D.C.

These initiatives are important because urban forests are critical to the impact of our environment. What are steps your city is taking to improve its urban forest and how are you helping?

Narom Lous is a civil engineering graduate of the Florida State University. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers’ Environmental Special Interest Group.





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