Walk Score is an online software tool that assesses the basic characteristics of any address in Canada or the United States given to it. Your neighbourhood is rated by an algorithm between 0 and 100 for ease of access to a list of general amenities, such common sense things as schools, cinemas, bus stops. Its intentions are generally progressive and supportive of the idea that a walkable community is simply nicer to live in and easier on the environment and therefore more desirable. Walk Score is often used by people looking for a new neighbourhood and it can be quite fairly said to be a barometer of the quality of life in a given place. A strong Walk Score, would reflect the humane values of urbanist Jane Jacobs. A low Walk Score might be reflected in a less salubrious environment.
So, it was a little disorienting to come across a Texas mom’s utilization of Walk Score today. All those people nearby in your dense, cross-connected community? Well, if things got tough they might just kill you and eat your brain, right? If there was a pandemic, a civil war, an infrastructure and economic crash all at the same time you want to be ready, right? You need maximum info on where to be when things get even dumber than they already are.
Jamie, who seems super nice and obviously really loves her kids, blogged about the way she applies Walk Score to her preparations for the coming apocalypse. Walk Score provides her with intel on her kind of community. The index tells Jamie where she doesn’t want to be.
This is almost a mirror opposite use of Walk Score for assessing resilience. Flying deeper into the century, each to their own anxiety, we suppose…
Walk score. One test preppers want their home to FAIL!
image: Jeremy Brooks via Flickr/CC
One of the big ideas around here is that poverty and social difficulty are built right into the very structure of sprawl.
The hidden inequality of America’s street design. New data shows that pedestrians in the U.S. are more likely to die if they’re poor, a person of color, uninsured, or old
image: photograntner via Flickr/CC
After having read the recent non-fiction bestseller Evicted we feared no good news about housing could ever come out of Milwaukee barring a full scale miracle. Then we read a little about a sensible undertaking in that US city that seeks to answer to the problem of the ‘missing middle’. Nice.
For more about the types of housing it might behoove North Americans to look into a little more assertively:
Subdivided. City Building In An Age of Hyper-Diversity
Jay Pitter & John Lorinc, editors
2016. Coach House Books, Toronto
279 pages. $20.95 CAN
This collection of essays was much tougher reading than we expected. After nearly six years blogging about social difficulty in the suburbs we don’t expect to be unnerved by our topic. Subdivided unnerved us.
The good old days of multiculturalism, in which eastern and southern Europeans (and maybe a few other groups), found Toronto adjusting to, and eventually welcoming, them are long gone. In its place, we now see an ever bigger and richer Toronto home to newcomers in a living arrangement of hyper-diversity. This infinitely more complex Toronto is by turns depressing, ugly, unjust and unequal despite recurrent commentary about its peacefulness, high socio-cultural potential and general awesomeness.
Subdivided delivers unto us many a less-than-comfortable truth. There’s too many people here in isolated lives centred on a combination of shit jobs and lacklustre housing. Reading Subdivided made us feel like Toronto’s diversity is the stuff of an Adam Curtis documentary, another nightmarish expression of the global economic machine and its operating system, neoliberalism.
That toughness of presentation is what makes this collection of essays so amazing, so real. It’s hard to think of any other such wellspring of direct, sustained observation of what it is really like to live here. A chapter on Brampton, for example, brings forth a wave of nausea faster than a jar of expired mayonnaise. ‘Browntown’ is next door to suburban-poverty.com’s backyard, we can attest to the truth of what is said here about Brampton. Same for another entry on Mississauga, which is literally our backyard. You’d almost wonder why Canada bothers attracting new residents to its Sprawlvilles. Except perhaps as a cycnical ploy to increase domestic markets and the tax base and to fulfill some corporate/ideological role in the global economy.
What to do? Good transit, a strong social safety net, higher wages, police reform, and affordable housing would help us toward a healthy, cross-connected society according to the essays in Subdivided. None of these things will be achieved quickly or cheaply, though.
We better get busy before something really awful comes of the present lame and indifferent regime of city building in greater Toronto. Stress is not good for the indivdual or the community. Stress and reaction brought us Rob Ford, the scale model mock up of Donald Trump. Who knows what the stresses of race and class we are leaving in place will inflict on us? We aren’t Milwaukee yet but how much longer will we sleepwalk into this?
We suggest future editions of Subdivided include a stamped, pre-addressed thank you card readers can mail to the one percent.
Buy Subdivided for your unnerved urban affairs shelf.
Accidents involving walkers and bicycle riders struck by motor vehicles are a troubling, costly aspect of sprawl. They appear to be built right into the whole matter of community life structured around automobiles and the infrastructure provided for them. This bodily damage really has to be stopped.
More than 1000 cyclists and pedestrians hit on Toronto streets since June 1. New statistics show vulnerable road users struck at rate of one every two and a half hours
The morbid and mortal toll of sprawl. The ‘elephant in the living room’ of rising and preventable US traffic deaths is government funded roads in drive-only places
image: davidd via Flickr/CC
Counterfactual propositions are most times best avoided. We all are hungry for glimpses of the future, sure. That part is okay. There’s just too much risk of distraction in many a creative “what if” scenario, too much room for wild swings of positive or negative projection. Let’s make an exception today for this dystopic reflection on an imagined socioeconomic existence for Vancouver, BC. Yikes! This can’t be a future anybody wants a part of.
How Vancouver’s housing segregation became policy: a 2040 look back. Decades from now, researchers reflect with shock, pity on what led to creation of regional, economically unequal ‘bantustans’
image: via basementgeographer.com – CC
Earlier this year urban planning was said to be the hot new occupation. Nice! Especially if it means we’ll have more people paying attention to the built, spatial dimension of inequality and poverty? Hope so. No kids, it isn’t all groovy, inclusive charettes and pencil crayon renderings of LRTs. Here’s a couple of recent pieces to help the young upstarts dig into the realities.
image: Chicago Transit Authority archives via Flickr/CC
Mississauga is tough for us to figure out at times, even though the suburban-poverty.com office complex has been located in this sprawlalicious place for some five full years now. Surrey, BC? Never been. Both places are mentioned right away in this sensible article asking that we consider framing where most of us find ourselves living a little differently.
Forget downtowns and suburbs: the “in-between cities” are where it’s at
cbc.ca The 180 with Jim Brown
Reconnecting the in-between city
image: Surrey, BC by Waferboard via Flickr/CC
Two strong features from the US that show us car-dependent sprawl is configured quite deeply against those with low incomes.
No Driver’s License, No Job? Conservative policymakers urge those in need to get work. But for those without driver’s licenses—who are by and large people of color—that’s not such an easy task
Poor people pay for parking even when they can’t afford a car
Image: alden Jewell via Flickr/CC