T-shirt roundup

Everyone is strutting their best transpo Ts here at the Towards Carfree Cities conference. Here are a few highlights…

Official Carfree conference t-shirt. We’re trying to get our hands on a couple of these babies.

Lots more after the jump. Updated many times so check back for new ones…

Big Ideas for a Small Planet: Transport

The opening keynote speaker at the Towards Carfree Cities conference is Mia Birk, from a bike/ped planning firm here in Portland called Alta Design. Check out the short episode of “Big Ideas for a Small Planet,” above, featuring Mia talking about the pedestrian & bicycle planning movement in Portland — she’s very eloquent and the makes the argument for bike- and pedestrian-friendly cities in a very accessible way.

Real Estate Tours by Bike

Live blogging from the Towards Carfree Cities conference in Portland, OR…

Next to our table, we found a real estate broker from Portland who gives bike tours of houses for sale.  What a great way to see neighborhoods and get a taste of what it might be like to live in a place!

LSN at the Carfree Cities Conference

This week, a handful of us from the Livable Streets team at TOPP are out in Portland, OR visiting the 8th International Towards Carfree Cities conference.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be giving a presentation entitled “Street Fight!  Lessons from the NYC Livable Streets Movement.”  So far, we’ve had a great time here in Portland — we picked up our rental bikes this morning, and the conference is just getting into gear.  More to come…

Coming soon… The Livable Streets Network

For the past several months, my coworkers and I over at The Open Planning Project have been hard at work on an important redesign and new product launch. I’m now excited to say that the final launch is, ahem, days away.  Streetsblog and StreetFilms have been hugely popular since they launched two years ago, making an impact here in NYC and beyond, and developing a great community of readers.  The Livable Streets Network, as we’re calling the new, unified effort, intends to take this to the next level, by providing more online tools and new opportunities for collaboration.

We’ve code named the project “Woonerf,” which is dutch for “a street or group of streets where pedestrians and cyclists have legal priority over motorists.”  It’s an apt title indeed for a group of sites that aims to unite and motivate citizens across the country who want to make their cities more comfortable, livable, and sustainable.

While we’re not quite ready to flip the switch, we do have a live demo that folks can check out in the meantime.  If you’d like to see it, just fill out this short form, and we’ll send you a link.

Expect more soon as we approach the launch.  Here goes nothing…

Taking it to the streets

(ok, I obviously need to work on less cheesy headlines, but for the moment…)

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of accompanying TOPP’s latest hire, Kim Wiley-Schwartz, on a pilot session for her new Livable Streets curriculum.  She’s developing an education program around Livable Streets that’s debuting in several NYC public schools this spring.

This week’s session took two groups of students from PS 87 (1st, 4th, and 5th graders) out into the neighborhood to do streetscape observations (“do you see a bike lane?,” “do cars slow down at the speed bump?”) as well as radar gunning on Columbus Avenue to gauge traffic speed.  Obviously, radar gunning was the more popular activity, with all the kids clamoring for a turn with Transportation Alternatives‘ Nathan John (above).

This is a really exciting new program, and it was great to see how tuned-in little New Yorkers already are to the urban environment around them.  Go get ’em Kim!

Wanted: Awesome web designer

TOPPHere at The Open Planning Project, we are currently looking to add to our talented design team.  If you’re a web designer with visual design talent, rock-solid production skills, and a strong intuition for user experience, we want to hear from you.  Download the full job description.

Life is good at TOPP — we work on really cool projects and have an amazing team, plus nice perks like five weeks paid vacation and lunch every day.  We’re a “dot-org”: a new kind of non-profit that feels like a dot-com startup.  If you’re interested in working with us, let us know.

Changing behavior, one bag at a time

lots of suitcases

Yesterday, American Airlines announced that it’s going to start charging a fee for checked baggage. Of course, this will draw the ire of frequent and not-so-frequent flyers everywhere. But, perhaps it makes some sense.

What’s making flying expensive right now is the cost of fuel. So, if people pack less, planes will be lighter and use less fuel. The logic is sound. Of all the cost-cutting approaches airlines have employed lately (charging for movies, food, etc.), this one is particularly interesting, because it puts a valid question to the consumer: Do I really need to pack that much? Can I pack less and still be ok?

Every time I go to the airport, I’m blown away by how much people pack when they travel, even for short trips. Going on a weekend trip? You probably need a huge suitcase and a carry on. Taking a week vacation? Giant suitcase for everyone in the family. Please; give me a carry-on duffle and I won’t pack all those extra clothes I’ll never wear once I get there anyway.

Of course, there are many cases where packing lots of stuff and checking your bag is unavoidable. But in reality, these occasions are quite limited, and I know that more people could pack less if they tried. My wife and I have been on the no-checked-baggage-unless-we-absolutely-have-to plan for a while now, and let me tell you, it’s the way to go. No waiting at the baggage claim, and no schlepping around extra crap that you don’t need.

Regardless, I’m sure American is going to take some flack for this. We were just talking about this here at the office, and Bryan pointed out that being a first-mover on a fee like this is risky business. That’s for sure, although it sounds like United is seriously considering going next. Phil raised a good point that this fee would feel much better if it were posed as a discount rather than a fee. For example, a $15 discount for not checking a bag would be much more palatable to consumers. Now that’s nice. It will be interesting to see what happens to American here, whether people will run to other airlines or take the “discount” and pack light.

Unfortunately, what’s likely to happen is that everyone will start overpacking their carry-ons…

Streetfilms: Diverter

Elizabeth Press over at Streetfilms has been producing awesome stop-motion animations recently. The latest: Diverter. This short video shows how diverters can be used to redirect traffic flow and make intersections more friendly for pedestrians and cyclists.

This is a great follow-up to Clarence Eckerson’s epic Berkeley Bike Boulevards video, showing some of these ideas in practice.

Elizabeth has also done stop motion films on chicanes and raised crosswalks.

Taking the train to work

Last Tuesday, Aaron Naparstek and I took in the Yankee game and watched the impressive Cliff Lee throw a 7-inning shut out and drop his ERA to 0.81, in what some analysts were calling “the pitching matchup of the season” (5-0 Lee vs. 6-0 Wang).

It turns out, had we been a little earlier, we would have caught Cliff riding the 4 train up to the stadium. Pretty cool that major leaguers (not to mention the upcoming game’s starters) take the subway to work.

Now, if only the city would encourage transit use to stadiums rather than subsidizing more car parking

Update: Aaron blogged about this today on Streetsblog.


One of my colleagues at The Open Planning Project, Sebastian Benthall, has started blogging over at Digifesto. Seb is one sharp cookie, so keep an eye on this blog for lots of great web gems — the blog will be focusing on “how the internet and open source software can be used by civil society to save the world.” I have a feeling it’s going to be big (no pressure, Seb).

MX Conference

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the MX Conference in San Francisco. MX stands for Managing Experience, and is targeted at people like me: managers of creative teams attempting to produce great user experiences. The conference is put on by the folks at Adaptive Path, who have a fair amount of experience managing experience.

Given that it was a conference about providing great user experiences, I thought I’d pick out a few details that struck me as surprising and extra-nice (in order of appearance):

  • Location: OK, this is not a small detail, but it was an important one. The conference was at the beautiful Mark Hopkins hotel, at the top of Nob Hill. The hotel was beautiful, and even getting there was pleasant: from where I was staying, I took BART downtown, and then hopped a cable car up the hill to the hotel, catching view of the bay at each cross street. Pretty sweet.
  • The detail that made me smile every time was the Return to Your Seats music — at the end of each break, they played 1970s game show theme music to signal that it was time to sit down.
  • Video clip strategery: Refocusing an audience’s attention after a break is a challenge, and I really liked AP’s approach here. After the return-to-your-seats music, rather than tapping a microphone for attention, they simply started playing a movie clip. Clips were selected from films shot in San Francisco (Bullitt, The Rock, In Harms Way), and usually lasted a minute or two. Slowly, audience members noticed the clip was playing, and by the end of every clip, everyone’s attention was focused on the front of the room.
  • A/V: I’ve put on my fair share of seminars and workshops, and I know that getting presentations to work smoothly (or at all) is an oft-fumbled challenge. The folks at AP did a really good job in this department, and even took it a step beyond basic competence. The end result was an experience more akin to watching the Oscars than attending a conference, complete with animated introductions, zooming text, fading transitions, and embedded video. The A/V staff in the back of the room seamlessly cross-faded between conference graphics and presenter decks, pretty much without missing a beat. Absent were blue screens, choppy transitions, and cluttered desktops. Nice work, guys!
  • Winner for most useful detail: graphic recording. During each session, AP staffers in the back of the room graphically recorded the presentation, in the end producing a large set of illustrated note-diagrams. I first learned about graphic recording in college, when, on the first day of my Community-based Planning class, our professor surprised us by taking notes this way. Since then, I’ve learned that graphic recording is really hard to do. I was particlarly impressed by the conference-wide summary graphic, and the process by which they produced it. After the last session, recorders went through each session’s board and made post-it notes of the key points. Then, they arranged the post-its on the summary board until they came to a sensible layout, after which they removed the post-its and drew in the final graphics. Check out the flickr pool showing all the boards.
    : Alexa from AP muses about ways to encourage more audience participation in graphic recordings.
  • Online community: Alongside the real conference was the virtual conference community, powered by CrowdVine, which is another build-your-own social network tool (similar to Ning). I didn’t really clue in to the online community until the end of the conference, but I’ll be interested to see if it stays active. At the very least, it was cool to browse profiles of other attendees and see tag clouds of people’s job titles and companies.

My only critique was a minor one — that the nametags, worn by everyone around the neck with a lanyard, should have names printed on both sides, rather than names on the front and schedules on the back. I’d say that about 50% of the time (funny how it works out that way…) people’s nametags were hanging backwards, defeating their purpose. I mentioned this to an AP staffer, who asked “but isn’t the schedule important?”. I suppose, but not as important as people’s names, and especially not in a single-track, single-room conference. So, next year, names on both sides, OK?

All in all, it was one of the best executed events I’ve attended (haven’t been to Macworld yet, though), so bravo, AP team!

Welcome to the Undesign

Over the past two years, I’ve redesigned this website about 5 times, but never finished. Talk about frustrating. Eventually, I realized that I was getting nowhere, and that instead of a redesign, what I really needed was an undesign. So that’s what I did. Welcome to wrkng -1.0, my first undesign. Lately I’ve been getting the blogger’s itch (is that like athlete’s foot?), so this undesign is more blog-oriented.

Maybe one day I’ll get around to making an Actual Design, but I have a feeling this will suffice for a while. If you like it, you can download the Undesign WordPress theme. As you can see it’s pretty simple, and there are some known shortcomings: no support for pages (in terms of navigation), and support for tags but not categories. Basically, what you see here and nothing more. Enjoy!

Carbon Tax Center Redesign

Today, we launched a redesign of the Carbon Tax Center website. The primary goal was to create a more impactful homepage that communicates CTC’s mission quickly and clearly. In doing so, we also reworked the site header (to remove distracting and unncessary graphics), and crispened up the typography.

CTC has been getting a lot of attention [links] lately, and it will be really interesting to see how this issue grabs the presidential candidates. Good luck, guys!

The Professional Basketball Players at Make Music NY

The Professional Basketball Players were happy to be part of Make Music New York yesterday, the first incarnation of this international music festival here in NYC.

We had a great time playing at the Liz Christy Community Garden on the Lower East Side — thanks to everyone there for having us, and to everyone who braved the rain and stopped by to listen.

The folks from StreetFilms were at our show, and they included us in their video montage of the event:

Also, special thanks go to Adam Bradford, who filled in on guitar since our new guitarist, Ben, was out of town yesterday.

Streetfilms Launched

streetfilms_logo_black.gifI’m proud to announce the launch of StreetFilms, the new home of Clarence Eckerson’s short films about Livable Streets, and another site in the New York City Streets Renaissance family.Back when I was in college, riding the CalTrain to San Jose for work, I thought that one day I might make Public Service Announcements lauding the many advantages of commuting by train. Well, now I can say I made the website for them instead, which is good enough for me. Enjoy!

Streetsblog Launched


I am happy to announce the launch of another great NYC website: StreetsBlog.
A project of the NYC Streets Renaissance Campaign and edited by NYC transportation/planning blogger Aaron Naparstek, this site will take a critical look at transportation issues in our area. I’ve been a fan of Aaron’s writing for some time, so it was a big honor for me to build his new home.

(The site is running WordPress, and the design is based on nycsr.org, which was originally designed by Andrew Fischler, Jr. who I’ve never met but whose design I like a lot.)

GRDN featured at CubeCart.com

GRDN has been getting a lot of attention lately – thanks to everyone for sending in your comments. Most notably, it has been chosen as a featured case study at CubeCart.com (one of two, randomly highlighted on the homepage). Cube Cart is the e-commerce package we used, chosen mainly because it’s the only php-based e-commerce site that uses XHTML and CSS. Thanks, Alistair, for the shout out.