Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer 2014 CRP Recommended Reading/Media List

Below is list of resources and readings touching on some of the many aspects of planning, compiled by Brian Byrd, MRP '15.

Faculty Favorites

Other Books

American Planning Association (APA) 100 Essential Books of Planning Top 20 Urban Planning Books Of All Time

Planners Network Disorientation Guide: Media And Education Resource List


Congress for the New Urbanism Podcast 

The Kunstlercast   

Strong Towns 

Tuesdays at APA 


Online Reads 

APA & Planning Magazine
Cyburbia forums
CityLab (formerly The Atlantic Cities)
New Geography
Per Square Mile
Next City

Global Site Plans 

In addition, many research groups and non-profits maintain their own newsletters & list-serves.

-Common Planning Research Journals
-Journal of the American Planning Association
-International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
-Journal of Planning Education and Research
-Journal of Urban Planning and Development
-Journal of Housing and the Built Environment
-Journal of Housing and Community Development
-Cities: International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning
Town Planning Review

Trinity College Urban Studies

Clemson University Planning Resources



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Maps, Data, and Graphics

Below are a few of the programs/applications we've come across in the past few months that could be useful for anyone interested in mapping, data, or design.  If you haven't taken the graphic communications class I highly recommend it!

1. CartoDB   CartoDB is sort of like GIS in your browser. You can make some pretty cool looking maps with pop-ups and then embed them. Limited features in the free version though--for example in the Tompkins County shapefile you can only show 10 of the 16 municipalities.  This is a good choice if you have some georeferenced data and want to produce some web content.

2.Tile Mill

Tile Mill is a great tool for making really nice looking maps that are accurate and web-ready.  All you need is a shapefile or json type file that you add as a layer--these can then be exported to png, pdf, or svg if you want to use Illustrator.  It uses styling that is basically html/CSS styling, which can take some getting used to but is good to be familiar with.  Best of all, it's free!

3. Tableau

Thanks to our own Anni Zhu for spreading the word about this awesome program a few months ago. It isn't free, but has a 2 week trial period in which you can get a feel for it and see if you want to buy (or have someone else buy it for you).  Great for visualizing all types of data sets.Check it out here.

4. Mapbox

The creator of TileMill above, Mapbox is a good place to draw your own polygons or lines and then export them as json or kml files.  This would be a good tool if you wanted to draw a few polygons to put on top of a google map or something--maybe neighborhoods in your town, your favorite places to eat, whatever. 


If you haven't already, download the free and open source QGIS and familiarize yourself with it. It is a lot like our old friend Esri's proprietary ArcMap, though there are some peculiarities here and there--some good, some bad. Either way, a lot of people seem to be pretty excited about this open source project.


The Germans have great cities, great healthcare, and they just wasted Brazil 7-1.  Datawrapper is another reason to love them--it is sort of like a free online Tableau.  Just drag and drop your excel data or upload CSV.  I know the colors in the above chart are terrible, my bad.


I just came across this recently and it looks pretty cool, if only for getting ideas on how visualize your data. A lot like datawrapper but a bit flashier.  You have to make an account and pay monthly to get charts out of it though. Check it out here.

8. ArcScene

Land and Property values in Ithaca. The green mountain is of course CU, the taller parcels along the lake the hospital.

ArcScene is part of ArcGIS and might only be available with certain licenses.  It has been described as eye candy, but sometimes that's just what you need.  You might already know about this one but I spent the whole semester in GIS class and never even opened it.  You can both extrude features and do symbology by color.

Monday, June 30, 2014

7 Useful Things to Have in Ithaca

Ithaca is a lot like other places in the Northeast--hot and humid in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter.  In the spring, fall, and late spring months it is beautiful--hiking, swimming, and biking are all favorite activities, so bring whatever equipment related to those activities you enjoy.  However, as you prepare this summer to head up to Ithaca next month, consider bringing the following or purchasing them when you get here.

1. Mud Boots

In the fall it starts to rain and in the spring it starts to mud.  Boots like these from LL. Bean are handy.

2. Winter Boots

If you don't get mud boots, then definitely consider getting a pair of winter boots.  It is a long walk up the hill in the winter, and you won't regret an investment in keeping your feet warm.  Personally I have sort of a hybrid mudboot/winterboot that I wear winter-spring.  The mudboots might be good enough themselves.

3. A Thermos

A thermos is a great thing to keep you warm through the colder months.  And there are apparently multiple benefits to drinking hot water.

4. A Raincoat/Umbrella

Lots of rain in fall and spring. And even this summer, actually.

5. Long underwear

Wearing long underwear under your pants in the winter months makes such a big difference, but a lot of people from warmer climates never learn this secret.  The sooner you get savvy the better!

6. A Warm Winter Jacket

Lots of people have these hip and expensive Canadian jackets. Really any type of warm jacket will do, and if you can, treat yourself and go for the 3/4th length!

7. Wool Socks

You'll probably need a few pair that you can wear every day throughout the winter.

Some places where you can order this stuff: CampmorBack CountryMooseJawOverstock, or places like REIEMS, or Amazon.  Goodwill has some stuff up here but it is often a crapshoot and the good stuff goes fast.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Ithaca Neighborhoods--Where to Live

Here are some of the Ithaca neighborhoods where CRP students live.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Interactive Mapping

This map is an example of how we could show where people end up after graduating from CRP. Hover over a city to find out the number of alums living there (all just examples): In the map below, hover over a point on the map to see the Alum's name, graduation date, and current employer:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Historic Preservation and Planning: Work Weekend

Every fall, professor Jeff Chusid leads CRP students on weekend fieldtrip to one of the large cities in the region--last year it was New York, this year it was Washington, D.C., and next year it will be Detroit. In the spring, Chusid takes students for the famed HPP work weekend, which gives master's candidates a chance to experience preservation work firsthand, meet with alumni, and help repair anything from churches to old plantation homes to this year's castle on the Hudson.
    The gothic revival Lyndhurst Estate was built in 1838 and was home to former New York City mayor William Paulding, businessman George Merrit, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould.  The property is a national trust historic site and open year round--it was also in dire need of some painting and mulching work, which MRP and HPP students were happy to provide.

Read more about HPP here.  All photographs but one by Gabriel Halili, MRP 2015

The crew. Photo by Isaac Robb

The Castle

Evening entertainment: the bowling alley!

The task at hand

Painting the old greenhouse

Painting--the finest meditative work
Where we puttin' this boss?

The roses are going to love this.

See ya

Monday, April 7, 2014

Medellin: City Accessible

This week the World Urban Forum is taking place in Medellin, Colombia.  The theme is "Urban Equity in Development -Cities for Life", an appropriate topic for Colombia's second largest city, which in past years has seen an incredible transformation from one of the most dangerous places in the world to the most innovative city in the world in 2013.  One undergraduate planning student here at Cornell has written about her experiences growing up there here.

I traveled to Medellin last week in hopes of getting a feel for the city leading up to the conference, and mostly to experience this place that I've heard so many people rave about.  The first thing that people inevitably mention is the Medellin metro--started in 1995, this raised network now has 5 lines that include several overhead gondola/cable car routes.  These lines reach all quarters of the city and are integrated with Medellin's BRT system to provide excellent access for all inhabitants.  I was also struck by the readily available footpaths, bike paths, and raised pedestrian bridges that make it pretty easy to walk just about everywhere.
The metro mid-afternoon
A key piece of the city's accessibility is the placement of new libraries in some of the poorest neighborhoods. These public spaces are open and available to all, though rather than focusing on books, most of the space is used for free internet and computer access and community development programs.  Many of them are also architectural wonders, which provides an additional stimulus for getting many different types of city inhabitants (and tourists!) to visit them.

A Bus Rapid Transit dedicated lane 
Biblioteca de Espanya Image from Archdaily:

Public Library in downtown Medellin.  These libraries focus on computer access and programs rather than books.
Another notable aspect of the city is the apparent focus on providing housing in some of the most impoverished areas.  All over the city I saw new high rises going up--not luxury condos, but rather plain high-unit structures built to maximize occupancy for all.

A state PR campaign about providing housing for Colombians
Standard housing

Bike lanes near the university
New housing development linked with a greenbelt and bike path
I also observed an abundance of parks and small outdoor exercise areas, as well as plenty of encouragement in advertisements and city information promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging people to get outside.

A small corner playground/exercise park

An outdoor gym--late at night was the only time people weren't using it!

The metro cable line heading up to the Biblioteca de Espanya

Overall, Medellin is a fascinating and vibrant city.  Many people seem to still associate Colombia with drug violence--this is misguided and no longer accurate.  For any planners interested in innovative transit, access provision, or housing issues, this is the place to visit.  And it's only two flights from NYC on Jet Blue...
Life in the square

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Town Hall-An MRP Tradition

Every spring, graduate students and faculty in the City and Regional Planning department hold a town hall meeting in which all participants are encouraged to air their grievances, get to know each other, or maybe just stop by for lunch.  We held ours last Friday in one of the common rooms of West campus from 1230-230.  Some years town halls are contentious affairs, fortunately at this year's meeting meeting spirits were high and remained that way throughout.  Much of the event's success is due to the Organization of Cornell Planning (OCP)'s dedicated organization and planning of the event, starting months before and culminating in a preparatory meeting of students (the Call to Action) in which we all ate together and formulated a list of our ideas for the program broken down by themes of facilities, professional development, and curriculum.

Overall, it was a great experience.   As with any two year graduate program, our time here is limited.  However, through something like town hall not only are we able to make our concerns or comments known, but we also get access to a much clearer picture of what decisions from situations in the past have created the department we have today.  It is also a unique atmosphere to  get to know each other and our professors better.  We were especially thankful to the faculty for their attendance--for us this is a rare and exciting event to let loose all the things we've wanted to talk about with everyone since we got here--for them it is a much more familiar experience.

Department Chair Kieran Donaghy

Koshy Thomas, MRP '15: "'Town Hall? More like Town Ball! As planners, Town Hall gave us the open and interactive discussion (and let's not forget the awesome lunch!) that planning is all about."

Isaac Robb, MRP '15: "I really enjoyed being able to hear the perspectives of the faculty, especially those that I haven't taken a course with. It was also important to learn about the history of past decisions, and how those will impact the program moving forward."

Lindsay Johnson, MRP '15: "I really enjoyed brainstorming short-term goals with my professors and classmates. We all recognize that some concerns are too big to tackle in under two years, so it's rewarding to have a list of realistic, tangible goals moving forward."

Town hall in progress

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sprawl from Above

Some time ago on Reddit someone posted google maps links to a variety of suburban developments all over the world.  Although the post has gotten buried by now, it was great for getting a feeling of how suburban communities feel depending on minor changes to setbacks, road widths, and sidewalks.  It is fascinating that you can now "click" down a street in Copenhagen, Johannesburg, or Tokyo without leaving your desk (and it definitely helps that google cameras seem to be taking much higher quality pictures).  Another way to experience a bit of the world is through Geo Guessr, which shows you random google maps shots from which you have to guess the location.  The maps and pictures below are sort of a combination of those two ideas.  Try this: Go to google maps, and pick your favorite city in the US.  Then, zoom in a bit and look for the curviest streets.  Then call someone nearby and see if they can identify what you are looking at.  Or try to guess from the below:
Google Maps

Street view:

Google Maps

 This is Highlands Ranch, south of Denver, CO, the type of development that often shows up in pictures of any article about sprawl.  How does it look as a community--inviting?

Google Maps
Here's somewhere a bit further East:
Google Maps

This is outside of Atlanta.  What would it be like to walk around in this place?

Now zoom out and try any city on another continent.  What looks different? What's the most noticeable change?

Google Maps

Google Maps
This is outside of Glasgow, Scotland.

Last one:

Google Maps

Google Maps
This last one is Matamoros, Mexico, Mexico, right over the border from Brownsville, Texas:

Google Maps

Google Maps

Special thanks to the Old Urbanist for a post that inspired the Matamoros/Brownsville comparison.

One of our classmates commented that any of the examples of sprawl above, when compared to slums of the world, are really not that bad.  That's true, there is plenty of space, the roads are maintained, and houses are in a normal state.  However, comparing these places to the most dire living areas in the world is a bit like comparing apples to oranges--this, in general, is not slum development, but rather the development of choice for most Americans--with many long lasting effects not only on the land and the environment, but on society as well. (Finally, admittedly these comparisons are based on a naked-eye assessment, and not any demographic or economic data)