Fargo tops again!!

Thanks to good work by many, Fargo’s again recognized as the top performing small city by the Milken Institute for the second year in a row. It’s fun to see and as good as it is, working together, the best is yet to come.

Here’s the article in the Milken Institutes report:

  • Fargo, ND-MN, retained its No. 1 position among small metros for a second year. Its well-diversified economy with strength in finance, insurance, health care, and higher education helped offset declines in shale-oil exploration.”

fargo-nd-mn-small-metro-01

Small Cities 2015

Fargo, ND-MN

Overall Rank: 1      Population: 228,291

Fargo, North Dakota-Minnesota, returned to No. 1 in our index of best-performing small cities, holding the top spot for the second year in a row. While more recent job growth tapered off in the metro, Fargo outpaced the national average in both job and income gains, most notably during the five years ending in 2014. The metro, which thrived during North Dakota’s decade-long oil boom, has relied on its diverse industry mix to sustain growth in the region.

Metro’s Performance in Each Index Component

Component 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Score/
Value
5-yr Job Growth1 14 12 8 5 4 8 108.39
1-yr Job Growth2 11 41 18 8 28 20 101.69
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth3 16 15 14 9 6 5 108.39
1-yr Wages & Salaries Growth4 14 29 36 10 10 27 102.03
Short-Term Job Growth5 36 66 10 29 14 67 9977.00%
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth6 31 43 52 82 46 26 109.58
1-yr Relative HT GDP Growth7 42 83 44 18 78 52 102.57
High-Tech GDP LQ8 41 48 54 59 52 50 0.71
# of HT GDP LQs Over 19 56 42 71 93 40 26 4.0

2014-2015 Growth Comparison (by score)

201420155-yr Job Growth(2009-2014)1-yr Job Growth(2013-2014)5-yr Wages &Salaries Growth(2008-2013)1-yr Wages &Salaries Growth(2012-2013)5-yr Relative HTGDP Growth(2009-2014)1-yr Relative HTGDP Growth(2013-2014)95105115125135Component

Component 2014 2015
5-yr Job Growth (2009-2014) 109.54 108.39
1-yr Job Growth (2013-2014) 102.6 101.69
5-yr Wages & Salaries Growth (2008-2013) 129.27 116.48
1-yr Wages & Salaries Growth (2012-2013) 108.09 102.03
5-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2009-2014) 102.14 109.58
1-yr Relative HT GDP Growth (2013-2014) 101.64 102.57

 ~ End article ~

That’s good stuff, but we’re not resting on our laurels. We’re working with engaged citizens implementing key initiatives identified in Fargo 2030 and much of what we learned on last years bus tours, and guest presentations by parking guru Dennis Burns, Placemakers Hazel Borys, Winnipeg Forks Paul Jordan, CentreVentures Angela Mathieson, Strong Towns Charles Marohn and more.

Just in the past year:

cropped-IMG_67532.jpg

Thanks to all of you that joined us on one or both of our Tours of Art and Parking last year. Those trips have been paying off and I want to again thank Charley Johnson and the CVB for generously sponsoring the transportation on those learning trips.

Had a great night for improving parking management at the Fargo Commission meeting Monday 12- 9-15.

  • We passed the bonding for a quality mixed use parking structure 4 – 1. We locked in on a good rate of 3.42% that saves about $600k on financing costs and we have a funding model that’s solid. The goal is to add value by featuring people with the best views and active sidewalks while accommodating cars with a complimentary scale and design.
  • We also approved the concepts for transitioning parking management to a more user friendly parking ambassador system with Interstate Parking managing on and off street downtown parking.
  • Also approved directing CA to amend parking fines to a graduated rate structure that is user friendly so folks can learn the system with less penalty, but tougher on the folks that choose to park beyond time limits in high demand spots instead of walking a few blocks or using off street options.

Thanks to all the folks that shared your perspectives, joined our bus tours, study best practices, work to improve our land use, and have been working on these improvements for many years. We know we’ll continue to find ways to improve and that with a growing city it will be dynamic and change will be the norm.

Working together we’ll make the most of the opportunities. Go FARGO!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fargo tops again!!

Density and desirable, affordable, and walkable neighborhoods

Some folks seem to think density automatically means skyscrapers. It’s just not so. Density is just one way to measure land use.
For perspective, in 1960 Fargo’s population was 47,000 in less than 8 sections of land. Now with 115,000 people we have 50 sections of land. 2.4 times the number of people, over 6 times the amount of land. Poor land use makes flood protection, transportation, and efficient deliveries of city services more expensive and difficult.

Letter: Growing smartly in Fargo:

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation, and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years, we’ve seen a bit over 1 percent population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.

It’s difficult to change the decades-old ingrained philosophy that leapfrog development works and that quality land use doesn’t matter, but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.

A Forum editorial (Oct. 27) said dividing the 50 sections of land (32,000 acres) by our population is not an honest way to determine density and that there is no cost to the city or taxpayers for skipped-over undeveloped or underdeveloped land where there is little or no infrastructure. The editorial incorrectly stated the number of people per acre in 1950 was 50. The correct number is 10.7.

Where is market?

The editorial didn’t raise any objection to encouraging development farther into new greenfields that would not likely be protected with certified flood protection until the diversion is finished. They cite this is the development the market wants. This “market” is skewed by our current growth policies that subsidize premature expansion into the flood plain.

Where is the market in Fargo? Realtors nationwide cite Fargo’s 58103 as a top ten housing market in the entire country. That’s the older traditional neighborhood design area from Main Avenue to 32nd Avenue South.9th St Fargo pic

The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just over 50 square miles with a population of about 115,000. Fifty square miles = 32,000 acres divided into 115,000 population = 3.6 people per acre.

A recent Forum article correctly says that in 1950 Fargo had 10.7 people per acre. This is common in walkable traditional neighborhood design. For perspective, San Francisco has a smaller footprint than Fargo with more than 1 million people = 33 people per acre.

In Fargo’s comprehensive plan, there is a goal of nine people per acre – this is similar to the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.

Projected growth in Fargo by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.

Enough land

When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our population estimate and more if we achieve our nine people per acre density goal – 32,000 acres X 9 people per acre = 288,000 population just in Fargo’s current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years, it would be 64,000 more people added to our current 115,000 = 179,000 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected for Fargo.

Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 50 sections – 259,950 population estimate by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.

Thirty-two thousand acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 50 sections.

Floods and FEMA

The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Avenue are lower than the new FEMA 100-year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 8-10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in-town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500-year event.

We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42 feet 5 inches to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low-lying land south of 70th Avenue.

How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with more than 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030.

The top 5 are:

1) Flood protection; 2) infill/strong neighborhoods; 3) arts and culture; 4) bike and pedestrian facilities; 5) quality design standards.

Strategies

What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:

  • Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.
  • Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer-in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services.
  • Target incentives on mixed-use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in underused areas with existing infrastructure and services.
  • Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27 percent of income on transportation, higher than 24 percent for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.

Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Density and desirable, affordable, and walkable neighborhoods

Thousands enjoy the biggest vehicle ever in another great Holiday of Lights Parade

Thousands of smiling faces at the Parade of Lights enjoying a guest appearance from a super cool, 60′ long vehicle on it’s way to San Francisco. Thanks to a great working relationship with locally produced New Flyer, Gregg Schildberger and our Matbus team arranged a guest visit of the 60′ Hybrid Electric articulating bus we got a chance to ride and test for a fun filled day.

Thanks to all the presenters and folks that came to our Transportation Symposium!
Fargo’s moving forward in all sorts of ways. Thanks to good work by many, we’ve added Link FMGreat Rides Bike Share, North Dakota’s first protected bike lanes, and Uber Fargo just in the past 9 months

Here’s a nice TV clip on the event. Thanks Adam, Patrick and KVRR!

Buses, Bikes Keep Rolling as Public Transit Takes Off in F-M Area

Adam Ladwig, Weekend Anchor / News Reporter, aladwig@kvrr.com
POSTED: 10:16 PM CST Nov 24, 2015 The future of public transportation rolls into Fargo.

Public transit, both two–wheeled and four–wheeled, has grown a lot in the last few years. The hope is that even more people hop on for a ride in years to come.

The bus is 60 feet of people moving power and it’s in town to show what public transportation can do.

“The Fargo–Moorhead community has really expanded its options for the way that we move, which is really exciting,” says Sara Watson Curry with Great Rides Bike Share.

Just in the last year, the LinkFM made getting around downtown easier, and cheaper, and the Great Rides Bike Share program set records for the number of riders per bike per day in its first year.

“We’re sort of the darlings in the bike share world,” adds Watson Curry.

Ridership in Fargo has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, going from 800,000 riders to 2.1 million per year.  City leaders want to use new big bad boys like this to increase ridership even more in the future.hybrid articulated 11-25-15               ^Click on the photo to see how the articulated bus pivots for a sharp turn^

“Instead of having two buses, you could almost carry as many with one bus, one driver,” says Fargo City Commissioner Mike Williams.

City officials aren’t resting on the past success of public transit.

Williams says, “We want to double it again.”

They say the benefits of public transit are two–fold. One, it’s cheaper, which is popular with the college crowd.

“Residents on average spend more on transportation than on housing. 27 percent on transportation. 24 percent on housing,” Williams explains. “Students have figure out, and so have others, that you can save a lot of money not having to drive every day.”

Two, it clears up traffic, letting everyone move around sooner.

Williams adds, “So when you see people taking transit, walking, or biking, give them a good wave because there’s more room on the road for you.” See the TV Clip

So don’t be surprised if you see more buses or bikes on the roads soon.

Fargo city leaders say it’s possible the city might purchase articulated buses in the future. As for the bike share program, there is talk of expanding across the river to MSUM and Concordia in the next couple years.

IMG_6983

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Thousands enjoy the biggest vehicle ever in another great Holiday of Lights Parade

Sandy’s Donuts, more Sandy’s Donuts, hot cocoa, to celebrate Fargo’s evolving transportation options

Now that got your attention! Swing by the Fargo Public Library’s community room Tuesday November 24th at 1:30 p.m.. We’ll learn about and celebrate the many new ways to get around town, user friendly parking info and tools, housing tips and programs, and the positive impact Great Rides Bikeshare has made and how they’re all related.

You’ll also get a chance to look and step inside a super cool new sixty foot articulated bus being demonstrated at this event. This bus is being delivered to San Francisco. New Flyer’s are made in St. Cloud and use several components made right here in Fargo!newflyer_xcelsior_xn60

In one short hour, we’ll hear quick hitting updates from experts like:

 

  • Jeremy Gorden Fargo Traffic Engineer will talk about complete streets and the first protected bike lanes in Fargo and North Dakota. The progress with more on street bike facilities has helped increase number of people biking and fewer bike related accidents. NP Ave protected bike lane
  • Sara Watson Curry of Great Rides Bikeshare will talk about their national record setting, matbus inspired, student led business model and how it works. Great Rides kicked off with a grand entrance at this years St. Patricks Day parade on a 70 degree day on March 15th with over 17,000 happy folks

Great Rides at St. Patty's 2015

Just in the past year, all these cool new options to get around town.
Thanks to good work by many, Fargo’s added several new options for the way we move around our community with expanding transit, the fun, fast, and free Link FM, Great Rides BikeshareUber Fargo, and Fargo’s and North Dakota’s first protected bike lanes all just in the last 9 months.
These improvements and continuing to focus on infill, complete streets, and mixed use will make them even more efficient and easy to use.

Hope to see you on Tuesday!

cropped-space-required-to-transport-60-people.jpg

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sandy’s Donuts, more Sandy’s Donuts, hot cocoa, to celebrate Fargo’s evolving transportation options

Growing well matters. Let’s do the math update

Fargo’s in a fantastic situation and we’ve been growing for years thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that. How and where we grow matters.

I’m updating this earlier post I wrote in April 2014 with our current numbers.

Here’s an apt cartoon from Trygve Olson of the Forum:

Maybe we’re gaining some traction on improving land use? It’s hard to change the status quo but the math shows we have to do better with planning and land use if we’re going to reach Fargo’s great potential.

Some say development in new greenfields that can not be protected with certified flood protection until the diversion is finished is the development the market wants. This “market” is skewed by our current growth policies that subsidize pre-mature expansion.

Where is the market in Fargo? Realtors nationwide site cites Fargo’s 58103 as a top ten housing market in the entire country. That’s the older traditional neighborhood design area from Main Ave to 32nd Ave S.

Here’s some of this weeks articles and interviews on our need to improve land use to grow well:

Forum article on how far south should we grow? 10-26-15

KFGO News and Views Adding value with infill: 9-29-15

KFGO Joel Heitkamp interview on growing well: 4-28-14

 Some basic math shows why we need to improve our density and land use in Fargo

Fargo’s been growing for years and we’re in a fantastic situation thanks to a lot of good work by many. In the past 15 years we’ve seen a bit over 1% population growth a year, but recently Fargo’s population is accelerating three times that.

The current footprint of land in Fargo’s annexed area is just under 50 square miles with a population of about 115,000.

50 square miles = 32,000 acres divided into 115,000 pop = 3.6 people per acre.

The recent Forum article correctly cites that in 1950 Fargo had 10.7 people per acre. This is common in walkable traditional neighborhood design. For perspective, San Francisco has a smaller footprint than Fargo with over 1,000,000 people = 33 people per acre.

In Fargo’s comprehensive plan there is a goal of 9 people per acre, this is similar to the density we currently have in our popular mature existing neighborhoods like Hawthorne, Clara Barton, Horace Mann and others.

Planning Director Jim Gilmour recently informed us the that Fargo’s projected growth by 2040 is 154,170 and metro’s projected population growth by 2040 is 259,950 people.

When we do the math, we find we currently have enough land to accommodate our  population estimate and more if we achieve our 9 people per acre density goal.

32,000 acres X 9 people per acre = 288,000 population just in Fargo’s current footprint. Even if we only add two people per acre in the next 25 years would be 61,440 more people added to our current 115,000 = 175,440 people, far more than the 154,170 that is projected.

Conversely, if we continue to grow at 3.6 people per acre, we would need to more than double our current footprint of 50 sections.

259,950 pop est by 2040 divided by 3.6 people per acre = 72,208 acres needed.

32,000 acres to 72,208 acres or 112 sections compared to our current 50 sections.

The vast majority if not all new development areas south of 52nd Ave are lower than the new FEMA 100 year flood levels. While we’re working diligently to build the diversion, even if we started today, it wouldn’t be complete for 8 – 10 years. Even with the diversion, we need in town protection to accommodate flows through town during a 500 year event.

We’re working to protect Fargo with dikes and floodwalls to a level of 42′.5″ to avoid higher cost of flood insurance. We can complete this sooner if we don’t expand our boundaries into low lying land south of 70th Ave.

How do we accomplish this? First we have to acknowledge that we have to improve our land use and work to meet our goals for density. It would be helpful to follow the key priorities set out with over 8,000 people engaged. Prioritize and develop a work plan with measures to implement the goals of Fargo GO2030. The top 5 are:

#1. Flood protection

#2. Infill/strong neighborhoods

#3. Arts and Culture

#4. Bike and pedestrian facilities

#5. Quality design standards

What are some ideas on ways to achieve these? Here are a few of mine:

Leave agricultural zoning in place on perimeter until it fits to reach our density goals.

Be more selective on where to apply incentives and planning focus. Target new home tax incentives and city financing of infrastructure for new development to closer in areas and infill areas that have existing infrastructure and are already covered by city services of Fire, Police, Garbage, Street cleaning/snow removal, Forestry.

Increase incentives on mixed use and affordable housing infill and redevelopment projects in under utilized areas with existing infrastructure and services.

Continue to improve areas to encourage walking, biking, and transit and reduce need to drive. Our residents on average spend 27% of income on transportation, higher than 24% for housing. If a family has two cars instead of three by living in a area where the need for driving is reduced, they save about $9,000 annually.

Fargo’s a wonderful community. We do our best when we work and grow well together. Let’s make sure Fargo is growing well!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Growing well matters. Let’s do the math update

Pope’s visit to DC reminds of past visit about environment

I’m excited about today’s visit from the pope to Washington DC and his strong message about improving our environmental stewardship.

pope_post_Blog Image 650 x 200

While no where near as epic, it reminded me how important it is for cities to maximize the opportunity to lead as we look for ways to take better care of our environment and of this fun interview at the White House in 2012. I didn’t get to meet the president, but I was honored to share some of Fargo’s story about how conservation saves and pays.

The video portion about Fargo is at 5:05 on C-Span in 2012.  Fargo environmental efforts at White House  http://www.c-span.org/video/?289219-5/global-climate-change-legislation&start=21

We have a lot to improve, and you can help learning more about our efargo team competing in the $5 million Georgetown Energy Challenge to reduce emissions and improve energy efficiency. Check out efargo

eFargo map

Fargo has received national recognition for our conservation efforts, we’ve been ranked as a #1 city for overall environment by the Earth Day Network, and have been featured on CNN’s Solutions for our innovative cash to trash and energy program.

You can register for the Matbus I go Eco Challenge, leave your car at home just one day and walk, skip, bike, or bus to qualify for a chance to win a sweet flat screen smart TV or other prizes.

Due to over three years of good community work by many, Fargo is also setting national usage records for Great Rides Bikeshare with our unique Matbus inspired, student led community effort.

Great Rides Fargo announcement photo 5-14-14

Working together, the best is yet to come.

Let’s keep working to grow well!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Pope’s visit to DC reminds of past visit about environment

Enjoy the ease of Link FM like 708 riders did Friday!

Headed to Street Fair and Moorhead Center Mall sidewalk sales? Park once and enjoy both by jumping aboard Link FM, Fargo – Moorheads new fun, fast and free connecting bus.

Link FM makes for a stress free Street Fair. 708 riders yesterday and over 600 on Thursday even with the rain.
Just park at Moorhead Center Mall, check out their sidewalk sales or park somewhere along the route and jump on for a fun, fast and free ride. Here’s a fun video with comments from some of the folks that have used it: Link FM video

Normal hours are 7:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon – Fri and 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Sat with a quick loop every 15 minutes.

Just for Street Fair and Moorhead Mall Sidewalk Sales, Link FM will have two buses running with ultra fast 7 – 8 minute frequency at all stops from 10 – 9:30 Friday and 10:00 am to 5:30 Saturday, see where they are in real time just zoom in to downtown on the map: http://matbusmobile.com/portal/fr2/index.jsf

FullSizeRender

Link FM and Great Rides Bikeshare make a great team for providing more ways to move around downtown and maximize available parking while you explore both of our downtowns.

More info on Link FM

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Enjoy the ease of Link FM like 708 riders did Friday!

Fun, fast and free Link FM a big hit for enjoying Street Fair

Link FM makes for a stress free Street Fair. Over 600 riders yesterday even with the rain.
Just park at Moorhead Center Mall, check out their sidewalk sales or park somewhere along the route and jump on for a fun, fast and free ride. Here’s a fun video with comments from some of the folks that have used it: Link FM video

 

Normal hours are 7:00 am – 7:00 pm Mon – Fri and 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Sat with a quick loop every 15 minutes.

Just for Street Fair and Moorhead Mall Sidewalk Sales, Link FM will have two buses running from 10 – 9:30 Friday and 10:00 am to 5:30 Saturday, see where they are in real time just zoom in to downtown on the map: http://matbusmobile.com/portal/fr2/index.jsf

Link FM and Great Rides Bikeshare make a great team for providing more ways to move around downtown and maximize available parking while you explore both of our downtowns.

More info on Link FM

Link FM and Great Rides Bikeshare make a great team

Link FM and Great Rides Bikeshare make a great team

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fun, fast and free Link FM a big hit for enjoying Street Fair

All aboard! Introducing Link FM Downtown Connector

Link FM is a fun, fast, and free circulator bus that connects Downtown Fargo and Moorhead starting Monday June 1st running from 7 am to 7 pm M-F and 10am – 5pm Sat.  The route will have a continuous loop starting at the Moorhead Center Mall to the Plains Art Museum and back with an average 15 minute frequency for a loop as a goal. The concept is to keep the route and operations simple and flexible enough to make it fun, fast, and free.

Unlike Matbus scheduled routes with established timetables, Link FM will stop at the designated sites only as needed to pick up or drop off passengers. If no one is at a particular stop, it’ll keep moving to the next one.

Look for the Link FM signs at these sites. Mon-Fri there are 8 designated pick-up/drop off areas from 7am – 10am starting at 7am on the east side of Moorhead Center Mall parking lot.

  • East side of parking lot of Moorhead Center Mall
  • 1st Ave at Hjemkomst intersection
  • Fargo Library
  • Gate City
  • Plains Art Museum
  • Renaissance Hall
  • Matbus Ground Transportation Center
  • Fargo Community Health

At 10am,  two additional pick-up/drop off areas on the north and south side of the Moorhead Mall until 7 pm M-F and from 10am – 5pm on Saturdays.

Link FM is another step forward to help grow the use of our Matbus system and continue the regeneration of the core of Fargo and Moorhead making better use of existing infrastructure and parking.IMG_5059

Using a bus already in our fleet, Link FM will start out with a “quiet” start, white with no wrap to begin with. We’ll be adding features over the coming weeks like local music inside and out (be ready for pop up live performers), vibrant and distinctive wrap on the outside, and revolving local art on the inside. By the first week in July, you’ll see it coming from blocks away and will want to jump aboard!

Since 2004, Matbus ridership has almost tripled to now over 2.1 million annual rides with over half in the 18 – 25 age group. Our downtowns and city cores are regenerating and community’s transportation culture is changing with more people walking, biking, and using transit that all help reduce congestion.

This circulator concept has been featured for several years in both our transit plans and  parking plans as a strategy to make better use of thousands of existing public and private parking spaces in both our revitalizing downtowns, reduce congestion, and continue to increase ridership on MATBUS.60 on a bus

This Link FM route is within walking distance of three blocks of several popular destinations and our theme is fun, fast, and free! Link FM will also help navigate around areas on NP Ave and 1St Ave corridor reconstruction and flood protection construction projects that start now and will be going on for the next few years.
Link FM will be using an existing bus and will be an addition to existing routes so will not negatively effect current riders.

It’s great working with the sub committee chaired by Moorheads Steve Ghertz, and members Nancy Otto, Dave Piepkorn, Melissa Radamacher, Matt Maslowski, Joe Nigg, Lori Van Beek, Mike Hahn, Gregg Schildberger, Matt Peterson, and Michael Redlinger.

The Fargo Commission and Moorhead Council unanimously approved this venture and are eager to see how Link FM works. Transit experts have told us it often takes 6-8 months to build ridership and we plan on giving it time and measure how much it’s used.
Both cities can decide to stop with a 30 day notice in the MOU, but we are planning for success and will make funds available in the coming budgets. The idea is both cities will budget for future funding to be made available when it’s proven to be successful with at least 15 – 20 riders per hour by the end of the 9 month trial.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on All aboard! Introducing Link FM Downtown Connector

How to best build our city? Love it

 

This Strong Towns article could have been written about yesterdays efargo, Alley Fair, and The Hotel Donaldson Earth Day love yesterday. efargo launch, 2 hours of 50 people cleaning alleys and streets, partying at the Ho Do Fargo with the efargo “Earth Piano” and Diane Miller singing sweet tunes.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo's solar powered "Earth Piano" that Raul Gomez and I built.

Sara Watson Curry jamming on efargo’s solar powered “Earth Piano” that Raul Gomez and I built.

To learn more about how we can grow well together and make the best community investments, we invited Charles Marohn of Strong Towns to tour Fargo and will be making presentations May 13th and 14th. Hope you can join us.

Here’s Gracen Johnson’s article about an unmatched economic development strategy in today’s Strong Towns post:

THE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY THAT’S TOO CUTE TO PRIORITIZE.

Love, folks. It’s love. Love conquers all. At least that has been my almost unbearably hackneyed conclusion so far.

Last week, I was asked to join a panel discussion posed with the question, What role does placemaking have in building sustainable communities? This gave me a great excuse to break down and map out my personal theory of change. Here it is: love and working together. Have no doubt, the triteness is not lost on me – I grimace even writing this, but I really believe there’s something to it.

VACUUM-DRIVEN DEVELOPMENT

I arrived in the world of regeneration and “sustainable development” with an honest-to-goodness optimism about policy-driven change. Call it institutionalism or what have you, but I believed like so many of us do that the right policies and incentives could build the world we want. My MPhil (in something called Planning, Growth, and Regeneration) was an entire degree focused on the policies and economic tactics employed in regenerating places. I still believe policy is important and essential, such as putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions and installing feedback systems like road pricing. There are housing policies and anti-policies that I believe in as well, and let’s not forget about parking maximums. Where my confidence falters is in the zone of economic development policy, the stuff of business parks, tax perks, and a long aisle of pig-lipstick.

The revelation occurred while attending a conference about struggling rural villages, desperate to create jobs and retain young people. I had just been contemplating these same challenges for large cities like Liverpool, UK and it hit me that everyone feels like a struggling rural village in the globalized economy, except the top dogs like New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, London and Shanghai, etc.

Common practice favours what I call vacuum-driven economic development, where your goal is to suck up more talent, resources, and”job-creators” than your neighbours. We’ve seen all the tricks to do this, mostly resembling some form of bribery, freebies, or pleading with the government. It’s naively self-interested and doesn’t scale well. These policies don’t work for most of us because no matter how much money we throw at it, we can’t compete with the awesome vacuum power of the cities at the top of the food chain.

“LOVE WILL SAVE THIS PLACE.”

So I began pondering how we could create new value that is independent of the vacuums. Is there a form of value and meaning that creates an unbeatable stickiness, bound up in place? Of course there is: love. Love makes us do irrational things, like stay in a place where we need to fight tooth and nail to create opportunity for ourselves. The number of times family and memories came up when I asked my friends Why do you live where you live?is testament to that.

I came across a beautiful quote the other day and I don’t know who to credit it to.

“Men do not love Rome because she is beautiful. Rome is beautiful because men have loved her.”

— Leopold Kohr (Thanks commenter Mike Polen for solving that mystery)

We protect, improve, and beautify the places we love. Nowhere is this more obvious today than multi-generation farmers or the First Nations that are putting their lives on the line to protect the places they love and depend on from toxic spills and emissions. In the book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein shares the words of Montana rancher Alexis Bonogofsky:

“It sounds ridiculous but there’s this one spot where I can sit on the sandstone rock and you know that the mule deer are coming up and migrating through, you just watch these huge herds come through, and you know that they’ve been doing that for thousands and thousands of years. And you sit there and you feel connected to that. And sometimes it’s almost like you can feel the earth breathe. That connection to this place and the love that people have for it, that’s what Arch Coal doesn’t get. They underestimate that. They don’t understand it so they disregard it. And that’s what in the end will save that place. Is not the hatred of the coal companies, or anger, but love will save this place.”

— Alexis Bonogofsky as quoted in This Changes Everything

The words of a rancher can easily be transferred to our awe for the cities we love. Who doesn’t gaze from the street and appreciate the hours of sweat and care that went into building places we love? Who doesn’t ruminate on the thousands of days before, where someone has sat just like you and watched the daily activities unfold? Who doesn’t feel a tingle of connection when walking along a well-worn footpath? I believe love will save our places too, if they are indeed loveable.

HOW DO YOU MAKE A PLACE LOVEABLE?

Answering this question has become my raison d’étre – I only take on work that I deem “projects for places we love.” So far, what I’ve found is that it comes down to working together, intervention, and celebration.

The working together part has been my key learning from adventures in the human side of city building. The process of working alongside others on something worthwhile or just plain fun has actually created my strongest ties to this city. Working together creates bonds with people and place, and powerful memories of joint accomplishment. It’s an investment in relationships and the place you live, and motivation for others. For example, I just saw some lovely women doing a cleanup in their Halifax neighbourhood last weekend and now I’m feeling more inspired and obliged to participate in my own block cleanup this weekend. Many hands make light work!

Photo by Jim Kumon.

Photo by Jim Kumon.

The trouble is, we often lack venues and opportunities to work together or even be together nowadays. We live in an isolated world and most of our city spaces are in need of an intervention. We can use small interventions like Tactical Urbanism to give people excuses to linger, to volunteer, to ask questions and take part. This is the physical side of city-building that we are rapidly prototyping across the world. Our interventions can reinforce the humanness of our cities and give us reasons and avenues to work together.

Finally, it’s important to celebrate. Like the harvest feasts of yesteryear, we can validate hard work with the act of celebration. Food, drink, music, dancing – this is all so much more wonderful when it’s well-deserved.

Our situation is obviously precarious. We’ve done some serious, perhaps irreversible damage to our climate, ecosystems, finances, and communities. Current levels of inequality are staggering and our political systems are broken. It can be hard to have any hope at all. But I believe in the places that are loved. I believe that the survival skills we need are gratitude and generosity – caring about each other and our homes enough to learn, adapt, and be resourceful. Humanizing our cities is both a means and an end in doing that. I believe that as long as we’re walking that path together, we’ll have reason to celebrate.

And there you have it: your daily dose of sickly sweet, anti-wonk, actionable EcDev.


GRACEN JOHNSON is a communications designer living in The Maritimes. While she finished her MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration in 2013, she has never stopped studying the city. Gracen thinks of her day-to-day as participatory action research, diving into the question of how Strong Citizenship can transform a city. She wears many hats trying to crack that nut herself, including as the designer and coordinator of an accelerator for small businesses that build community. She also freelances around the vision of “Projects for Places we Love” and has a video blog called Another Place for Me.

This year, Gracen is sharing field notes on her experiences with Strong Citizenship. In this regular column, you’ll get snapshots of life as a friendly neighbour in a quintessential Little City that feels like a Big Town.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on How to best build our city? Love it