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Message to Cities: Don’t Try to Be the New York Yankees

11:47 AM CDT on August 19, 2013

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Charles Marohn at Strong Towns writes about the tendency for cities to pin their hopes on splashy new projects. Kind of like how the Yankees always go out and sign an expensive free agent slugger.

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But what most cities need more than an A-Rod, Marohn writes, is a well-balanced roster of solid, dependable players:

Adopting the strategy of the Yankees -- one where we keep throwing money at marquee players to try and buy more wins -- is not only a really high risk approach for most markets, it doesn't have a track record of success. We have to think more strategically.I can't tell you how many places I've been where they point to New York's High Line as a project worthy of emulation. It is a beautiful project, but how many cities have an elevated rail line and $152 million sitting around that they can commit to a parkway?

When it comes to local government, we're all trying to be the Yankees. We're all acting like that next big project is the one that will make our team successful. We discount all the little things that make a team/city successful, the things that we can do with our non-Yankee budgets.

Reconfigure that street crossing to improve foot traffic. Narrow that STROAD to make the street more livable. Plant some shrubs along that parking lot to break up the dead space. Fight the light pollution on the commercial/residential interface. Focus on the transition between your roads and your streets.

None of these things are flashy. None will get the fan base all excited and give tons of accolades to management for "making things happen." The same can be said in baseball about drawing a walk, hitting the cutoff man or making contact on the hit and run. But those are the little things that win games. Do them well and you'll win more often than you'll lose. And most importantly, you'll never completely blow up.

Elsewhere on the Network today: I Bike TO says the fixation on bike helmets arises from our dangerous street culture in North America. World Streets shares a word cloud of the chief proponents of "old mobility." And Bike Portland says news of the Columbia River Crossing's death may have been exaggerated.

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