Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Just back from Orlando, where I spoke at a conference on redevelopment and infill put on by the Orange County Government. They don't make walking easy there, but I hoofed it back from the convention center to the Hilton, along grassy shoulders of dual carriageways; sidewalks begin and end. We could see Sea World out our hotel window, and I insisted we walk there, across a giant parking lot. At the Magic Kingdom, I was struck by how urban the arrangement is. You park your car, get on a tram, and then take either the monorail or a ferry boat into the park itself. Once there, you walk around, and there aren't too many places to sit. Were it not for the sugar- and carb-laden food offerings every few feet, it's a place to burn off calories. The most efficient way to see Tomorrowland is by hopping on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority's Blue Line, an elevated subway. Walt Disney loved highways, but he knew the role of transit, and the virtues of compactness and density. Meanwhile, in Orlando, there's a recognition that they can't keep spreading outward, and instead must turn inward to vacant lots and parcels with great potential. Florida gave us Seaside and the South Beach Diet; maybe the Sunshine State will become a model for re-engineering our car-oriented environments as well.