-- The excellent blog Urban Photo features cool images from Hong Kong rooftops.

-- Urbanophile hosts an information rich post about St. Louis: "More than any other place I've been, St. Louisians do not define their city by its institutions or attractions, but by the life one can lead here."

-- Fast Company has a long piece on Detroit that makes a counter-intuitive argument: "downsizing" the city by abandoning emptied out neighborhoods is going to make it less dense. See the whole argument here. Rethink Detroit responds -- and elsewhere on that blog are some cool photos of African inspired art.

-- What might architects learn from WalMart? A fascinating subject explored here at length -- and don't miss the graphic that compares the total size of all the chain's stories to the island of Manhattan.

-- Apartment Therapy has lots of photos of pleasant looking places to live.

-- A seldom remarked upon truth in urban affairs and development: the banks that finance projects are enormously influential cogs in the system that determines what actually gets built. Noah Kazis has an excellent post up on that subject:

In many parts of America, efforts to build transit-oriented, walkable communities are foiled because financing can't be secured for projects that differ from the templates lenders have become used to since World War II. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local government's push for transit-oriented development has been stymied because local banks won't lend to projects without huge parking lots.

Why do lenders balk at development that reduces car dependence? In a word, inertia. "The lending industry appears to be very conservative, if your definition of conservative is doing the same thing this year as you did five years ago," said David Goldstein, the co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program and an expert on environmental real estate financing. Because banks have no institutional memory of lending to transit-oriented development, they are reluctant to do so going forward.

In Portland, officials and activists have begun to escape this cycle. The policies they've pursued to foster walkable development are instructive for many American cities looking to grow without making traffic congestion worse.

Read the rest here

-- Bern Grush makes the case for toll roads in Toronto:

...we need to start tolling not just highways, but all roads.

As we electrify our personal vehicles, the fuel tax, which currently funds only 70 per cent of our highways and virtually none of our urban streets, will continue to fail us. If you drive an internal combustion vehicle, for how long will you be willing to subsidize my e-car?

The solution lies in new technology.

Satellite-based road use metering can now operate anywhere without 407-style roadside gantries. It requires only a modest number of mobile enforcement spot-checks.

This technology is as private as your personal navigation device, permitting payment without location data leaving your control - or your vehicle. It is more private than the 407 transponder, and can even be anonymous if prepaid.

Smart road use meters, technology in the works for the next-generation of vehicle dashboards, would manage demand-based use fees that depend on time and place. They would provide for our road networks what "time of use" charging does for our electric grid.

And to make the shift from property and fuel taxes to pay-for-use charges even more attractive, the meters would manage parking payment by the minute, remove the need for parking tickets, and even find a spot for you. They would also handle pay-as-you-drive insurance, providing fairer premiums to those who drive less, and offer a voluntary switch from fuel taxes to variable, pay-as-you-go fees, saving money for the motorist who can avoid peak-hour travel in a single-occupant vehicle.

Once upon a time, I offered my own idea for how to end traffic in Los Angeles. As yet, no one has taken me up on it.