Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays and at 7 p.m. (Repeat of 9 a.m. program)

Host: Scott LaMar

Smart Talk: Smart growth advocate Tom Hylton

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | Dec 11, 2014 3:57 AM
Rain Garden 600 x 340.jpg

What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, December 11, 2014:

Many of us can picture what the ideal city or town would look like to us.  Often in our mind's eye, it resembles the communities we or our parents or grandparents grew up in.  We may picture clean streets and houses, friendly neighbors on the front porch, and a downtown shopping district where we would go to buy almost anything we needed or wanted.

That place may or may not still exist but those who have a hand in planning cities or towns today have other characteristics in mind.

They asked themselves are the cities and towns environmentally friendly, how to control storm water runoff, are the communities walkable, is there a way to discourage the use of motor vehicles, are there parks or other open spaces, and how trees are used.

Many communities are already implementing many of these attributes under the heading of green infrastructure.

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tom Hylton, the author of the book Save Our Land Save Our Towns, is a national respected smart growth advocate.

He'll be speaking in Harrisburg Thursday night and will appear on Thursday's Smart Talk as well. 

Tagged under , , ,

back to top
  • Thomas George Simpson img 2014-12-11 09:17

    A huge problem is overloading the combined sewer system (storm and sanitary) during rain storms, hence overflows that send raw sewage into streams and the Chesapeake Bay. The EPA threatened big fines for this reason and that was the original motivation for Lancaster's green infrastructure

  • Thomas George Simpson img 2014-12-11 09:21

    I lived in Italy for 23 years. The equivalent of our interstate highways use porous asphalt. A huge benefit is the lack of spray in rainstorms and the lessened chance of hydroplaning. We are not so evolved here in PA.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-11 09:32

    A listener Emails

    The subdivision we live in is 25 years old, and the street in front of our house is wider than some 2-lane highways. The street was built to post-World War II "prevailing code", which required 1 lane of parking on each side of the street, and "travel lanes" capable of allowing fire trucks traveling at 40 MPH in each direction.

    The point is that until such outdated "requirements" are rationalized and changed, we'll keep repeating mistakes of the past. We plan for the worst case scenario!

    Meantime, how do we convince "local planners" to reduce the width of our street ? (built to last 50+ years) Thanks - Rich in Harrisburg

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-11 09:49

    A listener emails

    Our school district always bids out construction to the lowest bid. That automatically rules out impervious surfaces. Our high school has a parking lot that is so large as to be ridiculous. The capacity for that paving is used once a year at graduation. The rest of the year it is empty. Shouldn't they be conforming to more rigorous rules for water conservation?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2014-12-11 09:56

    Teresa Comments

    It is so true! Trees are FANTABULOUS in so many ways. Several years ago I stood under a large sugar maple grooming my horse on a lovely summer day. A nice shower came through, and I continued to groom him for twenty minutes before I got wet. It was stunning observation to me at the time.
    Great program. I feel a little more optimistic and hopeful when I listen to your show.

  • ZeroGravity img 2014-12-11 10:05

    Another caller asked about bang for the buck solutions. I see a lot of sidewalks and no one ever walking on them because of our car culture. This isn’t a solution for everywhere, but is there any merit to the idea with future construction to NOT build the traditional elevated sidewalks that we are all familiar with – which appear quite costly – and instead build multi-purpose bike lanes that can also be used for walking and jogging as well. Quite simply, this is just a widening of the roads which is more cost effective than a sidewalk and it accommodates a wider variety of uses.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-11 10:14

    Brenda comments...
    Spent 5 years as a research assistant for Charles Elton in Oxford University at the bureau of animal population and has done extensive research. She believes filling the cities with trees is good for our sense of well being because that is how we evolved and there plenty of evidence supporting that being near trees is our preference.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-11 10:19

    Jody adds...
    I work for PENNDOT and we spend a huge amount of time and money trimming and cutting trees to keep sunlight on highways to reduce snow removal costs and freeze and thaw damage.

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-11 10:23

    John from Carlisle writes...
    From the very first time Europeans came ashore in North America with the intention of wresting a living from the land rather than from its fisheries or fur, trees were the enemy, a very serious impediment. The huge trees of the temperate zone needed to be girdled and chopped down by hand and then the farmer would be dodging around the stumps for years. Photographs reveal that the disrespect for trees had come with the farmer when he moved into an industrial city. Cityscapes of the late 19th century are treeless, in fact, so were many of our "idyllic" small towns.. Yes, Mr. Hilton is right. The problem is cultural.

  • Steve Knaub img 2014-12-11 10:24

    Thanks Smart Talk, for hosting Tom!

    I'm an architect, commuter-cyclist, and street-tree-planter in my neighborhood, among other things... And, I wholeheartedly support Tom's planning ideas.

    I've read Tom's book, many articles, seen his documentary, and attended his lecture a few years ago at Elizabethtown College. Tom's head and heart are in the right place. I'm glad to have heard supportive callers. Maybe our culture is getting closer to embracing a better way - it only takes one generation to profoundly change things!

  • Scott LaMar img 2014-12-11 11:42

    After today's program, I want to plant more trees in the yard. Can't wait for softer ground.

  • Dale img 2014-12-11 11:57

    I wish I had come to this conversation earlier when it aired—it's an important topic to individuals like myself who prefer to be forward-looking. While I appreciate both the guest's enthusiasm and insights, I couldn't help but have red flags pop to mind with nearly every other suggestion I heard. Here are just a few that I recall starting with some points made towards the end of the program. . .

    1) While hidden power lines in a city would be ideal, we live in a nation whose citizens and lawmakers are unwilling to seriously invest in infrastructure rehabilitation. It's a topic of contention as we make economic recovery both as individuals and collectively. WITF or public radio has recently revisited the statewide problem of our declining bridges. Here in Lancaster, where I live, primary streets remain in disrepair for years, as well as, storm drains. For the latter, it is not only the negligence of clearing debris at the top of drains—let’s be honest, that part is primarily the failure of homeowners unwilling to dirty their hands at nearby drains—but at least one drain of which I'm aware is clogged below surface, and despite numerous calls to the city over the course of several, if not many, years by several residents, it fails to be addressed. If cities like Lancaster are unwilling to fix immediate problems like these, where do we suppose the money and impetus will arise to bury power lines and maintain them, which segues to the following item.

    2) As one caller pointed out, the onus to repair property which suffers damages falls primarily on homeowners. If this is allowed to persist, or worse, increase, gentrification results—another item of contention concerning ongoing development of towns and cities. Do we really want cities in which it becomes too expensive to live? As it is, here in Lancaster taxes are quite high compared to surrounding townships, and that discounts homeowners’ out-of-pocket expenses for maintenance that, in some cases, is actually caused by the city. Be it known, cities can be reckless with properties when performing services, and, if it happens on a large scale, it's written off as a necessary evil.

    3) I'm an admitted Europhile. I've visited repeatedly, as well as, lived in Europe for half a year. I am also a bicycle enthusiast of the European sort. That is, I use a bicycle to get from point A to point B in a leisurely and/or purposeful fashion, sans the spandex and funny shoes. Part of greening our cities is the inclusion of bike lanes which I'm all for, but this is not Europe, and despite the upsurge in bicycling interest, I can't plausibly think that this culture of ever-expanding suburbs will ever become conducive to a true cycling culture like that of Europe. There is a big difference when giving up a car for a bike compelled by beautiful European cities, and the long expanses of strip malls, concrete, and asphalt that exist here. Never mind the average suburbanite who would willingly navigate winter weather like today, or other weather extremes throughout the year, as they do in Europe, as in Copenhagen where bicyclists outnumber motorists. Sure, around here there are the handful of willing masochists [tongue in cheek] who brave the elements no matter what, but a residential community spread wide and thin doesn’t seem too likely to adopt European practices, especially since so many of us love to live at great distances from our places of work, or even family and friends.

    4) The final item I can recall concerns parking, and perhaps bike culture, which I love, has something to do with this problem? A caller this morning from F&M remarked about initiatives to increase walkability and bicycling in Lancaster. I don’t mean to pick on the college, but large businesses like F&M add to the difficulties, rather than contribute to solutions, specifically in the case of parking. They’ve increased their dormitory infrastructure, and are likely to continue, but fail to use their property to increase campus parking. The school seems to believe that the streets are adequate for residential student parking, but they are not. Student parking along streets encourages theft, but more importantly it squeezes permanent residents out of parking spaces. I have witnessed seniors—in excess of ninety years of age, mind you—carry groceries from as many as two blocks away where they were forced to park because small city properties do not allow for parking other than on the street. If we are to do greening alternatives that diminish parking even further, how problematic, moreover, how sensible, is that? Before we do anything to “improve” our cities, maybe we should think about fixing existing problems which are essential to making our cities livable? Does anyone truly believe that the requirements of business should usurp the intrinsic needs of taxpaying citizens? No one expects ideal parking situations when you choose to live in a city, but it would be nice if our businesses would chip in to solve problems like parking. So far, however, the best solutions offered are remote parking lots that students are unwilling to access—the streets are just easier, so the elderly and disabled aren’t likely to be at the forefront of their thoughts, but the onus lies with the school more than the students, and in other parts of town with businesses that also have excess parking requirements.

    I could probably add more, but I’m running out of steam. Sorry for the length!