Posts by clarencelacy

Photo: Creative Commons

Uber began in 2009, offering what seemed then like a nicer alternative to traditional taxis. The ride sharing service took over cities around the world quickly, with many other ridesharing services springing forth soon after. Most major cities today are served by some app-based rideshare service(s).

With rideshare services now ubiquitous, new developments are beginning to incorporate Uber and Lyft drop-off areas in site planning. Rideshares are now part of the discussion of planners, designers, and policy-makers globally. Recent research has undertaken the task of understanding the impacts of these services on planning, urbanism/urban sociology, and our environment.

Source: Clewlow, R.R. & Mishra, G.S. UC Davis Report

Rideshare services differ from traditional ridesharing or carpooling, because the destination for a passenger is not necessarily the destination for the driver. These services don’t aim to get more cars off the road. Instead, Uber, Lyft, and similar services are a convenient alternative form of transportation, each depending upon a driver being mobile, driving within the vicinity of passengers, or making a drop-off nearby. Quite often these drivers spend a certain amount of time driving around without passengers, waiting for a new route to pop-up on their phones.

A recent CityLab post investigated habits of rideshare app users and overall transportation trends in 10 major US cities. The article is based on emerging research from UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

‘Ride-hailing’, as the article calls it, has been leading to a “substitutive versus complementary nature of ride-hailing varies greatly based on the type of transit service”. While increases in walking and heavy-rail commuter trains (3%) are noteworthy, so are decreases in the use of light rail (3%) and buses (6%). The study also found that between 49-61% of trips made by “ride-hailing” wouldn’t have been made at all, or made by walking.

The largest takeaway from the CityLab post is these services are likely to contribute to the growth of vehicular miles travelled in major US cities like Los Angeles. Not only are these miles travelled with a passenger, but also the in-between ‘idle miles’.

In addition to added congestion, these added miles contribute to air quality and water quality issues resulting from personal vehicular use. “Avoiding drinking and driving” and “parking difficulties” are often cited as the most important factors for using these rideshare services, but what steps can be taken to eliminate the idle-miles associated with the popularity of ridesharing?

Source: Clewlow, R.R. & Mishra, G.S. UC Davis Report

Are micro-transit systems such as Leap Transit or Via – both which are modeled after carpool – the answer? Is it designated parking station electric car sharing services like BlueLA offer a way to eliminate the parking issue surrounding personal vehicle use? Or will it be a new form of ride-hailing incorporating dispatch centers, stations, and autonomous vehicles that will eventually decrease idle miles? The challenge ultimately will be to make transit options more appealing to as many commuters as possible, in turn decreasing user demand for vehicular travel altogether.

Ridesharing and ride-hailing will unlikely go away any time soon. So as technology advances and cities become more congested, we will need to conceive new planning strategies and alternatives to our existing models to incorporate ridesharing into our cities without the negatives associated with a city of idle drivers waiting for their next rider.

As 2017 year comes to a close, the AHBE LAB contributors are taking time to look back at our year’s worth of posts. We are each identifying the most memorable post and sharing what we found interesting, informative, and inspiring. Enjoy the flashback, and let us know which post you thought was most memorable.

It was my colleague Katherine’s photos of buckwheat that first grabbed my attention. What is this wirey, yet elegant star dancing on a hillside stage set by summer’s dry conditions?

I was still new to Southern California when I read Katherine’s post, In Praise of Buckwheat. I was immediately drawn to the plant’s presence and beauty that endures at a time when other plants go dormant. Inspired by her post, I began my own hunt to document native buckwheat while hiking and strolling around Los Angeles afterward.

Upon further reflection, I thought deeper about the beautiful subtleties summer dormancy – during the time when most people say, ‘everything is dead’. I began noticing how even the land of endless summer has seasons that manifest in plants like buckwheat. The questions I was left pondering with this new insight about this native plant: How can we as designers use these stars of our dry summer to create a beautiful, natural, and sustainable landscape? How can we best convey the beauty in dormancy?

The original post here: In Praise of Buckwheat

Downtown Savannah. All photos by Clarence Lacy

I’ve been feeling a tinge of excitement building thinking about my impending return home to the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia will always have a special place in my heart, specifically Hampton and its location on the Peninsula. The Bay is home to some of the richest ecologies, including my favorite, the estuarine/salt marsh.

During a trip to Savannah and Tybee Island, I observed this ecosystem up close in a different context. While attending Landscape Architecture School I began to understand the importance of this ecosystem and the role it plays in our lives as coastal residents. Armed with my hipster camera and some old found film, I was ready to explore a new territory.

Panorama of Tybee Island.

My adventure begins amongst the enchanting oak woodlands. These woods feel and smell like something straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. Spanish moss covered live oaks shade a flood of palmettos, creating a varied texture unique to southern live oak forests. Wandering through these woodlands, each tree feels like an ancient spiritual guardian welcoming you into the equally divine salt marsh.

Skidaway Island State Park.

Leaving the woodland, solid ground gives way to a reedy edge. The oak woodland smell is quickly exchanged for an overwhelmingly familiar smell reminiscent of my childhood on the Chesapeake Bay. Those early days were spent visiting the wharf to buy a bushel of crab, where I would also stop to watch swarms of gulls perched or gliding mid-flight overhead over the piers. Many boats are docked here – a true show of Savannah’s boat culture. From this edge, my journey begins upon the water.


Our boat weave in and out of small tributaries that wind around the subtle topography of soft ground. A new understanding of the eco-diversity and local nuance of this landscape revealed itself through its broad visual monotony. A vigorous smell of salt water intermingles with a subtle, yet captivating smell of decomposition, accompanied by the surround sound symphony of life teeming within this ecosystem.


A combination of childhood nostalgia, love of seafood, and my education brought me to a truly spiritual nexus – a discovery of something unfamiliar, yet familiar. This moment solidifies my love for this ecosystem.


Looking back at my photos, the place feels ghostly and magnificent, yet also tinged with a spirit of the sentimental past. To this day, this trip holds great importance to me. The visit taught me that a true understanding and appreciation of an ecology requires more than academic research, but also a firsthand experience within it.

Santa Monica – All photos by Clarence Lacy, except where noted.

The warm weather lately may say otherwise, but summer is over and it’s officially autumn here in Los Angeles.

I knew the day would eventually arrive, but I kept convincing myself, “just one more day”. Thankfully, California is blessed with a climate that allows us to enjoy its coast almost any time of the year. The coastline of California offers varied and diverse experiences, climate, water temperatures, alongside terrestrial and aquatic life to explore. Over the three years I’ve lived in the Golden State (I can’t believe I’ve already been here this long!), I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many sections along the coast, exploring all that California has to offer.

Sea Ranch – Photos by Gregory Han

My coastal journal begins with one of my favourite places along the coast: Sea Ranch. Located just over 100 miles north of San Francisco, right off the Pacific Coast Highway, Sea Ranch is a small community of full-time and part-time residents located in a carefully planned and protected development. The coastline here is a mixture of cliffs and sandy beaches, where the frigid waters are still wild, offering a poetic and inspiring place for writers, artists, and anyone drawn to the ocean. The cliffs are covered in ice plants and dwarf small sandy coves, with numerous tide pools teeming with life to explore.

Closer to San Francisco in Marin County, Muir Beach hosts a small protected beach nestled in a valley that ends at the Pacific Ocean. Muir Beach, a cove, is protected from the turbulent Pacific Ocean, an unusually calm region of Northern California coastline. The wild, cold waters of the Pacific can be seen crashing on rock formations just offshore, an especially golden hued view just as the sun begins its descent.

Continuing down the coast further south of San Francisco, the shores continue to display similar terrain with more small coves. But the shape of the coastline begins to envelope outward, with bays of tamer and warmer water. While visiting Pigeon Point I spied various Dudleya, grasses, and native shrubs dotting the green hills – a scenic backdrop of both native and invasive plants that make up the California coast ecology.

Dudlyea

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Green Hills at Pigeon Point Bluffs

As I ventured further down to the reaches of Southern California, I noticed the beaches becoming larger. Santa Monica, Hermosa and Laguna Beach are some of my favorites.

Santa Monica

Each of these stretches of shoreline offer a slightly different feel, but nonetheless, beach goers, surfers, and visiting landscape architects alike can appreciate their distinct and unique beauty.

Hermosa Beach (top), Manhattan Beach (bottom); Photos by Matthew Taylor

As I made my way down to the most southern end of the state to San Diego, a a mix of expansive beaches and cliffs welcomed  the end of my journey down the California coastline. La Jolla Cove is a perfect spot to catch a napping sea lion or a group of noisy cormorants. These cliffs seem to fold right into the sea, creating scenic beaches and bays.

La Jolla sea lion, cormorant, and seagull

Mission Beach

I love exploring the coast. Throughout my journey I recognized the California coastline presents a great opportunity to enjoy the change of the seasons, while also offering an opportunity to reap some of the awesome health benefits related to spending time outdoors and along ocean waters. Summer may have officially be over, but I wholly recommend spending this weekend or the next exploring a new beach. There’s always something surprising to discover that makes our part of the coast uniquely Californian.

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A landscape is an experience.

Traveling through any space is an invitation to reflect and learn more about an environment – and in turn, about your city and yourself. When a landscape offers a place for reflection and incorporates formal educational programming, the space additionally becomes a learning space. An active education program can take the form of demonstration gardens, inter-operative signage, interactive features, etc.

Photos: AHBE

A series of gardens and courts at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools was designed by AHBE – a procession of passive spaces inviting reflection – to serve as a stage in memorial, commemorating Kennedy’s legacy to social justice. The school’s 24-acre site is where the Ambassador Hotel once stood, the site of Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, while the park itself inhabits about one third of an acre along the school’s frontage parallel with Wilshire Boulevard.

Although Inspiration Park’s “rooms” include an outdoor classroom space, much of the linear park is designed as a classroom with a series of walls adorned with inspirational quotes from Robert F. Kennedy. These contemplative spaces were developed in coordination with artists May Sun and Richard Wyatt, adding an educational layer to create a truly experiential landscape. Also included in the design is a restored pylon from the original hotel and palm grove.

The sum the space provides a beautiful and much needed open space along Wilshire, giving the community a contemplative space inspired by the life, legacy, and words of Robert F. Kennedy.