robertogreco + transportation   745

Car Crashes Aren't Always Unavoidable - The Atlantic
"The automobile took over because the legal system helped squeeze out the alternatives."

...

"Further entrenching automobile supremacy are laws that require landowners who build housing and office space to build housing for cars as well. In large part because of parking quotas, parking lots now cover more than a third of the land area of some U.S. cities; Houston is estimated to have 30 parking spaces for every resident. As the UCLA urban-planning professor Donald Shoup has written, this mismatch flows from legal mandates rather than market demand. Every employee who brings a car to the office essentially doubles the amount of space he takes up at work, and in urban areas his employer may be required by law to build him a $50,000 garage parking space.

For those who didn’t get the message from the sprawling landscape that zoning has created, the tax code sharpened it by lavishing rewards on those who drive and punishing those who don’t. On its own terms, the mortgage-interest tax deduction is neutral as to the type of home financed, but—given the twin constraints of zoning and mortgage lending—the deduction primarily subsidizes large houses in car-centric areas. Those who walk or bike to work receive no commuter tax benefit, while those who drive receive tax-deductible parking. Another provision of the tax code gives car buyers a tax rebate of up to $7,500 when their new vehicles are electric or hybrid; buyers of brand-new Audis, BMWs, and Jaguars can claim the full $7,500 from the American taxpayer. Environmentally, these vehicles offer an improvement over gas-powered cars (but not public or active transit). Even so, 85 to 90 percent of toxic vehicle emissions in traffic come from tire wear and other non-tailpipe sources, which electric and hybrid cars still produce. They also still contribute to traffic, and can still kill or maim the people they hit. Why are we taxing bus riders to pay rich people to buy McMansions and luxury electric SUVs?"

...

"
Tort law is supposed to allow victims to recover for harms caused by others. Yet the standard of liability that applies to car crashes—ordinary negligence—establishes low expectations of how safe a driver must be. Courts have held that a higher standard—strict liability, which forces more careful risk taking—does not apply to driving. Strict liability is reserved for activities that are both “ultrahazardous” and “uncommon”; driving, while ultrahazardous, is among the most common activities in American life. In other words, the very fact that car crashes cause so much social damage makes it hard for those who are injured or killed by reckless drivers to receive justice.

In a similar spirit, criminal law has carved out a lesser category uniquely for vehicular manslaughter. Deep down, all of us who drive are afraid of accidentally killing someone and going to jail; this lesser charge was originally envisioned to persuade juries to convict reckless drivers. Yet this accommodation reflects a pattern. Even when a motorist kills someone and is found to have been violating the law while doing so (for example, by running a red light), criminal charges are rarely brought and judges go light. So often do police officers in New York fail to enforce road-safety rules—and illegally park their own vehicles on sidewalks and bike facilities—that specific Twitter accounts are dedicated to each type of misbehavior. Given New York’s lax enforcement record, the Freakonomics podcast described running over pedestrians there as “the perfect crime.”"

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"All of these laws can be reversed directly by the legislative bodies responsible for passing them in the first place. However, a growing body of academic research suggests that, even when most people favor less restrictive zoning, local officials will side with wealthy homeowners who favor the status quo. In these cases, state legislators can be called upon to help. Reformers have succeeded in doing so in Oregon and have shown promise in California. Far less attention has been paid, however, at the federal level. Recently, several Democratic candidates for president have released federal plans to prod states and cities to relax their zoning.

Congress could condition a small share (say, 5 percent) of federal funds on the adoption by states of housing-production goals or Vision Zero design standards calibrated for safety. Conditional appropriations, which are how Congress goaded states into raising the drinking age, are already in use for numerous transportation programs.

Litigation for dangerous street design is another promising way to hold public entities accountable. So far, plaintiffs have mostly sought money damages, but they can also seek design changes through injunctive relief, including by class action. This has the potential to move not only laws and budgets but the entire discourse around street safety.

Finally, reformers could seek recognition of the freedom to walk. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act and state and local counterparts, as well as case law recognizing a constitutional right to movement, suggest such a right to mobility.

Americans customarily describe motor-vehicle crashes as accidents. But the harms that come to so many of our loved ones are the predictable output of a broken system of laws. No struggle for justice in America has been successful without changing the law. The struggle against automobile supremacy is no different."
2019  cars  law  zoning  accidents  insurance  policy  government  taxes  publictransit  pedestrians  parking  cities  urban  urbanism  transportation  transit  speedlimits  california  us  design  safety  health  risks  tortlaw  negligence  oregon  housing  litigation  gregoryshill 
9 days ago by robertogreco
Uber’s Path of Destruction - American Affairs Journal
"ince it began operations in 2010, Uber has grown to the point where it now collects over $45 billion in gross passenger revenue, and it has seized a major share of the urban car service market. But the widespread belief that it is a highly innovative and successful company has no basis in economic reality.

An examination of Uber’s economics suggests that it has no hope of ever earning sustainable urban car service profits in competitive markets. Its costs are simply much higher than the market is willing to pay, as its nine years of massive losses indicate. Uber not only lacks powerful competitive advantages, but it is actually less efficient than the competitors it has been driving out of business.

Uber’s investors, however, never expected that their returns would come from superior efficiency in competitive markets. Uber pursued a “growth at all costs” strategy financed by a staggering $20 billion in investor funding. This funding subsidized fares and service levels that could not be matched by incumbents who had to cover costs out of actual passenger fares. Uber’s massive subsidies were explicitly anticompetitive—and are ultimately unsustainable—but they made the company enormously popular with passengers who enjoyed not having to pay the full cost of their service.

The resulting rapid growth was also intended to make Uber highly attractive to those segments of the investment world that believed explosive top-line growth was the only important determinant of how start-up companies should be valued. Investors focused narrow­ly on Uber’s revenue growth and only rarely considered whether the company could ever produce the profits that might someday repay the multibillion dollar subsidies.

Most public criticisms of Uber have focused on narrow behavioral and cultural issues, including deceptive advertising and pricing, algorithmic manipulation, driver exploitation, deep-seated misogyny among executives, and disregard of laws and business norms. Such criticisms are valid, but these problems are not fixable aberrations. They were the inevitable result of pursuing “growth at all costs” without having any ability to fund that growth out of positive cash flow. And while Uber has taken steps to reduce negative publicity, it has not done—and cannot do—anything that could suddenly pro­duce a sustainable, profitable business model.

Uber’s longer-term goal was to eliminate all meaningful competition and then profit from this quasi-monopoly power. While it has already begun using some of this artificial power to suppress driver wages, it has not achieved the Facebook- or Amazon-type “plat­form” power it hoped to exploit. Given that both sustainable profits and true industry dominance seemed unachievable, Uber’s investors de­cided to take the company public, based on the hope that enough gullible investors still believe that the compa­ny’s rapid growth and popularity are the result of powerfully effi­cient inno­vations and do not care about its inability to generate profits.

These beliefs about Uber’s corporate value were created entirely out of thin air. This is not a case of a company with a reasonably sound operating business that has managed to inflate stock market expectations a bit. This is a case of a massive valuation that has no relationship to any economic fundamentals. Uber has no competitive efficiency advantages, operates in an industry with few barriers to entry, and has lost more than $14 billion in the previous four years. But its narratives convinced most people in the media, invest­ment, and tech worlds that it is the most valuable transportation company on the planet and the second most valuable start-up IPO in U.S. history (after Facebook).

Uber is the breakthrough case where the public perception of a large new company was entirely created using the types of manufactured narratives typically employed in partisan political campaigns. Narrative construction is perhaps Uber’s greatest competitive strength. The company used these techniques to completely divert attention away from the massive subsidies that were the actual drivers of its popularity and growth. It successfully framed the entire public discussion around an emotive, “us-versus-them” battle between heroic innovators and corrupt regulators who were falsely blamed for all of the industry’s historic service problems. Uber’s desired framing—that it was fighting a moral battle on behalf of technological progress and economic freedom—was uncritically ac­cepted by the mainstream business and tech industry press, who then never bothered to analyze the firm’s actual economics or its anticompetitive behavior.

In reality, Uber’s platform does not include any technological breakthroughs, and Uber has done nothing to “disrupt” the eco­nomics of providing urban car services. What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency. Its multibillion dollar subsidies completely distorted marketplace price and service signals, leading to a massive misallocation of resources. Uber’s most important innovation has been to produce staggering levels of private wealth without creating any sustainable benefits for consumers, workers, the cities they serve, or anyone else."
huberthoran  uber  carsharing  taxis  transportation  2019  economics  technology  technosolutionism  huxterism  propaganda  regulation  disruption  innovation  scale  networkeffects  amazon  facebook  venturecapital  siliconvalley  latecapitalism  capitalism  exploitation  labor  growth  lyft  china  startups  cities  urban  urbanism  productivity  traviskalanick 
5 weeks ago by robertogreco
Assignment Four - Hunters Point: A View from the Hill - Bay Area Television Archive
"KRON-TV Assignment Four documentary film which aired on October 5th 1969 at 7:00pm about poverty, racism, urban renewal and community action in San Francisco's Hunters Point neighborhood (predominantly African American). Features scenes of: SFPD Community Relations Unit's Palmer Jackson walking around the neighborhood and talking with youths; Adam Rogers of Young men For Action meeting with police and community members; an interview with Dr. Arthur Coleman, head of the Hunters Point Bayview Community Health Project; Mrs Eloise Westbrook chairing a public meeting of the Joint Housing Committee; Sylvester Brown criticising Mrs Westbrook for not permitting more voices to be heard at the meeting; Rev. Charles Lee preaching a sermon about how a "revolution" is coming, at the Ridgepoint Methodist Church; brief views of the September 1966 Hunters Point uprising (including police shooting at residents) and urban planner William Keller presenting ideas of how to transform the neighborhood. At one point, narrator Ed Hart comments that: "In Hunters Point ... the burden of public responsibility has been shouldered largely by black women." This film was written and produced by Ira Eisenberg, edited by John Bradley and shot by John Hines, Walter Nash and Sam Lopez. Please note: the original viewing copy in DIVA was sourced from a Betacam SP video tape master; it was updated on 10/8/12 by a video file derived from the higher quality 16mm film print (Ref. KRON 461). Thanks to historical researcher and consultant Paul Lee for establishing the date of broadcast."
bayview  hunterspoint  1969  sanfrancisco  housing  poverty  police  economics  race  racism  transportation  eloisewestbrook  palmerjackson  arthurcoleman  waronpoverty  sylvesterbrown  adamrogers  williamkeller  charleslee 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
THE THINKBELT: THE UNIVERSITY THAT NEVER WAS | Discover Society
"In this commentary, I revisit an article from New Society which evokes a moment in the development of British higher education in the post-war period but also, I argue, could still illuminate thinking on debates about the roles and responsibilities of universities within their wider social settings. The Potteries Thinkbelt piece, published in 1966, proposes an unbuilt project that today serves as a parable of what higher education did not become, of a path not taken. To contemporary eyes, aspects of the Thinkbelt proposal may seem fantastical; yet, if we can enable what Coleridge named ‘that willing suspension of disbelief’, it could offer us lessons about the relationship between universities and the cities or regions that host them.

The author of the Thinkbelt was Cedric Price, an architect with relatively few realized projects but who, through his teaching roles, writings and published drawings, has nonetheless exerted a deep influence on how leading members of a generation of architects think about architecture, and how their buildings sit within their wider social settings. In the Thinkbelt, Price outlined an ambitious project for a centre of higher education amongst the coal fields of Staffordshire. These pits originally served ceramics factories throughout the region but, by the early 1960s, had fallen into disuse – de-industrialisation came early to the Potteries. The landscape Price wished to regenerate spanned approximately 100 square miles, was triangular in shape, and stretched from Pitts Hill in the North, Madeley at its Western point and Meir to the East, with Stoke and Newcastle-Under-Lyme located at its heart.

The Thinkbelt would connect to outside rail, road and air networks via transfer areas at the points of the triangle. Industrial units at these points offered campus sites that could be reconfigured according to differing uses – so, in addition to public learning spaces, these units would also offer accommodation for visiting students and staff. The transfer sites would be connected together by continuously running railbuses using the disused railway network that previously had connected the pits with the potteries; Price was interested in enhancing the efficacy of the already there. Furthermore, the railbuses themselves could be reconfigured as learning spaces so that teaching might be carried out en route, with fold-out deck units offering more space for larger lectures and talks.

Price envisaged the Thinkbelt as offering education for 20,000 students, following mostly applied curricula in engineering and science subjects. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was an industrial undertaking in large part; its remit included working with regional industries as research and design centres, as well as offering re-training in new industries for local residents whose work in the pits and potteries had disappeared. The Thinkbelt was designed for 20,000 students, but with provision for 40,000 residential units that were flexible in form and adaptable to possible relocation and aggregation; Price wished to see student housing combined with local council tenancies. The four different forms of residential units were crudely named as sprawl, capsule, crate and battery housing, using terminology specifically intended to irritate professional designers.

The Thinkbelt rejected previous and contemporaneous ideas about appropriate university architecture, with Price’s aesthetic citing industrial forms such as the container, rather than what he perceived to be the pretensions of twentieth century university buildings. Typically, he viewed contemporaneous campus designs as aspiring to the medieval form of the castle (ivory towers included), making defensive spaces removed from the rest of their towns. Price made a virtue of his avoidance of the design principles that characterised the university movement in both pre-war and post-war periods. ‘While students’, he wrote in 1970, ‘are at present one of the most mobile social groups of technologically advanced societies the nature of their own particular production plants – schools, colleges and universities, is static, intro-spective, parochial, inflexible and not very useful’ (1).

If Price cared little for university architecture, he cared even less for the principles of university education, taking care to avoid the use of the word in his scheme. Certainly his scheme for such a large cohort of students by contemporaneous standards worked against the exclusivity typical of the sector at that time; his preference for science and engineering spoke to the idea that education should be seen as serving wider societal uses, rather than purely for the fulfilment of individuals from elite social groupings. The Thinkbelt sought to correct an imbalance in the esteem paid to ‘applied’ rather than ‘pure’ knowledge, through an architecture which was functional, flexible and impermanent rather than ornamental, fixed in purpose and inert.

The Thinkbelt was to be a site of learning premised on patterns of mobility, at individual, collective and even infrastructural scales. This mobility, embedded within the physical buildings themselves, spoke to a wider understanding of the word in debates about meritocracy and the opening out of higher education to a part of the population hitherto under-represented. Price’s project was far-sighted in its emphasis on flexibility within the curriculum, planning for access through life-long and part-time learning and hence alive to the needs of student groups that, as Paul Stanistreet has suggested, are often overlooked in contemporary debates. Certainly the Thinkbelt anticipates debates about whom and what higher education is for, pre-dating current arguments about the value of a university degree in terms of the ‘employability’ agenda for the individual learner and the value of an educated workforce for national industries. Price’s analysis of the social value of higher education more generally is incisive; towards the conclusion of the New Society piece he makes the case for student loans to become salaries, arguing that where ‘people are doing a job society wants them to do, they must be paid for it’.

Moreover, the Thinkbelt prompts consideration of the disjuncture that can arise between the places where we work and where we live. The combination of student residences with local council tenancies sought to integrate the student experience with that of the wider population, disrupting preconceived ideas about the housing of students on campus accommodation away from residents of the towns and cities that give universities their names. Indeed, the Thinkbelt was written in the shadow of early tensions, noted in the article itself, between managers and students at Keele, and the University’s apparent disregard for the surrounding region. In this magazine, Mary Stuart has questioned how alive universities are to their civic missions – the Thinkbelt, for all its hypothetical aspects, gives us a benchmark for thinking through such issues. Are our universities supplementary to the cities and regions that give them their names and that sustain them economically? How do academics and students engage with each other? And how do we interact with our neighbouring populations?

The Thinkbelt is an experiment in conceiving of a different type of learning environment; think about the dynamics of a lecture in a moving rail carriage, and how it might bring staff and students into contact in a way that we can all too easily avoid in the stratified spaces we build into our campus lives. The Thinkbelt is premised on a different social and political settlement for higher education to that which we labour under today; in its own time, it did not attract the attention of policy makers, falling as it did by the margins of planning for the University of the Air – later to become the Open University. Yet its focus on place remains of interest. In returning to the Thinkbelt here, my argument is not that Price’s proposal offers us answers to our debates about the public role of universities today – there are too many questions around the complexities of academic freedom, architectural design and political context to claim that. Nonetheless, as Samantha Hardingham reflects, ‘if there is a use for presenting this material again, here and now, it may be to ask whether we are looking at something we already know, or looking for something we still cannot see yet’ (2).

Whether Price’s proposal can offer clues about a future we cannot yet see is interesting for a number of reasons, not least in raising the question of why we find it difficult to imagine our futures in quite the same ways, with quite the same optimism as he did. At the beginning of this commentary, I suggested that adopting a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ might be useful in approaching the Thinkbelt; for Coleridge, the suspension of disbelief is necessary to enable what he understood as ‘poetic faith’. Poetry and faith – it strikes me that these are qualities too often missing from thinking about higher education, and its planning; by these I mean a belief in the potential of universities to actively shape socially just economies and societies (rather than accelerating the reproduction of inequalities, as Stephen McKay and Karen Rowlingson argue), and the lyrical licence to imagine how they might do this."
darylmartin  2014  thinkbelt  cedricprice  universities  colleges  highered  highereducation  architecture  education  rail  transportation  unschooling  deschooling  cities  urban  urbanism  disbelief  transcontextualism 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Muni Poetry - Nine Haikus | Arts and Culture | thebaycitybeacon.com
"Muni Haikus

This nineteen bus
Went out of service again
Stop barfing in there

Market Street Railway
Dreamy cream green streamliner
Embarcadero

Ocean Beach in June
Waiting for the twenty three
My ass is frozen

Mission red carpet
Fourteen is so much faster
Fuck your parking spot

Unhoused family
Sharing the back bench all night
Their baby is safe

Streetcars have a bell:
“Ding ding, ding ding!” And a horn:
“Move, Motherfucker!”

Escalator broke
in Civic Center and every
elevator reeks

J Lurch, K Lied
L Terri-ble and N Judas
M Motion-less, T turd."
muni  poems  poetry  haiku  mcallen  2019  publictransit  transportation  sanfrancisco 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Perpetual Motion Machines — Real Life
"The social impact could be broader than we expect. When we don’t have to look where we are going, we have to deliberately choose what we want to see. One of IDEO’s more radical visions of how automated vehicles could be used, the WorkOnWheels mobile office, is designed to allow employees to travel to new locations as they work. The pod contains office furniture and pull-down shades over the windows, letting workers choose which aspects of their surrounding environment they want to see, without having to visually process the travel in-between. Cityscapes become optional, consumable on demand rather than by necessity. Meanwhile, the mobile workplace’s controlled internal habitat would remain constant no matter where it was.

Such a vehicle would not have to travel any faster for us to perceive a dramatic reduction in travel time. The time once spent in vehicles inertly waiting to arrive could now be filled with the same sort of activities we’d be doing if we were already there — or had never left.

The opportunity to multitask while traveling could make the journey into the destination. Given the expanded possibilities of what one could do inside a vehicle, our existing distinctions between vehicles and buildings, between transit and destination, between static and mobile spaces, may begin to blur. Imagine commuting while sleeping, or socializing at happy hour while the bar transports you home. Imagine if a garage was also the car. If commuting entails being in a space that is functionally equivalent to being at home, one might eventually skip returning home, and commute perpetually. The journey to work could commence as soon we fall asleep. The idea of having a destination becomes as obsolete as drivers and cars. Highways would host listless roaming bedrooms, meandering through the night.

Our understanding of a house as a stable locus of physical and emotional shelter could become diluted. There would be no reason for homes to not also be vehicles. A range of new options for customizing these vehicle-home hybrids would emerge: Homes could be made up of modular docking pods, and specific rooms could be shared, swapped, rented out, or sent away for cleaning or restocking. Modern conveniences that we currently take for granted — such as being able to use a bathroom without needing to arrange for its presence in advance — could become tomorrow’s luxuries. The homeless would be the only people not constantly in motion, the people closest to retaining a fixed physical location called home. Stasis would become homelessness.

If vehicular interiors can accommodate the activities possible at most destinations — if the vehicle becomes a destination in and of itself, and destinations become other vehicles — the mediating experience of a journey between places would be eliminated. There will be no signs to point us anywhere. There would be no need to know directions, and no sense of what being “on the way” to somewhere looks or feels like. There will be no need to know how to get anywhere once we forget the concept of having anywhere to go."



"Once physical locations are rendered as abstract coordinates in a user interface, they effectively become arbitrary, as interchangeable as the retail spaces of big-box stores. The experience of inhabiting any particular interior space might become decoupled from its existence within a specific place, free from the baggage of associated historical and geographic context. Real estate would no longer need to be valued according to its location, because proximity would always be subject to change. Travel to visit or inhabit buildings still standing in fixed physical locations might join horses and antique cars as nostalgic hobbies for the wealthy.

Our memories of the spatial processions encountered while traveling through urban architecture — approaching the public facade of a building, the transition between the street and lobby, the awareness of landmark reference points on a skyline, the interstices between buildings — might eventually begin to fade. The experience of passing from one destination to another could become akin to watching the progress bar of a software download. Traveling to a different location, or having that location travel to you, would be more akin to updating an app.

The user interface for navigating space would no longer be a map, but a clock or calendar. Distances once traced on a map would be transmuted into blocks of time plotted on one’s daily schedule. Place would be synonymous with occasion, with movement through time corresponding to automatic movements through space. Frequent destinations such as “home” and “work” might transform into abstract zones differentiated mainly by when rather than where they happen. Our motives and desires would be foregrounded over the experience of traveling, shifting our conception of destinations to more closely resemble verbs rather than nouns. Your workout routine might take place in a different gym than it did the morning before, but you wouldn’t know the difference; they would be identically convenient. As soon as our scheduled time within one destination expired, we would be able to walk through a docking port into the next, like a cinematic cut skipping the passage of mundane events that might otherwise have unfolded between selected scenes.

Driverless passenger cars and delivery vehicles will further accelerate our current move to on-demand services that let us bypass those inconvenient interstitial moments of everyday life — walking to a store, standing in line, cooking a meal, and so on. The logistics of scheduling automated vehicles will ensure that even more of our time becomes consciously programmed and structured, optimized for maximum productivity. With each advance, our surrounding environment will become increasingly hostile to serendipity and chance meetings, known sources of creative breakthroughs.

Contemporary urban-planning guidelines are based on assumptions that the rich pedestrian life of a street or a park emerges from adjacencies with surrounding businesses. Driverless cars posit a possible future without street life and without spaces for spontaneity. As with previous planning mistakes in developing automotive-oriented cities, carmakers and technology companies are moving forward with their ideas without reckoning with the full range of potential social impacts. These futures must be imagined before they can be embraced or resisted. Otherwise driverless cars may steer society into a blind cul-de-sac, and we will discover we have nowhere left to go."
chenoeahrt  driverlesscars  2016  cities  transportation  cars  space  urban  urbanism  motion  movement  society  publicpsace 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
Why The US Has No High-Speed Rail - YouTube
"China has the world’s fastest and largest high-speed rail network — more than 19,000 miles, the vast majority of which was built in the past decade.

Japan’s bullet trains can reach nearly 200 miles per hour and date to the 1960s. They have moved more than 9 billion people without a single passenger causality. casualty

France began service of the high-speed TGV train in 1981 and the rest of Europe quickly followed.

But the U.S. has no true high-speed trains, aside from sections of Amtrak’s Acela line in the Northeast Corridor. The Acela can reach 150 mph for only 34 miles of its 457-mile span. Its average speed between New York and Boston is about 65 mph.

California’s high-speed rail system is under construction, but whether it will ever get completed as intended is uncertain.

Watch the video to see why the U.S. continues to fail with high-speed trains, and some companies that are trying to fix that."
rails  trains  us  history  transportation  highspeedrail  2019  cars  lobbying  aviation  politics  policy  airlines  ideology  infrastructure  highspeed  rail 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Shade
[via: https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122670547777871874

who concludes…
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/1122685558688485376
"🌴Imagine what LA could do if it tied street enhancement to a comprehensive program of shade creation: widening the sidewalks, undergrounding powerlines, cutting bigger tree wells, planting leafy, drought-resistant trees, + making room for arcades, galleries, + bus shelters.🌳"]

"All you have to do is scoot across a satellite map of the Los Angeles Basin to see the tremendous shade disparity. Leafy neighborhoods are tucked in hillside canyons and built around golf courses. High modernist homes embrace the sun as it flickers through labor-intensive thickets of eucalyptus. Awnings, paseos, and mature ficus trees shade high-end shopping districts. In the oceanfront city of Santa Monica, which has a dedicated municipal tree plan and a staff of public foresters, all 302 bus stops have been outfitted with fixed steel parasols (“blue spots”) that block the sun. 9 Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles flats, there are vast gray expanses — playgrounds, parking lots, and wide roads — with almost no trees. Transit riders bake at unsheltered bus stops. The homeless take refuge in tunnels and under highway overpasses; some chain their tarps and tents to fences on Skid Row and wait out the day in the shadows of buildings across the street.

Shade is often understood as a luxury amenity, lending calm to courtyards and tree-lined boulevards, cooling and obscuring jewel boxes and glass cubes. But as deadly, hundred-degree heatwaves become commonplace, we have to learn to see shade as a civic resource that is shared by all. In the shade, overheated bodies return to equilibrium. Blood circulation improves. People think clearly. They see better. In a physiological sense, they are themselves again. For people vulnerable to heat stress and exhaustion — outdoor workers, the elderly, the homeless — that can be the difference between life and death. Shade is thus an index of inequality, a requirement for public health, and a mandate for urban planners and designers.

A few years back, Los Angeles passed sweeping revisions to the general plan meant to encourage residents to walk, bike, and take more buses and trains. But as Angelenos step out of their cars, they are discovering that many streets offer little relief from the oppressive sunshine. Not everyone has the stamina to wait out the heat at an unprotected bus stop, or the money to duck into an air-conditioned cafe. 11 When we understand shade as a public resource — a kind of infrastructure, even — we can have better discussions about how to create it and distribute it fairly.

Yet cultural values complicate the provision of shade. Los Angeles is a low-rise city whose residents prize open air and sunshine. 12 They show up at planning meetings to protest tall buildings that would block views or darken sunbathing decks, and police urge residents in high-crime neighborhoods to cut down trees that hide drug dealing and prostitution. Shade trees are designed out of parks to discourage loitering and turf wars, and designed off streets where traffic engineers demand wide lanes and high visibility. Diffuse sunlight is rare in many parts of Los Angeles. You might trace this back to a cultural obsession with shadows and spotlights, drawing a line from Hollywood noir — in which long shadows and unlit corners represent the criminal underworld — to the contemporary politics of surveillance. 13 The light reveals what hides in the dark.

When I think of Los Angeles, I picture Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, a streetcar suburb converted into a ten-lane automobile moonscape. People say they like this street for its wall of low-slung, pre-war storefronts, home to record stores and restaurants. To me, it’s a never-ending, vertiginous tunnel of light. I squint to avoid the glare from the white stucco walls, bare pavement, and car windows. From a climate perspective, bright surfaces are good; they absorb fewer sun rays and lessen the urban heat-island effect. But on an unshaded street they can also concentrate and intensify local sunlight."



"At one time, they did. “Shade was integral, and incorporated into the urban design of southern California up until the 1930s,” Davis said. “If you go to most of the older agricultural towns … the downtown streets were arcaded. They had the equivalent of awnings over the sidewalk.” Rancho homes had sleeping porches and shade trees, and buildings were oriented to keep their occupants cool. The original settlement of Los Angeles conformed roughly to the Law of the Indies, a royal ordinance that required streets to be laid out at a 45-degree angle, ensuring access to sun in the winter and shade in the summer. Spanish adobes were built around a central courtyard cooled by awnings and plants. 15 As the city grew, the California bungalow — a low, rectangular house, with wide eaves, inspired by British Indian hill stations — became popular with the middle class. “During the 1920s, they were actually prefabricated in factories,” Davis said. “There are tens of thousands of bungalows, particularly along the Alameda corridor … that were manufactured by Pacific Ready-Cut Homes, which advertised itself as the Henry Ford of home construction.” 16

All that changed with the advent of cheap electricity. In 1936, the Los Angeles Bureau of Power and Light completed a 266-mile high-voltage transmission line from Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam), which could supply 70 percent of the city’s power at low cost. Southern Californians bought mass-produced housing with electric heating and air conditioning. By the end of World War II, there were nearly 4 million people living in Los Angeles County, and the new neighborhoods were organized around driveways and parking lots. Parts of the city, Davis said, became “virtually treeless deserts.”"



"It’s easy to see how this hostile design reflected the values of the peak automobile era, but there is more going on here. The destruction of urban refuge was part of a long-term strategy to discourage gay cruising, drug use, and other “shady” activities downtown. In 1964, business owners sponsored another redesign that was intended, in the hyperbolic words of the Los Angeles Times, to finally clear out the “deviates and criminals.” The city removed the perimeter benches and culled even more palms and shade trees, so that office workers and shoppers could move through the park without being “accosted by derelicts and ‘bums.’” Sunlight was weaponized. “Before long, pedestrians will be walking through, instead of avoiding, Pershing Square,” the Times declared. “And that is why parks are built.” 19"



"High-concept architecture is one way to transform the shadescape of Los Angeles. Street trees are another. Unfortunately, the city’s most ubiquitous tree — the iconic Washington robusta, or Mexican fan palm — is about as useful in that respect as a telephone pole.

Palm trees have been identified with southern California since 1893, when Canary Island date palms — the fatter, stouter cousin — were displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair. On the trunk of one of those palms, boosters posted the daily temperatures at a San Diego beach, and the tree itself came to stand for “sunshine and soft air.” In his indispensable history, Trees in Paradise, Jared Farmer traces the palm’s transformation from a symbol of a healthy climate to a symbol of glamour, via its association with Hollywood. 26

Despite that early fame, palm trees did not really take over Los Angeles until the 1930s, when a citywide program set tens of thousands of palms along new or recently expanded roads. They were the ideal tree for an automobile landscape. Hardy, cheap, and able to grow anywhere, palm trees are basically weeds. Their shallow roots curl up into a ball, so they can be plugged into small pavement cuts without entangling underground sewer and water mains or buckling sidewalks. As Farmer puts it, palms are “symbiotic infrastructure,” beautifying the city without making a mess. Plus, as Mary Pickford once pointed out, the slender trunks don’t block the view of storefronts, which makes them ideal for window-shopping from the driver’s seat. The city’s first forester, L. Glenn Hall, planted more than 25,000 palm trees in 1931 alone. 27

Hall’s vision, though, was more ambitious than that. He planned to landscape all of Los Angeles’s roads with 1.2 million street trees. Tall palms, like Washingtonia robusta, would go on major thoroughfares, and side streets would be lined with elm, pine, red maple, liquidambar, ash, and sycamore. A Depression-era stimulus package provided enough funds to employ 400 men for six months. But the forestry department put the burden of watering and maintenance on property owners, and soon it charged for cutting new tree wells, too. Owners weren’t interested. So Hall concentrated his efforts on the 28 major boulevards that would serve the 1932 Olympics — including the now-iconic Ventura, Wilshire, Figueroa, Vermont, Western, and Crenshaw — and committed the city to pay for five years of tree maintenance. That may well have bankrupted the tree planting program, and before long the city was urging property owners to take on all costs, including the trees themselves.

This history partly explains the shade disparity in Los Angeles today. Consider the physical dimensions of a major city street in Hall’s time. Between the expanding road and narrowing sidewalks was an open strip of grass, three to ten feet wide, known as the parkway. Having rejected a comprehensive parks system, Los Angeles relied on these roadside strips to plant its urban forest, but over time the parkways were diminished by various agencies in the name of civic improvements — chiefly, road widening. 29 And the stewardship of these spaces was always ambiguous. The parkways are public land, owned and regulated by the … [more]
losangeles  trees  shade  history  palmtrees  urbanplanning  electricity  inequality  2019  sambloch  mikedavis  urban  urbanism  cars  transportation  disparity  streets  values  culture  pedestrians  walking  heat  light  socal  california  design  landscape  wealth  sidewalks  publictransit  transit  privacy  reynerbanham  surveillance  sun  sunshine  climatechange  sustainability  energy  ericgarcetti  antoniovillaraigosa  environment  realestate  law  legal  cities  civics 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
Introducing Transit Insights, a Visual Tool to Track Transit Ridership in American Cities - TransitCenter
[See also: http://insights.transitcenter.org/

"Transit Insights displays changes in public transit ridership, service characteristics, and demographics for the 55 most populous U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and their transit agencies. TransitCenter partnered with Axis Maps to build the tool.

Transit data are from 2006 to 2017, collected from the National Transit Database (NTD). The highest-ridership transit agencies per MSA are displayed individually, and the rest are aggregated into “Other.” Agency data are assigned by headquarter location for MSA-level tabulations. Bus ridership includes “unlinked passenger trips” (UPTs) on local, express, commuter, and trolley buses. Rail ridership includes UPTs on light, heavy, commuter, hybrid, and streetcar rail, as well as on monorail and cable car. Transit ridership and other indicators are reported for all modes. All transit indicators are presented as percent change.

Demographic data are from the U.S. Census Bureau's 5-year American Community Survey estimates from 2010 to 2016. Jobs data are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics estimates from 2010 to 2015. All demographic indicators are presented as absolute, percentage point change, except for total population, median household income, and density (presented as percent change).

Transit service shapefiles and frequency designations are from 2018. Interline exported the data from the TransitLand API. Transit service shapefiles for Memphis, Tennessee and Richmond, Virginia are unavailable. Note: low-frequency service is only visible by zooming in from the regional map view.

View the data dictionary for term definitions. Download the ridership data by agency or export static images with the icons in the top right. Visit the project’s GitHub repository to learn more about the data collection, analysis, and production. Visit this repository to access scripts and documentation on exporting transit stop and route shapefiles. Email ridership@transitcenter.org with any questions, comments, or suggestions for improving Transit Insights."]
maps  mapping  transit  transportation  publictransit  us  2019 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - YouTube
"What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? The Intercept presents a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple.

Set a couple of decades from now, the film is a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This film flips the script. It’s about how, in the nick of time, a critical mass of humanity in the largest economy on earth came to believe that we were actually worth saving. Because, as Ocasio-Cortez says in the film, our future has not been written yet and “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”"

[See also:
https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/green-new-deal-short-film-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/

"The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This skepticism is understandable. The idea that societies could collectively decide to embrace rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more — precisely what is needed to avert climate breakdown — is not something for which most of us have any living reference. We have grown up bombarded with the message that there is no alternative to the crappy system that is destabilizing the planet and hoarding vast wealth at the top. From most economists, we hear that we are fundamentally selfish, gratification-seeking units. From historians, we learn that social change has always been the work of singular great men.

Science fiction hasn’t been much help either. Almost every vision of the future that we get from best-selling novels and big-budget Hollywood films takes some kind of ecological and social apocalypse for granted. It’s almost as if we have collectively stopped believing that the future is going to happen, let alone that it could be better, in many ways, than the present.

The media debates that paint the Green New Deal as either impossibly impractical or a recipe for tyranny just reinforce the sense of futility. But here’s the good news: The old New Deal faced almost precisely the same kinds of opposition — and it didn’t stop it for a minute."]
alexandriaocasio-cortez  2019  mollycrabapple  greennewdeal  speculativefiction  politics  policy  future  climatechange  globalwarming  1988  us  oil  petroleum  fossilfuels  environment  sustainability  puertorico  crisis  change  food  transportation  economics  capitalism  inequality  medicareforall  livingwages  labor  work  infrastructure  trains  masstransit  publictransit  americorps  unions  indigenous  indigeneity  childcare  care  caring  teaching  domesticwork  universalrights  healthcare  humanism  humanity  avilewis  naomiklein  skepticism  imagination  newdeal  fdr  wpa  greatdepression  moonshots  art  artists  collectivism  society 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
401(k)s, abortion, youth football: 15 things we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years - Vox
[via: https://kottke.org/19/04/what-do-we-do-now-that-will-be-unthinkable-in-50-years ]

"Youth tackle football
Bosses
Eating meat
Conspicuous consumption
The drug war
The way we die
Banning sex work
401(k)s
Ending the draft
Facebook and Google
Abortion
Self-driving cars
Our obsession with rationality
Abandoning public education
The idea of a “wrong side of history”



"Some 50 years ago, in 1964, 42 percent of Americans smoked cigarettes. Smoking in bars and offices was normal and cigarettes were given to soldiers as part of military rations. Half of American physicians smoked. Ads for cigarettes bombarded the American public. That year, the surgeon general released a report outlining the health risks of smoking. Two years later, only 40 percent of Americans said that they believed smoking was a major cause of cancer.

Today, we know that smoking is bad for our health. We’ve banned smoking in most indoor public spaces. We stopped allowing tobacco companies to advertise and forced them to put warning labels on cigarette boxes. By 2001, 71 percent of the country said they recognized smoking was a major cause of cancer, and by 2017, the rate of smokers dropped to 14 percent. The habit is now looked at as a relic of the past, something we’ve come to accept as unquestionably harmful.

When we think about what common habits, social norms, or laws that are widely considered unthinkable in today’s world, a variety of past atrocities come to mind. We could point to bloodletting, Jim Crow-era segregation, and drinking and driving as being on the “wrong side” of history.

But what modern practices will we one day think of as barbaric? It’s a framework invoked frequently in political or scientific beliefs: Actor Harrison Ford recently said leaders who deny climate change are on the “wrong side of history.” President Barack Obama said Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was on the “wrong side of history.” Filmmaker Spike Lee said that President Donald Trump himself is on the “wrong side of history.”

So what, by 2070 — some 50 years in the future — will join this group? We asked 15 thinkers, writers, and advocates to take their best guess.

Bioethicist Peter Singer says people will stop the habit of conspicuous consumption. “The ostentatious display of wealth, in a world that still has many people in need, is not in good taste. Within 50 years, we’ll wonder how people did not see that,” he writes.

Historian Jennifer Mittelstadt predicts that our volunteer army will be widely considered a mistake: “Fifty years from now Americans will observe with shock the damage to both foreign policy and domestic institutions wrought by our acceptance of an increasingly privatized, socially isolated, and politically powerful US military.”

For philosopher Jacob T. Levy, the very idea of there being a “wrong side of history” is wrong itself.

Other answers range from kids playing tackle football to expecting workers to invest in 401(k)s."
us  future  obsolescence  barbarity  draft  cars  self-drivingcars  retirement  saving  drugwar  football  americanfootball  conspicuousconsumption  capitalism  consumption  rationality  scientism  publiceducations  publicschools  schools  schooling  education  facebook  google  abortion  war  military  sexwork  death  dying  meat  food  howwelive  predictions  history  petersinger  kristatippett  jaboblevy  jennifermittelstadt  haiderwarraich  kathleenfrydl  meredithbroussard  chrisnowinski  adiaharveywingfield  bhaskarsunkara  horizontality  hierarchy  inequality  jacobhacker  economics  society  transportation 
april 2019 by robertogreco
‎The War on Cars on Apple Podcasts
"The War on Cars brings you news and commentary on the latest developments in the worldwide fight to undo a century's worth of damage wrought by the automobile and to make cities better. Hosted by Doug Gordon, Sarah Goodyear and Aaron Naparstek and produced by Curtis Fox. Music by Nathaniel Goodyear."
cars  podcasts  transportation  cities  urban  urbanism  douggordon  sarahgoodyear  aaronnaparstek  curtisfox 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Future of Cities: Medellin, Colombia solves city slums - YouTube
"Medellin, Colombia offers a window into the future of cities. Once synonymous with the drug violence of Pablo Escobar's murderous cocaine cartel, Colombia's second largest city undergone a remarkable transformation. Medellín has done so largely by investing heavily in upgrading slums and connecting them to the city center. A centerpiece of this effort: innovative public transportation, such as a Metrocable gondola system that helps residents of informal communities get around town and enjoy all the benefits of a reinvented city.

In collaboration with Retro Report, learn more here: https://qz.com/is/what-happens-next-2/ "

[See also:
"Slums are growing around the world—but a city in Colombia has a solution"
https://qz.com/1381146/slums-are-growing-around-the-world-but-a-city-in-colombia-has-a-solution/ ]
medellin  medellín  colombia  cities  urban  urbanism  housing  poverty  2018  urbanplanning  justinmcguirk  slums  favelas  transportation  mobility  publictransit  urbanization  libraries  infrastructure  juliodávila  funding  policy  government  cablecars  economics  informal  education  schools  edésiofernandes  omarurán  janiceperlman  eugeniebirch 
march 2019 by robertogreco
100 Years on a Dirty Dog: The History of Greyhound | Mental Floss
"But as much as drivers today love cruising I-4 through I-99, America’s expanding highways were a mixed blessing for Greyhound. Better roads meant quicker travel and fewer repairs, but they also encouraged the growing ranks of car owners to drive themselves on business trips and vacations. As any farsighted executive could see, this development, coupled with the increasing affordability of air travel in the 1950s and 1960s, spelled trouble for the bus industry. So Greyhound started buying all sorts of companies in all sorts of non-bus industries. That’s how Greyhound’s stable of businesses came to include such diverse businesses as Burger King, Dial Soap, Purex bleach, a package delivery service, and even a skin bank for burn victims.

Depending on whom you ask, this strategy was either the beginning of a decades-long loss of focus that ate away at Greyhound’s soul or a smart strategy for diversifying profits and protecting shareholders. “Greyhound was generating massive amounts of cash that probably wasn’t best invested in a slow-growth business like bus travel,” says Craig Lentzsch, Greyhound’s CEO many years later (1994-2003). “Shareholders did very well during those years.” On the flip side, it was during this time that Greyhound’s core business started to weaken: Buses started deteriorating, terminals became seedy and dangerous, and workers grew unhappy. “There were economic and cultural forces at work but Greyhound also lost sight of what made bus travel successful,” says Gabrick, the author. “It became a business of low aspirations.”

Whatever the verdict, where once the giant company was known, at least somewhat affectionately, as “The Hound,” consumers soon enough started calling it “The Dirty Dog,” with absolutely no affection at all. “It was pretty bleak,” says James Inman, a comedian whose book about a 1995 cross-country trip, Greyhound Diary, captures the zeitgeist of the Dirty Dog from the late 1970s until the mid 2000s. “It was a lesson in America’s class divide: broke people, unpleasant buses, rude drivers, horrible terminals. There was no romance of the road at all.”

There certainly wasn’t much at Greyhound HQ, which moved from Chicago to Phoenix in 1971. Sixteen years later, like Abraham casting Ishmael into the desert, the Greyhound Corporation spun off its U.S. bus operations. Newly liberated and headquartered in Dallas, Greyhound Lines returned to its roots, acquiring Trailways, its largest rival, that same year. Federal anti-trust lawyers, who take a dim view of mergers that create monopolies, might have blocked the deal in different times. But Trailways in 1987 was in financial trouble, and the government decided that saving jobs and retaining bus routes trumped other concerns. Plus, the bus business was struggling enough that few informed observers worried too much that Greyhound would try to price-gouge in the face of less competition.

How right they were. Three years later, in 1990, Greyhound faced its own financial cliff when its unionized workers went on strike. This labor stoppage, one of the longest and nastiest in American history, forced the company to drastically curtail operations, which resulted in big losses. So big, in fact, that soon after its union started picketing, Greyhound execs filed for bankruptcy protection, a move that allowed their company to keep operating during a whopping three-year strike. But that labor strife, which often turned violent, had a silver lining. In what might be called a reverse Eisenhower, this overwhelmingly awful turn of events sowed the seeds of Greyhound’s later revival.

Since 1972 Greyhound had been marketing directly to the Hispanic community, with great success, but the strike caused the company to cut many of the routes that catered to Spanish speakers. Not surprisingly, newer, smaller bus companies popped up to serve these passengers. They did very well, largely because many owners, managers and drivers spoke Spanish, which was not often the case on Greyhound. “Bus travel is a service industry,” says Lentzsch, the former president. “When you have Spanish-speaking drivers serving Spanish-speaking passengers in an English-speaking country, the experience will likely be a positive one.”

For Greyhound, though, the experience was negative, as the company struggled to get Hispanic customers back on its buses after settling its labor differences. Things got even worse as the ethnic-bus model was copied in various other ethnic communities around the U.S., resulting in the curbside buses that started popping up 10 to 15 years ago in major cities with large Asian populations like Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. These competitors also cut into Greyhound’s business, not only among Asian consumers but also students and other cash-conscious riders, as well as travelers who simply wanted to avoid airport security and bus terminals.

But Greyhound, which had merged with the Canadian bus company Laidlaw Inc. in 1999, was finally getting on its feet again. The company began to revamp its fleet, part of an “Elevate Everything” program that included new looks for buses, terminals and uniforms. Then, in 2008—one year after FirstGroup of England bought Laidlaw—Greyhound finally started exploiting the enormous opportunity in the discount and curbside bus business. The company launched (on its own and with partners) three different services: NeOn, BoltBus and Yo! Bus. Amenities like free WiFi, power outlets, leather seating and extra legroom began to appear on more and more of its buses. “I think it’s fair to say that Greyhound is once again proud of its product,” says Schwieterman.

Today, the company is getting more money from more trips from more passengers than ever. The average Greyhound passenger pays $52 to travel 355 miles, and last year the Dirty Dog’s buses covered 5.6 billion passenger miles—about 2.8 billion times the distance between Hibbing and Alice, Minn.

Carl Wickman would be proud."
us  greyhound  buses  history  2013  transportation 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Cars are killing us. Within 10 years, we must phase them out | George Monbiot | Opinion | The Guardian
"Driving is ruining our lives, and triggering environmental disasters. Only drastic action will kick our dependency"



"One of these emergencies is familiar to every hospital. Pollution now kills three times as many people worldwide as Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Remember the claims at the start of this century, projected so noisily by the billionaire press: that public money would be better spent on preventing communicable disease than on preventing climate breakdown? It turns out that the health dividend from phasing out fossil fuels is likely to have been much bigger. (Of course, there was nothing stopping us from spending money on both: it was a false dilemma.) Burning fossil fuels, according to a recent paper, is now “the world’s most significant threat to children’s health”.

In other sectors, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen sharply. But transport emissions in the UK have declined by only 2% since 1990. The government’s legally binding target is an 80% cut by 2050, though even this, the science now tells us, is hopelessly inadequate. Transport, mostly because of our obsession with the private car, is now the major factor driving us towards climate breakdown, in this and many other nations.

The number of people killed on the roads was falling steadily in the UK until 2010, at which point the decline suddenly ended. Why? Because, while fewer drivers and passengers are dying, the number of pedestrians killed has risen by 11%. In the US, it’s even worse: a 51% rise in the annual death rate of pedestrians since 2009. There seem to be two reasons: drivers distracted by their mobile phones, and a switch from ordinary cars to sports-utility vehicles. As SUVs are higher and heavier, they are more likely to kill the people they hit. Driving an SUV in an urban area is an antisocial act.

There are also subtler and more pervasive effects. Traffic mutes community, as the noise, danger and pollution in busy streets drive people indoors. The places in which children could play and adults could sit and talk are reserved instead for parking. Engine noise, a great but scarcely acknowledged cause of stress and illness, fills our lives. As we jostle to secure our road space, as we swear and shake our fists at other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, as we grumble about speed limits and traffic calming, cars change us, enhancing our sense of threat and competition, cutting us off from each other.

New roads carve up the countryside, dispelling peace, creating a penumbra of noise, pollution and ugliness. Their effects spread for many miles. The deposition of reactive nitrogen from car exhaust (among other factors) changes the living systems even of remote fastnesses. In Snowdonia, it is dropped at the rate of 24kg per hectare per year, radically altering plant communities. Wars are fought to keep down the cost of driving: hundreds of thousands died in Iraq partly for this purpose. The earth is reamed with the mines required to manufacture cars and the oil wells needed to power them, and poisoned by the spills and tailings.

A switch to electric cars addresses only some of these issues. Already, beautiful places are being wrecked by an electric vehicle resource rush. Lithium mining, for example, is now poisoning rivers and depleting groundwater from Tibet to Bolivia. They still require a vast expenditure of energy and space. They still need tyres, whose manufacture and disposal (tyres are too complex to recycle) is a massive environmental blight.

We are told that cars are about freedom of choice. But every aspect of this assault on our lives is assisted by state planning and subsidy. Roads are built to accommodate projected traffic, which then grows to fill the new capacity. Streets are modelled to maximise the flow of cars. Pedestrians and cyclists are squeezed by planners into narrow and often dangerous spaces – the afterthoughts of urban design. If we paid for residential street parking at market rates for land, renting the 12m2 a car requires would cost around £3,000 a year in the richer parts of Britain. The chaos on our roads is a planned chaos.

Transport should be planned, but with entirely different aims: to maximise its social benefits, while minimising harm. This means a wholesale switch towards electric mass transit, safe and separate bike lanes and broad pavements, accompanied by a steady closure of the conditions that allow cars to rampage through our lives. In some places, and for some purposes, using cars is unavoidable. But for the great majority of journeys they can easily be substituted, as you can see in Amsterdam, Pontevedra and Copenhagen. We could almost eliminate them from our cities.

In this age of multiple emergencies – climate chaos, pollution, social alienation – we should remember that technologies exist to serve us, not to dominate us. It is time to drive the car out of our lives."
cars  georgemonbiot  2019  environment  safety  health  policy  transportation  emissions  freedom  climatechange  globalwarming  society  cities  urban  urbanism  isolation  pollution  alienation  masstransit 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Opinion | The New ‘Dream Home’ Should Be a Condo - The New York Times
"This is the New American Home for 2018. It’s a sprawling monstrosity of more than 10,690 feet (the lot encompasses 65,340 square feet).

The New American Home should really be this condo. There are six units. One unit here can have just 1,800 square feet."



"The first New American Home that N.A.H.B. built, in Houston in 1984, was 1,500 square feet and cost $80,000. By 2006, at the peak of the housing bubble, the N.A.H.B. home – a lakeside McMansion in Florida with a tri-level kitchen island and a waterfall off the master suite – was over 10,000 square feet and listed for $5.3 million in what is today one of the nation’s foreclosure capitals, Orlando.

That 1984 project was the smallest; square footage hasn’t dipped below 2,200 since 1985. The 2018 version, also in Florida, is “Tuscan”-inspired and is close to 11,000 square feet, with eight bathrooms and both an elevator and a car elevator in the garage. The 2019 version, to be unveiled soon, is 8,000 square feet and has an “inner sanctum lounge” and a view of the Vegas strip.

The N.A.H.B. house may be meant to highlight trends, but they’re not necessarily the trends homeowners want (and certainly not what most people need). Instead, they’re what builders, kitchen and bath manufacturers and real estate agents would like to sell them: Think cathedral ceilings, granite countertops, gift-wrapping rooms and, more recently, “smart” appliances like a refrigerator that can text you when you’re low on milk and eggs.

Many builders will tell you that though these houses are large, they are more efficient – even that they have a small carbon footprint. But this is like bragging about the good gas mileage of an S.U.V. While a 10,000-square-foot house built today uses less energy than a 10,000-square-foot house built a decade ago, a home of this size requires a phenomenal amount of energy to run. (And most likely has an S.U.V. or two in the garage.)

Does anyone need 10,000 square feet to live in?

Families are getting smaller, not larger. The average American household shrank by 30 percent from 1948 and 2012, to 2.55 people from 3.67. Yet houses have ballooned as family sizes have contracted.

The average new home today is 1,000 square feet larger than in 1973. The square footage of living space per person has increased to 971, from 507 – a 92 percent increase.

What if the next New American Home was a condo? And what if there was a new American dream, not of auto-dependent suburbia, but walkable urbanism?

In the Cloverdale749 building designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects in Los Angeles, six families are housed – luxuriously – in a 10,500-square-foot building that has little else in common with the N.A.H.B. home.

No space is wasted here – it may not have multiple walk-in closets or “air-conditioned storerooms,” but it has high ceilings and roof decks.

Larger homes use more resources, typically require longer commutes, come with more expensive utility bills, and often contribute to more sedentary lifestyles (which in turn results in increased rates of conditions like obesity and heart disease).

The way the Cloverdale building is designed effectively reduces the need for (and costs of) heating and cooling, and increases natural light and circulation.

Thanks to its central location (and Los Angeles’s serious commitment to expanding public transit), it reduces the need for driving, too. Building this way has the highest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities. The N.A.H.B. home, in contrast, is entirely self-contained, with no regard for neighbors or neighborhood. It might as well have a moat.

This approach to housing is not only socially isolating, it’s no longer sustainable.

Our way of building homes and neighborhoods lost the plot a long time ago.

Homes like those the N.A.H.B. is promoting ignore the changing nature of families and the imminent crisis in housing for the elderly – not to mention climate change, which we have no hope of combatting without a true reimagining of the American dream. Enter the Green New Deal: If it recognized the link between building more infill housing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it would be even greener. Taking a strong stand against the primacy of the single family home (and the zoning that encourages it), especially the 10,000-square-foot ones, would represent a bold move toward combating climate change."
allisonarieff  housing  us  sustainability  2019  transportation  density  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  excess  efficiency  energy  society 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Is Gavin Newsom Right to Slow Down California’s High-Speed Train? | The New Yorker
"There is currently a direct train between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, called the Coast Starlight—the ride takes about twelve hours and costs around a hundred dollars. It is also possible to fly between the two cities, hourly throughout the day; the trip is around fifty minutes in the air, and a ticket can be less than a hundred dollars. In reasonable traffic, a car can expect to make the journey, which is roughly the distance from New York City to Brunswick, Maine, in six hours. There are direct buses, too. An S.F.-to-L.A. trip on the high-speed rail would fit amid these options. It is also supposed to cost around a hundred dollars one way and to take two hours and forty minutes, a comfortable length for people wanting to go from downtown to downtown on a schedule, without detouring through the airport—in other words, for business people travelling between the state’s two growing centers of money and power. The High-Speed Rail Authority has produced varying ridership estimates; the highest, a hundred million a year, matches the usage of the Bay Area’s most sprawling regional rail system, bart, which is busy with people making daily metropolitan commutes to work or to school. It’s easy to imagine a San Franciscan family of four with two small kids preferring, over other possibilities, a three-hour train ride on Friday to visit Grandma in L.A. (Cost: something like seven hundred bucks round-trip, assuming there’s a reduced child fare.) But it’s hard to imagine middle-class families making a commuter habit of such trips, especially given the not horribly longer journey possible for just the cost of a full gas tank. In practice, the S.F.-to-L.A. route would operate chiefly as a business train, for inter-city meeting-makers, executives bouncing between offices, multiple-home owners, and unmoored media types. (Disclosure: I would personally love this train.) It’s an alternative connection for already well-connected people.

Smart advocates of the plan, of which there are many, point to the success of high-speed rail elsewhere: in China, in Europe. It’s worth noting, however, where such admirable trains actually go: on suburban and exurban routes, mostly, not metropolitan ones, the trains doing what air travel cannot. By trimming the high-speed rail of its upscale ends (for now), Newsom focussed the rail plan on the communities most underserved by current transit infrastructure—a narrower-use case, but probably one that is more generous to the inland region. Largely agricultural and truly middle-class, the cities between Merced and Bakersfield make up a part of California that risks losing, rather than gaining, steam, especially as some conditions that support the agricultural economy fall away. A major infrastructure project would bring a fresh wave of middle-class workers to these affordable cities. Being the custodians of the state’s most advanced transit, too, would keep those cities on the map and weave an often-atomized agricultural community together. A high-speed train connected to the prospering coast, in contrast, would bind Valley workers to a thriving ecosystem of jobs and bring coastal industry inland—to what end? In a 2000 survey of the topic, Ted Bradshaw, a now-deceased professor at the University of California, Davis, who studied these inland communities, projected social bifurcation. “Underskilled workers fail to find a place in the new economy and are increasingly bypassed, while workers from the high-technology urban centers are encouraged to relocate to the Valley,” he wrote. “While the potential for development is real and the possible benefits are great, these industries face stiff competition from the coastal regions in California.”

To the extent that California has challenges around inequality (and it does), they have tended to come from élite workers compounding their advantage, attracting similarly élite labor from elsewhere, and building a local economy that crowds out anyone who is not affluent or who has obstacles to opportunity access. Few people would really want Bakersfield or Fresno to be the new frontiers of cost refugees—metropolitan workers who can’t afford the cities or just want more bang for their buck. Even fewer would want these inland destinations themselves to become a true extension of the coast—ever more a zone of wealth and the enduring worm-jar competition of an élite class. Purely upscale cities, we are starting to realize, are tedious and sad.

A high-speed rail tying the Valley to the coast will create a new channel for these business-class powers, and it won’t be cheap. According to an analysis by the World Bank, the per-mile cost of building such a system in California is twice the comparable expense in Europe and three times the cost in China: we are paying top dollar for the privilege of emulation. Neither will it come soon. The rail connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles is expected be finished in 2033. By that point, autonomous vehicles, green in both power source and roadway efficiency, are expected to be in commercial use—not everywhere, one assumes, but almost certainly on the stretch of highway separating the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco, and Space X, in L.A. Because autonomous cars are more predictable and more controlled—in short, more train-like—there will be another costly push to streamline existing roadways to their habits. (They can use narrower lanes, for instance.) They also have the virtue, especially in spread-out California, of carrying passengers door to door. The United States is overdue for high-speed rail: it represents the standard we are trailing. But in zooming toward the future it’s important to remember whom we’re taking with us and who is being left behind."
highspeedrail  trains  gavinnewsom  nathanheller  2019  transportation  california  bakersfield  merced  centralvalley  losangeles  sanfrancisco  inequality  cities  urban  urbanism  highspeed  rail 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Viewtiful Muni – Mc Allen – Medium
"As the Chronicle gears up for a mysterious Total Muni Sequel, Peter reached out to subscribers for input on ranking the best–and worst–of San Francisco’s Muni lines. I threw my hat enthusiastically into the ring by proposing an entire route of Muni lines which offer stunning views of the city. I haven’t actually tried to complete this route, which involves ten transfers and nearly eight miles of walking. I think it’s possible as a whole day trip beginning at dawn and finishing after dark. I tweeted step by step directions, but twitter doesn’t make it exactly read-able, so I thought I’d make it more accessible as a post here. And I made a map!"

[See also:
https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/The-5-best-Muni-lines-in-San-Francisco-your-13559760.php ]
sanfrancisco  classideas  muni  2019  mcallen  buses  tains  publictransit  views  lcproject  openstudioproject  parenting  children  cv  transportation  adventuredays  tcsnmy  sfsh 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Why the West Coast Is Suddenly Beating the East Coast on Transportation - The New York Times
"When Seattle’s King County Metro won the award in September, it was praised as “a system that is expanding and innovating to meet rising demand” — not to mention a program that offers lower fares for poor riders that has served as a model for New York and other cities. Transit ridership in Seattle is growing, and car use is down.

One key difference is the West Coast has the ballot measure, while New York State does not allow voters to directly approve measures like transit funding. In 2016, both Los Angeles County and the Seattle region approved measures to boost transportation funding. The Los Angeles proposal, known as Measure M, won nearly 70 percent of the vote, greenlighting $120 billion in spending by raising the sales tax.

“The ballot initiative allows them to proceed without the political angst you’d have in Albany,” said Jon Orcutt, a director at TransitCenter, a research group in New York. “It takes some pressure off politicians. The voters go out and do it, and that creates political cover.”

Los Angeles plans to build 100 new miles of rail — essentially doubling the Metro system, whose first rail line opened in 1990. There are now six lines and 93 stations. Huge machines recently began digging new tunnels for a Purple Line extension to the county’s Westside — part of a plan to attract younger people who are more likely to favor transit and worry about the environmental impact of cars.

“We had a political miracle,” Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, said in an interview. “A permanent 1-cent sales tax.”

Mr. Garcetti, a Democrat, hopes the new rail lines will boost transit ridership. The number of train and bus trips in Los Angeles has dropped in recent years, though he blamed that on low gas prices and national trends in declining transit ridership.

Mr. Garcetti makes a point of using the subway. He took the Red Line recently, from City Hall to MacArthur Park, to visit Langer’s for the city’s “best pastrami sandwich.” He is also deciding how best to regulate the electric scooters that have flooded Los Angeles."
losangeles  nyc  policy  politics  maintenance  repair  seattle  infrastructure  publictransit  transportation  subways  lightrail  cars  2019 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Ask Umbra’s 21-Day Apathy Detox | Grist
"Does this sound like anyone you know? “Dear Umbra: Since November — and really, for as long as I’ve known about the threat of climate change — I’ve been plagued by this sense of hopelessness and foreboding, and I just can’t shake it. I’ve tried it all: Late-night Facebook fights, splurging on fancy salads, retreats in the woods where I scream at a tree. Now I’m just parked on the couch watching Sex and the City reruns. Can I learn to hope again?” Well, you’ve found the right advice columnist. I’m here to quietly change your Facebook password and not-so-quietly offer the best tools, tricks, and advice to help you fight for a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck. You’ll build civic muscles, find support buddies, and better your community!

DAY 1: Make a plan
DAY 2: Meet your neighbors
DAY 3: Social media makeover
DAY 4: Support local news
DAY 5: Read up on justice
DAY 6: Protest like a pro
DAY 7: Give green
DAY 8: Ditch the excuses
DAY 9: Green your power sources
DAY 10: Fight city hall
DAY 11: Get offline
DAY 12: Drop dirty money
DAY 13: School food fight!
DAY 14: Vote local
DAY 15: Attack your meat habit
DAY 16: Bug your elected rep
DAY 17: Buy less
DAY 18: Push for affordable housing
DAY 19: Talk climate at the bar
DAY 20: Support the arts
DAY 21: Run for office"

[via: https://go.grist.org/webmail/399522/223022613/dcfc605c05717cdbc5988a2c4d1a5fd7309a781b8364159d968011b54bd8b93b]

[See also (from the same newsletter):

https://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/calculator
https://grist.org/briefly/groundbreaking-study-outlines-what-you-can-do-about-climate-change/
https://slate.com/technology/2014/10/plane-carbon-footprint-i-went-a-year-without-flying-to-fight-climate-change.html
https://www.drawdown.org/solutions-summary-by-rank
https://grist.org/article/scientists-calmly-explain-that-civilization-is-at-stake-if-we-dont-act-now/ ]
climtechange  action  apathy  2018  sustainability  change  globalwarming  flights  transportation  food  energy  electricity  power  consumption  conssumrism  politics  activism  housing  justice  climatejustice  socialmedia  protest 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Michael T Spooky 🎃 on Twitter: "1. exurban sprawl due to high housing costs and lack of infill and transit push VMT up. people are commuting to SF from stockton and from Lancaster to LA. 2. that's a picture of the BQE in Brooklyn, not California… htt
"[RE: @Automotive_News Why aren't California emissions dropping? http://dlvr.it/QhXxzs ]

1. exurban sprawl due to high housing costs and lack of infill and transit push VMT up. people are commuting to SF from stockton and from Lancaster to LA.

2. that's a picture of the BQE in Brooklyn, not California

because coastal Californians conceptualize environmentalism as a consumer identity and individual virtue, they are blind to how blocking more people from living near the coast is the root cause of their long-term environmental calamity.

They will happily blame a construction worker priced out of San Francisco who has to drive 2 hours from Stockton every morning for ruining the air quality in the Central Valley, when the worker has no way to opt-out of those circumstances and suffers the worst consequences

Meanwhile, the wealthy who would just simply rather not permit more people to live near them enjoy the cool and clean air from the Pacific and wonder why on Earth these irresponsible middle class people in Fresno don't just buy $80k Teslas"

[See also:

"Bay Area far from progressive on housing"
https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/San-Francisco-Bay-Area-is-not-progressive-on-13319525.php ]
housing  emissionss  california  sanfrancisco  bayarea  2018  environment  environmentalism  density  airquality  transportation  publictransit  stockton  centralvalley  class  society  sprawl  virtue  externalization 
october 2018 by robertogreco
TNCs and Congestion · SFCTA Prospector
"Use this map to explore changes in congestion metrics between 2010 and 2016. The tool provides the ability to look at the effects of four factors that affect congestion: changes in network capacity, changes in population, changes in employment, and changes in TNCs.
• Vehicle Hours of Delay (VHD) is a measure of the overall amount of excess time vehicles spend in congestion.
• Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is a measure of the overall amount of motor vehicle travel, as measured in distance, that occurs on the network.
• Speed is the average speed of vehicles on a given road segment during a given time period.

How to use this map
• Select a congestion metric to display it on the map.
• Explore the contributions of different factors to changes in congestion.
• Choose a time period to display.
• Click on a colored roadway segment on the map to see segment-specific information."

[via: "City Analysis: Uber, Lyft Are Biggest Contributors to Slowdown in S.F. Traffic"
https://www.kqed.org/news/11699063/city-analysis-uber-lyft-are-biggest-contributors-to-slowdown-in-s-f-traffic ]

[See also: "Study: Half of SF’s increase in traffic congestion due to Uber, Lyft"
http://www.sfexaminer.com/study-half-sfs-increase-traffic-congestion-due-uber-lyft/ ]
maps  sanfrancisco  transportation  uber  lyft  traffic  2018  2016  mapping  data  ridesharing 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Mc Allen Profile and Activity - Curbed
[Also collected here: https://sf.curbed.com/summer-of-muni ]

[So far at the time of this bookmarking, updated [18 July 2018]:

"Summer of Muni: Riding each line from start to end
A San Francisco dad and his two kids will attempt to ride every Muni line—from terminus to terminus—this summer"
https://sf.curbed.com/2018/6/27/17506718/ride-muni-every-line-diary-summer

"Summer of Muni: From the 56-Rutland to the 25-Treasure Island"
https://sf.curbed.com/2018/7/3/17527494/summer-of-muni-bus-folsom-treasure-island-transportation

"Summer of Muni: Blaring F-Market horns and a trip to Lands End"
https://sf.curbed.com/2018/7/10/17550268/summer-of-muni-transit-dad-kids-challenge-sf

"Summer of Muni: What’s in a name, 44-O’Shaughnessy?"
https://sf.curbed.com/2018/7/18/17578600/muni-challenge-ride-bus-oshaughnessy-eureka ]
sanfrancisco  muni  parenting  children  cv  sfsh  libraries  publictransit  transportation  adventuredays  tcsnmy  lcproject  openstudioproject  mcallen 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Where Exactly Is “the Bay Area”? | SPUR
"The San Francisco Bay Area has long been understood as a region made up of the nine counties that touch the Bay. This definition has a simplicity that other large metro areas lack; not all can be organized around a natural feature that is significant in geologic time and scale. But the nine-county border doesn’t always hold. The reality today is that counties such as Merced and San Joaquin are growing quickly and housing more and more of the people who work in the nine counties.

SPUR has launched a multi-year project, the SPUR Regional Strategy, to develop a civic vision for the Bay Area over the next half-century. The goal is to collectively imagine what kind of region we want to be and develop an actionable set of strategies to get us there. Addressing many of our current regional challenges — such as job access, housing affordability and congestion — will require working at many scales: at the local level with cities, at the nine-county level with regional agencies and sometimes at the level of the Northern California megaregion.

Given this, is the traditional nine-county definition the correct scale for this project? Should we consider including more counties? Or should we look instead at systems instead of counties?

To answer these questions, SPUR gathered experts, looked to other efforts to define geographies, and studied maps and data to decide which scale(s) will work best for addressing the region’s greatest challenges."
bayarea  sanfrancisco  norcal  cities  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  transportation  transit  policy  population  2018  spur  megaregions 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Superblocks: How Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars - YouTube
"Modern cities are designed for cars. But the city of Barcelona is testing out an urban design trick that can give cities back to pedestrians."
cities  cars  transportation  pollution  2016  airpollution  noise  noisepollution  urban  urbanism  superblocks  urbanplanning  air  pedestrians  ildefonscerdà  classideas 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The Vehicle of the Future Has Two Wheels, Handlebars, and Is a Bike | WIRED
"WHAT’S THE SHINIEST, most exciting new technology for transportation? Well, there are plenty of candidates! We’ve got the self-­driving car and drones big enough to carry people. Elon Musk is getting ready to bore hyperloop tunnels. When it comes to moving humans around, the future looks to be merging with sci-fi.

But from where I stand, the most exciting form of transportation technology is more than 100 years old—and it’s probably sitting in your garage. It’s the bicycle. The future of transportation has two thin wheels and handlebars.

Modern tech has transformed the humble two-­wheeler, making the bike-share model possible: You check out a bike from a docking station, use it for an hour or so, then return to any other docking station. The concept was tried back in the ’60s but failed miserably because no one could track where the bikes went.

Today, that’s been solved with smartphone-ized tech: GPS, Bluetooth, RFID, and mobile-payment systems. And bike sharing has unlocked a ton of American interest in navigating cities on a bike: Usage has grown from 320,000 rides in 2010 to 28 million in 2016. In China, where gridlock in cities like Beijing is infamous, the trend has grown even faster.

But cooler tricks are possible. We’re now seeing dockless bike sharing, where all the tech is crammed into each bike, eliminating the need for docking stations. When riders are done, they just park and lock the bike and walk away; the bike simply awaits the next user. This makes the systems cheaper (those docks cost a lot), so dockless bikes can be rented for as little as a buck an hour.

“It’s personal mobility for the last mile,” as Euwyn Poon, cofounder of dockless bike-­sharing firm Spin, says.

Dockless also creates something like self-governing internet logic, with bikes as packets routed where they’re needed, rather than where docks will fit. This seems to make bike sharing more fair: Seattle city council­member Mike O’Brien has observed anecdotally that dockless bike sharing is used by a broader demographic, in part because it’s super cheap and the bikes can circulate outside the well-off downtown neighborhoods.

Want even more inventiveness and innovation? Behold the next phase arriving in a few years: dockless electric bikes. Batteries are cheaper and lighter than ever. One US firm, Jump Bikes, has custom-­designed dockless ebikes sprinkled around San Francisco and Washington, DC. CEO Ryan Rzepecki suspects they’ll eclipse the appeal of regular bike sharing, because you could arrive at work without being drenched in sweat. “The number of people who are willing to ride electric bikes is probably 10X that of people who are willing to ride a regular one,” he says.

Clearly the bike-share revolution has limits. It probably won’t work outside urban areas. And if too many bikes flood a city, dockless systems can produce chaotic piles of bikes on certain sidewalks and streets, as has happened in China. This is a pretty solvable problem, though, if cities decide to limit the number of dockless bikes.

So sure, bring on the self-driving cars. Dig those hyperloops! But for a world that’s rapidly urbanizing and heating, the truly cool tech is bikes. And bike sharing has oodles of civic benefits too, says Elliot Fishman, director of Australia’s Institute for Sensible Transport: It relieves pressure on public transit, produces vanishingly small emissions compared to cars, and, at least with nonelectric bikes, boosts the overall exercise level (duh!).

Best of all, the bike-tech revolution reminds us that innovation isn’t always about the totally new. It’s often just as powerful to blend a robust, old tool that works well with a bit of new tech to make it better. Sometimes you truly don’t need to reinvent the wheel."
bikes  biking  bicycles  transportation  efficiency  mobility  2018  bikesharing  clivethompson  cities  urban  urbanism 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Transit Agencies Must Sell Freedom – Remix
"Some of you may have watched the recent Winter Olympic Games, during which, Toyota ran several ads highlighting individual mobility. The core message: celebrate the notion of freedom. Yet, absent from these commercials were actual vehicles.

Vehicle manufacturers have long sold themselves as purveyors of freedom. For decades in America, the purchase of a vehicle was not just a financial transaction, but the key to personal freedom. Through their commercial, Toyota was similarly connecting the notion of athletic freedoms to the personal freedoms granted by their vehicles.

[image]

On the other hand, public transportation is often portrayed as an alternative to driving, or the option you use when driving is too expensive or unavailable to you. But at its core, there is no difference between the function of a private vehicle and a public transportation vehicle. Both are used to get you from wherever you are to where you want to be.

The Freedom Frame

Willful motion is a basic characteristic of life. Being able to move when you want and go where you want is a core element of personal freedom. In my work as a transit planner, I’ve found that when I am able to describe my work in the context of personal freedom, people engage. I believe that more transit agencies should use this “Freedom Frame” to plan, promote, and communicate their services to showcase the benefit they bring to their communities.

Using such a ‘Freedom Frame’ to talk about our work has several advantages.

1. It keeps the focus on what matters most to people — their ability to access destinations quickly and affordably.[1]

2. It allows you to transform beyond the individual experience and plan for a type of collective freedom.

3. It allows you to tap into the broader transportation market.

Fortunately, there are more and more tools becoming available to transit planners to measure transit freedom. These tools are known as transit accessibility analysis, isochrone analysis, or in the Remix world, Jane. Using Jane to estimate the accessibility for different demographics, such as low-income, minority, youth or seniors, has allowed me to make the transit Freedom Frame relevant to diverse audiences, and gain broad-based support for potential service changes.

[images]

Freedom is Greater Than Efficiency

Too often, our conversations about transportation and transit are focused on operational details or efficiency metrics — roadway capacity, vehicle delay, passengers per hour, vehicle loads, etc. But it turns out, that no one really cares about efficiency for efficiency’s sake. In my experience, people care about efficiency only to the extent that it allows them to do something they otherwise would not be able to do. In other words, if we cannot explain our efficiency enhancements in terms of expanded freedom, they will continue to be undervalued or actively resisted.

This reality has implications for both transit planning and marketing. As an example, transfers are essential for an efficient network. However, it’s very difficult for a rider to accept this trade-off and they often resist adding new transfers to a network. You can reduce some of this resistance by illustrating and quantifying the number of new places riders can get to with the new transfer. Mapping one’s transit freedom immediately encourages the public to to imagine new trips they could make rather than focusing on the inconvenience of the transfer.

Freedom as a Business Bottom Line

When marketing to local employers, quantifying the size of the workforce that is accessible to them because of transit speaks to them in terms of their bottom lines. If they can move their workforce on transit, they can rethink their parking strategies and needs. If employers have commute trip reduction goals or targets, for example, marketing transit to their employees starts to be in their own self-interest. In the case of a small business owner, illustrating the number of people who could potentially arrive at their doorstep because of the bus stop could change their perspective. They come to see the bus stop as a virtual on-street parking space that turns over much more frequently than an actual parking spot. Through this lens, they too, have an interest in supporting people using transit.

[images]

Collective Freedoms Enhance Individual Freedoms

Another significant challenge in transportation planning is that we tend to think about travel from our personal experience, which leads to individually optimized solutions. In transit we experience this, when certain customer groups approach us to ask what special service, or route, we can provide for them. Invariably the request stems from the desire to get a certain group or type of person to a specific type of destination to do a specific type of activity. Common examples include seniors getting to the grocery store, youth to a recreational center after school, a certain employer’s employees to their office building, or even concertgoers to a venue.

Approaching transportation from the perspective of the individual requires agencies to know a lot about each individual — where they live, where they’re they going, and when they’re going. Developing highly tailored services around individual trip patterns results in networks that are brittle (fragile to changes in the community) and less efficient. Further, optimizing for an individual will make the network less attractive to everyone but that individual.

To counter this trend, transit agencies need to pivot toward a collective approach. Begin by refocusing on freedom. At the core of each of those individual trips is the same desire, to get from where one is to where one wants to be. Connecting more people to more places more often will result in more seniors, more youth, and more employees reaching their destinations.

If we optimize a network for collective mobility, rather than individual trips, we will have a network that will enhance the individual freedoms for the greatest number of people. Not to mention, the network itself will be more resilient to change, more efficient, and require less specific knowledge about individual trips.

A Willingness to Pay for Freedom

The promise of freedom in transit is primarily sabotaged by its operating budget. The Freedom Frame however, has encouraged me to dramatically expand my vision beyond the limitations of an existing operating budget. We typically think about our current operating budget as the starting point for people’s willingness to pay for transit. For most small and even middle-sized transit agencies, this funding level is insufficient to provide freedom to the general population let alone our current passengers. This lens artificially limits transit’s potential.

I would challenge transit agencies to consider a “Freedom Frame” approach to funding. This changes the question from “How much should we spend on transit?” to “How much should we pay for the freedom to move?” As the automobile industry and Toyota have confirmed, people are willing to pay a lot of money for their personal freedom. Much more, in fact, than any transit agency’s operating budget.

For example, the two-county area surrounding Boise, Idaho, known as the Treasure Valley, is home to over 600,000 people. Residents of the Treasure Valley pay an estimated $1.5 billion per year on operating their own vehicles. By comparison, the transit operating budget for the Treasure Valley (including paratransit and demand response options) is $15 million — or one percent.

[images]

This single statistic explains:

1. Why transit currently provides little freedom in the Treasure Valley

2. The remaining market share of what transit could provide

Today, asking people to take transit in the Treasure Valley is like asking them to step out of a world of $1.5 billion of freedom and into a world of only $15 million of freedom. Our residents experience this loss of freedom in terms of the bus not coming often enough, not coming on the days they need, or not taking them to their needed destinations. Understandably, few people, compared to the entire population, choose transit[1].

Catch the Freedom Train

If people are willing to spend $1.5 billion on their own freedom, why are we limiting ourselves to incremental transit expansion programs? Could transit provide more freedom to more people with less money than the current arrangement?

Of course it can! So, why isn’t that our target? Why aren’t we telling this story in terms of freedom rather than in terms of transportation needs assessments, alternatives, efficiencies, or environmental impacts?

Transit is about providing more freedom to more people at a lower cost. And those costs are not only out-of-pocket financial costs but also lower social costs, lower land requirements, and lower environmental costs. These concepts of transit freedom are not new, but have been elevated through new technology that transit planners now have at their fingertips.

There is truth in Toyota’s advertising: when people are free to move, anything is possible. Whether looking at the past and the tunnels cut by hand through the Rocky Mountains, or the ribbons of asphalt and concrete that crisscross our country, or looking to the future with investments in automated vehicles, Hyperloops, etc., it is clear that anything is possible when you provide people the freedom to move. Transit agencies will be much more likely to realize the investments they need to remain relevant if they are able to tap into people’s desire to move freely."
transmobility  2018  transportation  transit  publictransit  freedom  efficiency  mobility  collectivism  fundign  government  trains  buses  stephenhunt 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Visualizing Transit-Rich Housing: What Would SB 827 Really Look Like?
"On January 4th, 2018, California State Senator Scott Wiener announced a series of proposed housing bills. By far the most attention has been directed at Senate Bill 827 (SB 827), which would override local zoning controls on height, density, parking minimums, and design review on properties within a certain distance of major public transit infrastructure.

I was really interested what that would look like on the ground in California, so I spent a few days attempting to make a map that would show how SB 827 would affect zoning as currently proposed. Please note that I am not an expert in this area, and that this map should only be used as a beginning point for the policy discussion around the bill and not for making any important decisions. I cannot state strongly enough that there are multiple errors with this map, due to missing and incorrect data, probable misinterpretations of the proposed law as written, bugs in my software, and multiple other reasons.

I make no warranties as to the correctness of this map, and by using this map, you agree that you understand that.

That all being said, let's look at the map! Feel free to play with it and scroll around the state, and then join me below the map for some discussion of SB 827 and what this map can tell us."
sb827  california  urban  urbanism  policy  housing  transit  publictransit  transportation  2018  scottwiener  zoning  cities  development  maps  mapping 
february 2018 by robertogreco
Gap Finder | AllTransit
"Enter a location to see where households are underserved by transit.

Public transit is critical to a successful and equitable economic infrastructure. However, even places that have access to transit can include gaps where underserved communities would benefit from improved service. This tool reveals where transit improvements could provide the most impact by highlighting underserved areas where demand is strongest."
transit  transportation  publictransit  maps  mapping  inequality  accessibility  access 
february 2018 by robertogreco
25 small ways to make SF a better place - Curbed SF
"When it comes to making change at the local level, sometimes the tiniest actions can spark the biggest changes—and in San Francisco, where the options for helping the greater good can seem overwhelming, starting with small daily tasks is the best place to start. As more wealth pours into the city and the economic divide grows wider than ever before, it’s important to help out your fellow San Franciscan, zip code and tax bracket be damned.

For San Franciscans looking to make their hometown a better place, we present these small, but substantial, ways that you can help make a difference.

From your home

1. Stay informed about local news. It’s hard not to be aware of national news these days, but to get a sense of what’s changing in your immediate surroundings, soak in some local news by making local papers and blogs a part of your daily media diet. The San Francisco Chronicle is, of course, important, but other SF outlets can help you stay informed—from hyperlocal blogs (Richmond SF Blog, Mission Local, etc.) to established sources (Hoodline, San Francisco Magazine, etc.) and even more. Oh, and don’t forget Curbed SF.

2. Compost. Don’t believe the malodorous lies! Composting is easy and a great way of helping the environment from your kitchen. If your building or home does not yet have a green composting bin, the city will send you one free of charge.

3. Follow these pro-housing advocates and journalists on Twitter: Kim-Mai Cutler, Liam Dillon, Victoria Fierce, SF YIMBY, Laura Foote Clark, and YIMBY Action will keep you abreast of both anti-growth hypocrisy and action items that will help abate the California housing crisis.

4. Remember reusable bags. They’re easy to compile, but difficult to remember once you’re at Whole Foods. The cost of plastic and paper bags, both environmental and economical, are too much to bear. Stick a few reusable bags by your front door so you remember to bring them to your next shopping trip.

5. Donate, don’t discard, your old clothes. For those of you who simply cannot bear the thought of wearing last year’s jeans (perish the thought!) or want to whittle down your wardrobe to a minimalist offering, don’t trash your old clothes. Shelters like the St. Anthony Foundation can redistribute clean clothing to homeless San Franciscans. If you have professional women’s attire to toss, consider give them to Dress for Success. And Larkin Street Youth accepts gently worn clothing for at-risk, runaway youths.

In your neighborhood

6. Learn about your neighborhood’s history. Did you know the Castro used to be an Irish-American working-class neighborhood? Or that South of Market used the be called South of the Slot, which later became a novella by Nobel Prize-winning scribe Jack London? And who knew that Presidio Terrace was originally designed as a whites-only neighborhood? Take a deep dive into your neighborhood’s past, good and bad. After all, the city isn’t a blank slate.

7. Donate old books. Grab a handful (or trunkload) of books from your home library and add some inventory to the nearest Little Free Library. There are dozens in San Francisco and hundreds in the Bay Area. If you’d rather donate to the library, take your books to the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library. It’s a tax write-off!

8. Take care of a neighbor’s pet at PAWS. For some people, especially those who are chronically ill, frail, and isolated by disease or age, animal companionship is crucial to their health and well-being. Volunteer with PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support) to get paired one-on-one with members of the community (who may be LGBT seniors or people living with HIV, Hepatitis C, or cancer) who need help caring for their pet. Ideal for animal lovers with no-pet rental agreements!

9. Attend neighborhood meetings. The best way to find out about what’s up in your neighborhood is to attend public meetings organized each month by your local community association. Here’s a good place to start.

10. Wave to tourists when they pass you on cable cars or tour buses. They freakin’ love that.

Along your route

11. Take public transit. It’s the best way to get to know your city. Learn Muni and BART routes along your most-traveled roads and hop on. And you’d be surprised how convenient the cable cars and F lines are.

12. Put foot to pedal. San Francisco is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. Here’s a beginner’s guide to help you get started.

13. Be kind to the homeless. It’s going to take great leaps and bounds from the city to solve its chronic homeless problem. In the meantime, there are small things that you can do to empower those who need help. For starters, remember that people become homeless for a number of reasons—so leave the stereotyping or judgmental attitudes behind.

14. Document your city. One of the best ways to get to know the city is to shooting photos. Better yet, post them on Instagram. You will discover thousands of photographers also share your love of the city’s many neighborhoods. It’s a great way of take a closer look at your hood and getting to know your neighbors. Just don’t forget to geotag.

15. Be a conscientious pedestrian. From moving over to the right when using your phone to helping fellow pedestrians with strollers, there are a lot of ways to improve your two-foot mode of transportation around town. Because it’s 2018 and there’s no excuse for blocking a sidewalk. Here’s a pedestrian etiquette guide to help sharpen your two-step game.

In your community

16. Say hello to people/ask people how they’re doing. San Francisco can feel like a big small town, and its residents know it. If you’re walking around a neighborhood, or stopping into a local store, say, “Hello.” Stop being rude to service industry workers. Do not order with your phone attached to your ear. It’s dehumanizing. Be friendly.

17. Be a poll worker on election day. Looking for a way to up your voting game? Become a poll worker. It takes roughly 3,000 workers on election day to bets all the ballots processed. And with this upcoming June election being a crucial one, the city could use your help. (Psst, you will also get a $195 stipend.)

18. Fight hunger in the community. The uptick in foodie trends and prices have made nourishment seem like a privilege for the lucky and well-to-do. Not so. People are still starving in the city. Get involved with groups like San Francisco Food Bank, GLIDE Church, and Project Open Hand to make sure everyone in the community has food on the table.

19. Volunteer with the San Francisco Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. The department’s Pathways to Citizenship Initiative program always needs volunteers, interpreters, and legal professionals to assist with their bi-monthly naturalization workshops.

20. Get off Nextdoor. Beginning with good intentions, Nextdoor has turned into a cesspool of racism and bigotry for a lot of San Francisco residents.

With a group

21. Hook up with the Friends of the Urban Forest. See how you can help add foliage to San Francisco’s streets with this choice nonprofit. They organize everything from neighborhood tree plantings to sidewalk landscaping.

22. Dedicate your time to volunteering at one of the two Friends of the San Francisco Public Library bookstores. All proceeds benefit the public library system in San Francisco.

23. Host a letter-writing party. Written letters get more traction than email or @’ing your local lawmaker. If there’s an issue you feel strongly about, it’s more than likely you’re not the only one, and a letter-writing party is a great way to organize your community for a positive cause. Best of all, you can add a few bottles of wine and turn it into a real party.

24. Volunteer at Animal Care and Control. ACC receives roughly 10,000 animals every year and rely on volunteers to help out. These pets don’t get the luxe treatment found at nearly SF SPCA, so they could use all the love they deserve.

25. Show up. When people come together—especially in times of great need—they can do amazing things. This was especially true during the AIDS crisis and of the moments following the Loma Prieta earthquake. Go to protests. Attend rallies. Fight for others’ rights. Relish the fact that you live in a city that, in one way or another, however dim it seems at times, seeks for the betterment of all humans."
classideas  sanfrancisco  civics  community  activism  engagement  pedestrians  2018  etiquette  publictransit  transportation  bikes  biking  nextdoor  volunteering  animals  pets  nature  trees  protests  friendliness  elections  neighborhoods  environment  composting  recycling 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Reasons To Be Cheerful
"I’m starting an online project here that is an continuation and extension of some writing and talks I’ve done recently.

The project will be cross-platform—some elements may appear on social media, some on a website and some might manifest as a recording or performance… much of the published material will be collected here.

What is Reasons To Be Cheerful?

I imagine, like a lot of you who look back over the past year, it seems like the world is going to Hell. I wake up in the morning, look at the paper, and go, "Oh no!" Often I’m depressed for half the day. It doesn’t matter how you voted on Brexit, the French elections or the U.S. election—many of us of all persuasions and party affiliations feel remarkably similar.

As a kind of remedy and possibly as a kind of therapy, I started collecting good news that reminded me, "Hey, there's actually some positive stuff going on!" Almost all of these initiatives are local, they come from cities or small regions who have taken it upon themselves to try something that might offer a better alternative than what exits. Hope is often local. Change begins in communities.

I will post thoughts, images and audio relating to this initiative on whichever platform seems suitable and I’ll welcome contributions from others, if they follow the guidelines I’ve set for myself.

These bits of good news tend to fall into a few categories:

Education
Health
Civic Engagement
Science/Tech
Urban/Transportation
Energy
Culture

Culture, music and the arts might include, optimistically, some of my own work and projects, but just as much I hope to promote the work of others that has a proven track record.

Why do I do this? Why take the time? Therapy, I guess, though once in awhile I meet someone who has the connections and skills but might not be aware of some of these initiatives and innovations, so I can pass the information on. I sense that not all of this is widely known.

Emulation of successful models- 4 guidelines

I laid out 4 guidelines as I collected these examples:

1. Most of the good stuff is local. It’s more bottom up, community and individually driven. There are exceptions.

2. Many examples come from all over the world, but despite the geographical and cultural distances in many cases others can adopt these ideas—these initiatives can be utilized by cultures other than where they originated.

3. Very important. All of these examples have been tried and proven to be successful. These are not merely good IDEAS; they’ve been put into practice and have produced results.

4. The examples are not one-off, isolated or human interest, feel-good stories. They’re not stories of one amazing teacher, doctor, musician or activist- they’re about initiatives that can be copied and scaled up.

If it works, copy it

For example, in an area I know something about, there was an innovative bike program in Bogota, and years later, I saw that program become a model for New York and for other places.

The Ciclovia program in Bogota"
davidbyrne  politics  urban  urbanism  bogotá  curitiba  addiction  portugal  colombia  brazil  brasil  jaimelerner  cities  society  policy  qualityoflife  economics  drugs  health  healthcare  crime  ciclovia  bikes  biking  bikesharing  activism  civics  citybike  nyc  medellín  afroreggae  vigariogeral  favelas  obesity  childabuse  education  casamantequilla  harlem  civicengagment  engagement  women'smarch  northcarolina  ingridlafleur  afrotopia  detroit  seattle  citizenuniversity  tishuanajones  sunra  afrofuturism  stlouis  vancouver  britishcolumbia  transportation  publictransit  transit  velib  paris  climatechange  bipartisanship  energy  science  technology  culture  music  art  arts  behavior  medellin 
january 2018 by robertogreco
Considerations On Cost Disease | Slate Star Codex
[via: https://meaningness.com/metablog/post-apocalyptic-health-care ]

"IV.

I mentioned politics briefly above, but they probably deserve more space here. Libertarian-minded people keep talking about how there’s too much red tape and the economy is being throttled. And less libertarian-minded people keep interpreting it as not caring about the poor, or not understanding that government has an important role in a civilized society, or as a “dog whistle” for racism, or whatever. I don’t know why more people don’t just come out and say “LOOK, REALLY OUR MAIN PROBLEM IS THAT ALL THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS COST TEN TIMES AS MUCH AS THEY USED TO FOR NO REASON, PLUS THEY SEEM TO BE GOING DOWN IN QUALITY, AND NOBODY KNOWS WHY, AND WE’RE MOSTLY JUST DESPERATELY FLAILING AROUND LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS HERE.” State that clearly, and a lot of political debates take on a different light.

For example: some people promote free universal college education, remembering a time when it was easy for middle class people to afford college if they wanted it. Other people oppose the policy, remembering a time when people didn’t depend on government handouts. Both are true! My uncle paid for his tuition at a really good college just by working a pretty easy summer job – not so hard when college cost a tenth of what it did now. The modern conflict between opponents and proponents of free college education is over how to distribute our losses. In the old days, we could combine low taxes with widely available education. Now we can’t, and we have to argue about which value to sacrifice.

Or: some people get upset about teachers’ unions, saying they must be sucking the “dynamism” out of education because of increasing costs. Others people fiercely defend them, saying teachers are underpaid and overworked. Once again, in the context of cost disease, both are obviously true. The taxpayers are just trying to protect their right to get education as cheaply as they used to. The teachers are trying to protect their right to make as much money as they used to. The conflict between the taxpayers and the teachers’ unions is about how to distribute losses; somebody is going to have to be worse off than they were a generation ago, so who should it be?

And the same is true to greater or lesser degrees in the various debates over health care, public housing, et cetera.

Imagine if tomorrow, the price of water dectupled. Suddenly people have to choose between drinking and washing dishes. Activists argue that taking a shower is a basic human right, and grumpy talk show hosts point out that in their day, parents taught their children not to waste water. A coalition promotes laws ensuring government-subsidized free water for poor families; a Fox News investigative report shows that some people receiving water on the government dime are taking long luxurious showers. Everyone gets really angry and there’s lots of talk about basic compassion and personal responsibility and whatever but all of this is secondary to why does water costs ten times what it used to?

I think this is the basic intuition behind so many people, even those who genuinely want to help the poor, are afraid of “tax and spend” policies. In the context of cost disease, these look like industries constantly doubling, tripling, or dectupling their price, and the government saying “Okay, fine,” and increasing taxes however much it costs to pay for whatever they’re demanding now.

If we give everyone free college education, that solves a big social problem. It also locks in a price which is ten times too high for no reason. This isn’t fair to the government, which has to pay ten times more than it should. It’s not fair to the poor people, who have to face the stigma of accepting handouts for something they could easily have afforded themselves if it was at its proper price. And it’s not fair to future generations if colleges take this opportunity to increase the cost by twenty times, and then our children have to subsidize that.

I’m not sure how many people currently opposed to paying for free health care, or free college, or whatever, would be happy to pay for health care that cost less, that was less wasteful and more efficient, and whose price we expected to go down rather than up with every passing year. I expect it would be a lot.

And if it isn’t, who cares? The people who want to help the poor have enough political capital to spend eg $500 billion on Medicaid; if that were to go ten times further, then everyone could get the health care they need without any more political action needed. If some government program found a way to give poor people good health insurance for a few hundred dollars a year, college tuition for about a thousand, and housing for only two-thirds what it costs now, that would be the greatest anti-poverty advance in history. That program is called “having things be as efficient as they were a few decades ago”.

V.

In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildrens’ generation would have a 15 hour work week. At the time, it made sense. GDP was rising so quickly that anyone who could draw a line on a graph could tell that our generation would be four or five times richer than his. And the average middle-class person in his generation felt like they were doing pretty well and had most of what they needed. Why wouldn’t they decide to take some time off and settle for a lifestyle merely twice as luxurious as Keynes’ own?

Keynes was sort of right. GDP per capita is 4-5x greater today than in his time. Yet we still work forty hour weeks, and some large-but-inconsistently-reported percent of Americans (76? 55? 47?) still live paycheck to paycheck.

And yes, part of this is because inequality is increasing and most of the gains are going to the rich. But this alone wouldn’t be a disaster; we’d get to Keynes’ utopia a little slower than we might otherwise, but eventually we’d get there. Most gains going to the rich means at least some gains are going to the poor. And at least there’s a lot of mainstream awareness of the problem.

I’m more worried about the part where the cost of basic human needs goes up faster than wages do. Even if you’re making twice as much money, if your health care and education and so on cost ten times as much, you’re going to start falling behind. Right now the standard of living isn’t just stagnant, it’s at risk of declining, and a lot of that is student loans and health insurance costs and so on.

What’s happening? I don’t know and I find it really scary."
scottalexander  economics  education  history  politics  policy  prices  inflation  highered  highereducation  colleges  universities  bureaucracy  costdisease  healthcare  spending  us  government  medicine  lifeexpectancy  salaries  teachers  teaching  schools  regulation  tylercowen  poverty  inequality  litigation  litigiousness  labor  housing  rent  homes  subways  transportation  health 
january 2018 by robertogreco
West Portal - FoundSF
"The West Portal shopping and residential district takes its name from the Twin Peaks Tunnel, which ushered in streetcar service to the southeast corner of San Francisco in 1918. MUNI streetcar service opened San Francisco's last great wilderness to residential development. Formerly sand dunes and vegetable farms, today West Portal is the area bounded by Portola, Kensington, Taraval, and 15th Avenue. High quality homes on detached lots lead to rapid growth in the 1920s and set the stage for West Portal to become the commercial and transportation hub for the West of Twin Peaks area.

In Spanish times, West Portal was part of the land holdings of Mission de Dolores. After the break up of the Missions, Jose de Jesus Noe was granted a 4,443 acre ranch in 1846, called Rancho San Miguel. The ranch ran from present day UCSF in Parnassus Heights to San Jose Avenue, south to Daly City and north to Juniper Serra Boulevard and Forest Hill, including the area of present day West Portal. Parts of the ranch east of Twin Peals were subdivided in the late 1800s and became Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, Fairmont Heights, and Sunnyside.

But West Portal remained a ranch until well after the 20th Century. Adolph Sutro bought the remnant of the original rancho in 1880 -- a 1,200-acre parcel that ran from present day UCSF, south along Stanyan Street, up over Twin Peaks due south roughly along present-day Ridgewood Avenue, continuing south to the Ocean View district, then north along Junipero Serra Boulevard to the Laguna Honda reservoir.

While most of the ranch was hilly, the area that later became West Portal was relatively flat, and Sutro rented it to Italian vegetable farmers. For the next 35 years, the rest of Rancho San Miguel remained a nature preserve. Sutro's passion for tree planting eventually covered the slopes of Mt. Sutro and Mt. Davidson as far south as Ocean Avenue with eucalyptus.

When the rancho was put up for sale in 1909 after a contentious battle over Sutro's will, the City was desperate to recover from the 1906 earthquake and fire. City boosters badly wanted to compete with new subdivisions being built on the Peninsula and in the East Bay. The Burnham plan of 1905 and the City Beautiful Movement called for respecting the contours of the land and incorporating landscaping into residential developments. It was no longer acceptable to pack houses tightly together on rectangular street grids that ignored the terrain.

The first neighborhoods to be developed, St Francis Wood and Forest Hill in 1912, were faithful to these new ideas and were carefully designed and built as "residential parks." Both developments prohibited commercial activities and were made up exclusively of large homes from the Craftsman movement, the Chicago school, the prairie style of Frank Lloyd right, the Beaux-Arts, and other styles. In contrast, West Portal became a commercial and transportation hub with homes in a wide variety of architectural styles."
sanfrancisco  westportal  history  classideas  2003  richardbrandi  tunnels  construction  muni  transportation 
december 2017 by robertogreco
The Harsh Beauty and Banality of the 110-105 Interchange – L.A. TACO
[See also: https://www.instagram.com/110_105/ ]

"The 110-105 interchange holds a unique place in the psyche of Los Angeles. I’ve always called it The Cathedral, because it feels like you’re inside one when you’re driving under the towering, chapel-like crests of the ramps connecting the highways. The sounds of speeding engines in trucks and cars amplify against the network of massive concrete pillars sustaining the bridges, so it almost sounds like voices singing from a hymnal.

At all levels the thing is intense. Driving overhead, it almost feels like you’re about to fly through the sky into the downtown skyline when you’re changing from the 105 West to the 110 North. And way underneath, at traffic-lane level, for commuters using the Metro bus and rail transit hub to get around, the setting is stark: extreme noise, exposure to harmful exhaust, and views of encampments in the concrete shadows.

But there are also wondrous aspects to the interchange. Its history is an epic read shaped by a protagonist federal judge named Harry Pregerson, who eventually redefined the process of bringing a massive government works project to an economically depressed and dense urban area, like the South Figueroa Street corridor was in the 1970s. The interchange had starring roles in 1994’s Speed (when the bus leaps over a gap in an unfinished overpass) and last year’s La La Land (the big opening dance number). And for photographer Lindsey Mysse, who began to regularly use the 110-105 transit station on a commute, the interchange offered a window into a side of Los Angeles he never thought he’d get to know.

Mysse is an artist and software developer by day, and in his free-time a devoted documentarian of the interchange with the IG account 110_105. In it Mysse captures the light, colors, and faces he sees in the soaring chapel of the interchange.

I spoke to him recently over the phone about the project. Below is a sample of some of his photos.

All photos by Lindsey Mysse

L.A. TACO: Tell us how the project got started.

Mysse: The specific Instagram account started earlier this year. … Well, really what happened was that I had just come back from New York City, had been dumped by a girl, and my art career had kinda fallen apart. Everyone was pissed at me, and I just needed to get a real job.

I live in San Pedro and I got a job in El Segundo, so I started commuting from San Pedro to El Segundo — the bus, from San Pedro, to get on the Green Line to get to El Segundo — and it was just this ugly, ugly place to me. It represented a defeat in life. It felt like the world was making fun of me. It actually started as a joke. I’d check-in at the 105-110 freeway, and start taking photos of it …

What is this place like, for someone who hasn’t been to the transit station?

It’s very loud, it’s very dirty, because the cars: there’s just chain-link fence between you and the highway. But you also kinda have the people there, they’re just getting to their jobs, there’s that sort of day-to-day negotiation of, How you get around, right?

Last week the trains broke down — it’s the Green Line, the trains are always breaking down — people were negotiating, like, My boss is stricter than your boss, and so on, negotiating who could get on the train because the trains were packed. And it’s democracy in action. That’s how the city works.

It’s one of the most hostile places in L.A. to humans, isn’t it?

I think so. People live there, though, under the 110 and 105. I don’t photograph them, so they tend not to be in my photographs, but yeah, there are people that live there. You see the encampments, how they hide themselves, and it really is shocking. A lot of people drive and just stare straight ahead, and there’s this whole world along the edges.

I take photographs every time I am there … four to six times a week.

What did you end up liking about it?

It’s banality at a grand scale, which is what Los Angeles is all about. If that place is beautiful to you or not is determined by how you feel. It’s your projection on the place, which is very L.A., too. … It’s this blank canvas, and it’s a massive artifact to a way of life that isn’t very sustainable also.

The freeways. You learn so much about the city when you really study them, right?

You find that everywhere in L.A. but most people just filter it out. With something like 110-105, people just drive by and you don’t really contemplate it, what it is or what it means.

What did you learn about this place over time?

I started to pay attention to how the light would change everyday I was there. The colors would always be different. As you go through the year, you get there at different times of dawn or sunset, you get those Southern California sunrises and sunsets and all the colors and how they reflect off the concrete. It really becomes something intriguing to follow."
2017  losangeles  freeways  110  105  danielhernandez  instagram  commuting  transportation  metro  greenline  lindseymysse  photography 
december 2017 by robertogreco
How to make the Bay Area's tangle of public transit options less chaotic - San Francisco Business Times
"Have you ever tried to transfer from BART to Muni downtown, entering and exiting separate gates after you walk up and down two sets of stairs? Or made the same maneuver transferring from Caltrain to BART in Millbrae? The transfer takes minutes when it should take seconds — and that’s just one way the Bay Area’s transit system can bewilder riders.

SPUR, the region’s urban policy think-tank, just released a hulking 51-page report on how to make the Bay Area’s transit systems less chaotic. Much of the conversation surrounding public transit woes centers on funding shortfalls and overcrowding.

But there's another issue: when there are 27 different Bay Area transit systems, it's difficult for people to use them. The sheer number of intersecting systems makes the Bay Area arguably the most complex public transit network in the country, the report notes. “The Big 7” agencies — Muni, BART, AC Transit, Caltrain, VTA, SamTrans and Golden Gate Transit — each have more than 9 million riders a year.

“I ran into these problems when my family visits. They learned how to use BART but nothing else,” Ratna Amin, SPUR’s transit policy director, said at a panel discussion on Tuesday announcing the report. “While we like transit, we don’t use it because it’s too uncertain.”

It’s not just her family, of course.

There’s been a 14 percent drop in public transit usage per capita in the Bay Area since 1991. Aside from Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, that's biggest decrease among large metro areas. That’s bad company to be in if you care about transit-oriented development, traffic, the environment and making life better for 29 percent of Bay Area commuters who pass a county boundary to get to work every day.

The report notes that the region’s “divergent maps, schedules and fares to uncoordinated capital planning and investment” plays a big role. Part of that decline is because “having so many different transit systems makes it harder for riders to understand and use the services available to them,” SPUR notes.

How can policymakers ease the tension?

The report doesn’t just call for all-out consolidation among agencies because that could be onerous. It does call on state legislators to think of ways to provide financial incentives for just that. SPUR’s interviews found “some apathy among stakeholders about” solving the problem because “state and federal transit funding programs have not emphasized integration.”

SPUR mostly lays out a mixture of small and ambitious steps. They include designing new signage and a region-wide map to be more like New York and London’s signature looks; improving revenue-sharing between agencies; standardizing fares; and using bus fleets more efficiently by letting them provide more service across counties.

The shining example of Bay Area transit agencies working together was the creation of the Clipper Card in 2010. The service allows riders to use one re-loadable card across bus and rail systems. But that system has a major flaw: it includes several different fare structures, penalizing people who switch transit operators. Fixing this would require improved revenue sharing, the report notes.

The group also calls out the Metropolitan Transit Commission, the state-authorized transit coordinator in the region, for stopping short of requiring transit operators to change routes and business rules. For example, there are still no timed transfers from BART to feeder buses, the report said.

SPUR found in interviews that MTC also has strained relationships with its operators.

Planning easier transfers for riders is also important because major transit hubs will soon come online. Those hubs include the Valley Transit Authority’s BART-Silicon Valley Extension to San Jose, Caltrain’s Downtown Extension in San Francisco and the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Central Subway.

“We have shortcomings to identify — interagency disputes, transit lines that stop at one boundary,” State Senator Jim Beall said Tuesday morning at the panel. “if we were starting from scratch, no one would invent the transit system we have in the Bay Area.”"
bayarea  transportation  transit  publictransit  sanfrancisco  bart  muni  trains  2017  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Solving the Bay Area's Fragmented Transit Dilemma
"The last time I wrote about Bay Area public transportation, my final conclusion was that the region needed to consolidate all of its disparate operators into a single agency, much like the MTA in New York or New Jersey Transit in the entire state. I have since significantly revised my stance on this subject, but before I get into that, I want to first direct you to an interesting statistic compiled by the MTC, the Bay Area’s metropolitan planning organization:

[chart: "The Bay Area is the only metro area in the country without a primary transit operator."]

So even in America’s famous preference for local and decentralized government, the Bay Area stands outs. There is no primary transit operator here who has managed to capture a majority of the region’s transit riders. There is only a hopelessly disjointed patchwork of more than two-dozen local agencies (click here for map) an arrangement that is failing to provide a seamless transit service that would be expected of a world-class region. Back in 2009, the MTC noted this problem in its Annual Report:
“We have multiple layers of decision-making and service delivery -- 28 separate transit agencies, each with its own board, staff and operating team, that confound efforts to deliver a regional system passengers can understand and effectively navigate, and that can keep pace with changes in demand. And at times we … have made decisions to invest in system expansion when reinvesting in the existing system might have been the wiser choice.”


And they have since failed to do anything meaningful about it. The status quo is supported by band-aid fixes and duct tape and disappoints on multiple fronts, but these three are the most significant:

First of all, there is no standardized visual guideline that determines what station signage, vehicle design, nomenclature, and maps look like. Each agency has different names for the same thing (e.g. Limited, Rapid), uncoordinated schedules, dissimilar visual guidelines (colors, fonts, logos), and most perplexing of all, there is a procession of maps of all shapes, sizes, and colors that confound earnest attempts from tourists and locals alike to navigate the system. Just designing and displaying a unified map that realistically displays every route and different levels of service would go a long way to facilitate wayfinding."



[continues]
edmundxu  bayarea  transit  transportation  trains  2017  bart  sanfrancisco  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  publictransit  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Bay Area transit fails to put riders first - San Francisco Chronicle
"The northern terminus of SMART, the new passenger-rail system in the North Bay, is the Sonoma County Airport Station in Santa Rosa. But after my 8-year-old son and I flew in, we learned the airport is more than a mile from the train.

There is as yet no dedicated shuttle from plane to train. My son wasn’t up for walking. A public bus that would get us nearer to the train wouldn’t show up for hours. Uber wasn’t picking up, and my Lyft app kept crashing. The four cabbies outside the airport refused to take us on such a short, cheap trip.

The Bay Area is our richest large metropolitan region because it skillfully connects the world. But if you need to make transit connections in the Bay Area, good luck.

Lured by this summer’s preview rides on SMART, I recently spent three days navigating the Bay Area sans car. I enjoyed trains, ferries and buses. But I was bewildered by the failure of a place famous for integrating culture and technology to integrate its own infrastructure and transportation.

The SMART train is eventually supposed to reach the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, a 35-minute boat ride from San Francisco. But the first segment ends 2 miles short of the ferry. There’s a bike path to the terminal, and a bus station in San Rafael that can get you to the ferry, but that bus ride would take 26 minutes. We opted for an Uber and got there in eight minutes.

We shouldn’t have hurried: The ferry left 10 minutes late. But on a clear day, we enjoyed views of the Golden Gate Bridge. At the Ferry Building, I bought my son ice cream at Gott’s.

After meetings in San Francisco, we went to BART’s Embarcadero Station, heading for Oakland Airport and a flight home. But the first six trains were too full to board. BART is a system built for 60,000 riders that moves more than 400,000 daily. The system badly needs more cars, better maintenance, governance that isn’t dominated by unions and a second tunnel under the bay.

When the seventh train arrived, we pushed our way in. “That’s rude,” said one rider.

“We’re from L.A.,” I replied.

We made the flight, but the day produced sticker shock. The four-station ride from San Francisco to Oakland’s Coliseum Station, from which a tram takes you into the airport, cost $10.20 each. Add that to my $11.50 ferry ticket (my son’s was $5.75), the $9 Uber ride to the ferry, the $11.50 one-way fare on SMART (kids are half-price), and $10 for the airport cab ride, and our journey was pushing $70. In L.A., a Metro ride is just $1.75, with free transfers.

A few days later, I was back in San Francisco, contending with delays on the local Muni system, when I needed to get to San Jose, a city BART doesn’t quite reach yet. That meant riding Caltrain. BART and Caltrain share a station in Millbrae, but the schedules aren’t synchronized, meaning possible delay. So I walked 25 minutes from BART’s Powell Street Station to the Caltrain at Fourth and King.

In San Jose, I disembarked at Diridon Station, which may have a bright future as the northern end of high-speed rail. But for now, it is just another setting for connection frustration, as I waited a half-hour for a train on Santa Clara County’s VTA system.

The next day, to get to San Jose Airport, I took Caltrain to the Santa Clara Station, which offers a VTA bus shuttle. But the bus driver refused to open the bus door for 15 minutes, even during a brief rain. And the shuttle took a meandering route with a stop at a soccer stadium.

If the Bay Area is ever going to be the design-savvy ecotopia of its dreams, it must combine transit systems and put the rider’s needs first. Right now, using transit there makes you feel powerless. And that should be unacceptable in California’s most powerful region."
bayarea  transit  transportation  trains  2017  bart  sanfrancisco  sanjose  marin  vta  smart  oakland  caltrain  joematthews  publictransit  publictransportation  marincounty 
november 2017 by robertogreco
@debcha en Instagram: “I'm not really a souvenir person, but I did come home with some @transportforlondon swag—I think those are real line status magnets…”
"I'm not really a souvenir person, but I did come home with some @transportforlondon swag—I think those are real line status magnets, together with the ubiquitous hazard sign. The print amused me because I recently learned that the reason why the Tube is so hot in the summer is because a century and a half of dumping waste heat, particularly from braking, has raised the temperature of the clay surrounding the tunnels from a cool 15C to a toasty 25C, which makes it much harder to cool now."
debchachra  2017  london  trains  heat  clay  materials  science  subways  transportation  souvenirs  signs 
august 2017 by robertogreco
E744: Initialized Capital Operating Partner & TechCrunch contributor Kim-Mai Cutler on affordable housing crisis in San Francisco Bay Area at intersection of race, class, & Silicon Valley | This Week In Startups
"Housing has become a hot button issue in the Bay Area, and in fact, the world, with homes being unaffordable and the ability to produce more housing being throttled by a number of interests. Housing in the Bay Area has become more expensive than anywhere else in the country, and the ability to rent an apartment has reached a level that has exceeded NYC. Our guest today, Kim-Mai Cutler, is a Bay Area native, Initialized Capital Operating Partner, TechCrunch contributor, and has become an authority on housing in the Bay Area. Join us as she explains the affordable housing crisis, the structural issue of power, the causes and consequences of transit fragmentation, gentrification and income inequality, and more."
housing  2017  california  kim-maicutler  sanfrancisco  losangeles  nyc  oakland  sanmateo  paloalto  cupertino  history  transportation  bart  bayarea  gentrification  policy  politics  proposition13  inequality 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Mexico 68 - 99% Invisible
"The clear iconography of the Metro system is a reminder of a complicated and sometimes terrible period in Mexico City’s history. It’s a simple design that invites you to explore the massive and complex metropolis. It is a graphic design system that assures that, if you get lost, no matter where you’re from, or what language you speak, you can find your way around, and see the city for yourself."

[See also: http://www.hermanmiller.com/why/talking-pictures.html ]
design  graphicdesign  1968  olympics  mexico  graphics  mexicocity  df  mexicodf  lancewyman  petermurdoch  opart  art  history  typography  luiscastañeda  color  mexico68  government  civics  metro  transportation  subways  worldcup  1970  tolisten 
june 2017 by robertogreco
Baugruppen model ditches developers so that apartment buyers save
"Baugruppen. It might sound like a mouthful but this German word could be the answer to Australia’s housing affordability woes — or at least a new way to look at the problem.

If you can’t afford a freestanding house in Australia’s capital cities, the choices for an apartment alternative are generally expensive and limited. Many of the units available are targeted to investors and are often said to be of poor quality.

Literally translating to “building group”, baugruppen in effect cuts out developers from developments. The idea is that a group of interested purchasers come together and collectively fund their own multi-unit housing project. They are often helped or led through the process by architects, and they get a say in what their resulting homes look like. Generally, these homes have a focus on quality, sustainability and shared community facilities.

“At the moment, middle to modest income earners cannot buy a decent apartment because all the stock that’s produced is generally for investors,” says RMIT housing lecturer Andrea Sharam. “But there’s now a lot of interest in different models, particularly from younger people.”

Her research has shown that apartment buyers can save up to 30 per cent through such “deliberative development” (the opposite of speculative development).

The model that took off in Germany (predominantly in Berlin) has made its way to Australia, with a handful of baugruppen-esque projects popping up throughout the country.

Two recent examples have come out of Western Australia. One is a co-housing project that was launched by the council in Fremantle, the other is an innovative collaboration between the WA government’s land development agency, LandCorp, and the University of Western Australia. Located in White Gum Valley near Fremantle, that project is targeting a 15 per cent saving for buyers.

It’s basically like paying wholesale prices on homes, rather than the marked-up retail price.

“[A group] is fundamentally assisted to become their own developer, and in doing that they save themselves the developer’s margin and the marketing costs,” says project leader Geoffrey London, Professor of Architecture at UWA.

Mr London, who was also the former Victorian government architect, says the main aims of the project are to provide more affordable higher density options, provide more sustainable unit designs, establish a community, explore shared amenities and improve the diversity and quality of designs available.

There are a few things holding the model back from taking off completely in Australia, according to Dr Sharam. One of those is the significant financing barriers, especially the high level of equity required to obtain debt financing from the banks.

Dr Sharam says this will require a whole shift in thinking from conventional development lending, understanding that buyers in baugruppen projects are not at the same risk of settlement defaults.

“It’s a whole different ball game,” she says. “Even if one buyer falls out for some reason, say they go through a divorce and can’t go through with the purchase, then you have a waiting list; a group of people waiting in the wings to come in.”

That has been true of popular baugruppen-style developments in Melbourne, such as the Nightingale series, where a waiting list was more than 800 strong.

“One of the other really big things holding us back is that prospective purchasers are failing to understand it’s up to them to initiate it,” she said.

Gerard Coutts, a project management consultant with an interest in bringing baugruppen to Australia, is on a tour of Europe studying co-housing models. He says there’s much Australia can learn from them.

“I think there is a compelling movement [towards baugruppen models] as land supply dwindles and people are pushed outwards,” Mr Coutts says. “Older people, who wish to stay in areas familiar to them, this may be the type of solution to that assists.”"
housing  germany  2017  baugruppen  community  parking  cars  development  apartments  sustainability  melbourne  commons  transportation  australia 
june 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — Back to nature
"We live on a remote island - mountainous, mid-Atlantic, still heavily forested and pretty wild - and for that reason nature sometimes sneaks into our otherwise technology-centred work. It is hard not to think local when you live in a place like this. We’re neither farmers nor pioneers - except in the sense that resident aliens on this island are few - but lately our reading has got us thinking about ancient paths and rural places. We’ll discuss the paths today and save most of the farm talk for a future post.

Paths v roads

In his 1969 essay ‘A Native Hill’, Wendell Berry - the American writer, farmer, activist, and ‘modern Thoreau’ - makes a useful distinction between paths and roads:
The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around. A road, on the other hand … embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape. … It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.


Aside from conversation as usual, the reason we are talking about Berry is the arrival of a new film, Look & See, and a new collection of his writing, The World-Ending Fire, edited by Paul Kingsnorth of Dark Mountain Project fame. Berry and Kingsnorth, along with the economist Kate Raworth, were on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week recently chatting about the coming apocalypse and how it might best be avoided. It is a fascinating interview: you can actually hear Berry’s rocking chair creaking and the crows cawing outside the window of his house in Port Royal, Kentucky.

The normally optimistic Berry agrees somewhat crankily to read ‘the poem that you asked me to read’ on the programme. ‘Sabbaths 1989’ describes roads to the future as going nowhere: ‘roads strung everywhere with humming wire. / Nowhere is there an end except in smoke. / This is the world that we have set on fire.’ Berry admits that this poem is about as gloomy as he gets (‘blessed are / The dead who died before this time began’). For the most part his writing is constructive: forming a sensual response to cold, atomised modernity; advocating for conviviality, community, the commonweal.

Paul Kingsnorth talks compellingly in the same programme about transforming protest into action, although in truth no one walks the walk like Berry. Kingsnorth says: ‘We’re all complicit in the things we oppose’ - and never were truer words spoken, from our iPhones to our energy use. In terms of design practice, there are worse goals than reducing our level of complicity in environmental harm and empty consumerism. Like Berry, Kingsnorth talks about paths and roads. He asks: ‘Why should we destroy an ancient forest to cut twelve minutes off a car journey from London to Southampton? Is that a good deal?’

It’s a fair question. It also illustrates perfectly what Berry was describing in the passage that started this post: the difference between paths that blend and coexist with the local landscape, preserving the knowledge and history of the land, and roads that cut straight through it. These roads are like a destructive and ill-fitting grid imposed from the centre onto the periphery, without attention to the local terrain or ecology or ways of doing things - both literally (in the case of energy) and figuratively.

Another book we read recently, Holloway, describes ancient paths - specifically the ‘holloways’ of South Dorset - in similar terms:
They are landmarks that speak of habit rather than of suddenness. Like creases in the hand, or the wear on the stone sill of a doorstep or stair, they are the result of repeated human actions. Their age chastens without crushing. They relate to other old paths & tracks in the landscape - ways that still connect place to place & person to person.


Holloways are paths sunk deep into the landscape and into the local history. Roads, in contrast, skip over the local - collapsing time as they move us from one place to the next without, as it were, touching the ground. They alienate us in our comfort.

Here in Madeira there are endless footpaths broken through the woods. Still more unique are the levadas, the irrigation channels that run for more than two thousand kilometres back and forth across the island, having been brought to Portugal from antecedents in Moorish aqueduct systems and adapted to the specific terrain and agricultural needs of Madeira starting in the sixteenth century.

Both the pathways through the ancient laurel forests and the centuries-old levadas (which, though engineered, were cut by hand and still follow the contours and logic of the landscape) contrast with the highways and tunnels that represent a newer feat of human engineering since the 1970s. During his controversial though undeniably successful reign from 1978 to 2015 - he was elected President of Madeira a remarkable ten times - Alberto João Jardim oversaw a massive infrastructure program that completely transformed the island. Places that used to be virtually unreachable became accessible by a short drive. His legacy, in part, is a culture of automobile dependency that is second to none. The American highway system inspired by Norman Bel Geddes’ (and General Motors’) Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair almost pales in comparison to Jardim’s vision for the rapid modernisation of Madeira.

But when you walk the diesel-scented streets of the capital, or you drive through the holes bored deep into and out of towering volcanic mountains to reach the airport - and even when you think back in history and imagine those first settlers sitting in their ships as half the island’s forest burned, watching the dense smoke of the fires they lit to make Madeira favourable to human habitation - it’s hard not to think what a catastrophically invasive species are human beings.

Bespoke is a word we use a lot. In our vocabulary bespoke is not about luxury or excess - as it has been co-opted by consumer capitalism to suggest. Instead it is about tailored solutions, fitted to the contours of a particular body or landscape. Wendell Berry insists on the role of aesthetics and proportionality in his approach to environmentalism: the goal is not hillsides covered in rows of ugly solar panels, but an integrated and deep and loving relationship with the land. This insistence on aesthetics relates to the ‘reconfiguring’ principles that inform our newest work. The gravity batteries we’ve been building are an alternative not only to the imposed, top-down infrastructure of the grid, but also to the massive scale of such solutions and our desire to work with the terrain rather than against it.

Naomi Klein talked about renewable energy in these terms in an interview a couple of years ago:
If you go back and look at the way fossil fuels were marketed in the 1700s, when coal was first commercialized with the Watt steam engine, the great promise of coal was that it liberated humans from nature … And that was, it turns out, a lie. We never transcended nature, and that I think is what is so challenging about climate change, not just to capitalism but to our core civilizational myth. Because this is nature going, ‘You thought you were in charge? Actually all that coal you’ve been burning all these years has been building up in the atmosphere and trapping heat, and now comes the response.’ … Renewable energy puts us back in dialog with nature. We have to think about when the wind blows, we have to think about where the sun shines, we cannot pretend that place and space don’t matter. We are back in the world.


In a future post we will talk about the related subject of sustainable agriculture. But speaking of food - the time has come for our toast and coffee.
2017  crapfutures  wendellberry  paths  roads  madeira  bespoke  tailoring  audiencesofone  naomiklein  sustainability  earth  normanbelgeddes  albertojoãojardim  levadas  infrastructure  permanence  capitalism  energy  technology  technosolutionsism  1969  obstacles  destruction  habits  knowledge  place  placemaking  experience  familiarity  experientialeducation  kateraworth  paulkingsnorth  darkmountainproject  modernity  modernism  holloways  nature  landscape  cars  transportation  consumerism  consumercapitalism  reconfiguration  domination  atmosphere  environment  dialog  conviviality  community  commonweal  invasivespecies  excess  humans  futurama  ecology  canon  experientiallearning 
may 2017 by robertogreco
A new map for BART with better names
"Now that BART has extended to Warm Springs/South Fremont and will soon go further south to Milpitas and San Jose, it's high time to create a new BART map, that not only includes other regional rail like Caltrain and Capitol Corridor, but ALSO all new station names!

Standardizing the BART policy of creating long station names, preferably with a slash, the new stations are plenty long. Note that some of the station names have evolved since the last time station names were discussed.

Please help us decide if the stations should have local area names with some describers, or if they should simply be named after cross streets."
names  naming  bart  transportation  publictransit  sanfrancisco  bayarea  2017 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Draft Reports | Plan Bay Area 2040 Draft Plan
"The Plan Bay Area 2040 draft supplemental reports provide more detail on specific subject areas covered in the plan, including transportation, land use, equity and the environment, and performance and public participation."

"Equity & Environment
Air Quality Conformity Report (available early May)
Environmental Impact Report
Environmental Impact Report - Appendices
Equity Analysis Report

Land Use
Land Use Modeling Report
Regional Forecast of Jobs, Population and Housing
Scenario Planning Report
Statutorily-Required Plan Maps

Performance & Public Participation
Glossary
Native American Tribal Outreach Report
Performance Assessment Report
Public Engagement Program Report

Transportation
Financial Assumptions Report
Freight Emissions Reduction Action Plan
Investment Strategy Report
Project List
Local Streets and Roads, Bridges and State Highway Needs Assessment
Transit Operating and Capital Needs and Revenue Assessment
Travel Modeling Report"
bayarea  transportation  landuse  policy  equity  environment  classideas  sanfrancisco  sfsh 
april 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Why Are BART Trains So Loud? | Bay Curious | News Fix | KQED News
"Also, Kolesar says BART’s banshee wail is not a mistake. It isn’t the result of some design mishap. It came from a conscious engineering choice.

Engineers had to make a trade-off back when they started building BART more than 50 years ago. They decided to make the wheels solid axle — or connected — so that they rotate at the same rate. Kolesar says that makes the trains quiet on the straightaways, which constitute a majority of BART’s tracks. But because of the design, one of the wheels ends up getting dragged against the rail on turns, which causes that high-pitched squeal.

“So one wheel has to be sliding while the other is rolling,” Kolesar says. “Or they both have to be slightly sliding, because they are turning at different speeds going around that bend. It just makes noise.”

Now there is a plan to make BART quieter. New train cars will have tapered wheels that drag less on the rail. That will help a little. But there’s a bigger change coming with the new cars.

Kolesar says the “the doors are the key.” No matter what you do, the wheels will always squeal a little. The current doors let in lots of that sound, but the new trains will have better insulated doors that could make the trains two or three times as quiet.

Again, we’ve got to wait a few years to enjoy that kind of relative quiet. All the old squealing cars won’t be replaced until around 2021."
classideas  bart  sanfrancisco  transportation  transit  trains  2016  noise 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Curb | The taxi app
"Curb connects you to safe, reliable rides from professional drivers. Download Curb for iPhone or Android to request your ride with the tap of a button, track your driver’s arrival, and pay your fare seamlessly."

[See also: http://www.goarro.com/ ]
taxis  applications  ios  android  mobile  transportation 
january 2017 by robertogreco
POLITICAL THEORY - Karl Marx - YouTube
"Karl Marx remains deeply important today not as the man who told us what to replace capitalism with, but as someone who brilliantly pointed out certain of its problems. The School of Life, a pro-Capitalist institution, takes a look.



FURTHER READING

“Most people agree that we need to improve our economic system somehow. It threatens our planet through excessive consumption, distracts us with irrelevant advertising, leaves people hungry and without healthcare, and fuels unnecessary wars. Yet we’re also often keen to dismiss the ideas of its most famous and ambitious critic, Karl Marx. This isn’t very surprising. In practice, his political and economic ideas have been used to design disastrously planned economies and nasty dictatorships. Frankly, the remedies Marx proposed for the ills of the world now sound a bit demented. He thought we should abolish private property. People should not be allowed to own things. At certain moments one can sympathise. But it’s like wanting to ban gossip or forbid watching television. It’s going to war with human behaviour. And Marx believed the world would be put to rights by a dictatorship of the proletariat; which does not mean anything much today. Openly Marxist parties received a total of only 1,685 votes in the 2010 UK general election, out of the nearly 40 million ballots cast…”"
karlmarx  marxism  capitalism  2014  work  labor  specialization  purpose  alienation  disconnection  hierarchy  efficiency  communism  belonging  insecurity  economics  primitiveaccumulation  accumulation  profit  theft  exploitation  instability  precarity  crises  abundance  scarcity  shortage  productivity  leisure  unemployment  freedom  employment  inequality  wealth  wealthdistribution  marriage  relationships  commodityfetishism  feminism  oppression  ideology  values  valuejudgements  worth  consumerism  materialism  anxiety  competition  complacency  conformity  communistmanifesto  inheritance  privateproperty  banking  communication  transportation  eduction  publiceducation  frederickengels  generalists  specialists  daskapital 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Future of Cities – Medium
[video (embedded): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs ]

"Organic Filmmaking and City Re-Imagining

What does “the future of cities” mean? To much of the developing world, it might be as simple as aspiring to having your own toilet, rather than sharing one with over 100 people. To a family in Detroit, it could mean having non-toxic drinking water. For planners and mayors, it’s about a lot of things — sustainability, economy, inclusivity, and resilience. Most of us can hope we can spend a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families. For a rich white dude up in a 50th floor penthouse, “the future of cities” might mean zipping around in a flying car while a robot jerks you off and a drone delivers your pizza. For many companies, the future of cities is simply about business and money, presented to us as buzzwords like “smart city” and “the city of tomorrow.”

I started shooting the “The Future of a Cities” as a collaboration with the The Nantucket Project, but it really took shape when hundreds of people around the world responded to a scrappy video I made asking for help.

Folks of all ages, from over 75 countries, volunteered their time, thoughts, work, and footage so that I could expand the scope of the piece and connect with more people in more cities. This strategy saved me time and money, but it also clarified the video’s purpose, which inspired me to put more energy into the project in order to get it right. I was reading Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Edward Glaeser, etc. and getting excited about their ideas — after seeing what mattered to the people I met in person and watching contributions from those I didn’t, the video gained focus and perspective.

If I hired a production services outfit to help me film Mumbai, it would actually be a point of professional pride for the employees to deliver the Mumbai they think I want to see. If some young filmmakers offer to show me around their city and shoot with me for a day, we’re operating on another level, and a very different portrait of a city emerges. In the first scenario, my local collaborators get paid and I do my best to squeeze as much work out of the time period paid for as possible. In the second, the crew accepts more responsibility but gains ownership, hopefully leaving the experience feeling more empowered.

Architect and former mayor of Curitiba Jaime Lerner famously said “if you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeros.” It’s been my experience that this sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with humanity, and part of what I love about working with less resources and money is that it forces you to treat people like human beings. Asking someone to work with less support or equipment, or to contribute more time for less money, requires a mutual understanding between two people. If each person can empathize for the other, it’s been my experience that we’ll feel it in the work — both in the process and on screen.

Organic filmmaking requires you to keep your crew small and your footprint light. You start filming with one idea in mind, but the idea changes each day as elements you could never have anticipated inform the bigger picture. You make adjustments and pursue new storylines. You edit a few scenes, see what’s working and what’s not, then write new scenes. Shoot those, cut them in, then go back and write more. Each part of the process talks to the other. The movie teaches itself to be a better movie. Because organic is complicated, it can be tricky to defend and difficult to scale up, but because it’s cheap and low-resource, it’s easier to experiment. Learning about the self-organizing, living cities that I did on this project informed how we made the video. And looking at poorly planned urban projects reminded me of the broken yet prevailing model for making independent film in the U.S., where so many films are bound to fail — often in a way a filmmaker doesn’t recover from — before they even begin.

Jane Jacobs said that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I’ve worked on videos for companies, for the guy in the penthouse, for nobody in particular, in the developing world, with rich people and poor people, for me, for my friends, and for artists. I’m so thankful for everybody who allowed me to make this film the way we did, and I hope the parallels between filmmaking and city building — where the stakes are so much higher — aren’t lost on anyone trying to make their city a better place. We should all be involved. The most sustainable future is a future that includes us all.

“The Future of Cities” Reading List

(There’s a longer list I discovered recently from Planetizen HERE but these are the ones I got into on this project — I’m excited to read many more)

The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs
The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser
Cities for People and Life Between Buildings by Jan Gehl
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan Rose(just came out — incredible)
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World by Wade Graham
Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna
Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
Low Life and The Other Paris by Luc Sante
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook
Streetfight: Handbook for the Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow
Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-Term Change by Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia
Living In The Endless City, edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic

“The Future of Cities” Select Interviewees:
David Hertz & Sky Source
Vicky Chan & Avoid Obvious Architects
Carlo Ratti: Director, MIT Senseable City Lab Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati
Edward Glaeser: Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University Author of The Triumph of the City
Helle Søholt: Founding Parner & CEO, Gehl Architects
Ricky Burdett: Director, LSE Cities/Urban Age
Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer, City of Boston
Pablo Viejo: Smart Cities Expert & CTO V&V Innovations, Singapore
Matias Echanove & Urbz, Mumbai
Janette Sadik-Khan: Author, Advisor, & Former NYC DOT Commissioner
Abess Makki: CEO, City Insight
Dr. Parag Khanna: Author of Connectography
Stan Gale: CEO of Gale International, Developer of Songdo IBD
Dr. Jockin Arputham: President, Slum Dwellers International
Morton Kabell: Mayor for Technical & Environmental Affairs, Copenhagen
cities  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  bikes  biking  cars  singapore  nyc  losangeles  janejacobs  jangehl  edwardglaeser  mumbai  tokyo  regulation  jaimelerner  curitiba  nantucketproject  carloratti  vickchan  davidhertz  hellesøholt  rickyburdett  laurenlockwood  pabloviejo  matiasechanove  urbz  janettesadik-khan  abessmakki  paragkhanna  stangale  jockinarputham  slumdwellersinternational  slums  mortonkabell  urbanization  future  planning  oscarboyson  mikelydon  anthonygarcia  danielbrook  lucsante  remkoolhaas  dayansudjic  rickyburdettsethsolomonow  wadegraham  charlesmontgomery  matthewclaudeljeffspeck  jonathanrose  transportation  publictransit  transit  housing  construction  development  local  small  grassroots  technology  internet  web  online  communications  infrastructure  services  copenhagen  sidewalks  pedestrians  sharing  filmmaking  film  video  taipei  seoul  santiago  aukland  songdo  sydney  london  nairobi  venice  shenzhen  2016  sustainability  environment  population  detroit  making  manufacturing  buildings  economics  commutes  commuting 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Four Million Commutes Reveal New U.S. 'Megaregions'
"As economic centers grow in size and importance, determining their boundaries has become more crucial. Where do you fall on the map?"
data  demographics  maps  transportation  visualization  mapping  us  megaregions  2016  cities  commuting 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Mini Metro
[More at: https://www.macstories.net/reviews/game-day-mini-metro/ ]

[See also: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mini-metro/id837860959

"Mini Metro, the sublime subway simulator, now on iPhone and iPad.

• BAFTA-nominated
• IGF award-winning
• Over 250,000 copies sold on desktop

Mini Metro is a game about designing a subway map for a growing city. Draw lines between stations and start your trains running. Keep your routes efficient by redrawing them as new stations open. Decide where to use your limited resources. How long can you keep the city moving?

• Random city growth means each game is unique
• Eleven real-world cities will test your planning skills
• A variety of upgrades so you can tailor your network
• Normal mode for quick scored games, or Extreme for the ultimate challenge
• Compete against the world every day with the Daily Challenge
• Colourblind and night modes
• Responsive soundtrack created by your metro system, engineered by Disasterpeace

"If you love the city-planning aspect of Sim City but can't handle the pressure of playing god, then you may have just found your new favorite time-waster." - Ashley Feinberg, Gizmodo

"Take my word for it that a game about mass-transit system design can be a tense, white-knuckle thriller." - Owen Faraday, Pocket Tactics

"Mini Metro: fun game simulates planning and running public transit system." - Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing"]
games  videogames  ios  android  subways  transportation  publictransity  transit  gaming 
october 2016 by robertogreco
Why Are America’s Most Innovative Companies Still Stuck in 1950s Suburbia? | Collectors Weekly
"When Apple finishes its new $5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, the technorati will ooh and ahh over its otherworldly architecture, patting themselves on the back for yet another example of “innovation.” Countless employees, tech bloggers, and design fanatics are already lauding the “futuristic” building and its many “groundbreaking” features. But few are aware that Apple’s monumental project is already outdated, mimicking a half-century of stagnant suburban corporate campuses that isolated themselves—by design—from the communities their products were supposed to impact.

In the 1940s and ’50s, when American corporations first flirted with a move to the ‘burbs, CEOs realized that horizontal architecture immersed in a park-like buffer lent big business a sheen of wholesome goodness. The exodus was triggered, in part, by inroads the labor movement was making among blue-collar employees in cities. At the same time, the increasing diversity of urban populations meant it was getting harder and harder to maintain an all-white workforce. One by one, major companies headed out of town for greener pastures, luring desired employees into their gilded cages with the types of office perks familiar to any Googler.

Though these sprawling developments were initially hailed as innovative, America’s experiment with suburban, car-centric lifestyles eventually proved problematic, both for its exclusiveness and environmental drawbacks: Such communities intentionally prevented certain ethnic groups and lower-income people from moving there, while enforcing zoning rules that maximized driving. Today’s tech campuses, which the New York Times describes as “the triumph of privatized commons, of a verdant natural world sheltered for the few,” are no better, having done nothing to disrupt the isolated, anti-urban landscape favored by mid-century corporations.

Louise Mozingo, the Chair of UC Berkeley’s Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department, detailed the origins of these corporate environments in her 2011 book, Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes. From the 1930s designs for AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey to Google’s Silicon Valley campus today, Mozingo traced the evolution of suburbia’s “separatist geography.” In contrast with the city, Mozingo writes, “the suburbs were predictable, spacious, segregated, specialized, quiet, new, and easily traversed—a much more promising state of affairs to corporations bent on expansion.” It also didn’t hurt that many top executives often already lived in the affluent, low-density areas near where they wanted their offices built.

Like the expansive headquarters of many companies who fled dense downtowns, Apple’s new office falls into the architectural vein Mozingo dubs “pastoral capitalism,” after a landscaping trend made popular more than a century ago. In the mid-19th century, prominent figures like Frederick Law Olmsted promoted a specific vision of the natural environment adapted to modern life, beginning with urban parks and university campuses and eventually encompassing suburban residential neighborhoods.

“There was this whole academic discussion around what defined the picturesque, the beautiful, and the sublime,” Mozingo told me when we spoke recently. “Landscape gardener Andrew Jackson Downing had written extensively about it in American publications, but Olmsted went beyond that, and called his ideal park landscape ‘pastoral.’ He was well-read enough to understand that this combined elements of wild nature with agricultural nature.”"



"But perhaps even more damaging was the way this architectural trend turned residents away from one another and reduced their engagement in the public sphere. From the 1950s onward, the vast majority of suburban office projects relied on a model Mozingo refers to as “separatist geography,” where people were isolated from their larger communities for the benefit of a single business entity.

Mozingo’s concept of a separatist landscape builds off the ideas of geographer Allan Pred, who describes how our daily path through the built environment is a major influence on our culture and values. “If you live in a typical suburban place,” Mozingo explains, “you get in your car and drive to work by yourself, then stay in your office for the entire day seeing only other colleagues, and then drive back home alone. You’re basically only interested in improving highways and your office building.” Even as big tech touts its green credentials, the offices for Apple, Facebook, Google, and their ilk are inundated with parking, discreetly hidden below ground like their savvy mid-century forebears, encouraging employees to continue their solo commutes.

Today, this segregation isn’t only aided by architecture—it’s also a function of the tech-enabled lifestyle, with its endless array of on-demand services and delivery apps that limit interactions with people of differing views and backgrounds (exposure that would likely serve to increase tolerance). A protective bubble of affluence also reduces the need for civic engagement: If you always rely on ride-hailing apps, why would you care if the sidewalk gets cleaned or repaired?"



"“There are a handful of companies who are finally doing interesting things in the suburbs,” she continues. “For instance, there’s a developer in Silicon Valley, Kilroy Realty, building a development called the Crossing/900, which is the new Box headquarters, and it’s going to be high-density and mixed-use near Caltrain, so everybody’s excited about that one.” Mozingo also sees potential in a future Facebook project, since they’ve purchased a large plot of land near a disused rail line. “It’s supposed to be mixed-use with explicit public space, and a farmer’s market, and there’s the potential to actually service this area with rail,” she says. “I’m skeptical but hopeful.”

Clearly these modern suburban offices can’t resolve all of a community’s planning issues on a single, isolated site. But even companies that do try to affect change on a larger municipal level are often turned off by the required public process, which Mozingo calls “long, arduous, boring, and annoying.” Despite these misgivings, Mozingo’s understanding of urban history gives her faith that suburban corporate architecture could remedy the problems it has wrought.

“One of the reasons cities function really well,” Mozingo says, “is that in the first few decades of the 20th century, after industry had its way, there was a coalition of progressives who said, ‘We want good lighting, good transportation, and clean water in our cities. We’re going to have sidewalks and streets with orderly traffic, and we’re going to do some zoning so you don’t have a tannery right next to an orphanage.’ They put in big public institutions like museums and theaters and squares with fancy fountains. It cost everybody money, but was agreed on by both the public and private sectors. This is the reason why we still love San Francisco and New York City. Even if we don’t live there, we like going there.

“Believe me, in 1890, cities in the United States were just dreadful–but by 1920, they were much better, and everybody could turn on the tap and drink some water. This was not a small victory,” Mozingo emphasizes. “Suburban corporations have to realize that they’re in the same situation: They have to build alliances with municipalities, counties, state agencies, and each other to come together and spend the next three decades figuring it out—and it is going to take decades.”"
suberbs  suburbia  apple  google  ibm  belllabs  isolation  2016  cities  urbanism  us  corporatecampuses  janejacobs  allanpred  publicspace  urbanplanning  segegation  whiteflight  history  class  race  racism  1970s  1980s  housing  jobs  economics  work  generalmotors  transportation  publictransit  normanfoster  architecture  louisemozingo 
august 2016 by robertogreco
10 Lessons Learned by Rereading Jane Jacobs – Common Edge
"1. The mythical “ballet of the streets” motif is a tiny portion of the book.

That section, which occurs early on, is electric. It’s like an early John Cheever story. But the rest of Death and Life is a dense, meticulously constructed attack on the city planning orthodoxies of the day. Today it reads as a sort of literary polemic, fused with an urban planning and economics manual for cities. No wonder everybody’s head exploded in 1961.

2. Having said that: Jane’s magic world of Hudson Street feels as distant as Colonial Williamsburg.

It’s a Lost World. Her famous house at 555 Hudson Street sold in 2009 for the “bargain price” of $3.5-million.

3. Jacobs was remarkably prescient on gentrification.

She didn’t invent the term or even use it. But she observed (and I don’t know how, since most cities were in decline at the time) that lively diverse neighborhoods are always at risk for becoming victims of their own success, because newcomers invariably alter the characteristics that made these neighborhoods appealing to them in the first place. Today this seems obvious and self-evident, but that’s largely because of Jane Jacobs.

4. Jacobs won the battle of Ideas, but countervailing forces, including suburbia, won the war on the ground.

The conventional wisdom is that Jacobs ultimately prevailed. But did she really? Locally, she defeated Robert Moses, no doubt, but America sprawled and suburbanized for a half century, pretty much unimpeded, and many of the urban planning ideas that she so soundly debunked have had a Zombie-like resilience. Jacobs created a durable moral compass. Shamefully, it’s a best practices handbook that developers, especially, feel free to cite and then ignore when it suits them.

5. Jacobs-style urbanism (diversity of uses, scales, buildings, people) may be impossible to achieve with current development models.

New urban neighborhoods—even ones that at least attempt to adhere to her principles—often feel cold and sterile. They just can’t replicate the intricate web of relationships that Jacobs celebrated. These develop over time and at multiple scales, even small ones. It’s precisely these smaller scales, in fact, that give our best neighborhoods soul; unfortunately, when you’re building new, the haberdasher and the dry cleaner don’t pencil out economically.

6. Everyone, neighborhood activists and developers alike, cherry picks her ideas.

Many of her ideas were abused, like standard songs that have been covered (far too often) by inferior artists. It’s precisely why developers and activists who constantly evoke her should occasionally re-read her.

7. While the book’s lessons are indeed timeless, the examples she uses to illustrate them are now historic.

Truth be told, the examples—if you’re a native New Yorker of a certain age—border on the nostalgic. (The Italian butcher. The experimental theater. The candy store!) It makes reading the book in 2016 both fascinating and a bit rueful.

8. She was amazingly on-point about the effect of cars on cities.

Her remedy—what she called “car attrition” (making it more difficult for cars to operate in cities, rather than outright banning them)—predates the work of Jan Gehl and ideas like congestion pricing by several decades.

9. Despite what NIMBY-ists would like to believe, Jacobs was not anti big buildings.

She was against large, stand-alone, single-use buildings. Big buildings, surrounded by other structures of different sizes, scales and uses, were perfectly OK (even dreaded sports arenas).

10. Although it’s a fun parlor game for urban geeks, no one really knows which projects Jane Jacobs would have “approved” of.

But here’s a safe bet for what she would have surely opposed: anything that involved the use of eminent domain."
janejacobs  via:jarrettfuller  urban  urbanism  gentrification  2016  cities  martinpedersen  nimbys  nimbyism  development  eminentdomain  cars  transportation  jangehl  congestion  neighborhoods  community  diversity  scale  suburbia 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Futuristic straddling bus allows cars running underneath - YouTube
"Tired of traffic jams and tail gas? The design of electric "straddling buses" lets cars drive underneath them, and can help reduce air pollution. Also known as land airbus, the new invention is less costly than subway systems."

[via: https://twitter.com/Exen/status/760736548388216832
via: https://twitter.com/burritojustice/status/760740212343312384 ]

[See also:
"China's elevated bus: Futuristic 'straddling bus' hits the road"
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-36961433

"China finally built an elevated bus that straddles traffic and it's totally bizarre"
http://www.theverge.com/2016/8/2/12360620/china-TEB-elevated-straddling-bus-unveiled

"Everything That Makes China's New Traffic-Straddling Bus So Fascinating"
http://jalopnik.com/everything-that-makes-chinas-new-traffic-straddling-bus-1784768447 ]
buses  transportation  china  publicstransit  masstransit  streets  2016 
august 2016 by robertogreco
Los Angeles Future Rail & BRT | Transit Maps by CalUrbanist
"Transporting the masses has always been a zero-sum game in Los Angeles. L.A. was built by streetcars; then modern L.A. was built around the car. Only recently have Angelenos begun to realize that any metropolis of 16 million*, no matter how lowrise, cannot live on roads alone. The long-term project to rebuild the Red Car network got underway in the ’80s, but 2008 was a turning point. That’s when voters approved Measure R, a 30-year tax to, among other things, build multiple Metro Rail lines. This fall, voters will get an opportunity to double down on Measure R by raising the tax, making it permanent, and building more lines. The map below is based on that proposition, Measure M. It also includes a couple of unrelated projects that are largely funded and likely to happen. Stylistically, the diagram draws on clean and simple Central European examples. (* Depending on how you measure it, there are somewhere between 13 and 19 million people in Greater Los Angeles.)"
losangeles  transportation  future  transit  publictransit  trains  measurer  measurem  maps  mapping  lightrail  metro 
august 2016 by robertogreco
San Francisco has become one huge metaphor for economic inequality in America — Quartz
"With the average house in San Francisco costing over $1.25 million and median condo prices over $1.11 million, the minimum qualifying income to purchase a house has increased to $254,000, as estimated by the the California Association of Realtors. Considering that the median household income in the city currently stands around $80,000, it is not an exaggeration to say that the dream of home ownership is now beyond the grasp of the vast majority of today’s renters.

For generations, the stability and prosperity of the American middle class has been anchored by home ownership. Studies have consistently shown that the value of land has outpaced overall income growth, thus providing a huge advantage to property owners as a vehicle of wealth building. When home prices soar above the reach of most households, the gap between the haves and the have nots dramatically increases.

If causal factors leading to housing unaffordability are not resolved over multiple generations, the social stratification will start to resemble countries like Russia, where a small elite control a vast share of the country’s total wealth.

The result? A society where the threat of class warfare would loom large. According to a 2010 study conducted by the University of Warwick, a society’s level of happiness is tied less to measures of quantitative wealth and more to ties of qualitative wealth. This means that how a person judges their wellbeing in comparison to their neighbors has more of an impact on their happiness than their objective standard of living. At the same time, when a system no longer provides opportunities for the majority to partake in wealth building, it not only robs those who are excluded of opportunities, but also of their dignity.



Our impending housing crisis forces the uncomfortable question of what type of society we would like to be. Will it be one where elites command the vast bulk of wealth and regional culture is defined by a cutthroat business world? We were recently treated to a taste of the latter, when local tech employee Justin Keller wrote an open letter to the city complaining about having to see homeless people on his way to work.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But solutions need to be implemented now, before angry mobs grow from nuisance to serious concern. It may take less than you might think. There are only so many housing reform community meetings one can sit through.

Ultimately, the solutions to our housing crisis are fairly clear. We need to increase the density of housing units. We need to use existing technology to shorten travel times and break the geographical bottleneck.

There is a way to solve complex social and economic problems without abandoning social responsibility. This is the Bay Area’s opportunity to prove that it can innovate more than just technology."
housing  inequality  sanfrancisco  bayarea  us  cities  wealth  wealthinequality  transportation  trains  2016  affordability  density  society  technology  geography  frederickkuo  economics  policy  development 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Third L.A. with Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne | KCET
"Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne partners with Artbound for an episode that looks into the future of Los Angeles. "Third L.A. with Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne" examines the city's architecture, urban planning, transportation and changing demographics, giving us a glimpse of Los Angeles as a model of urban reinvention for the nation and the world."

[See also:

"Is Los Angeles a Horizontal City?"
https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/tall-buildings-los-angeles-vertical-construction

"Is Los Angeles a City of Houses?"
https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/los-angeles-architecture-history-multi-family-housing

"Is Los Angeles a City of Immigrants?"
https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/demographics-of-los-angeles-immigrantion

"Is Los Angeles a Private City?"
https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/privacy-segregation-in-los-angeles

"What is the Third Los Angeles?"
https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/christopher-hawthorne-critic-third-la-los-angeles ]
christopherhawthorne  carolinamiranda  losangeles  urbanplanning  2016  architecture  urban  urbanism  transportation  demographics  barbarabestor  michaelmaltzan  michaelwoo  history  future  density  cities  development  gentrification 
june 2016 by robertogreco
San Francisco’s transit system stopped being polite and got real about complaints on Twitter - Vox
"Wednesday was a rough day for two of the biggest public transit systems in the US. First, the Washington, DC, Metro shut down its train service for 29 hours Wednesday for safety inspections. Then on Wednesday night, electrical problems caused delays on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) network.

And when BART customers complained on Twitter about yet another delay, the people behind the system's Twitter account started getting real.

Rather than a cheerful, anodyne apology for the delay and a promise to do better, they detailed the systemic problems afflicting mass transit in the Bay Area and elsewhere. They told their customers the truth: These issues aren't easy to fix, and Wednesday's delays are unlikely to be the last.

[embedded tweets]

This isn't just a Bay Area problem — its transit agency is just being unusually honest. Mass transit systems throughout the US are in very, very bad shape. A study in 2010 by the Federal Transit Administration found that 26 percent of rail mass transit systems were in poor or marginal condition.

An association of most of the nation's largest transit systems — including BART and DC's WMATA — reported in 2015 that transit systems need $104 billion in backlogged repairs in order to bring them up to good working order. They're not getting it, and the backlog keeps growing."
sanfrancisco  bayarea  bart  transit  masstransit  publictransportation  transportation  2016 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Why the Economic Fates of America’s Cities Diverged - The Atlantic
"What accounts for these anomalous and unpredicted trends? The first explanation many people cite is the decline of the Rust Belt, and certainly that played a role."



"Another conventional explanation is that the decline of Heartland cities reflects the growing importance of high-end services and rarified consumption."



"Another explanation for the increase in regional inequality is that it reflects the growing demand for “innovation.” A prominent example of this line of thinking comes from the Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti, whose 2012 book, The New Geography of Jobs, explains the increase in regional inequality as the result of two new supposed mega-trends: markets offering far higher rewards to “innovation,” and innovative people increasingly needing and preferring each other’s company."



"What, then, is the missing piece? A major factor that has not received sufficient attention is the role of public policy. Throughout most of the country’s history, American government at all levels has pursued policies designed to preserve local control of businesses and to check the tendency of a few dominant cities to monopolize power over the rest of the country. These efforts moved to the federal level beginning in the late 19th century and reached a climax of enforcement in the 1960s and ’70s. Yet starting shortly thereafter, each of these policy levers were flipped, one after the other, in the opposite direction, usually in the guise of “deregulation.” Understanding this history, largely forgotten today, is essential to turning the problem of inequality around.

Starting with the country’s founding, government policy worked to ensure that specific towns, cities, and regions would not gain an unwarranted competitive advantage. The very structure of the U.S. Senate reflects a compromise among the Founders meant to balance the power of densely and sparsely populated states. Similarly, the Founders, understanding that private enterprise would not by itself provide broadly distributed postal service (because of the high cost of delivering mail to smaller towns and far-flung cities), wrote into the Constitution that a government monopoly would take on the challenge of providing the necessary cross-subsidization.

Throughout most of the 19th century and much of the 20th, generations of Americans similarly struggled with how to keep railroads from engaging in price discrimination against specific areas or otherwise favoring one town or region over another. Many states set up their own bureaucracies to regulate railroad fares—“to the end,” as the head of the Texas Railroad Commission put it, “that our producers, manufacturers, and merchants may be placed on an equal footing with their rivals in other states.” In 1887, the federal government took over the task of regulating railroad rates with the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Railroads came to be regulated much as telegraph, telephone, and power companies would be—as natural monopolies that were allowed to remain in private hands and earn a profit, but only if they did not engage in pricing or service patterns that would add significantly to the competitive advantage of some regions over others.

Passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890 was another watershed moment in the use of public policy to limit regional inequality. The antitrust movement that sprung up during the Populist and Progressive era was very much about checking regional concentrations of wealth and power. Across the Midwest, hard-pressed farmers formed the “Granger” movement and demanded protection from eastern monopolists controlling railroads, wholesale-grain distribution, and the country’s manufacturing base. The South in this era was also, in the words of the historian C. Vann Woodward, in a “revolt against the East” and its attempts to impose a “colonial economy.”"



"By the 1960s, antitrust enforcement grew to proportions never seen before, while at the same time the broad middle class grew and prospered, overall levels of inequality fell dramatically, and midsize metro areas across the South, the Midwest, and the West Coast achieved a standard of living that converged with that of America’s historically richest cites in the East. Of course, antitrust was not the only cause of the increase in regional equality, but it played a much larger role than most people realize today.

To get a flavor of how thoroughly the federal government managed competition throughout the economy in the 1960s, consider the case of Brown Shoe Co., Inc. v. United States, in which the Supreme Court blocked a merger that would have given a single distributor a mere 2 percent share of the national shoe market.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren explained that the Court was following a clear and long-established desire by Congress to keep many forms of business small and local: “We cannot fail to recognize Congress’ desire to promote competition through the protection of viable, small, locally owned business. Congress appreciated that occasional higher costs and prices might result from the maintenance of fragmented industries and markets. It resolved these competing considerations in favor of decentralization. We must give effect to that decision.”

In 1964, the historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter would observe that an “antitrust movement” no longer existed, but only because regulators were managing competition with such effectiveness that monopoly no longer appeared to be a realistic threat. “Today, anybody who knows anything about the conduct of American business,” Hofstadter observed, “knows that the managers of the large corporations do their business with one eye constantly cast over their shoulders at the antitrust division.”

In 1966, the Supreme Court blocked a merger of two supermarket chains in Los Angeles that, had they been allowed to combine, would have controlled just 7.5 percent of the local market. (Today, by contrast there are nearly 40 metro areas in the U.S where Walmart controls half or more of all grocery sales.) Writing for the majority, Justice Harry Blackmun noted the long opposition of Congress and the Court to business combinations that restrained competition “by driving out of business the small dealers and worthy men.”

During this era, other policy levers, large and small, were also pulled in the same direction—such as bank regulation, for example. Since the Great Recession, America has relearned the history of how New Deal legislation such as the Glass-Steagall Act served to contain the risks of financial contagion. Less well remembered is how New Deal-era and subsequent banking regulation long served to contain the growth of banks that were “too big to fail” by pushing power in the banking system out to the hinterland. Into the early 1990s, federal laws severely limited banks headquartered in one state from setting up branches in any other state. State and federal law fostered a dense web of small-scale community banks and locally operated thrifts and credit unions.

Meanwhile, bank mergers, along with mergers of all kinds, faced tough regulatory barriers that included close scrutiny of their effects on the social fabric and political economy of local communities. Lawmakers realized that levels of civic engagement and community trust tended to decline in towns that came under the control of outside ownership, and they resolved not to let that happen in their time.

In other realms, too, federal policy during the New Deal and for several decades afterward pushed strongly to spread regional equality. For example, New Deal programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Bonneville Power Administration, and the Rural Electrification Administration dramatically improved the infrastructure of the South and West. During and after World War II, federal spending on the military and the space program also tilted heavily in the Sunbelt’s favor.

The government’s role in regulating prices and levels of service in transportation was also a huge factor in promoting regional equality. In 1952, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered a 10-percent reduction in railroad freight rates for southern shippers, a political decision that played a substantial role in enabling the South’s economic ascent after the war. The ICC and state governments also ordered railroads to run money-losing long-distance and commuter passenger trains to ensure that far-flung towns and villages remained connected to the national economy.

Into the 1970s, the ICC also closely regulated trucking routes and prices so they did not tilt in favor of any one region. Similarly, the Civil Aeronautics Board made sure that passengers flying to and from small and midsize cities paid roughly the same price per mile as those flying to and from the largest cities. It also required airlines to offer service to less populous areas even when such routes were unprofitable.

Meanwhile, massive public investments in the interstate-highway system and other arterial roads added enormously to regional equality. First, it vastly increased the connectivity of rural areas to major population centers. Second, it facilitated the growth of reasonably priced suburban housing around high-wage metro areas such as New York and Los Angeles, thus making it much more possible than it is now for working-class people to move to or remain in those areas.

Beginning in the late 1970s, however, nearly all the policy levers that had been used to push for greater regional income equality suddenly reversed direction. The first major changes came during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Fearful of inflation, and under the spell of policy entrepreneurs such as Alfred Kahn, Carter signed the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. This abolished the Civil Aeronautics Board, which had worked to offer rough regional parity in airfares and levels of service since 1938… [more]
us  cities  policy  economics  history  inequality  via:robinsonmeyer  2016  philliplongman  regulation  deregulation  capitalism  trusts  antitrustlaw  mergers  competition  markets  banks  finance  ronaldreagan  corporatization  intellectualproperty  patents  law  legal  equality  politics  government  rentseeking  innovation  acquisitions  antitrustenforcement  income  detroit  nyc  siliconvalley  technology  banking  peterganong  danielshoag  1950s  1960s  1970s  1980s  1990s  greatdepression  horacegreely  chicago  denver  cleveland  seattle  atlanta  houston  saltlakecity  stlouis  enricomoretti  shermanantitrustact  1890  cvannwoodward  woodrowwilson  1912  claytonantitrustact  louisbrandeis  federalreserve  minneapolis  kansascity  robinson-patmanact  1920s  1930s  miller-tydingsact  fdr  celler-kefauveract  emanuelceller  huberhumphrey  earlwarren  richardhofstadter  harryblackmun  newdeal  interstatecommercecommission  jimmycarter  alfredkahn  airlinederegulationact  1978  memphis  cincinnati  losangeles  airlines  transportation  rail  railroads  1980  texas  florida  1976  amazon  walmart  r 
march 2016 by robertogreco
What Happened to the Great Urban Design Projects? - The New York Times
"— Dave Eggers, “This Bridge Will Not Be Gray”

This new book, a collaboration between Eggers and the artist Tucker Nichols, who created the deceptively simple paper cutout illustrations, is a love letter to infrastructure. Eggers’s proclamation that the Golden Gate is beloved because it’s outrageous and weird may fly in the face of just about everyone’s attitude about infrastructure, but it also gets at exactly what we should be feeling about bridges and tunnels.

Awe.

American infrastructure is deferred home maintenance on a massive scale. We just keep putting it off until something major — and often catastrophic — happens, and then it ends up costing twice as much as it would have had we taken care of it proactively. This is a bad strategy — yet it’s the strategy that seems to define United States infrastructure.

There is no awe. There are issues of structural integrity. There are mind-blowing cost overruns. Accidents. Sinkholes. Problems with bolts.

The first design proposed for the Golden Gate was, writes Eggers, “the strangest, most awkward and plain old ugly bridge anyone had every seen ... people compared it to an upside-down rat trap.” (Here is what it looked like.) The public demanded something better — and they got it.

A century later, we’ve lost our collective faith in the power of great projects like the Golden Gate, not to mention our trust in the government to fix a pothole on time and on budget, let alone create an inspiring bridge. How can we restore that faith in possibility?

Let’s take some inspiration from Atlanta — yes, Atlanta! — which is putting the finishing touches on the Atlanta BeltLine, one of the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States.

The BeltLine is a 22-mile loop of old railroads encircling downtown Atlanta that connects 45 neighborhoods. The project repurposes this historic rail corridor as a new transit greenway, featuring streetcars that connect to existing rail and 11 miles and counting of trails for running, walking and biking. Mostly underutilized industrial properties surround it. These are now becoming perfect sites for new mixed-use, dense projects, including 5,600 units of affordable housing.

The Atlanta BeltLine began as a master’s thesis project. (I don’t know about you, but my master’s thesis project is in a cardboard box in the garage.)



"Yet engineers, planners and policy makers tend to focus on wonky stuff like percentage of parkland per person. They’re awash in acronyms like V.M.T. (vehicle miles traveled), too reliant on planning terms like modeshare that don’t resonate with the general public. These things may be useful in measuring the metrics of a city, but they sure don’t get to the reasons people want to live there. You don’t move to one city because it has 35 percent more parkland per person than another city. You move there because you fall in love with it, or with someone there, or you get a job there, or your family is from there. We need to address metrics, but the bigger goal is to make cities that we love.

Los Angeles, a seemingly even more unlikely candidate to bring awe to infrastructure, is nevertheless doing it, with a dazzlingly ambitious transportation plan (the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, has even publicly crooned for road improvements), and also by rediscovering the long-neglected (and abused, frankly) river it was built around. Now, the once largely paved-over 51-mile L.A. River, like the BeltLine, has taken on this mantle of the future again.

Elon Musk’s fanciful Hyperloop may never be built, but let’s give him credit for capturing our collective imaginations. (For a look at other examples of bold, courageous and unusual infrastructure that do, see the slide show.) We can take a lesson from Musk and from Gravel, too, that infrastructure shouldn’t be viewed as an obstacle or a headache but something to behold. That it’s part of something bigger. “People don’t love the physical thing of the BeltLine,” says Gravel. “They love that it’s changing the city. It allows us to look beyond the shortcomings of the city and look ahead to the future and be excited about that.”

In an age of cost overruns, project delays, safety risks and the other, seemingly infinite obstacles to infrastructure, this all might sound awfully reductive, even naïve. But keeping our eye on what’s possible is certainly as important as fixating on what isn’t."
2016  atlanta  planning  metrics  urbanplanning  allisonarieff  daveeggers  infrastructure  goldengatebridge  history  ryangravel  atlantabeltline  beltline  transportation  housing  funding  politics  policy  losangeles  elonmusk  hyperloop  lariver  losangelesriver 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Amid Renaissance, Tijuana Looks to Improve Transit
"Tijuana may finally be making progress on improving its public transit.

It’s been a long time coming. The city’s current bus fleet, for instance, is made up of secondhand U.S. school buses, painted in multicolor and privately run. The city’s mayor has acknowledged the issue.

But Tijuana has begun construction on a 23-mile bus rapid transit system – a higher-quality bus service with dedicated lanes, larger and nicer stations and more regular service. It’s expected to be finished in less than a year and will run up to the Puerta Mexico, the Mexican side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The city has also has laid out plans for a light-rail system that links up to the Mexican portion of the railroad known as the Desert Line, or the Via Corta, which is also being renovated for use as a cargo train at night and a passenger train during the day.

Those plans, however, are still just plans. It’s far from a sure thing they’ll ever come to pass.

Oscar A. Cortes, executive coordinator of Binational Relations for the Federation of Civil Engineers from Mexico, said these improvements were a long time coming, but now they’re needed to continue the urban revitalization Tijuana’s gone through in recent years.

“But to continue to do this, we need to pay attention to how we move people,” Cortes said in Spanish.

The BRT will go from Florido, in the southeastern part of Tijuana, to Puerta Mexico, running down Avenida Revolucion and on highways beside the Tijuana River Channel. The project has been in the planning stages for the past four years. It received a grant of roughly $50 million from the Mexican government. Known as La Ruta Troncal or Ruta 1, the BRT will provide service to an estimated 300,000 passengers daily, for the price of a little less than a dollar per ride, said Cortes.

The renovation of the Via Corta, a freight rail that runs from Tecate to Tijuana, is still in its conceptual stages, with plan proposals and studies under way.

The company that’s handling the renovation of the freight line, as well as the Baja government, both presented their visions for the cross-border train and urban light-rail line during the October meeting of a binational group focusing on bridge and border crossing issues, said a spokesperson of the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the State Department.

“Right now, this railroad doesn’t do anything,” Cortes said, in Spanish. “It’s causing big economic delays in the region because we can’t use it.”

A trolley system proposal has also been laid out in a planning document from the Baja secretary of infrastructure and urban development. It is proposed to span about 20 kilometers in Tijuana and could serve 65,000 passengers and would ultimately connect with Via Corta. But it’s is in the very early stages and doesn’t have a funding source yet, Cortes said.

BRT projects have been the public transit of choice in many cities in Latin America, said Dario Hidalgo, director of integrated transport at EMBARQ, a World Resources Institute program that helps the Mexican government oversee public transportation projects it finances.

“Most cities have chosen BRT and bus improvements for its cost-effectiveness,” said Hidalgo. “There are some initiatives for light rail and rail in Tijuana, but as with any federal funding they need to go through an evaluation process and many projects don’t make a cut.”

San Diego’s business community is keeping a close eye on Tijuana’s public transit investments."
tijuana  sandiego  mexico  border  borders  transit  transportation  2015  mayasrikrishnan  busrapidtransit 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Marcus Lyon’s best photograph: the 12-lane road in Dubai that we are all on | Art and design | The Guardian
"I was in Dubai in 2010, doing a speech for a charity, when I discovered the amazing Sheikh Zayed Road. It has 12 lanes, tall buildings and skyscrapers on either side, and stretches right through the middle of the city. I booked a hotel next to it so that I could get up on to the roof. I was probably up there for about an hour and a half, hanging over, shooting straight down. You get a bit dizzy doing that.

The photograph started out as a little sketch in a book, though, just some lines, dots and ideas. Initially, I wanted to do something more music-based, but it morphed into a representation of my petrol-using life. It’s a composite of about 1,000 photos, and it took three months to make. I have a whole team of people who work with me to create an image like this, although I’m in charge of the idea. There are 750 vehicles in the end result, and they are meant to stand for the 750,000 miles that I and the average car-owner will drive in a standard lifetime.

Part of the thinking behind the work is that people are too visually literate and the world too fabulously complicated for me to say what I want in a single shot. So I bring multiple images together to create a greater truth. I think an image taken at 125th of a second is kind of a lie: it’s a moment captured in time, but then it disappears. With multiple images, I can go deeper, be subversive. So when people see this mega road I’ve created, they instantly ask questions. Is that really the world we live in? Is this image real or not? Where do I fit in to all of this?

Although I cut my teeth on large-format photography, I now use digital cameras and computer manipulation. But I think it’s essential to make sure the perspective is still correct and the image works from one point of view. So, at the top of this picture, I made sure that you see slightly more of the sides of the buses than you do at the bottom, where you would be looking straight down on them.

In the modern world, photography is instantly disposable. What I think is fascinating about images made this way is that they are really gluey. You get mesmerised by them. Your eyes are drawn to the whole composition, yet they can’t quite settle anywhere. As a final touch on all my creations, I insert a little Marcus. In this one, I’m in the top left-hand corner riding a bicycle."
dubai  photography  marcuslyon  traffic  cars  transportation  sheikhzayedroad 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The 5, the 101, the 405: Why Southern Californians Love Saying 'the' Before Freeway Numbers | LA as Subject | SoCal Focus | KCET
"Southern Californians have a distinctive -- "Saturday Night Live's" Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig might say funny -- way of giving directions. To get from Santa Monica to Hollywood, take the 10 to the 110 to the 101. Burbank to San Diego? The 134 to the 5. And, if you can, always avoid the 405.

Why the definite articles? After all, a resident of the Bay Area enjoys coastal drives along "101" or takes "80 east" to Sacramento. Most of North America, in fact, omits the "the" before route numbers.

The answer begins with the region's early embrace of the freeway. Long before the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 gave most U.S. cities their first freeways, Los Angeles had built several. These weren't simply extensions of federal interstate highways through the city; they were local routes, engineered to carry local traffic and (partly) paid for by local funds. It only made sense that, as they opened one by one, they'd get local names, ones that succinctly denoted their route or destination. The freeway through the Cahuenga Pass thus became the Cahuenga Pass Freeway, and Angelenos knew the freeway to San Bernardino as the San Bernardino Freeway.

State highway officials did affix route numbers to these freeways. But clarity dictated that Southern Californians continue to use their descriptive names. In their early years, most Los Angeles-area freeways bore signs for multiple numbered highway routes. The Pasadena Freeway, for example, was Route 6, 66, and 99, all at once. The Harbor Freeway carried both Route 6 and Route 11. The Hollywood, Route 66 and 101. Who wouldn't prefer the simplicity of a name over a confusing array of numbers?

Soon a shorthand emerged for describing a route through the city. Joan Didion captured this Southern California vernacular in "Play It As It Lays" (1970), in which Maria "drove the San Diego to the Harbor, the Harbor up to the Hollywood, the Hollywood to the Golden State, the Santa Monica, the Santa Ana, the Pasadena, the Ventura."

How, then, did that morph into "the 405 to the 110, the 110 up to the 101, the 101 to the 5, the 10, the 5, the 110, the 134"?

Two developments convinced Southern Californians to refer to freeways by number rather than name. In 1964, the state simplified its highway numbering system, ensuring that, with few exceptions, each freeway would bear only one route number. Around the same time, a flurry of new construction added unfamiliar freeway names to the region's road maps. Drivers found it easier to learn new numbers like the 605 or the 91 rather than new names like the San Gabriel River Freeway or the Redondo Beach Freeway.

Although the transition was gradual -- numbers only eclipsed names in common usage in the late 1970s, and Caltrans still included the old names in signage through the 1990s -- Southern Californians eventually joined the rest of North America in referring to freeways by number. But when they did, they retained their old habit of prefixing a definite article, the, giving rise to a regional idiom that still confounds and amuses outsiders today."
socal  freeways  losangeles  sandiego  language  history  transportation  cars  names  naming  roads 
november 2015 by robertogreco
How Nairobi Got Its Ad-Hoc Bus System on Google Maps | WIRED
"The idea to map the matatus began in 2012 when Sarah Williams and Jacqueline Klopp, two researchers working on land use projects in Nairobi, connected with Groupshot co-founder Adam White. “Adam and I started talking about the problem of working on sustainable transportation,” says Klopp, an associate research scholar at the Columbia Center for Sustainable Urban Development. “There were all these transportation projects going on, but there was no basic data about the existing transit system in Nairobi.”

The annals of the city government held some matatu data, but not much. Digital Matatus found records for about 75 percent of the routes, but they only included the start and end points, making it impossible to know how the buses navigated through the city. So armed with smartphones, ten university students spent four months riding the matatus, noting the name and location of each stop in a purpose-built app, which also used GPS to track the route. In dangerous neighborhoods, they followed behind the brightly painted buses in private cars.

By the end, the students recorded almost 3,000 stops on more than 130 routes. Next, all that data needed to be put in a usable format—specifically, a global standard called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS), which is compatible with open-source software used to make routing apps like Google Maps. But GTFS, developed in 2005, is geared towards formal transit systems, ones with fixed times and schedules.

That’s when Digital Matatus connected with Google Maps. Along with the rest of the robust GTFS community, Google agreed to update the global standard to make room for flexible transit networks with constantly changing schedules, routes, and stops. Nairobi was a perfect test bed. “In our efforts to expand public transportation on Google Maps, it was a good place to go next because there were people eager and willing to work on it,” said Mara Harris, a Google rep."



"Launching the matatu routes in Google emphasizes the need to study the informal transit networks that shuttle masses of people around in sub-Saharan Africa, southeast Asia, and south Asia. “You’re saying this is part of the system,” said Klopp. And since the GTFS data structure and the Nairobi data are open source, Digital Matatus gives other groups in Mexico City, Manila, Dhaka, China, and elsewhere a plan to collect and disseminate data on their transit. The collaboration has already received requests from around the world to map their cities.

Digital Matatus has also started talks with four more cities in Africa—Kampala, Accra, Lusaka, and Maputo—to use the same methods to map their informal mass transit systems. “So many of our problems in developing cities where you have extreme poverty and awful environmental conditions—they’re always tied in some way to the transport sector,” said Cervero. “It’s very chaotic and unmanaged, so this is a huge first step towards enhancing those services.”

People in Nairobi still use the paper maps because the matatu routes have not changed since their release, and the ultimate goal is a formal transit system with set maps, times, and prices. But hopefully “formal” will still mean you enjoy your commute with twinkling disco balls and a good beat."
nairobi  googlemaps  buses  transportation  maps  mapping  publictransportation  africa  kenya  matutus 
september 2015 by robertogreco
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