Tag Archives: CityLab

How Seattle Is Winning the War on the Car Commute

Seattle is among the fastest growing cities in the U.S., thanks largely to Amazon’s addition of 35,000 employees since 2010. For all the economic benefits that come with growth, it has also created a variety of civic headaches, crippling traffic chief among them.

But thanks in part to considerable efforts by the region’s largest employers, the share of commuters driving solo into downtown Seattle is on a dramatic decline.

Just 25 percent of workers traveling into the center city drove themselves, according to the results of the latest annual commuter survey by the Seattle Department of Transportation and nonprofit partner Commute Seattle. This is the lowest share since the city started keeping track in 2010.

The number of cars is also trending downwards, according to … Read the rest

A Mexican Village Where Aztec-Era Agriculture Remains

As twilight hits the southern edge of Mexico City, campesinos (peasant farmers) glide through narrow canals between pastures as they make their way over the water to deliver crates of produce. It’s January, the middle of the dry season, and through the slopes of the surrounding hills and volcanoes, desiccated lettuce and spinach fill the fields amid the lagoons of Xochimilco.

San Gregorio Atlapulco, in Mexico City’s Xochimilco municipality, is the last bastion of the once great chinampa economy. During Aztec times, it functioned as the motor for the sustenance of up to 1.5 million people in the Valley of Mexico. Tenochtitlan, the island capital of the Aztecs, is where the Mexica built their pyramids in the Lake of Texcoco. It was intimately integrated Read the rest

How Structural Racism is Linked to Higher Rates of Police Violence

The question that typically pops up when black people are killed by police is whether racism had anything to do with it. Many studies do show that racism plays a part in causing police to pull the trigger more quickly on black suspects. That’s usually because of the implicit racial biases of the individual police officer involved. Law enforcement officials often try to rule out racism by arguing that you can’t tell what’s in a officer’s heart when these killings happen.

But what a team of researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health recently endeavored to find out was whether the kind of racism that’s woven into laws and policies also informs racial disparities in police violence. Their findings were released in the Read the rest

Big Data Suggests Big Potential for Urban Farming

Gotham Greens’ boxed lettuces have been popping up on the shelves of high-end grocers in New York and the Upper Midwest since 2009, and with names like “Windy City Crunch,” “Queens Crisp,” and “Blooming Brooklyn Iceberg,” it’s clear the company is selling a story as much as it is selling salad.

Grown in hydroponic greenhouses on the rooftops of buildings in New York and Chicago, the greens are shipped to nearby stores and restaurants within hours of being harvested. That means a fresher product, less spoilage, and lower transportation emissions than a similar rural operation might have—plus, for the customer, the warm feeling of participating in a local food web.

“As a company, we want to connect urban residents to their food, with produce grown a … Read the rest

Are Dockless Bikes a Cybersecurity Threat?

On a blue-sky day in Washington, D.C., dockless bikes are the ticket to ride. Key in your credit card digits into any one of five dockless bikesharing apps, locate a candy-colored two-wheeler nearly anywhere in town, and unlock it with a QR-code scan. For just a buck or two an hour, you can cruise to your heart’s content.

Meanwhile, your personal data is also taking a little trip. From unlocking to relocking, your name, payment information, geographic location and route are getting beamed, via smartphone and a chip on the bike, to company servers. Where? It depends on which company you’re riding with.

If your bike comes courtesy of the Beijing-based companies Ofo or Mobike—the two dominant dockless players, now muscling their way into … Read the rest

The Quiet Rise of the Downtown Tech Campus

Last week, it was revealed that Google will buy the Chelsea Market building in Manhattan, across the street from its main offices in the old Port Authority building, for as much as $2.5 billion. The mind-boggling sales price would make this the second-most expensive real estate deal in New York City history, and it demonstrates the lengths to which Google is willing to go to consolidate its burgeoning presence in Chelsea.

The move is also indicative of a far wider trend: While all eyes have been trained on Amazon’s salacious HQ2 search, Google and its peers have been quietly transforming many urban neighborhoods into de-facto tech campuses.

When the Chelsea Market deal goes through, Google will own or lease approximately 4.6 million square feet in … Read the rest

The Real Cause of the Opioid Crisis

America’s devastating opioid epidemic is one of the biggest problems the country faces. More than 2.5 million Americans are currently addicted to powerful opioids. Drug deaths have shot up since 2010, rising some 28 percent in just the past year, with nearly 175 Americans losing their lives to opioids everyday.

One persistent narrative, backed by a good deal of expert opinion, is that the epidemic is an outgrowth of deepening economic and geographic inequality, with “deaths of despair” brought on by the lack of high-paying, family-supporting jobs for working- and middle-class Americans, who then turn to drugs to cope with the pain and distress of economic dislocation.

A recent NBER study provides new evidence that lagging economic conditions are not the primary explanation. The working paper, … Read the rest

Paris Plans a Suburban Forest Five Times the Size of Central Park

With its car bans, huge transit expansion, and radical pedestrianization plans, Paris has been developing quite a name for itself recently as an aggressive fighter against urban air pollution. For its next major assault on bad air, however, the metro area is proposing to deploy an ancient weapon: trees. In fact, it would be using one million of them.

These trees would be planted as part of what could yet be this century’s grandest urban and suburban re-greening projects: the creation of a new forest north of the city limits that, at its final 1,350 hectare (5.2 square mile) extent, will be five times the size of New York’s Central Park.

The plan to plant a new forest on the plain at Pierrelaye-BessancourtRead the rest

Where an HQ2 Could Most Help Me Find a Boyfriend

After reporting on the Amazon bidding war for several months, I think I have finally determined the perfect region in which to locate an HQ2, for me, a single girl in Washington, D.C., specifically: Washington, D.C.

Okay, hear me out for a second. I know all the shortlist options are, like, special in their own ways, and believe me, I know there are issues with the whole Amazon HQ2 situation writ large. Bidding wars hurt cities, and an Amazon HQ2 in D.C. would probably wreak more than a bit of economic and infrastructural havoc. (Read CityLab. We cover that.)

But as Valentine’s Day nears, I couldn’t help but wonder…would the hunt for Amazon HQ2 also help me find a boyfriend?​

​Jeff, just HUMOR ME, … Read the rest

A New State Preemption Battlefield: Dockless Bikesharing

Last July, bright green bikes from the dockless bikeshare company LimeBike started appearing in Miami Beach. It wasn’t immediately clear if the company was trying to quietly launch their system, or if people were just riding the bikes the 15 miles from Key Biscayne, where LimeBike had legally set up shop.

Miami Beach officials deemed them “unauthorized” and responded with $1,000 fines for the company and threats to impound the bikes. A LimeBike spokesperson says it was a misunderstanding caused by Key Biscayne users bringing bikes to Miami Beach; the issue was resolved after they came and collected their stray bikes.

The situation was demonstrative of the typical give-and-take between municipalities as this polarizing new mobility mode emerges and individual communities decide whether or not to … Read the rest