An App For Democratizing Street Design

When autonomous vehicles take over the streets, the streets will change to accommodate them: Expect special priority lanes, curbside pickup “docks,” and a massive reconfiguration of superfluous parking spaces once people no longer drive themselves.

Put in charge, how would you shape the thoroughfares of the future? A simple but intriguing tool called ReStreet invites any would-be transportation engineer to flesh out ideas. Developed and released a team of planning and design specialists at the University of San Francisco and California Polytechnic State University, ReStreet offers two template streetscapes, one urban and suburban, for reimagining.

Designate a preferred width for the street, and a use for the land sandwiching it—homes, vacant lots, a waterfront, and high-density apartments are all options. As you see fit, drag and … Read the rest

Where New York City Is Going Next

Few people have had a greater impact on the look and feel of New York City than Dan Doctoroff. As deputy mayor of economic development for the first six years of the Bloomberg Administration, he presided over the fine-grain rezoning of 40% of the City, as well as the mega-projects that have come to define 21st century New York.

This is part two of my Q&A with Dan Doctoroff, who recently published a memoir, Greater Than Ever, about his time in the Bloomberg administration. In part one, we discussed the City’s post-9/11 transformation. In this installment, we look to the future of transportation and technology, and discuss Donald Trump’s temperament.

A mantra today among urban economists is to get rid of zoning and build Read the rest

Lab Report: What’s Causing the Upsurge of Violent Crime in Cities?

Crime trends: Increases of violent crime and homicides in a few urban centers—including Chicago, Baltimore, and Las Vegas—have driven up the national violent crime numbers for the second year in a row, according to F.B.I. data. Police officials and criminologists are divided on the exact causes of the upsurge, The New York Times reports:

“The question really is, what is different now from 15 years ago in terms of why crime has increased?” said John K. Roman, a criminologist at the University of Chicago. “And the only thing that has changed is the distrust between heavily policed communities and local police. It’s not a coincidence that cities that have crime increases have also had problems between communities and the police.”

Tense vote: Angela Merkel’s victory yesterday … Read the rest

What If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef?

In America, beef accounts for 37 percent of all human-induced methane released into the air. Methane is 23 times as warming to the climate as carbon dioxide. In a recent article, Atlantic senior editor James Hamblin highlighted research that found one dietary change—replacing beef with beans—could get the U.S. as much as 74 percent of the way to meeting 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals. As Hamblin notes, it’s worth being reminded that individual choices matter.… Read the rest

What Would a Hydrogen Bomb Do to the Pacific Ocean?

The latest fiery exchange between the United States and North Korea has produced a new kind of threat. On Tuesday, during his speech at the United Nations, President Trump said his government would “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary to defend the United States or its allies. On Friday, Kim Jong Un responded, saying North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

The North Korean leader didn’t elaborate on the nature of this countermeasure, but his foreign minister provided a hint: North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

“It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific,” Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly … Read the rest

The Genomic Revolution Reaches the City Crime Lab

Lisa Ziegert disappeared from the gift shop where she worked on April 15, 1992, and her body was found four days later. From then until this past Monday, her murder remained unsolved.

Then on Monday, the local district attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced the arrest of a 48-year-old man for Ziegert’s death. Among the clues that led police to him was a computer-generated “mug shot” based on DNA found at the crime scene 25 years ago. Back then, the idea of predicting a face based on DNA would have seemed like science fiction. It is still rare today, but law-enforcement officials can quite easily order up such a test from the Virginia-based company Parabon NanoLabs.

Ziegert’s case is already being touted as an example of the … Read the rest

Lab Report: Flint’s Water Crisis Had a ‘Horrifying’ Effect on Fetal Deaths

Troubled waters: A new study associates the lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan, with a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages, after the city changed its public water supply in 2014. The Washington Post reports:

During this time period, residents in Flint were generally unaware of the amount of lead in their water. “Because the higher lead content of the new water supply was unknown at the time, this decrease in [the general fertility rate] is likely a reflection of an increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages and not a behavior change in sexual behavior related to conception like contraceptive use,” Grossman and Slusky conclude.

They next turned to deaths of fetuses of 20 weeks gestation and older, excluding abortions, which are reported by hospitals.

Read the rest

Rural California Awaits Its ‘Uber’

A farmworker’s hamlet in a sea of almond trees, Cantua Creek, California sits 22 miles from the nearest grocery store, 30 miles from the hospital, and 50 miles from the courthouse. When the county bus to Fresno makes its infrequent stops in town, what would be a one-hour car ride can take three. There is no Uber here, and no official local taxi company. For the many locals who don’t own vehicles, or know how to drive, these treks can be arduous, even impossible distances.

But they’re about to get a little easier. In the coming weeks, a brand-new seven-seat Tesla Model X will be ferrying residents of this 500-person Central Valley outpost to distant towns, at what’s expected to be the cost of a bus … Read the rest

Beirut Tries to Get Back on the Bike

Under a low moon, three dozen cyclists filed through one of the hipper neighborhoods of Beirut. The bars lining the street were filling with the Thursday-night crowd, who gawped as the bikers rolled by in oversized neon-yellow vests. Some cyclists wove skillfully between parked cars; others wobbled precariously. Drivers rolled down their windows to shout questions at the unlikely peloton. “What’s happening? Where are you going?”

Beirut isn’t used to bicycles. Thanks to its aggressive drivers, pockmarked pavement, buzzing scooters, and a general disregard for rules of the road, cycling around the Lebanese capital requires the focus and agility of a martial-arts master.

But luckily for the Thursday-night cyclists—especially those logging their first-ever minutes on a bike saddle as adults—a crew of confident stewards protected the … Read the rest

What George Stephanopoulos Gets Wrong About Climate Policy

This weekend, we got a great view into the broken way that the American political media covers climate change. Many people sense that U.S. politics reporters don’t always cover global warming in the most substantive or evidence-grounded way. This weekend provides a good example of how their coverage is also frequently negligent and just plain silly.

On Sunday, George Stephanopolous hosted H.R. McMaster, the president’s national-security adviser, on ABC’s This Week. Amid a discussion that touched on many aspects of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, Stephanopolous asked McMaster about the Paris Agreement.

At the time, The Wall Street Journal was reporting that Trump might not withdraw from the climate pact; the paper has since more or less backed off that report. But even though the … Read the rest

The Commuter Parking Benefit Is Seriously Hurting Cities

There’s no shortage of conflicting priorities between the federal and city governments, ranging from the life-threatening to the seriously wonky. Tax subsidies for parking are decidedly in the latter category, but they really do have a big impact on urban life.

A new report from TransitCenter lends some statistics to show just how big that impact really is: Commuter benefits programs (also known as tax subsidies) for drivers—or rather, parkers—cost the U.S. $7.3 billion each year, add about 820,000 commuters to the road, and result in an extra 4.6 billion miles driven annually.

The effect is most pronounced in central business districts, where even a small increase in cars at peak times can lead to severe congestion. And because parking tends to be most expensive in … Read the rest

Scientists Can Now Repaint Butterfly Wings

When the butterfly emerged from its pupa, Robert Reed was stunned. It was a Gulf fritillary—a bright-orange species with a few tigerlike stripes. But this butterfly had no trace of orange anywhere. It was entirely black and silver. “It was the most heavy-metal butterfly I’ve ever seen,” Reed says. “It was amazing to see that thing crawl out of the pupa.”

Reed’s team at Cornell University had created the metal butterfly by deleting just one of its genes, using the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR. And by performing the same feat across several butterfly species, the team showed that this one gene, known as optix, controls all kinds of butterfly patterns. Red becomes black. Matte becomes shiny. Another gene, known as WntA, … Read the rest

The Real Difference Between Warm and Cool Colors

The internet abounds with techniques for teaching elementary schoolers the difference between warm and cool colors—an often-invisible, somewhat flexible line down the middle of the color wheel to separate warm reds, oranges, yellows, and browns from cool blues, greens, purples, and grays. The balance between them is said to enhance the beauty of Baroque landscapes and the Mona Lisa. Interior designers claim that cool colors recede and make rooms expand, while warm colors make rooms cozier.

Still, the basis for the warm-cool divide has remained murky, largely resting on the sometimes ambiguous and overlapping feelings different colors give people, as opposed to any clear scientific distinction. But a new study might change that: Across languages, it suggests, warm and cool colors can be distinguished by … Read the rest