Tag Archives: urban planning

Lab Report: Uber’s Europe Problem

Uber’s European setback: A European court’s ruling that Uber should be regulated as a transportation service—not an app—could hobble the company’s growth in the continent. The New York Times reports:

Uber cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers,” Mr. Szpunar wrote in an opinion that will be reviewed by the European Court of Justice, which is expected to make a final ruling by late summer.

“It is undoubtedly transport which is the main supply and which gives the service meaning in economic terms,” Mr. Szpunar added.

Didn’t see that coming: In a surprising victory for Obama’s environmental legacy, the Senate fell short of overturning a regulation that restricts methane emissions from drilling operations on public lands. (Washington Post)… Read the rest

Amazing City Maps That Look Like They’re Made of Wood

Melody Cao is a freelance map designer in San Francisco; most of the work she does involves moving data and pixels around. But she also loves woodworking. Her new project has find a way to combine those interests: She creates digital maps of world cities designed to look like they were hewn from exquisitely finished kinds of wood, so convincingly craftsy you can almost smell the beeswax finish.

Different surface types have different textures—there’s a nice maple for certain buildings, while water has a wave-y bird’s eye veneer. The result is an interactive and antique store-worthy view of the world produced via Mapbox Studio Classic, based on data from OpenStreetMap, that references the intricate inlaid patterns used in cabinets, tables, and other kinds … Read the rest

Lab Report: Immigration and America’s Most Diverse City

Immigration battlefront: Houston has bucked its historic trends to become the most racially and ethnically diverse major city in the U.S.—and now, a major political stage for immigration reform as Texas goes hard on sanctuary cities. The L.A. Times reports:

The story of how [the] city turned from a town of oil industry roughnecks and white blue-collar workers into a major political centrifuge for immigration reform, demographic analysts say, is nothing less than the story of the American city of the future.

Affordability crisis: A New York Times Magazine profile of U.S. families suffering from the burden of housing costs points to an entitlement in the tax code (the “MID” in wonk-speak) as perpetuating the worst shortage of affordable housing the nation has seen … Read the rest

Japan’s Newest Train Is Basically a Luxury Hotel on Rails

In Japan, trains are more than just a way to get around. The shinkansen, or high-speed rail network, was the world’s first; after more than 50 years, it remains a symbol of the country’s economic success after the devastation of World War II. Today, these bullet trains stretch across the country, bringing rural locales and cities far from Tokyo into a centralized, urban fold.

The nation’s rail network is already the idol of transportation enthusiasts around the world, and the latest addition is sure to attract even more adoration. A new long-distance train, the East Japan Railway Company’s Shiki-Shima, launched this week, and it’s already earning praise as perhaps the most luxurious train in the world. Its 10 cars hold 17 spacious suites, some … Read the rest

Bangkok’s Street Vendors Are Not the Enemies of Public Space

For a moment, it seemed like Bangkok was going to lose the very street food culture that’s defined the city for decades. Local newspaper The Nation reported last Tuesday that the city was planning to ban food stalls in all 50 of its districts as part of an effort to “clean up” the streets and “return the pavements to the pedestrians.” All would disappear by end of this year—the sweet and sticky aroma of coconut (a staple Thai ingredient), the sizzle of noodles hitting the wok as vendors fire up an order of pad thai, and the chaotic charm that draws some 20 to 30 million international tourists to the city each year.

After a public outcry, garnering media attention across the globe, Thailand’s chief of … Read the rest

Anatomy of the 7 Train

The 7 train is known for more than just rogue subway surfers. It’s a key line on the New York City public transit network, and arguably, the most diverse commute in the country. And this year, it marks its 100th year in operation.

Nicknamed the “International Express,” the 7 kicks off on Main Street, in Flushing, Queens; cuts through East Asian, Latino, South Asian, and other immigrant locales; and terminates in Hudson Yards, Manhattan. In 1999, the White House Millennium Council deemed it a National Millennium Trail for being a testament to the immigrant experience.

The route of the 7 train and the Flushing catchment area (Courtesy of Columbia University Press)

A new book by urban sociologists Stéphane Tonnelat and William Kornblum sketches a … Read the rest

This Magic Dutch Traffic Light Helps Bicyclists Avoid Stopping

Springlab

Red lights are the momentum-sucking bane of any bicyclist—they add time to the trip and kill your physical efficiency (just ask a physicist!). But thanks to some weird, animal-based technology in the Netherlands, riders may soon be able to sail through the city on a magic wave of green lights without having to worry about stopping for cars.

Flo, a traffic system that went into place last week in Utrecht, is a tall, blue kiosk abutting a bike path. Using sensors, it determines cyclists’ speed from hundreds of feet out and displays several kinds of symbolic advice. If cyclists need to speed up to catch a green light at the next intersection, they get a hare (not to be confused with a rabbitRead the rest

The Invisible Network That Makes Cities Work

Do you trust your neighbor? With your spare keys? With your dog? To not look when you change clothes with the blinds open? And has that behavior changed?

As patterns of communication, social interaction, and economic exchange shift, so too does the nature of trust. You can’t see trust. You can’t touch it. But like the copper below city streets and the wires above them, a network of trust undergirds urban neighborhoods and communities. And it’s undergoing something of a revolution.

Economists who write about trust love behavioral game theory experiments that measure the risk-reward premium of trust. The Trust Game, a version of Daniel Kahneman’s famous Dictator Game, allows counterparts to loan or give each other money … Read the rest

The Hopes and Fears Around Ben Carson’s Favorite Public Housing Program

When Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren asked Ben Carson what he would do as HUD secretary to address the condition of U.S. public housing, Carson enthusiastically singled out one program for praise—the Rental Assistance Demonstration program (RAD), a five-year-old federal initiative that has gone largely under the radar. He said he’s “very encouraged” by RAD’s early results, and “looks forward to working with Congress to expand this worthy program.”

RAD works by transferring public housing units to the private sector, so that developers and housing authorities can tap into a broader range of subsidies and financing tools to rehab and manage the units. Given Congress’s refusal to adequately fund public housing and the billions of dollars needed for backlogged repairs, supporters say RAD is the best available … Read the rest

Singapore, City of Sensors

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Armed with a deep pool of tech entrepreneurs and startups—not to mention a government that’s eager to make the most use out of them—the island-nation of Singapore offers a wealth of urban innovation.

Today’s Singapore provides free WiFi inside subway stations, and it’s paved the way for its first driverless taxis. With limited access to fresh water, the city-state has also developed technology to catch rain and desalinate some 100 million gallons of seawater a day. Even its fabled fancy bus stops get a dose of high technology.

Then there are the sensors, cameras, and GPS devices. They’re on trains, … Read the rest

Yes, Elite Women’s Clubs Still Exist

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

The Sulgrave Club is an elite women’s organization that has occupied its location—a tan brick mansion in the tony Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Dupont Circle—since 1932. That year, the widow of a millionaire gentleman farmer from upstate New York, who earlier in the century had used the house as her winter residence, sold it to a group of similarly privileged D.C. women for their new club.

Inside, all is tastefully upholstered in pale greens, yellows, and subdued floral patterns. Large spaces, including a ballroom, and smaller chambers with couches and chairs arranged for conversation, serve, as the website notes, … Read the rest

Naked Germany, Straining at the Seams

This post is part of a CityLab series on open secrets—stories about what’s hiding in plain sight.

Tourists making their initial visit to Germany sometimes do a double-take the first time they they see a naked person.

Germans think nothing of stripping to sunbathe. They do it on on beaches, by lakes, and in heavily frequented urban parks in Berlin and Munich. It’s not unheard of to see unclothed people on regular park lawns or topless on balconies. The country is one of the few places in the world where naturism occurs not just in secluded areas, but in the heart of major cities. German-style public nudity, known as Freikörperkultur (or “free body culture,” and usually shortened to FKK), dates back to the 19th … Read the rest

Learning From Two Months of Illuminating Abandoned Homes

For two months last fall, Breathing Lights wove through New York’s Capital Region. Using gently pulsing lighting to humanize abandoned buildings, it was frequently perceived as a celebration, a sales pitch, or a call to action, but rarely as just art.

The installation literally shed light on an awful problem—abandoned and collapsing buildings in poor neighborhoods—for which solutions have not surfaced. It also gave the sad properties some TLC just briefly, only to return them to darkness.

“The lights had to be short lived to draw attention to the longer-lasting things,” says Adam Frelin, the upstate New York artist who Read the rest