CityLab

  • MapLab: How Game of Thrones Got Mappy
    Welcome to the latest edition of MapLab. Sign up to receive this newsletter in your inbox here.

    When the final season of Game of Thrones aired its first episode in April, some 17 million viewers were treated to a brand-new title sequence. The nearly two-minute-long, 3D-animated map of Westeros and beyond that kicked off the show since season one had been revamped with new locations, a spiffier aesthetic, and a sharper sense of scale. Vulturous fans swarmed to dissect the changes, piecing apart every possible piece of symbolism, foreshadowing, and Easter-eggy goodness.Now viewers know where Game of Thrones’ many twists led. (Giphy)

    No wonder. Like the map-filled pages of many great epics, the GOT opener helps flesh out a realm of total fantasy, grounding viewers and helping suspend disbelief in a world that involves dragons, zombies, and winters that can last for decades. It also rewards the repeat viewing that cultish fans are wont to do: Famously, the woodsy forms and iron gears shift with every episode, not only pinpointing locales that watchers will travel to but also previewing some of the action, including major plot points.

    Created by the design studio Elastic, the cartographic tour was originally developed as a way to establish locations in between scenes. But that broke up the narrative awkwardly, according to accounts by GOT’s creative minds, so instead the conceit was pushed to the top of the show and matched to cello-heavy theme music befitting the epic journey. Based on the hundreds of articles written about that opening sequence alone, it seems that was the right choice for fans.The opening sequence to Game of Thrones transformed in season 8 to show the fallen Wall. (Giphy)

    To keep reliving those Iron Throne days, here’s some of the internet’s most inspired writing about the moving map of Westeros. And feel free to send me a raven about why you loved (or hated!) that opening sequence.

    Behind the scenes

    “The secrets behind the Game of Thrones title sequence” (Entertainment Weekly)

    Game of Thrones: How One of TV’s Most Epic Title Sequences Was Born” (Vanity Fair)

    Plot dissection

    Game of Thrones’ season 8 opening credits provide a new history lesson” (Polygon)

    “The Game of Thrones Season 8 intro credits foreshadowed every major death in order” (Hidden Remote)

    “Every new change in the 'Game of Thrones' opening credits you might have missed” (Insider)Forget plot lines. Why not map fault lines, as two Australian researchers did on this existing fan-map of the biomes of the Game of Thrones universe? “The geology and tectonics of Westeros and Essos at present-day. Red sawtooth lines represent ‘subduction zones’ where tectonic plates are converging, leading to mountain building and volcanism (like the Andes).” (The Conversation)

    Fan cartography  

    “Why the south of Westeros is the north of Ireland” (Big Think)

    “We made a moving tectonic map of the Game of Thrones landscape” (The Conversation)

    Personal essay

    ”Here at the End of Things: On losing oneself in the geography of fantasy worlds, from Middle Earth to ... read more

    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, May 22, 2019By Laura Bliss
    13 hours ago
  • CityLab Daily: The Psychology of Fighting Over Parking Space
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingCurb your anger: For about a decade, Donald Shoup has collected reports of fatal violence that erupts over parking spaces, cataloging what he calls the war over curb parking. That may sound grim, but to Shoup, an urban economist and parking policy expert, this form of road rage reveals a lesson in economics. When people find a commodity that’s in high demand but considered to be free, they find ways to claim and defend it. When it comes to parking, people may try to hold their spot through lawn chairs, idling cars, or even bursts of violence that lead to death.“You don’t get murders over Coke bottles or t-shirts,” Shoup said. To him, these fatal disputes demonstrate why cities need to pay closer attention to these contested spaces. Sociologists and criminologists have also theorized about why parking provokes violent outbursts, and understanding why these disputes happen could help explain how to fix it. CityLab’s Laura Bliss asks: How Can Cities Curb Parking Spot Rage?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab In Paris, the Eiffel Tower Is Getting a Grander, Greener Park The most famous space in the city is set to get a pedestrian-friendly redesign that will create the city’s largest garden by 2024. Feargus O'Sullivan ‘Corporate Preemption’ Is Making It Harder for Cities to Protect Workers Thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling, more and more companies are using forced arbitration to undermine state and local labor laws. Kriston Capps Netflix’s ‘Street Food’ Reveals a Thriving and Threatened Culture In cities globally, street vendors are an essential source of food and provide critical income to women but recent crackdowns are threatening this lifestyle. Sarah Orleans Reed The Unintended Consequences of Green ‘Nudges’ When participants in a study had the option of approving a behavioral “nudge” to clean energy use, their support for a carbon tax dropped. Kate Yoder What I Learned By Listening to My Neighbors Fight In a dense city that’s filled with humans, neighbors become spectators to one another’s personal lives. Maris Kreizman Harvey Milk DayToday is Harvey Milk Day in California, which commemorates the San Francisco supervisor who became the first openly gay man to hold elected office in the Golden State. Milk, elected in 1977 and assassinated the next year, would have been 89 today.In an L.A. Times newsletter edition marking the occasion, the executive director of the GLBT Historical Society recalls a poignant story when Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, recently visited the museum. Terry Beswick recalls sharing an audio recording of Milk’s will: “In that moment, I was just thinking about giving him a brief look at Harvey Milk,” Beswick remembered. But when he stepped back to allow Buttigieg to listen to the recording, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, May 22, 2019By Andrew Small
    17 hours ago
  • How Can Cities Curb Parking Spot Rage?
    The latest entry in Donald Shoup’s collection of fatal parking disputes is particularly grim. In late April, a 57-year old woman named Lourdes Estremera set up a grill on the street in North Philadelphia and got into a physical fight with a neighbor who wanted to park in the spot. Police arrived, and the woman died while being interviewed. The exact cause of death was unclear, according to local news reports. But the source of the inciting conflict was plain to Shoup, a distinguished professor at UCLA’s department of urban planning and a well-known parking policy expert. Estremera was a casualty in what Shoup calls the war over curb parking.Perhaps that sounds insensitive. To him, it’s basic economics. A commodity in high demand, such as urban curb space, must be priced. “Free” street parking in congested areas invites parking-seekers to stake and defend their claims in other ways, such as putting out lawn chairs, idling the car for hours, or bursts of violence that can sometimes lead to death.“You don’t get murders over Coke bottles or t-shirts,” Shoup said.To Shoup, parking disputes that turn deadly demonstrate why cities must pay closer attention to these contested spaces, by setting up meters and enforcing restrictions. In decades of research, Shoup has examined other social costs of free and overabundant parking, including wasted space, time, and gasoline, and lost revenue that local governments could easily use. He hasn’t formally analyzed them, but he’s also been gathering news reports about violent curb conflicts for about a decade.Consider this gruesome headline from New York City: “Brooklyn dad shot dead on Father’s Day was killed because of a months-old fight about a parking spot.” Or this lede: “A man and a woman from South Los Angeles have been arrested for stabbing a woman to death in front of her children over a parking space at a swap meet.”A quick Google search of parking spot violence will turn up an alarming quantity of such incidents. Sociologists and criminologists theorize as to why violence can erupt from such seemingly inconsequential concerns. Jeffrey Butts, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, says that the dynamics of parking provocations are sometimes similar to those of gang violence: Individuals who think their territory is threatened feel that they have to respond with violence to protect it.Curbside horror stories are often dispatched from poorer neighborhoods, but that may just reflect the nature of sensational crime reporting; the affluent are just as guilty of getting upset over a lost spot or a dinged door. (Case in point: celebrity parking assailant Alec Baldwin.) “Everyone is capable of violence,” Butts said. “This is not just about cities, or poor people, or congested neighborhoods. It’s a general human thing.”Roberta Senechal, a Washington and Lee University history professor who studies theories of violence, said that some parking altercations may be also understood as the attacker trying to save face confronted by a grievance. She cites University of ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, May 22, 2019By Laura Bliss
    19 hours ago
  • In Paris, the Eiffel Tower Is Getting a Grander, Greener Park
    One of the world’s most recognizable urban spaces is slated to get a dramatic makeover. On Tuesday, Paris City Hall announced that the London-based landscape architects Gustafson, Porter and Bowman had been selected from 43 applicants to lead a major redesign of the space around the Eiffel Tower. According to the plan, the currently car-filled bridge connecting the Eiffel Tower with the Métro subway system will be turned into a pedestrianized garden, stringing together a set of two new public squares and restored parkland that will create an unbroken spine of greenery a mile long across the city.The plan would slash car traffic in the immediate vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, making the area altogether more inviting to walkers without notably altering the appearance of what could be the most famous urban ensemble in the world.An overview of the Eiffel Tower master plan//GP+BThat Paris needs this overhaul around the Eiffel Tower is not necessarily common knowledge. The tower itself remains as beautiful as ever—indeed, it is one of those monuments that rarely disappoints people when they see it for the first time in real life. Its immediate surroundings, however, are a little careworn and hectic. Many visitors must access the tower via a loud, traffic-filled, and rather unprepossessing riverside, and limited space for pedestrians creates bottlenecks on the sidewalks. The Champs de Mars gardens from which the tower rises are unquestionably grand, but they also betray their origins as a military parade ground: The site can feel austere, dusty, and under-shaded in high summer.A new amphitheatre of lawn will cover existing car lanes in the Place de Trocadéro//GP+BThe new plan, due to be entirely funded by ticket sales to the tower and due for completion in 2024, should help burnish the area’s beauty and make it friendlier to pedestrians. Currently, most visitors emerge from the Métro at Trocadéro into a busy carousel of traffic, with an (admittedly pretty) garden marooned behind surging car lanes. The redesign removes these car lanes and replaces them with a stepped amphitheater of lawn, creating a large garden for lounging with stunning views of the tower. From there, visitors will step through the brackets created by the Palais de Chaillot and down the steps to a completely new pedestrian square, Place de Varsovie, created by routing traffic on the right bank quay into a tunnel.This area won’t just be calmer, it will also be cooler, thanks to an increase in its current number of fountains.The Pont D’Iena will be pedestrianized and planted with avenues of trees//GP+BVisitors will then step onto the Pont D’Iena, the main bridge access to the tower, where traffic will be replaced by a double avenue of trees. Cobbled sidewalks will allow access for emergency vehicles. Tunneling for traffic on the right bank will create another pedestrian square, called Place Branly, while a riverside garden promenade will continue up river to the elevated Bir Hakeim Métro station, the other main access point for the tower.Under the tower itself, visitors will get more ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, May 22, 2019By Feargus O'Sullivan
    20 hours ago
  • Netflix’s ‘Street Food’ Reveals a Thriving and Threatened Culture
    Netflix’s hit new series “Street Food” is more than a glimpse at the world’s finest street-side chefs. While other shows, most notably, Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown,” have featured the down-home goodness of street cuisine, “Street Food” may be the first to acknowledge the threat street-food vendors face in increasingly exclusionary cities.Take Bangkok: It’s no surprise that the city’s globally beloved roadside vendors are the first featured in “Street Food.” But since 2014, Thailand’s military government has waged an open battle on the city’s street vendors, forcing workers to abandon their businesses or work in the shadows.  The government’s push to clear the sidewalks is not a long-term solution. It has left a trail of social and economic hardship and, with few alternatives, many vendors return to sell in the areas where they started anyway, dodging police fines and confiscations to make ends meet.Even as Bangkok’s approach demonstrates that forced eviction is not a workable strategy, eviction of street vendors is a common tactic around the world. At Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), we analyzed news on vendors from six continents for 18 months and the results show an alarming portrait of widespread hostility toward these workers across Africa, Asia, and Latin America; in cities from Bangkok to Buenos Aires, Lima to Lusaka. These national and local governments enact policies that ban or criminalize these jobs that workers need and services consumers demand. That’s why Netflix’s “Street Food” is timely. It reminds us why cities around the world need to embrace, not ban, street vending. And, as we explain, two very different cities—Los Angeles in the United States, and Monrovia, Liberia—have proven there is a way to make city streets and squares work for all.Who has a right to the city?The question of vending in public spaces has become a global debate. It has brought with it an important question about who has a right to work in cities. Sixty-one percent of the world’s workers (90 percent of workers in developing countries) are informal, and a significant number work in cities. Many of these workers—street vendors, waste pickers, motorcycle taxi drivers and food delivery workers—make their living in public space. The United Nations’s 2016 Sustainable Development Agenda directs governments to respect and support their livelihoods.But many city governments are failing to implement these frameworks. What we are witnessing instead is a growing hostility to informal workers in urban public space and to vendors, in particular, as cities governments cave to elite interests by clearing the streets.Street food is not just for touristsVendors are in public spaces not only to earn a living but as a response to an on-the-ground need. As food writer Chawadee Nualkhair says in the show’s first episode: “The vendors are there because the people want them there.”  People in cities depend on street food. Global research shows that vending keeps city residents, especially the poorest, nourished and fed. In Sub-Saharan Africa, informal outlets like these vendors are a major source of food for urban poor ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, May 22, 2019By Sarah Orleans Reed
    20 hours ago
  • Cities Are Losing Ground in the Fight to Protect Workers
    In May 2016, Brenda Rojas was hired as a server at a national chain restaurant in Salem, Oregon. On her first day, a manager sat down with her and five other new hires and handed them each in turn a tablet, asking them to tick off check boxes on the screen under their name.“He just told us, ‘Oh, this is just saying that you’re not going to sue us ever,’” Rojas says of the legal forms she was given. “’And if you don’t sign it, you don’t get hired.’”Rojas didn’t understand what the document said, but she signed it anyway.  So did the other hires. “We all needed the job,” she says.The job turned out to be grueling: For the first four months, she worked closing shifts, doubles, and back-to-back weekend days. Men in management often made crude comments about the women who worked there; one told an employee directly that he wanted her to wear tighter jeans, Rojas says. When she told another manager, a woman, about the incident, nothing happened.At the end of summer, Rojas asked her managers to dial back her hours as she went back to school. They punished her by giving her undesirable duties or no shifts at all, she says. “I remember an instance where someone wanted to talk to human resources,” Rojas says. “Someone else said, ‘Oh, don’t do that,’ and discouraged them from talking to human resources, because if our managers found out, we would lose hours.”Rojas quit about a year after taking the job. Even now, she doesn’t want to name the national chain, she says, because she doesn’t know what contracts she signed.Oregon has some of the strictest workplace protections of any state in the nation. But these rights, which are designed to protect workers from the kinds of harassment and retaliation that Rojas says she endured, only matter when they are enforced. Between budget cuts and recent court rulings, corporations have new ways to get around strict labor protections.At issue are forced arbitration clauses that require employees (and consumers) to waive their rights to class-action lawsuits. Such contracts are becoming increasingly ubiquitous: According to a new report from the Center for Popular Democracy, Economic Policy Institute, and National Employment Law Project, forced arbitration will apply to more than 80 percent of the non-union private-sector workforce by 2024.“The right to be paid a livable minimum wage, to take meal and rest breaks, to safe workplaces, and to equal earning and promotion opportunities regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or other social category—all of these important rights are at risk of being hollowed out by underenforcement,” the report reads.Forced arbitration also represents a kind of corporate preemption of local and state law. From Albuquerque to Tacoma, more than 40 cities and counties have passed a higher minimum wage than state law requires. Some two dozen municipalities have local paid sick leave laws on the books. And in at least a dozen cities and counties, worker protections cover “safe” days—paid time off for victims ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, May 21, 2019By Kriston Capps
    2 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: The Hottest Trend in Housing Policy
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingEnd zone: In the wake of urban renewal in the 1960s, neighborhoods gained a greater say in deciding their own destinies. And for the past 40 years, residents with greater social power have been incredibly effective at resisting new development. Now, faced with rising levels of housing affordability and inequality, many cities are trying to encourage more density by reforming restrictive zoning codes. It’s a concept that still faces long political odds, but recent examples in Minneapolis and Seattle have shown that, with some patience, it’s possible.It comes down to a simple idea: By allowing more kinds of housing, more of it will get built, and costs will come down. But the plans can take years to pass, and the process can be incredibly divisive. Some ambitious efforts have failed after facing resistance from vocal blocs of residents. “There’s this belief that if you just get rid of single-family zoning, it’s the Mecca,” Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tells CityLab. “And I just I think you’ve got to do more to really make it work right.” CityLab’s Sarah Holder and Kriston Capps have the story: The Hottest Trend in Housing Policy? Make Cities DenserAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Blue-Collar and Service Workers Fare Better Outside Superstar Cities How much money do workers have after paying housing costs? For working-class and service workers in superstar cities, the affordable housing crisis hits harder. Richard Florida An Illustrated History of New York City’s Playgrounds There are more than 2,000 playgrounds spread across New York City. Ariel Aberg-Riger explores the creative and political history of concrete jungle’s jungle gyms. Ariel Aberg-Riger Tenants to Landlord: You’re Not Scanning My Face The landlord of a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn wants to install a facial recognition security system, sparking a debate about privacy and surveillance. Tanvi Misra The Resegregation of Baton Rouge Public Schools Residents of the majority-white southeast corner of Baton Rouge want to make their own city, complete with its own schools, breaking away from the majority-black parts of town. Adam Harris How the Ancient Maya Adapted to Climate Change Instead of focusing on the civilization’s final stages, looking at Mayan adaptations shows how their communities survived for as long as they did. Kenneth Seligson What We’re ReadingInside the long war to protect plastic (Center for Public Integrity)Tuesday could be the beginning of the end for Philadelphia’s soda tax (New York Times)GM’s car-sharing service, Maven, is pulling out of eight cities, including Chicago and New York (The Verge)The cities funding legal defense for immigrants (Next City)Interactive: Where Democrats and Republicans live in your city (FiveThirtyEight)Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, May 21, 2019By Andrew Small
    2 days ago
  • Blue-Collar and Service Workers Fare Better Outside Superstar Cities
    America suffers from a deep and worsening housing crisis, especially in the nation’s superstar cities. It would take the average worker in the Bay Area—a place that is flush with rich venture capitalists and highly paid tech workers—more than a decade of wages and income to afford the median home price. That’s more than four times the typical benchmark of 2.6 years of salary for housing affordability.While much has been made of the housing struggles of middle-class and professional families in expensive cities, the housing affordability crisis hits much harder for the nation’s low-paid blue-collar workers.In a new analysis I conducted with my University of Toronto colleague, Karen King, we introduce a new benchmark for housing affordability: the amount of money residents have left over in wages after paying for housing. We calculate this for the nation’s three major economic classes: the creative class consisting of highly paid professionals, knowledge workers, and cultural creatives; the blue-collar working class of factory, construction, and transportation workers; and the service class who prepare and serve food, take care of kids, and staff stores. We used housing data that reflects the 2017 median monthly housing costs; the wage and salary data is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational and Employment Survey, also for 2017. In total, our analysis covers 382 metros across the United States. My CityLab colleague, David Montgomery, graphed the data.Class Annual average wage Money left after housing Employment (millions) Share of total employment Service class $34,979 $22,715 68.9 48.3% Working class $41,776 $29,512 30.3 21.2% Creative class $82,233 $69,969 42.9 30.1% All workers $50,634 $38,370 142.6 100.0% Note: The median cost of housing is $12,264, or just over $1,000 a month.The nearly 70 million workers who make up America’s service class—almost half of the entire workforce—are left with a meager $23,000 after paying the median price of housing. The 30 million members of the working class do a little better, ending up with about $30,000 left over. Compare this to the 40 million creative class workers who end up with nearly $70,000 left over after paying for the median-priced home: That’s more than three times the number for service class workers.Members of the creative class are actually better off financially in America’s superstar cities and leading tech hubs, even with the through-the-roof housing costs. They end up with anywhere from $75,000 to almost $90,000 left over after for paying for housing in tech hubs like Silicon Valley (San Jose), Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. That’s because the salaries of this class reflect the high cost of housing in these places to begin with. They are able to effectively capture what economists dub the “urban wage premium.” This premium is so substantial in superstar cities that members of the creative class are significantly better off in these expensive metros. Although expenses may be higher in these urban centers, a creative class member in San Jose, for example, has roughly double the income left over after for paying for housing than their ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, May 21, 2019By Richard Florida
    2 days ago
  • Despite Resistance, Cities Turn to Density to Tackle Housing Inequality
    To understand local housing politics over the past several decades, consider a recent study out of Boston University. Political science professor Katherine Levine Einstein surveyed all of the minutes for zoning and planning meetings about housing across 97 cities and counties in Massachusetts. The study covers housing-cost-burdened cities like Boston but also older industrial cities such as Lawrence and Worcester.“In every single city and county we studied, the advantaged dominated the proceedings,” Einstein said at a recent Brookings Institution panel on housing. Residents who are older, men, longtime residents, local voters, and homeowners are much more likely to participate in these meetings. And they are much more likely to oppose new construction than the general public.  Residents who oppose new housing are also whiter. The population of Lawrence is 87 percent Latino or Latina, for example. But during 80 planning and zoning meetings, only one resident who spoke had a Latinx surname, Einstein said.This is the context in which we enter the current debate over housing inequality. Planning by bulldozer failed America. And in the wake of urban renewal, neighborhoods have much greater say in deciding their own destiny today. Yet the last 40 years have shown that local control enables people with greater social power to steer the process.As housing affordability and inequality become national political issues, the people who have long dominated those meetings are starting to see their anti-development agenda upended. Cities are gaining political traction for policies that once seemed out of the question. The newest tool that cities are deploying in the ongoing fight against segregation and housing inequality is to let their streets get denser, in what is known as upzoning. Making zoning more progressive still faces awfully long odds, though, which makes this strategy a question of policy and politics.Minneapolis led the charge last December by introducing a plan designed to explicitly address the legacies of segregation that continue to divide the city. Rewriting the script with Minneapolis 2040, said Mayor Jacob Frey, involved loosening up the restrictions that solidified some of those divisions: Zoning laws.“We need to make sure that the precision of our solutions match the precision of the harm initially inflicted,” he told CityLab in March, when it passed. “And that harm was precise.”Other upzoning plans are committed or on deck. Seattle—home to Amazon, Microsoft, and the third-largest homeless population in the country—loosened the zoning code in 27 transit-oriented urban villages in March. Austin’s city council just approved an ordinance that will allow more homes to be built on single-family zoned plots, but only if a certain percentage of development is affordable. Oregon’s Speaker of the House proposed a bill to eliminate single-family zoning state-wide. Charlotte leaders invited Minneapolis planners to come down to explain how they got it done.However, the most ambitious of these efforts shows how hard upzoning can be. California Senator Scott Weiner’s much-discussed state-wide residential rezoning measure, SB 50, passed the housing committee before it was stalled by the Senate Appropriations Committee. In a disappointment to its ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, May 21, 2019By Sarah Holder
    2 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: An Uber Battle Becomes a Street Fight
    Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.***What We’re FollowingStreet fight: Is Uber a transportation company or just an app that connects riders with drivers? That distinction has big consequences for deciding who regulates the company, and how they do it. While many local, state, and national governments around the world have grappled with this question, in Buenos Aires, it’s a battle that’s playing out in the streets.Uber asserts that it is a “connecting app,” rather than a taxi operation, but the Argentinian government disagrees. It says drivers are operating illegally and subject to steep fines if caught. Drivers, as a result, prefer cash payments and pick up passengers discreetly. Some have even faced attacks from taxi vigilantes called “Uber hunters.” Meanwhile, the government is demanding unpaid taxes from Uber and hindering credit card payments to the company. “When Uber is legal, maybe they’ll reclaim this debt,” one Uber driver in the country tells CityLab. “But I don’t think Uber cares. Why? Because Buenos Aires—Argentina—we’re a little town to them. Nothing. Zero. Uber doesn’t care because it has the whole world.” Today on CityLab: The Dangerous Standoff Between Uber and Buenos AiresAndrew SmallMore on CityLab A Glimpse of an Unbuilt ‘Pei Plan’ The late architect and planner had some very big ideas for Oklahoma City in the 1960s. But the final result wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Mark Byrnes Flying Cars Are Real—And They’re Not Bad for the Climate They might even be greener than electric ones. Robinson Meyer Boston Is an I. M. Pei City Boston was where I. M. Pei produced work that would come to define the city and cement his own reputation as one of the world’s most evocative architects. Chris Grimley The California Legislature Is Getting Played by Micromobility Companies If the California legislature passes AB 1112, cities can’t require companies like Bird, Lime, and Jump to limit numbers, meet equity goals, or fully share data. David Zipper Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government. Daniel Cox and Ryan Streeter Cash Cab “They sell us medallions, and they knew it wasn’t worth price. They knew,” said Wael Ghobrayal, 42, an Egyptian immigrant who bought a medallion at a city auction for $890,000 and now cannot make his loan payments and support his three children. “They lost nothing. I lost everything,” he said. The New York Times has the first two parts of its 10-month-long investigation into New York City’s taxi medallion bubble. How these permits rose to a value of $1 million before crashing in late 2014 looks a lot like the 2008 housing crisis: A confluence ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, May 20, 2019By Andrew Small
    3 days ago
  • A Glimpse of an Unbuilt ‘Pei Plan’
    Welcome to the second season of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.As soon as word spread of I. M. Pei’s death last week at the age of 102, architecture lovers around the world (ourselves included) shared their memories of the much-admired Modernist and his buildings. While most remember Pei for the Louvre and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, folks in Oklahoma City are more likely to recall him for something entirely different: Pei was also an urban planner, and his vision for the young city’s downtown in the 1960s would change it forever.As seen in the 1964 promotional film, A Tale of Two Cities, Pei gave the Urban Action Foundation—a group of Oklahoma City power brokers—the city of tomorrow that they wanted. Gone would be the blighted older buildings and their modest, even unsavory, tenants. In their place would be soaring modern skyscrapers, a massive new convention center, and postcard-worthy public spaces, all filled up with productive, affluent locals and tourists.A Tale of Two Cities moves back and forth between the real and imagined Oklahoma City, cutting between shots of what looks like a pretty normal frontier town with sweeping aerial views of Pei’s model city, which looks slightly more exciting than Crystal City, Virginia.But like so many anxious American downtowns with big dreams at the time, knocking stuff down was the easy part. As recalled by 405 Magazine in 2015, city officials adopted the plan in 1965 and embarked on a demolition spree, flattening 40 percent of the existing downtown (530 buildings!) in anticipation of the Pei’s concrete-and-glass towers. Gone, recalled 405, were the “French-inspired Criterion Theater, the Venetian-themed Baum Building, the ornate Mercantile and Pioneer buildings, the dramatic Patterson Building, the limestone-and-marble Hales Building.” Even buildings not targeted under the Pei Plan were demolished, including the Lee-Huckins and the Biltmore hotels. But as the region sprawled, aided by developers who were more than willing to accommodate their needs, the retail and residential dreams from the Pei Plan never came to be.An aversion to the this kind of ‘60s-style urban renewal eventually emerged, and by the late 1980s, it was time for a reckoning in Oklahoma City. Some of the big architectural visions were realized—the city did get a massive parking garage, a convention center, a new tallest skyscraper in town (surpassed in 2012), a new theater (since demolished), and a botanical gardens—but downtown lost its vitality in the process. By 1993, city officials had established a new capital improvement program (still used today) that was able to more successfully realize a lot of the same ambitions as the Pei Plan: a downtown that could draw in conventioners and tourists while addressing the needs of urban dwellers and attracting more of them.
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, May 20, 2019By Mark Byrnes
    3 days ago
  • Boston is an I. M. Pei City
    At a critical point in its evolution, Boston enjoyed a special relationship with I. M. Pei, who passed away last week at the age of 102. It was the locus of his architectural education, the place where he met his business partner, the sites which established him as a cultural icon, and produced both built and unbuilt work that would come to define both this city, and cement his reputation as one of the world’s most evocative architects.The outlines of Pei’s early years in the Boston area are well known—an undergraduate transfer to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, student and then colleague of Walter Gropius at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, the publishing of his thesis in 1946 in the French journal l’architecture d’aujord’hui, which merged traditional Chinese garden typologies with a highly modernist parti, which would become a signature of Pei’s hand throughout his lengthy career.Pei left Boston, in 1948, to become the architect for the New York developer William Zeckendorf, where he would refine, alongside his future business partner Harry Cobb, ideas in housing and corporate office space in buildings such as Kips Bay in New York, Society Hill Towers in Philadelphia, and Cobb’s Place Ville Marie in Montreal. This professional experience—primarily in the material concrete—that allowed Pei’s work upon his return to Boston to flourish.But Boston beckoned. An invitation from his alma mater would launch his independence from Zeckendorf and form the basis of his and Cobb’s business practice. Pei was invited by MIT in 1959 to design a building for the Earth Sciences Center, which had recently been endowed by Cecil H. Green, an alumnus and co-founder of Texas Instruments. Pei himself was stretched thin with Zeckendorf responsibilities, and assigned Araldo Cossutta initial responsibility for the building’s design. As the initial scheme developed, however, Pei became increasingly unhappy with Cossutta’s solution, in which oval windows were the dominant feature. Pei preferred a more minimal solution, and to his relief, value-engineering necessitated a solution defined by a rigorous grid of concrete apertures set on a nine-foot module.The building program—mostly laboratories and offices—was ideal for a tall and slender tower, which was a drastic departure from MIT’s then-horizontal campus organization. Having gained expertise in concrete in projects such as Syacuse’s Everson museum, Pei’s experiments in the material reach a sublime apogee. There are no superfluous materials, no hiding of the structure as it transitions between interior and exterior. The precision of detailing allowed for the complete elimination of window frames, an unnoticeable detail which endows the tower with an air of irreproachable modesty. The smooth surface of the concrete was the result of a poured-in-place system that used plastic forms reinforced with fiberglass, and a mix that closely matched the limestone of adjacent buildings.The Green Center created a vertical punctuation among the low-rise, neoclassical buildings that then formed the majority of MIT’s stock. Whereas the Great Dome by William Welles Bosworth of 1916 once dominated the campus as a symbol of enlightened learning, Pei’s monolithic, 20-story tower became ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, May 20, 2019By Chris Grimley
    3 days ago
  • The Dangerous Standoff Between Uber and Buenos Aires
    BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—Most Porteños, or residents of Buenos Aires, know the drill when it comes to hailing an Uber. Change the payment method to cash on the app, memorize the driver’s license plate number, be subtle when trying to match the driver on the app to the waiting car, and sit in the front seat when it arrives to look like a pal, not a fee-paying passenger.“There’s a risk to driving an Uber,” said Fabian, 50, an Uber driver in Buenos Aires who didn’t want to give his last name. “The cops can grab us, seize the car, make us pay a fine.”Uber’s operations in the city aren’t legal according to government officials in Buenos Aires, but Uber says Argentina is Uber’s fastest growing market. Confused? You’re not alone. Uber is a taxi service and thus illegally operating, Buenos Aires believes. Uber is a connecting app, and thus doesn’t need to follow regulations for taxi or livery services, Uber contends. This battle over Uber’s identity means that the Uber situation in Argentina is crazy.Since 2016, Uber has been operating in Buenos Aires, the country’s capital, and rapidly adding drivers who are desperate for work in an ailing economy. Yet the city government has throttled Uber and its profits by: punishing drivers caught using Uber, banning Porteños from paying with Argentine debit and credit cards, and preventing Uber from holding an Argentine bank account thereby making it difficult for Uber to collect credit card fees, pay drivers, and take commissions. Thus, as an Uber representative described the company’s position in Buenos Aires to CityLab: “We are now more in an investing mode in terms of how we want to approach this market.”AFIP, the Argentine federal public tax administration, has thrown its weight behind its capital city in the fight: In April, AFIP determined that Uber owes $358 million in unpaid taxes and social security: Advantage, Buenos Aires. Then, barely a week later, an Argentine court overruled the sentence on which AFIP’s findings are based. Advantage, Uber. The May 7 ruling by the court of appeals reversed earlier rulings by finding that Uber was not in violation of the specific allegations of “lucrative use of public space without authorization” and acquitted Uber of “violation of closure.”“If it’s not a crime or a misdemeanor, they cannot say it’s illegal. We’re not violating any law or regulation right now,” Juan Labaqui, Uber’s head of communications for the region, told CityLab.Uber issued a statement in response to the decision saying that the court ruling means Buenos Aires no longer has legal standing to block credit card payments since the court ruled that they were not guilty of those specific violations. But while this ruling removes some of the penalties owed, Buenos Aires claims that it doesn’t make Uber legal. And it’s true that the May 7 ruling also stated that while drivers were able to circulate in public space: "if some drivers do it by providing the public taxi service or remises (livery car services), ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, May 20, 2019By Rebecca Bellan
    3 days ago
  • Navigator: Human Archipelago
    Hi friends,For my last edition of Navigator,* I have a special treat in store for you. I spoke with novelist and author Teju Cole about his new book collaboration with photographer Fazal Sheikh. It’s called Human Archipelago.I love that name because it reminds me of what I imagine is Navigator’s audience—a network of people around the world that functions like a community; a conglomerate of souls curious about the places they live and travel to, who are also interested in inspecting their own place in the world.But back to Cole and Sheikh’s book, which has a bit more of a specific and timely focus. Through portraits and impressionistic text, the book explores the lives of displaced and dispossessed people around the world. Its structure affords the viewer/reader glimpses of a migrant’s journey and invites us to consider what stories, dreams, histories, and complications lie behind the steady gazes of the people pictured in the book. Alongside the images is Cole’s ruminative and impressionistic text, which provides another layer—deepening the experience. Hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.What we’re writing:Forget Airbnb; here’s FairBnb! ¤ Designing a butterfly-friendly city. ¤ In cities, we’re spectators to the lives of our neighbors. ¤ What Jeff Bezos’s futuristic vision borrows from the 1970s. ¤ The surprising history of the American playground. ¤(Ariel Aberg-Riger)What we’re taking in:Calcutta, then and now. (Quartz India) ¤ On traveling, with mom. (Glamour) ¤​ ​​​​​​“By any calculus, he was one of the first black celebrities in the South.” (The New Yorker) ¤ “The traffic is a permanent feature on the roads in Accra.” (Popula) ¤  Good night, Boa Vista. (n+ 1) ¤ German émigrés in Manhattan. (The Baffler) ¤ ​​​​​​“Thirty years living in New York and years of traveling for work had taught me that the fastest way to orient yourself with any city is to walk it as much as you can.” (Vice) ¤ Who owns the NYPD brand? (Vox) ¤View from the ground:@gmasera captured this sleek apartment building in Manhattan. @_bithia highlighted the many skyways in Atlanta. @__txiki__ saw this twisting tower near San Francisco's Embarcadero. @whatthebruff visited the shiny Seattle Public Library.Tag us with the hashtag #citylabontheground and we'll feature your photos on CityLab’s Instagram page or pull them together for the next edition of Navigator. *I’m off to a new adventure and will no longer be a staff writer for CityLab, but Navigator is not going anywhere. Future editions will be handled by my very able colleagues, so don’t miss out! It’s been a real joy writing Navigator, and hearing from you. Over and out, Tanvi ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Saturday, May 18, 2019By Tanvi Misra
    5 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City
    What We’re FollowingNo stone unturned: I. M. Pei died Thursday at the age of 102 after a long career as an architect of great renown. Most known for his glass pyramid addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris, the China-born, M.I.T-educated, and Harvard-molded architect took on commissions both big and small around the world, particularly in the United States.Since the 1960s, he helped define the ambitions of American cities through various cultural, academic, and civic commissions on high-profile sites including the JFK Library (Boston), the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (D.C.), Everson Museum (Syracuse), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland). Although mostly earning praise over the years, Pei’s firm was nearly ruined in the 1970s by the fallout from faulty glass panels used for the facade of the Hancock Tower in Boston. And then there was the Pei Plan for Oklahoma City, adopted in 1965, which demolished various treasured buildings and nearly 40 percent of downtown for a new “City of Tomorrow” that was hardly realized before local resentment pushed officials to move on and make a new plan in the ’90s.Pei’s career was long and impressive. The work of his firm and the civic ambitions that fueled it are inescapable. Stay tuned to CityLab over the next few days as we publish stories about his designs and his legacy.—Mark ByrnesMore on CityLab How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City The architect, who died yesterday at the age of 102, designed iconic modern buildings on prominent sites around the world. Here are some that delight and confound CityLab. CityLab Staff ‘Fairbnb’ Wants to Be the Unproblematic Alternative to Airbnb The vacation rental industry is mired in claims that it harms neighborhoods and housing markets. Can a nonprofit co-op make the tourist trend a community asset? Feargus O'Sullivan Former NYC Housing Czar Alicia Glen on Upzoning, Amazon HQ2, and More In an interview, the former deputy mayor under Bill de Blasio says diversity is the key to New York’s growth: “Even with all of our warts, we’re the best.” Richard Florida Should Texting While Crossing the Street Be Illegal? A New York lawmaker wants to fine pedestrians for distracted walking. Street-safety advocates say it’s an ineffective policy that may actually cause more harm. Linda Poon The ‘Broken Windows’ Debate Survives Its Creators The theory, introduced in a 1982 Atlantic article, that maintaining order could reduce the incidence of serious crimes remains contentious 35 years later. Annika Neklason Concrete Jungle Gym (Ariel Aberg-Riger/CityLab)New York City’s public playgrounds are so ubiquitous they’re almost invisible. With over 2,000 spread out across five boroughs, tens of thousands of kids play in them every day. But just over a century ago, they didn’t exist. As the city industrialized and urbanized, children played in streets, alleys, and vacant lots. In the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, May 17, 2019By Mark Byrnes
    6 days ago
  • How I. M. Pei Shaped the Modern City
    I. M. Pei died Thursday at the age of 102 after a long career as an architect of great renown. Most known for his glass pyramid addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the East Building addition to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the China-born, M.I.T.-educated, and Harvard-molded architect took on commissions both big and small and helped reshape cities around the world through the second half of the 20th century.After studying under former Bauhaus master Walter Gropius, Pei worked for New York City real estate developer William Zeckendorf from 1948 to 1960, where he designed various gridded concrete towers. In the following decades he helped define the ambitions of modern cities through various cultural, academic, and civic commissions on high profile sites. While his straightforward geometric forms aren’t for everyone, so many of his buildings are used by seemingly everyone. Here are some that have delighted and confounded CityLab staff over the years:The Louvre Pyramid, ParisInstead of competing with the surrounding buildings, Pei’s diaphanous pyramid accentuated their age and beauty. (Charles Platiau/Reuters)“The first year and a half was really hell. I couldn’t walk the streets of Paris without people looking at me as if to say … ‘What are you doing to our great Louvre?’” Pei’s words (told years later to a documentary crew) capture just how negative the reaction was to his famous pyramid when its design was unveiled.The embodiment of French culture, the ancient Louvre has been a medieval fortress, a royal palace, and since the French Revolution, a public museum (it is now the world’s largest art museum). After so many modifications over the centuries, it had become a dense, confusing maze for visitors. Which is where Pei came in, in 1983. His solution was a bold one: Build a new entrance in the exterior courtyard, as well as new public spaces and corridors underground. The new entrance would be a metal-and-glass pyramid, utterly different from the buildings around it in form and style. Parisians were appalled.But there’s more than one way to show deference to history. Instead of competing with the surrounding buildings, the diaphanous pyramid accentuated their age and beauty. Pei’s inspired approach to combining old and new won Paris (and the world) over, and made his pyramid an enduring symbol of the city in its own right.-Amanda Kolson HurleyL’Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.L’Enfant Plaza is a reminder that architecture and urban design are distinct arts, and that innovation can rapidly curdle into obsolescence. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)Marking Pei’s 100th birthday a couple of years ago in the Washington City Paper, I wrote that L’Enfant Plaza is “a dead zone, an overscaled void where you expect to see tumbleweeds blowing through.” With all respect for the dead, my opinion of it hasn’t changed. L’Enfant doesn’t work as an urban space. The proportions are wrong; it doesn’t offer a sense of enclosure as the Louvre’s courtyard does. The street on its western edge is a Brobdingnagian 150 feet wide. Not all of L’Enfant’s failures ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, May 17, 2019By CityLab Staff
    6 days ago
  • Will California Preempt City Control of Micromobility Companies?
    If you are a Californian expecting your city’s leaders to provide an equitable, safe mix of transportation options, you may soon have a problem. State legislators in Sacramento are debating a bill that would strip away many of the tools cities using to shape policies for micromobility devices (e-scooters, e-bikes, and dockless bikes) offered by companies like Bird, Lime, and Jump.Should it become law in its current form, Assembly bill 1112 (AB 1112) could curtail cities’ ability to: ensure micromobility access in underprivileged communities, establish caps on the total number of vehicles, or collect trip information to improve transportation policy. In a Democratic, urbanized state, it’s surprising to see legislators consider such an infringement on local authority.As approved by the Legislature’s Assembly committee on April 30, AB 1112 includes language that would prevent local micromobility regulations “requiring operation below cost.” That could block cities from pursuing equity goals, such as Oakland’s requirement that half of all shared e-scooters be placed in “communities of concern” as identified by the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Without cities pushing micromobility companies to provide equitable access, it’s likely that residents in less affluent neighborhoods would have a tougher time finding a ride.  The bill goes further, banning any “unduly restrictive” local e-scooter regulations. That language could be used to challenge caps on the total number of shared e-scooters permitted in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles. We’ve already seen in cities like Dallas the chaos that can follow an absence of rules around micromobility deployment.AB 1112 has national significance, as California has long been ground zero for new mobility technologies. Lyft, Lime, and Uber are all based in San Francisco, and Bird is headquartered in Santa Monica. The first dockless e-scooters launched in Santa Monica in September 2017, and Los Angeles is the largest American city where shared e-scooters are currently legal.AB 1112 would ban California cities from collecting individual trip data, allowing them to collect only aggregated data from micromobility companies. This would effectively kill Los Angeles’s groundbreaking digital tool, the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) that allows cities to monitor individual micromobility trips in real time and issue guidance to the companies providing them. Cities including Santa Monica, Seattle, Providence, and Louisville are currently using MDS to inform their e-scooter policies.MDS has been controversial, with critics like the Center for Democracy and Technology claiming that the collection of individual trip data by the public sector jeopardizes the privacy of micromobility users. But defenders of MDS tout the data’s value to policymakers facing decisions like where to install a bike lane or how to ensure e-scooter availability in low-income communities. Last month Los Angeles began requiring scooter companies to provide data through MDS—over the strong objections of Jump, the micromobility provider owned by Uber.To be fair, critics of MDS have argued that the use of aggregated trip data—which has fewer privacy risks compared with individual data—could still resolve the specific policy questions city officials face. Mobility data wonks are engaging in robust debates ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, May 17, 2019By David Zipper
    6 days ago
  • Should Texting While Crossing the Street Be Illegal?
    Texting while walking is so dangerous it should be outlawed. That’s the case one New York state lawmaker is making as he proposes new fines on pedestrians who use their mobile devices while crossing the street.The proposed bill from State Senator John Liu, who represents a portion of Queens in New York City, calls for fines between $25 and $50 for a first-time offender, $100 for a second time, and $250 thereafter.But can a fine on distracted walking really cut down on pedestrian-related traffic incidents? “This is just about common sense,” Liu told Gothamist earlier this week, saying distracted walking is an increasing public health concern, but adding he didn’t have data to back up that assertion.While overall traffic deaths in New York City fell to a record low of 200 in 2018, 114 of those were pedestrians killed in traffic—an increase from 107 the year before.But many street-safety advocates say Liu’s bill, which resembles a similar proposal in the state assembly last year, is just another car-centric policy that doesn’t address the primary reasons pedestrians are dying on the street.Marco Conner at the nonprofit Transportation Alternative calls Liu’s proposal “well-intentioned,” but ultimately misguided and ill-informed. It could also lead to subjective and discretionary policing, he says.At the heart of the opposition to the bill is that it places blame on the person that’s most often the victim of a traffic incident, not the culprit. New York City’s own data says as much: In a 2010 study of some 7,000 car crashes in a five-year period, researchers found that motorists were to blame for more the three-quarters of traffic fatalities and severe injuries involving pedestrians. Driver inattention accounted for 36 percent of those crashes, and the driver’s failure to yield accounted for another 20.6 percent. Another 8.3 percent were blamed on motorists driving at an unsafe speed.“No city has ever fined pedestrians and achieved huge safety gains as a result,” says Ben Fried, spokesperson for the think tank TransitCenter in New York City. “Jaywalking enforcement is not a route to pedestrian safety, and this bill is not going to be a route to prevent traffic injuries and deaths."New York isn’t the first to target phone users with distracted walking laws. Honolulu became the first major city to pass such legislation in October 2017, and smaller cities like Montclair, California, and Rexburg, Idaho, also passed similar laws. Meanwhile, Connecticut and New Jersey have also sought legislation on the state level.Yet as the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported in November 2018—a year after the city’s crackdown on pedestrian walking behavior—the number of pedestrian deaths actually doubled, from 13 the year before to 26. Only six involved a pedestrian in a crosswalk, and none of the victims appeared to have been distracted by mobile devices (though the newspaper does note that that’s usually hard to prove).As CityLab wrote then, Honolulu’s law didn’t get to the bottom of the issue it was trying to solve: curbing the city’s unusually high rate of elderly pedestrian deaths. Never ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, May 17, 2019By Linda Poon
    6 days ago