CityLab

  • In San Francisco, the Youth Climate Strike Comes for Amazon Go
    On Friday morning in downtown San Francisco, activists huddled on the sidewalk outside an Amazon Go store on Market Street. The local climate strike march—part of a day of global student walk-outs ahead of the United Nations summit next week in New York City—was about to pass by, and the anti-Amazon contingent was creating unique signs and props to join in the youthful crowd of strikers.ICE Isn’t NICE, read one woman’s poster, styled with an upside-down Amazon smile. The climate is changing. Can we?, read another. Sporting T-shirts and hats from pro-worker and immigrant rights organizations, the group sang protest songs and chatted with local media. Near the curb, a stack of empty shipping boxes mimicked the now-ubiquitous urban sight of Amazon’s package debris. They were also spray-painted with faux cautions: WARNING: Contains Jails + Cages. Contains worker abuse. How did Amazon’s automated convenience mart become a rallying point for multiple justice movements? For many, the powerful mega-retailer serves as a one-stop shop for climate, immigration, and labor rights concerns. “We see all of these issues as intertwined,” said Kung Feng, an organizer for Jobs with Justice San Francisco, a pro-labor coalition. “Our health as families, our health as workers, and the health of the planet—these things are all connected.”Demonstrators lined up behind a stack of empty shipping boxes outside Amazon Go. (Laura Bliss/CityLab)Amazon has made other news ahead of Friday’s global strikes. Last week, more than 1,500 Amazon workers announced plans to join the climate protest, as part of their ongoing call to executives to reduce the company’s carbon emissions and cut ties to oil companies. In 2017, package deliveries to Amazon consumers added up to 19 million metric tons of carbon to the planet’s atmosphere—nearly equivalent to five coal power plants, according to an estimate by 350 Seattle, an environmental justice group. Each of the 50-plus global data centers that support Amazon Web Services consume as much power as a small town, Gary Cook, an environmental analyst for Greenpeace, told CBS News earlier this year.Apparently in response to workers’ demands, CEO Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday that Amazon would commit to becoming carbon neutral by 2040, meeting the emission reduction targets outlined by the UN Paris climate accord a decade early. This ”Climate Pledge” describes the company’s plans to power operations with all renewable energy sources, purchase a fleet of 100,000 electric delivery vans to transport packages, and back major reforestation initiatives.But the sweeping commitment is short on details about how the company would accomplish such a massive remit in a brief time window. And while protesters at Friday’s climate march saw carbon neutrality as a desirable goal for Amazon, it was not the only one they believe the company needs to set. Amazon’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fuels the deportation of undocumented immigrants, said Lindsay Imai Hong of the Bay Area Family Solidarity Network, as well as the government’s practices of separating families and caging children attempting ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Laura Bliss
    13 hours ago
  • Navigator: Losing a Friendly Face
    For years, the first (and sometimes only) person to greet bleary-eyed D.C. commuters like me with an enthusiastic “good morning!” and a warm smile was the hawker handing out a fresh copy of the Washington Post Express. Teams of distributors for the local commuter newspaper were stationed at the entrances of various Metro transit stations across the greater D.C. area—until September 13, when the 16-year old publication’s final issue was released.The Washington Post cited loss of revenue and blamed the rise of mobile technology—in particular, the free public Wi-Fi that Metro installed in all its underground stations last year, which allowed subway travelers to remain glued to their screens at all times. “Hope you enjoy your stinkin’ phones,” read the final issue’s cover line. A team of 20 journalists was laid off, as were 75 hawkers who handed out copies—like Hassan, who stood outside the Dupont Circle station. Known for his warm greetings, he’d been there every weekday, rain or shine.Days earlier, I had written that fewer Americans were donating their time and money since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So it was encouraging to see that someone immediately set up a GoFundMe to raise $5,000 for Hassan, and that Washingtonians were (are are still) pitching in. That goal was met before the campaign’s first day ended, and as of this writing, 375 donors have collectively contributed nearly $12,000. (The organizers have since launched another campaign for all the other distributors.)The end of the Express, and the stories they produced, is in itself also a loss for D.C., as it is for the other cities have fallen victim to the demise of local journalism. But losing the hawkers clearly struck a nerve: In a city becoming better known for the growing divide between elites, gentrifiers, and native Washingtonians, they helped give D.C. a human touch.That’s often the case in big metropolises where life moves at such a frantic pace that we forget to slow down and thank the people who quietly make the city run. In South Korea last year, for example, I wrote that it was the yogurt ajummahs (aunties who sold cold drinks out of mobile carts) and the women selling rice rolls outside transit stations who are the backbone of Seoul. Back in D.C., the hawkers brightened the long and often dreadful chore of the daily commute. And they served as a reminder that in the midst of all the chaos, a wave or smile can go a long way.“It is crazy to think how big of an impact such a small gesture can have and for that,” a contributor to the GoFundMe campaign wrote. “I thank you.”—Linda PoonWhat we’re writing:Smoky MountainsAutumn is upon us! Here’s a map to help you plan fall foliage excursions. ¤ Bus signs don’t have to be this bad. ¤ Country music is still king in Nashville. ¤ Dublin is losing its David Attenborough mural—and everything else that makes it cool. ¤ A love story in three maps. ¤ Uber and Lyft are ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Linda Poon
    15 hours ago
  • CityLab Daily: The Kids Are On Strike
    What We’re FollowingPencils down: Today, students across the globe are skipping school, not because of the good weather, but because of the climate: They’re going on strike. With about 2,500 protests planned in 153 countries, the Global Climate Strike aims to put pressure on governments and businesses to take action to address climate change.The epicenter of the strike is in New York City, where the United Nations is gathering next week to revisit the goals set under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. (Vox) The city’s school district has given permission to its 1.1 million students to skip class and join the protest with an original school striker, 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. (Gothamist)Meanwhile protesters plan to march to Representative Nancy Pelosi’s local congressional office in San Francisco. (USA Today) And in Washington, D.C., students will march to Capitol Hill where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is scheduled to address the crowd. Another student strike is planned for next Friday.Study up with CityLab How to Understand the IPCC’s Latest Climate Warning The Planet Can’t Survive Our Transportation Habits What U.S. Cities Facing Climate Disaster Risks Are Least Prepared?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Pete Buttigieg: We Can ‘Stand Taller’ If We Meet the Climate Challenge The presidential candidate discusses his climate plan in an interview with CityLab and Climate Desk. Rebecca Leber Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better Clear wayfinding displays can help bus riders feel more confident, and give a whole city’s public transportation system an air of greater authority. Laura Bliss How to Lead a Parking Policy Reformation Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.    Donald Shoup Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S. Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips. Linda Poon For Female Entrepreneurs, a Ground-Floor Apartment Is Key A new study finds that the home-based businesses of poor women in a Colombian city are much more successful when they are located on the street level. Richard Florida Walk in the Park The creators of Park(ing) Day—John Bela, Blaine Merker, and Matthew Passmore—with artist Reuben Margolin at Park(ing) Day 2007, in front of San Francisco City Hall. (Courtesy of John Bela)Across plenty of cities today, miniature parklets will sprout up in parking spaces, marking the tradition of tactical urbanism known as Park(ing) Day. But did you know that the roots of the word “parking” actually originates from planting trees?That’s what one former researcher at the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation found out while exploring the history of street trees. In 1870, Congress passed legislation that authorized Washington, D.C. to set aside half the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Andrew Small
    19 hours ago
  • Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts
    On June 14, Stanlee Allyn Holbrook, a 26-year-old black mother, parked her car on the Homestead Bridge in Pittsburgh and then took her life by jumping into the Monongehela River below. Her three children were left in the car. A neighbor, Joanna D’Amico, told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Lacretia Wimbley that Holbrook was a disciplined caregiver for her kids. She didn’t understand why Holbrook committed suicide because she “didn’t show a sign that something was wrong.”It may have been a sign that there is something tremendously wrong with Pittsburgh, though, for black women.The city of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission released a white paper this week that shows just how stark African Americans’ chances for survival are in Pittsburgh. The findings for black women in particular are troubling. In evaluating how well life is going for Pittsburgh residents along the lines of gender and race, the study finds that white men and women are mostly enjoying either average or above-average standards of livability compared to other racial groups in the city.However, “Pittsburgh is considerably less livable for black men than other similar cities … particularly true when it comes to health and employment outcomes,” reads the study. “Pittsburgh is arguably the most unlivable for black women.”The word choice here is an obvious nod to the various “most livable city” superlatives that Pittsburgh has picked up in recent years. In fact, the University of Pittsburgh researchers who produced the study created an “Index of Ranked Livability” to measure how abundantly or poorly each demographic is doing within the broad categories of health, poverty/income, employment, and education, and along several dozen sub-categories.The study focuses on six population groups: white men and women, black men and women, and the men and women of a third hybrid racial group called AMLON, an acronym for “Asian, Multiracial, Latinx, Other, Native American” (These racial categories are too small in numbers in Pittsburgh to be analyzed separately without compromising privacy concerns, according to the study).The researchers looked at not only how each of these groups fared in livability compared to other race and gender population groups within Pittsburgh, but also in comparison to their peer demographic dates across 89 cities of similar size and characteristics nationwide. They also compare the index of racial and gender inequalities within Pittsburgh to those found in similar cities as well.Overall, what they found was that Pittsburgh is a pretty average city along each of the livability categories, if you’re white. White Pittsburgh residents are doing about as well or bad as white people in other comparable cities. But for African Americans, here’s where the signs show trouble. Black people in just about every other comparable city in the U.S. are doing far better in terms of health, income, employment, and educational outcomes than black people living in Pittsburgh.The signals are even more distressing for black girls and women, who suffer from higher poverty rates, birth defect rates, death rates, unemployment rates, and school arrest rates than black girls and women in just about ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Brentin Mock
    20 hours ago
  • How to Lead a Parking Policy Reformation
    At the dawn of the automobile age, suppose Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller had asked how city planners could increase the demand for cars and gasoline. Consider three options. First, divide the city into separate zones (housing here, jobs there, shopping somewhere else) to create travel between the zones. Second, limit density to spread everything apart and further increase travel. Third, require ample off-street parking everywhere so cars will be the easiest and cheapest way to travel.American cities have unwisely adopted these three car-friendly policies. Separated land uses, low density, and ample free parking create drivable cities and prevent walkable neighborhoods. Although city planners did not intend to enrich the automobile and oil industries, their plans have shaped our cities to suit our cars. As John Keats wrote in The Insolent Chariots, “The automobile changed our dress, manners, social customs, vacation habits, the shape of our cities, consumer purchasing patterns, and positions in intercourse.” Some of us were even conceived in a parked car.Parking requirements are particularly ill-advised because they directly subsidize cars. We drive to one place to do one thing and then to another place to do another thing and then drive a long way back home, parking free everywhere. A flood of recent research has shown that parking requirements poison our cities, increasing traffic congestion, polluting the air, encouraging sprawl, raising housing costs, degrading urban design, preventing walkability, damaging the economy, and penalizing everyone who cannot afford a car.Despite all the harm off-street parking requirements cause, they are almost an established religion in city planning. Without a theory or data to support them, planners set parking requirements for hundreds of land uses in hundreds of cities—the ten thousand commandments of planning for parking. Planners have adopted a veneer of professional language to justify the practice, but planning for parking is learned only on the job and it is more a political activity than a professional skill.One should not criticize anyone else’s religion, but I’m a protestant when it comes to parking requirements—and I believe city planning needs a reformation.The price we really pay to park for nothingAmerica is a free country, and many people seem to think that means parking should be free. Parking requirements enable everyone to park free at everyone else’s expense and no one knows that anyone is paying anything. Parking is free, however, only because everything else is more expensive.A recent study found that the parking spaces required for shopping centers in Los Angeles increase the cost of building a shopping center by 67 percent if the parking is in an aboveground structure and by 93 percent if the parking is underground. Retailers pass this high cost on to all shoppers, regardless of how they travel. People who cannot afford a car pay more for their groceries so richer people can park free when they drive to the store.That’s true for housing, too. Small, spartan apartments cost less to build than large, luxury apartments, but their parking spaces cost the same. Because ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Donald Shoup
    20 hours ago
  • Pete Buttigieg: We Can ‘Stand Taller’ If We Meet the Climate Challenge
    CityLab's Sarah Holder joined Rebecca Leber from Mother Jones for an exclusive series of interviews with Pete Buttigieg this week; Leber's story originally appeared on Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.Pete Buttigieg wants Americans to understand that the climate crisis isn’t only about encroaching seas and shrinking glaciers—it affects everything and everyone in between.“Too often, I think our imagination around climate change is confined to the North and the South Pole, but I see it happening right in the middle of America,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor said in an interview Wednesday from his hometown in a brief break from the presidential campaign trail. The day before, Buttigieg unveiled a plan targeting natural disaster response on a campaign trip to Conway, South Carolina, which was devastated by Hurricane Florence in 2018.When the 37-year-old Democratic presidential candidate arrived for an interview with Climate Desk and The Weather Channel at the edge of a serene section of the St. Joseph River, the changing climate was on his mind. In February 2018, the slice of land that he stood on had been completely submerged from a record mix of rain and snow; the river rose by more than 12 feet, flooding the homes that border it.Last year’s storm surge was certainly unlike anything South Bend’s residents remember—floods of that magnitude have a one-in-500 chance of occurring in a year. But South Bend has seen two of these events—one of them a 1,000-year flood—since 2016. Heavier downpours stress old city water infrastructure and sewage systems. That’s just one way in which climate change threatens the Midwest, according to the National Climate Assessment.It was South Bend’s recent floods that inspired Buttigieg’s climate plan. “One thing we’ve learned from recent disasters—including the place we’re sitting right now—is that there is a complex overlapping bureaucracy when it comes to getting disaster relief,” he said. “The last thing you want somebody to have to do when they’ve been put out of their homes by a disaster is have to navigate all these different agencies to get help.”Buttigieg says he has a plan to fix that in his first 100 days in office by setting up a disaster commission that coordinates local and federal response to extreme weather events. And his climate strategy emphasizes collaboration between Washington and individual communities. The first of his climate plans, an 18-page, $2 trillion plan that endorses the Green New Deal, proposes an AmeriCorps-style volunteer Climate Corps, federally issued World-War-II-style bonds for climate change and renewable energy projects, and regional “resilience hubs” that would work together with a new clean energy bank to loan funds for new technology and infrastructure projects.Buttigieg’s timelines and investments for hitting zero pollution in the major sectors are not quite as aggressive as his competitors’. He aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, with goals along the way to double clean electricity by 2025 and clean up new cars by 2035, followed by trucks ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Rebecca Leber
    21 hours ago
  • For Female Entrepreneurs, a Ground-Floor Apartment Is Key
    When it comes to business location, we typically think in terms of neighborhood—say in a downtown commercial corridor or a suburban office park. What we don’t think about is the floor a business is located on and how that might affect its success.The reality is the floor a business occupies can matter significantly and in surprising ways.A new study by my University of Toronto, Rotman School colleague Laura Doering and Christopher Liu of the University of Oregon, finds that having a business located the ground floor has a substantial effect of the earnings of poor women running home-based businesses in the developing world. To get at this, the study focuses on 1,800 or so people living and working out of a public housing complex in a medium-sized city in Colombia.The allocation of apartments in the housing complex enables the researchers to conduct a natural experiment of sorts. The apartments are identical in layout, and randomly assigned. The only difference is which of the four floors these apartments are located on. Doering explains, “It’s not often that people are randomly assigned to housing. Because we usually choose where we live, it’s difficult to separate housing preference from entrepreneurial outcomes. In this case, the randomly assigned apartments provided a unique opportunity to isolate the effect of space on returns to informal business.”The study looks at the effect of the precise floor where these home-based businesses are located on both the earnings of women and the gender gap in earnings between women and men.Fifty-five people in the complex operated home-based businesses. The average age of the people who live in the complex is 35, and their average income is $126.56 per month—a little above the poverty line of $108.52 per month. Women slightly outnumber men, and roughly half the women in the complex are mothers with children living at home.The study finds that being located on the ground floor has a substantial impact, both on women’s earnings and on the gender gap in earnings. Women with a ground-floor business took home almost three times more ($167 per month) than women running businesses on the upper three floors ($64 dollars per month) or women working outside the home ($60 per month). The extent to which that ground-floor location matters is substantial and surprising. What’s not surprising is that men in the apartment complex made more than women.Colombia, like just about everywhere else in the world, suffers from a considerable gender gap in wages and earnings. This is especially the case for women with less skills, who have fewer and worse opportunities in the labor market. While less-skilled men are able to work as taxi drivers, street vendors, and construction, low-skilled women tend to work in domestic services and waitressing. And because women are responsible for children and housekeeping, especially in developing economies, they are considerably more likely to work from their homes.Men with home-based businesses made more, $241 a month. While this was four times more than women running businesses on the upper floors, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Richard Florida
    1 day ago
  • Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.
    Nothing signals the arrival of autumn quite like the changing colors of the leaves. The mass transformation from green to orange to fiery red confirms that fall has finally taken over.What the foliage prediction map looks like from September to November. (Smoky Mountains)But even as the September equinox marks the official start of the autumn season on the 23rd, it won’t look like fall for much of the country. Peak foliage, experts say, will likely be delayed this year.According the annual fall foliage prediction map by the cabin rental site Smoky Mountains, only a handful of states in the upper midwest and the tippy-top of New England will see partial colors by September 21, and leaves should start turning red by the end of the following week, around September 28.Foliage color prediction for September 21, just two days before the fall equinox. (Smoky Mountains)So for the most enthusiastic leaf peepers, this is the time to start planning your scenic drives, hiking adventures, and photo excursions.As for the rest of us farther south, we’ll likely have to wait until mid-October before the leaves start changing across the lower half of the country. Peak foliage across the U.S. will most likely appear between the last week of October and the start of November.The map, which lets users adjust a slider to see weekly predictions between September and November, draws from historical and forecasted precipitation, daylight hours, and temperature data from private sources and public ones like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The team behind it claims the predictions are fairly accurate; this is their sixth time making the map.Foliage color prediction for October 19. (Smoky Mountains)In fact, in the two- to three-week period that typically makes up “leaf peeping season,” it’s a big business opportunity for the small towns that surround popular parks and hiking trails. States like New York and New Hampshire, which drew in 3 million tourists last fall, have their own foliage trackers, being sure not to leave such a strong economic driver up to chance. Other popular locations, like Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, have turned to crowdsourcing to track nature’s big ungreening.Perhaps not surprisingly, climate change poses a threat to those towns as scientists say it could delay peak foliage and dull the colors. Last year’s foliage season was deemed “bizarre” by the Foliage Network for the abnormal delay of fall colors, particularly in the mid-Atlantic region. In the 10 years that the group has been monitoring weekly leaf change across the country, 2018 was the first time they reported almost no leaf-color change by the second half of October. And when colors did change in, say, Maryland, there were only pockets of that vibrant orange and red. Green and brown largely dominated.Foliage color prediction for November 2. (Smoky Mountains)In short, as plant physiologist Howie Neufeld writes on his blog, trees use day length and temperature as signals to prepare for winter by starting the process that strips leaves of chlorophyll (which gives them their green color) and ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Friday, September 20, 2019By Linda Poon
    1 day ago
  • Very Bad Bus Signs and How to Make Them Better
    Of all the challenges that riding the bus can present to riders, few seem as easy to correct as abysmal signage. From simple omissions of useful facts, to total illegibility, to plain nonexistence, bad signs are pervasive in public transit. Rail systems are no stranger to this—looking at you, Penn Station—but the problem is especially rampant in city bus systems, which often get the least amount of aesthetic and infrastructural attention from their municipal overseers.  When I put out a call on Twitter for examples of transit signage fails, I received a host of offenders from coast to coast. In San Francisco—a “transit first” city—bus route numbers are spray-painted in tiny font onto adjacent, often weathered telephone poles. In Tampa, some bus stop signs consist of stumpy metal flags planted in tire-shaped weights. Wichita, Texas, has signs that are simply repurposed street parking placards; in Nashville, bus signs don’t even mention which routes appear there. Pittsburgh has bus signs that don’t mention the name of the transit agency. And the lack of wayfinding infrastructure at transit stations in Denver leaves riders wandering vast plains of asphalt. My local stop in Potrero 🙁 pic.twitter.com/QdM7JjMZ9u — Marcel Moran (@marcelemoran) September 6, 2019What makes a good bus stop sign so hard to find? Part of the answer is the amount of professional expertise it takes to develop clear and useful information displays. Many agencies lack specialized staff or resources; responsibility for sign projects is often left to managers who are really in charge of other projects. “Often, competing priorities result in minimal attention being given to these activities,” wrote John Dobies, a Kansas City transit planner, in a 1996 white paper on the subject published by the Transportation Research Board. Oh wow, where to start (sadly). Wichita, KS where bus stop signs are just repurposed no parking signs. pic.twitter.com/NUGPaB26BU — Paul Supawanich 🚎 (@tweetsupa) September 6, 2019Another part of the answer relates to many other problems that plague transit agencies, which is the low status that most cities grant bus riders, and the scant funding that local and state governments provide to bus service overall. Buses are widely presumed to be, and treated as, the mode of non-choice for the poorest urban denizens. This is great news. Thank you, Councilmember. Can you also get the bus stop situation there sorted out? The bus shelter is more than 100 feet from the bus stop, and if you are in the shelter, the drivers don't see you & skip the stop. pic.twitter.com/ggrLt9K9kg — Marc (@mcas_LA) September 5, 2019That is why bus routes often fall to the chopping block in times of economic pain, why dedicated bus lanes that dramatically speed travel times are incredibly rare, and why—in addition to illegible signage—bus stops themselves are often unpleasant, unsafe, and/or inaccessible. (See: Streetsblog’s annual bracket contest to find North America’s sorriest bus stop. Recent winners include a metal sign on a highway in British Columbia, a patch of grass next to an active freight rail track in Seattle, ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 19, 2019By Laura Bliss
    2 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Flood Victims Blame the City, Not the Climate
    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 FollowingTroubled waters: As climate change threatens heavier rainfalls and worse flooding in urban areas, many cities are getting serious about their climate action plans. But when basements flood, residents tend to place their blame on the city, not the climate. That’s what researcher Christine Carmichael found as she surveyed flood victims in Detroit: Residents told her the flooding was caused by what the government wasn’t doing, like fixing the drainage or modernizing the sewer system. Sometimes the government even blamed the floods on homeowners.This happened as the city poured millions into climate mitigation projects like rain gardens and solar arrays. As residents stared at the water flooding their backyards, Carmichael found they were skeptical of those efforts because they didn’t trust the officials who said they wanted to solve the crisis. The research points to the ways climate plans can suffer if cities haven’t dealt with the infrastructure problems that are already afflicting residents regularly. CityLab’s Brentin Mock reports: Why Flood Victims Blame Their City, Not the ClimateAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Remembering the ‘City Boosters’ of 19th-Century Journalism Before economic-development agencies existed in America, some journalists amassed reams of data and published thousands of pages to promote their home cities. Carl Abbott Berlin's Take on a High-Tech ‘Smart City’ Could Be Different The German company Siemens is launching an ambitious adaptive reuse project to revitalize its historic corporate campus, with a modern data-collecting twist. Cathrin Schaer The Homestead Child Detention Center Closed. Fight Plans to Reopen It Activists in Florida shut down the nation’s largest detention center for children with migration complications. The Trump administration wants to reopen it. Kristin Kumpf Donald Trump Knows How to End Homelessness As a real-estate developer, he repeatedly argued that building adequate housing requires federal subsidies. As president, he’s forgotten that. David A. Graham Six U.S. Cities Make the List of Most Surveilled Places in the World Atlanta and Chicago top the list of U.S. cities that are watching their citizens with security cameras, but China leads the world when it comes to official surveillance. Emma Coleman Rough Numbers(Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)In yesterday’s newsletter, we shared the news about nearly 60 mayors and former mayors endorsing South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy for president. Last night on the Late Show, Stephen Colbert did a gut check on that number. “Sixty mayors! Wow, that’s a lot... or not very many?” he asked. “Depends on what the total number of mayors is!” Well, Colbert’s team looked into it and found that in the United States, there are somewhere between 1,400 and 20,000 mayors, “if you count honorary animal mayors.”From the CityLab archives: Meet San Francisco’s Newest Mayor, Who is a DogWhat We’re ReadingTrump wants San Francisco ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 19, 2019By Andrew Small
    2 days ago
  • How Berlin Is Planning a Post-Industrial ‘Smart’ Neighborhood
    BERLIN—Right now, it’s hard to imagine what Siemensstadt will eventually look like. Surrounded by old brick factory buildings and shuttered offices, the area sits at the intersection of two large roads in a neglected northern outskirts of Berlin. Cars speed by faster than they should; every now and then, a solitary traveler emerges from the underground train station. Owned by the industrial giant that gave the suburb its name, Siemens, the 50-acre site doesn’t give off much of a sense of community.But Berlin’s new mega-project aims to change that. Over the next decade, Siemens will spend more than €600 million to create what it’s been calling “Siemensstadt 2.0,” a “smart city” project with research facilities, space for startups, logistics centers, and a new production facility—the company’s largest worldwide—geared towards renewable energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure products. Along with its new campus, the company is also creating something of a neighborhood: Some 3,000 new apartments are on the way, plus kindergartens and schools, green spaces, and restaurants, hotels, and retailers. An abandoned railway line nearby will be revived, connecting  travelers to Berlin’s new (as yet unfinished) airport in just 40 minutes.Among those who live in and around Siemensstadt today, there’s a lot of excitement about the investment and jobs that this adaptive reuse project is promising—but there are also some mixed feelings. Recently, Google retreated from its plan to build a tech campus in another Berlin suburb, Kreuzberg, after a storm of community resistance. Further afield, a sensor-laden “smart city” development masterminded by Sidewalk Labs has faced similar controversy in Toronto. Thanks to the dramatic changes that technology giants in California have wrought in their nearby communities, there’s no lack of comparisons that raise concern about what Siemens’s gigantic redevelopment may mean for Berlin.A rendering of Siemensstadt in the early 20th century. The company acquired land northwest of Berlin in 1897 and concentrated most of its operations there. By 1914, with factory housing and community infrastructure in place, a new city district has been created: Siemensstadt. (Siemens)The company’s history in the northeastern Berlin suburb named after it goes back more than 120 years. Much of the site slated for redevelopment has been owned by Siemens since 1897. During the first half of the 20th century, the company built housing and other community facilities for the workers once employed here. Connected to the rest of Berlin via a 4.5-kilometer railway that Siemens built, Siemensstadt peaked at 90,000 staff working and often living nearby in the years before World War II.With Berlin split in two after the war and surrounded by Soviet-dominated East Germany, Siemens gradually relocated, eventually establishing a new headquarters in Munich and selling off subsidiaries. As the economy has deindustrialized, the site has shrunk, buildings have become outdated, jobs disappeared, and the surrounding neighborhood has grown poorer.Around 11,400 staff still work here, making, among other things, steam turbines, substation equipment, and huge dynamos. But over the past few years, the company has instituted several rounds of layoffs. Siemensstadt is not ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 19, 2019By Cathrin Schaer
    2 days ago
  • Remembering the ‘City Boosters’ of 19th-Century Journalism
    In the 21st century, cities and states fund professional economic development agencies to promote local growth and chase tech industries. They partner with private business organizations. They claim the expertise to turn local resources into breakout industries. They mobilize orchestras of economists, planners, data analysts, technical writers, PR professionals, and graphic designers to produce brochures, maps, websites, convention displays, press releases, and tours of local highlights for visiting delegations.But if you wanted to know about the growth and prospects of Cincinnati in the 1840s and 1850s, there was one person to ask: Charles Cist.In the middle decades of the 19th century, Charles Cist and others like him were one-man bands who gathered, sorted, analyzed, and published substantial information-packed books all on their own.  These publications combined excited accounts of the rapid growth of their new cities with page after page of statistics on trade, manufacturing, and civic institutions like churches and schools.The title of an 1857 volume by George H. Thurston—Pittsburgh as it is, or, Facts and figures, exhibiting the past and present of Pittsburgh: its advantages, resources, manufactures, and commercesums up the typical contents. Not to be outdone, Chicago’s Elias Colbert followed in 1868 with his Historical and Statistical Sketch of the Garden City: a Chronicle of Its Social, Municipal, Commercial and Manufacturing Progress, from the Beginning until Now (urbs in horto, “the city in a garden,” is the motto of Chicago).Such books required enormous amounts of painstaking work in reporting and transcribing data, summing columns, and double-checking numbers—all without the aid of Excel spreadsheets, Hewlett-Packard calculators, clattering Friden calculating machines, or even Hollerith card sorters (first used for the 1890 census).The Philadelphia-born Cist had been in Cincinnati for a dozen years, running a salt-importing business to serve the meatpacking industry, making friends, and cultivating political connections, when he was appointed to take the 1840 census. Then a city of 46,000, Cincinnati was booming from steamboat trade and the new Miami and Erie Canal to Toledo, and bustling with newcomers from Ireland, Germany, and the eastern states. Cist claimed that he walked every street of the city and knocked on every door, although Northwestern University historian Henry Binford notes that variations in handwriting on several pages of the census manuscripts suggest that he had a bit of help.The census data were invaluable when Cist sat down to pull together Cincinnati in 1841: Its Early Annals and Future Prospects. Over the next decade, he compiled city directories and published Cist’s Weekly Advertiser, a paper that chronicled economic progress and real-estate developments. By the 1850s, he complained that the city was growing almost too fast to keep up. Nevertheless, the journalistic grind generated material for his Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in 1851 and Sketches and Statistics of Cincinnati in 1859, books that simultaneously built the city and shaped the way that its civic and business leaders thought about it.Niles and Co., maker of steam engines and sugar mills, from Cist’s Cincinnati in 1851. (Via the Public Library of Cincinnati and ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Thursday, September 19, 2019By Carl Abbott
    2 days ago
  • How City Failures Affect Trust in Climate Planning
    The city of Detroit is pouring millions into the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood on the city’s east side, to bring in affordable housing, a new grocery store, and enhancements to waterfront parks. It also plans to build out rain gardens and solar arrays.But all of that was of little concern when residents’ basements flooded for the umpteenth time this summer, which people chalked up to the city’s faulty drainage-system maintenance and misguided priorities.As resident Allison Key told local radio station WDET: “This neighborhood just got $5 million in grant money, and there’s all these plans to do things to improve the neighborhood. But if everyone who lives on the water that can’t afford to fix it has to leave, then what’s the point?”This is the kind of response that Christine Carmichael, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Vermont, also got when she talked with Detroit residents about why their homes kept flooding. Although we typically hear about flooding in southern and eastern coastal cities, usually from hurricanes, there have been more and more urban flooding events in inland cities, and this will continue due to climate change. Government officials often blame homeowners themselves for the problem. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers states on its website: “The primary responsibility for protecting homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual.”The Detroit residents Carmichael spoke with were more prone to blame ineffective local government operations for their flooding problems. Jefferson Chalmers was one of several neighborhoods where she interviewed residents. She collected responses between December 2017 and April 2018, a few years after the massive 2014 rainstorms that flooded Detroit so badly that President Barack Obama declared a federal disaster. Even back then, residents were placing heavy blame on the city’s poor handling of drainage infrastructure.Few of them mentioned to Carmichael that climate change is affecting the severity of recent rainfalls and flooding. Trapped greenhouse gases and heat in the atmosphere have led to more rain, falling more ferociously over longer sustained time periods. This has spelled flooding disaster for urban areas with a lot of paved lots and impermeable surfaces, such as Detroit.Yet therein lies a problem that Carmichael recognized in her study: Respondents were less likely to cite climate change as a cause for the flooding, mainly because the ineptitude of local government and faulty infrastructure were the things staring them smack in the face, from their own backyards and basements.“You have government and their partner organizations that are trying to advocate for acting on climate change—like the cities that said, ‘We are still in’ [the Paris climate agreement],” said Carmichael. “The problem in this case is that we are uncovering residents’ perspectives, and their main issue is that the government has not been properly managing environmental conditions in their urban neighborhoods leading up to now. That sets up a situation where, if that conflict has not been resolved, then that’s going to spill over into when city government and their partners try to get residents involved in ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 18, 2019By Brentin Mock
    3 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Where Trump Wants to Move Skid Row
    What We’re FollowingMoving Skid Row: Senior Trump administration officials are visiting Los Angeles this week as part of the president’s mission to intervene in California’s homelessness crisis. As officials discuss relocating some hundreds or thousands of unhoused people living on Skid Row, federal officials have already reportedly toured a facility where they might shelter (or detain) people: the former West Coast headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration, located 20 miles away in Hawthorne, California, also known as the Hawthorne Federal Building. Hawthorne Federal Building, designed by Cesár Pelli. (Google Maps)Repurposing federal properties to shelter the homeless isn’t a new idea. Federal law requires the government to give nonprofit groups, charities, or local housing agencies access to unused properties, free of charge. In fact, two Los Angeles nonprofits asked to use the Hawthorne Federal Building back in 2016 and 2017, and they were denied. It’s unclear under what authority the Trump administration could relocate unhoused people to the facility—or why it could not be used by local providers to serve the same needs. Kriston Capps has the story: The Trump Administration Wants to Relocate Skid Row to This Federal BuildingAndrew SmallMore on CityLab How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter. Using geotagged tweets, researchers found four types of social connectedness in big U.S. cities, exemplified by New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami. Richard Florida When a Transit Agency Becomes a Suburban Developer The largest transit agency in the U.S. is building a mixed-use development next to a commuter rail station north of Manhattan. John Surico Boston Saved $5 Million by Routing School Buses with an Algorithm With 25,000 students and the nation’s highest transportation costs, the Boston Public School District needed a better way to get kids to class. Emma Coleman What Is Loitering, Really? America’s laws against lingering have roots in Medieval and Elizabethan England. Since 1342, the goal has always been to keep anyone “out of place” away. Ariel Aberg-Riger Mayors’ ApprovalNearly 60 current and former mayors endorsed South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg for president, declaring their support in an op-ed in USA Today. The endorsement praises Buttigieg, whose support among Democratic primary voters has hovered around 7 percent in national polls, as a role model for the country who puts “practical solutions over partisan ideology.”“For mayors, politics isn’t a blood sport,” they wrote. “Our residents expect electricity when they flip the switch, clean water from their taps and trash picked up regularly. It would be unthinkable for a mayor like Pete to shut down the government because of a petty ideological disagreement.”CityLab context: Why Mayors Are RunningWhat We’re ReadingKamala Harris’s brother-in-law is the public face of Uber’s labor fight. It’s awkward. (Los Angeles Times)The truth about RVs: when vanlife breaks down (Curbed)A watchdog lawsuit alleges housing companies use Facebook’s ad system to discriminate against older people (Washington Post)The best architecture of the 21st ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 18, 2019By Andrew Small
    3 days ago
  • How Socially Integrated Is Your City? Ask Twitter.
    A central feature of contemporary life is the geographic sorting and segregation of people across class, racial, and other lines. In his book The Big Sort, Bill Bishop elucidated how Americans increasingly sort ourselves into different places according to income, education, political ideology, and cultural beliefs. But at the same time, there are aspects of cities—density and transit, trust and social capital—that help push us together and form connections.A new study by a team of researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities, written up in an article in Sociological Methods & Research, uses Twitter to examine social connectedness among the neighborhoods of a city. The researchers, who include the eminent urban sociologists Robert Sampson and Mario Small, define the “structural connectedness” of a city as the extent to which residents in each neighborhood travel to other neighborhoods. It is essentially a measure of how socially integrated a city is—the opposite of segregation.The extent to which city residents are structurally connected to each other is important to urban life for three key reasons, the authors argue. First, the more that people move between neighborhoods, the more potential there is for them to form social ties and generate meaningful connections. Two, more movement across places means more potential for the diffusion of social and cultural attitudes, or tastes in fashion, music, and culture. And, three, higher intra-urban mobility and deeper connections between a city’s places accelerate the movement of ideas and information.The study treats the neighborhoods of the city as a social network, and uses data from Twitter to assess people’s day-to-day travel patterns to measure the connectedness across this network. The base data was some 650 million geotagged tweets, sent by more than 1 million Twitter users over 18 months, from October 2013 through March 2015. Grouping tweets by census block group for the nation’s 50 largest cities, the research team ended up with a final dataset of more than 130 million geotagged tweets, sent by more than 375,000 people.The team developed two distinct measures of social connectedness: One, the primary index, gauges the degree to which people move between neighborhoods in roughly similar proportions (the “equitable mobility index,” or EMI). A secondary index looks at the extent to which visits are concentrated in a handful of places (the “concentrated mobility index,” or CMI). The correlation between the measures is quite low (-0.033), indicating that they capture distinct elements of city life.The researchers identify four types of connectedness, each associated with a different city: New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Miami. On the graph below, which compares America’s 50 largest cities on the two social indices, you can see that all four of these cities are outliers.The relationship between cities’ equitable and concentrated mobility indices. (Nolan E. Phillips, Brian L. Levy, Robert J. Sampson, Mario L. Small, and Ryan Q. Wang/Sociological Methods & Research)San Francisco, with a high score on both indices, appears in the upper right-hand corner. New York occupies the upper left-hand corner, with a high score on the CMI ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Wednesday, September 18, 2019By Richard Florida
    3 days ago
  • L.A. Wanted to Use This Building as a Shelter. Now Trump Does Too.
    This week, senior Trump administration officials are making their way to Los Angeles as part of the president’s high-profile promise to intervene in California’s homelessness crisis. Federal officials are discussing the possibility of razing encampments and relocating hundreds or thousands of unhoused people—tactics that homeless advocates insist have no legal grounds under federal law.One option under discussion is to use a former government building just outside Los Angeles to house (or detain) people now living in Skid Row in downtown L.A., where some 8,000 to 11,000 people are typically living on the streets. Federal officials have already reportedly toured the facility, the former West Coast headquarters of the Federal Aviation Administration, located 20 miles away in Hawthorne, California.But a review of public records shows that the government previously rejected two efforts by advocacy groups to use the former Federal Aviation Administration building to serve the homeless.Repurposing federal properties to provide homeless services isn’t a new or unprecedented idea: In fact, federal law already requires the government to make unused properties available to advocacy organizations that provide shelter or services to the homeless. Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, the federal government must list surplus properties for consideration by shelter providers in a searchable database. A provision known as Title V states that properties must be made available—for no charge—to nonprofit groups, faith-based charities, local housing agencies, and other providers before they can be sold.The Hawthorne Federal Building is the focus of the Trump administration’s plans for cracking down on the homeless in Los Angeles. (Google Maps)The federal office building, which is called the Hawthorne Federal Building, was listed as eligible for use to shelter providers in 2016. A nonprofit organization that provides shelter for homeless veterans submitted an application that year to use the facility. The request was denied. Four months later, in January 2017, an organization that provides job training to people living on the margins inquired about using the building under the same Title V provision. At that time, however, they were told that the facility was no longer available.Located in southwest Los Angeles County just south of Inglewood, the Hawthorne Federal Building has a high-design pedigree. It was designed by Cesár Pelli, the late architect who designed the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, in 1966 and completed in 1972; the Late Modernist building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The General Services Administration put the building up for auction back in June. This auction generated intense interest, with 17 bids that grew from a starting price of $8 million to a closing bid, in July, of $55 million, according to records.The current ownership status of the building is unknown. A GSA real-estate agent reached by telephone declined to comment. Rules on the GSA site read: “At the close of the auction, the high bid will be considered for acceptance by the Government. The Government reserves the right to reject any or all bids for any reason.”The Hawthorne Federal Building, designed by Cesár ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, September 17, 2019By Kriston Capps
    4 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: The City That Ride-Hailing Forgot
    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 FollowingFashionably late: In the realm of transportation, Vancouver has a lot going for it. With the world’s longest fully automated rail network, the highest bus ridership in North America, and ferries and bikeshare to boot, the city’s transit system was recently voted the best in North America. There’s just one thing conspicuously missing: ride-hailing. The city appears to be the last major holdout on these app-based services.But those days are numbered: In August, British Columbia finalized new regulations to allow companies like Lyft and Uber to operate. To safeguard the city’s transit success, local drivers will have to obtain commercial licenses and companies will be required to share trip data for planning purposes. Although fears of congestion and a strong taxi lobby kept these services out in earlier years, the province’s transportation leaders are cautiously optimistic that being a last adopter will prove to be a virtue. CityLab’s Laura Bliss reports: Vancouver Said No to Uber and Lyft. Now It’s About to Say YesAndrew SmallMore on CityLab Why Boulder Blocked Electric Scooters The famously bike-friendly Colorado city has some of the best cycling infrastructure in North America. But electric scooters still aren’t welcome to use it. Molly McCluskey American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s. Derek Thompson Dublin Is Changing, and Locals Hate It The recent loss of popular murals and local pubs is fueling a deeper angst over mass tourism, redevelopment and urban transformation in the Irish capital. Feargus O'Sullivan The Painfully Slow Pace of a Flooded-Home Buyout A new report finds that it typically takes five years or longer to complete the buyout process, leaving homeowners of flooded properties in limbo. Linda Poon Un-Corrupting City Hall These cities all suffered notorious municipal scandals. What have officials and voters done to tackle corruption and keep it from happening again? Ethan McLeod Long Haul (Saul Loeb/Getty) As this summer’s tourism season draws to a close, anyone in a half-sane society would choose this moment to stop going on far-flung vacations. That’s a hard thing for a travel writer to admit. After family and friends, travel is pretty much my favorite thing—not only my source of income, but an inexhaustible wellspring of curiosity, empathy, and wonder. … Yet optional travel is also a major contributor to ecocide. Read more on CityLab: ‘Travelers Like Me are Loving the World to Death’What We’re ReadingTransportation Secretary Elaine Chao faces investigation over ethics allegations (Washington Post)How a Homes Guarantee could make housing a right (Curbed)Texas tried to ban cities and local officials from lobbying ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, September 17, 2019By Andrew Small
    4 days ago
  • Dublin Is Changing, and Locals Hate it
    This month, Dubliners are saying goodbye to David Attenborough. A giant mural celebrating the naturalist’s 93rd birthday appeared on the streets of the Irish capital this summer, staring out from the windowless wall of a Georgian row house. The mural was well received, but now the city council insists that the artwork (approved by the building’s owner) was unauthorized and must come down.A tempest in a teacup? It might be, if the Attenborough mural’s removal wasn’t just one of a long, ongoing string of losses to Dublin’s public sphere. Spotted in Dublin. pic.twitter.com/kIdVitLMZK — SUBSET (@SubsetDublin) May 25, 2019The past few years have seen several of Dublin’s murals painted over, street markets canceled, and bars and cultural venues closed. Often, the things replacing them are facilities for tourists. With many fearing that the city’s vitality and character is being permanently stripped away, there’s a growing concern that Dublin risks being totally surrendered to pressures created by developers and the tourist industry.Among this month’s notable casualties is the Bernard Shaw, a pub and live music venue with a reputation for having great music. Eatyard, a street food market on the plot next door, will also close come October. Also leaving is the Tivoli Theatre, a 1930s building due to be replaced by a hotel. This comes on the heels of a popular nightclub that closed last year, and the proposed internal demolition of a popular traditional pub on the city’s Northside. And the Attenborough mural isn’t the only street art that is disappearing. A prominent mural of a red squirrel was demolished—yet again for a hotel—in August, as was a mural celebrating Dublin’s urban bareback horseriders.This steady drip of closures is seen by many as evidence of a wider crisis, a hollowing out of the city’s vitality that risks going beyond a reparable tipping point. Twitter in particular has been full of laments for what’s being lost. Bernard Shaw and Eatyard being forced to close, I could ACTUALLY scream, the hack of this town and its complete lack of foresight when it comes to anything that provides any semblance of culture for its people — Fionnuala (@FionnualaJay) September 9, 2019Given the strength of the backlash, it’s unsurprising that criticism of the Bernard Shaw’s closure has been damned as“hysteria” by one commentator—but the reaction is arguably one of built-up frustration that’s finally finding an outlet. Meanwhile, a group of city councillors (from the Green, Labour and Social Democratic parties) have called for a special council meeting to discuss the closures, which they believe are a “symbol of Dublin’s cultural crisis” exacerbated by public policy.Many of Dublin’s current problems, it should be acknowledged, are side effects of success. The city’s economy is booming. Dublin registered record employment levels in the final quarter of 2018, while the city has set itself a target of 3 million more tourist arrivals annually by 2028. In a country where the construction of new housing, public and otherwise, is currently falling far short of government targets, the result ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, September 17, 2019By Feargus O'Sullivan
    4 days ago
  • The Painfully Slow Pace of a Flooded-Home Buyout
    Sometimes, after a major flooding disaster, it’s better for a community to retreat than to rebuild. And in many cases, local governments around the United States will offer to buy up damaged properties, allowing residents to relocate to safer ground—ideally before the next flood occurs. Yet this process is notorious for taking too long.A report released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that over the past 30 years, fewer than half of buyout projects—in which municipalities apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to acquire flood-damaged homes—reached closure in under five years.While home buyouts are one of the most cost-effective and permanent ways of protecting homeowners in harm’s way, the complex bureaucratic process often leaves them in limbo. As of last October, the owners of more than 4,600 at-risk properties around the country were still waiting for buyouts to be completed. Some of these owners were affected by the historic Tax Day Flood that hit Houston back in April 2016, or by a historic, multi-day storm that inundated large swaths of Louisiana later that summer.With extreme weather and urban flooding becoming more frequent, “the way that we currently handle this process is incapable of rising to the challenge,” Anna Weber, a policy analyst at NRDC who led the study, said in a briefing on Thursday.Less than half of all buyouts since 1989 were completed in under five years. (NRDC)FEMA has acquired more than 43,000 properties since 1989. Buyouts peaked in 1993, when a major flood in the upper Midwest damaged some 50,000 homes across nine states. The government acquired more than 8,000 flood-prone properties shortly thereafter, and the buyout effort in Missouri (the hardest-hit state) was ultimately considered a success story. Missouri residents relocated to higher ground while local governments tore down damaged homes and turned the land into open space, restricting new development.FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program accounts for nearly 89 percent of the properties in the researchers’ dataset. How this program works is a multi-step process. After a major disaster is declared, FEMA announces funding availability—sometimes months after the actual disaster—and then cities apply for buyouts on behalf of affected homeowners. If the project is approved, FEMA pays 75 percent of the purchasing cost (the pre-flood value of the property), while state and local governments foot the rest. Local governments then make the proper arrangements to close the buyout.NRDC’s analysis found that it typically takes more than a year and a half just to get funding approval from FEMA once a disaster is declared. From there, it can take another three-and-a-half years for local governments to implement the buyouts and finally close the project.Four buyout projects, each approved to acquire more than 500 properties, stand out for their relatively quick approval timelines. (NRDC)“Even the fastest buyout in this dataset … still takes a year or more to complete,” said Rob Moore, who co-authored the report. “That’s still too long to make a person wait.” Between state reviews, cost-benefit analysis, and buyout prioritization, the ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, September 17, 2019By Linda Poon
    4 days ago
  • Vancouver Said No to Uber and Lyft. Now It’s About to Say Yes
    VANCOUVER—It wouldn’t be very Canadian to brag about one’s advantages. But on the world stage of well-planned cities, Vancouver has a lot to envy.Stitched around its ribbony shoreline, glassy high-rises, and ample urban forest is public transit system that was recently voted North America’s best. Skytrain, the world’s longest fully automated rail network, hauls more than 495,000 passengers per day. Downtown buses arrive speedily—one bus route along Broadway comes every three minutes and moves 60,000 riders per day, the most in North America. Add in passenger ferries and a booming bikeshare program, and it’s little surprise that 53 percent of Vancouverites manage to get to work by means other than driving.One thing is conspicuously missing from this urbanist dreamscape: ride-hailing. Uber tried to railroad its way into Vancouver in 2012, but British Columbia regulators brought the smackdown, officially notifying the company that the province’s official minimum rate for limousines was $75 per trip. Ever since, Uber, Lyft, and other transportation network companies (TNCs) have been snowed out of the region. Vancouver appears to be the last major city in North America with an effective ban on the app-based services.But those days are numbered. Applications to operate a TNC in British Columbia opened on September 3, and a requisite insurance package became available on September 16. Uber and Lyft have officially applied. “I am thrilled to soon launch Lyft’s world-class ridesharing service in Vancouver, as part of our effort to positively contribute to B.C. communities and bring spontaneous and reliable transportation to the region,” Peter Lukomskyj, the general manager of Lyft B.C., said in a statement. Michael van Hemmen, the head of Uber for Western Canada, said that he hopes that his company’s first trip in greater Vancouver will take place by the holiday season.It can’t come soon enough for advocates like Ian Tostenson, the president of Ridesharing Now For B.C. “It’s going to help people be more mobile and help people live outside of city,” he said. As the city’s population and economy grows, “we need as much transportation as we can get.”But while elected officials and administrators around B.C. largely agree that it’s time to get with with the program, they’re on guard. Over the years, Vancouver has watched as its peers have dealt with the darker sides of Uber and Lyft: muddy passenger safety records, negative impacts on congestion and emissions, flouting of local regulations, and widely criticized labor practices.Now B.C. transportation leaders are cautiously optimistic that being a last-adopter will prove to be a virtue. They hope that strict data-sharing requirements, a stringent licensing scheme for drivers, and a long-term vision to mitigate added traffic with fees on curbside access and downtown streets at rush hour will help make ride-hailing more sustainable here.“It’s not to say that we’re better than other cities,” said Andrew McCurran, the director of strategic planning and policy for Translink, the transit agency serving metropolitan Vancouver. “But we’ve had the benefit of learning from other mistakes.”***Slow incrementalism was not necessarily the master plan ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Tuesday, September 17, 2019By Laura Bliss
    4 days ago
  • CityLab Daily: Why Do City Dwellers Love to Hate Scooters?
    What We’re FollowingRevved up: No matter if it’s online, on the road, or in a public meeting, there’s something about electric scooters that really gets people going. The tiny two-wheelers are widely criticized for cluttering sidewalks and posing a safety hazard for both riders and the people around them. At the core of these complaints, though, is the simple fact that there’s something different about scooters. Their unfamiliar shape, and the unfamiliar ways they move around cities, cause stress for pedestrians and other road users.The e-scooter’s reputation for sowing chaos has led some cites to issue rules and bans on dockless scooter-sharing services. But the pushback is striking when compared with the generally warmer public attitude toward ride-hailing services, another new form of mobility that has brought arguably more challenges to city streets. Today on CityLab, David Zipper argues that the hostility toward scooters has relatively simple roots, and that local leaders should play a bigger role in helping people understand the true effects of new mobility technologies. Read his perspective: Why Do City Dwellers Love to Hate Scooters?Andrew SmallMore on CityLab Why Nashville Can't Quit Country Music A historian on the Ken Burns documentary Country Music explains why the Tennessee capital’s bond with country music endures, even as the city has boomed. Lee Gardner East Harlem Hasn’t Gotten Its Subway Yet, But It Is Getting Vibrant Art As East Harlem waits for the Trump Administration to fund the Second Avenue subway, the Uptown GrandScale Mural Project is changing blight to beauty. Rebecca Bellan How Democrats Conquered the City The 150-year history of how a once-rural party became synonymous with density. Derek Thompson Mapping the Monsters of a Northern Irish Childhood Growing up amid the political conflict in Northern Ireland, a 16th-century map that blended real and mythical monsters spoke to my fears and fascinations. Darran Anderson Whither the School Librarian? As school districts cut budgets, librarians’ jobs are dwindling and changing dramatically. What does that mean for students? Hallie Golden Compass Rose Map: Beautiful Earth. Graphic: Madison McVeigh/CityLabThomas Dai gave his boyfriend Liam three maps for his birthday—one for each of the cities they had lived in as a couple: Tucson, Chengdu, and Providence. Left to right, the maps tell a story of how their relationship developed over time and space. But now, as Liam sets off for the Peace Corps in Nepal, their love story is heading into uncharted territory. “How do you make up a legend or fix a compass rose to a love happening in two places at once?” Dai asks. Read the latest entry in our The Maps That Make Us series: An International Love Story, in Three Maps Today is the last day to submit a mini-essay about a memorable map in your life for our The Maps That Make Us series. Read more about ... read more
    Source: CityLabPublished on Monday, September 16, 2019By Andrew Small
    5 days ago