2018/12/15: Either the subway or the highway option for the pedestrian is a solution that only an essentially anti-democratic society could have come up with.
We need to recognise that those who walk to work or to a point where they can access public transport constitute more than 60% of daily commuters. Let us also remember these are people going to work, children going to schools, young people travelling to colleges and universities, or home makers walking to the neighbourhood market or to pick-up their children from school.
2018/11/15: There was little question in the reporting on autonomous vehicles that they were safer than human drivers, despite the complete lack of evidence. The tech visionaries had spoken, and as is too often the case, the media fell in line.
However, around the turn of the new year, criticism of the previous optimism was emerging. In January, I was among those pointing to the delayed timelines, growing number of collisions, and the slowing progress in reducing the number of times that human test drivers had to take over from the computers. As the year has played out, critics have been proven right, and a much more inspiring vision for the future of transportation has emerged.
However, even Waymo’s CEO, John Krafcik, now admits that the self-driving car that can drive in any condition, on any road, without ever needing a human to take control — what’s usually called a “level 5” autonomous vehicle — will never exist. At the Wall Street Journal’s D.Live conference on November 13, Krafcik said that “autonomy will always have constraints.” It will take decades for self-driving cars to become common on roads, and even then they will not be able to drive in certain conditions, at certain times of the year, or in any weather. In short, sensors on autonomous vehicles don’t work well in snow or rain — and that may never change.
It’s still surprising to hear such a statement by someone leading a self-driving vehicle company, but given what has happened throughout 2017, it shouldn’t be.
In urban planning, there’s a concept called induced demand which says that when the supply of a good increases, so will its demand. This is typically applied to roads and explains why even when highways are widened, congestion rarely improves: the additional lanes simply attract more drivers. However, the same is happening with micromobility. As dockless bikes and scooters are added to cities, they’re creating demand that didn’t previously exist. New cyclists and scooter users then create pressure for better parking and bike lanes, which results in a positive feedback loop by attracting more users, who create more pressure for infrastructure, and on and on.
The self-driving car was a reflection of the future imagined by car-loving boomers, but micromobility is the future that millennials want — and the one that has the best chance of succeeding.
2017/10/22: Parent company Alphabet would provide services in response to data harvested. a city “where buildings have no static use”. Like biomass
Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.
This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.
For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains.
Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).
2018/10/17: After industrialism, we have the opportunity to create a habitation society. Habitation encompasses all that is involved in creating and sustaining human communities. In a habitation society, the main economic priority would be building the physical and social infrastructure of communities in which the citizenry could thrive. In the industrial era, millions of people were uprooted from their earlier communities to move to find factory jobs. They tried their best to construct new communities, but habitation work was always subordinated to earning a wage and it was crippled by the class inequality of that time.
Today, however, the largest share of the labour force works at producing, sustaining, and improving human habitation as farm work and factory work have fallen to little more than 10% of all employment. People who work in health care, education, social services, construction, communication, and local government can be coded as habitation workers. So, also, can public and private sector scientists, engineers, and technicians working on developing new products and services since most innovations are designed to help communities and households accomplish their ends.
But all of this labour is being done within institutional structures inherited from the industrial era that treated habitation — except for the wealthy — as a wasteful luxury. So, in fact, decisions about what our towns and cities will look like and what infrastructure would be created were taken out of politics and handed over to unelected technocrats.
segregation sim is based off the work of Nobel Prize-winning game theorist, Thomas Schelling. Specifically, his 1971 paper, Dynamic Models of Segregation. We built on top of this, and showed how a small demand for diversity can desegregate a neighborhood. In other words, we gave his model a happy ending.
Schelling's model gets the general gist of it, but of course, real life is more nuanced. You might enjoy looking at real-world data, such as W.A.V. Clark's 1991 paper, A Test of the Schelling Segregation Model.
There are other mathematical models of institutionalized bias out there! Male-Female Differences: A Computer Simulation shows how a small gender bias compounds as you move up the corporate ladder. The Petrie Multiplier shows why an attack on sexism in tech is not an attack on men.
Today's Big Moral Message™ is that demanding a bit of diversity in your spaces makes a huge difference overall.
1. Small individual bias → Large collective bias.
When someone says a culture is shapist, they're not saying the individuals in it are shapist. They're not attacking you personally.
2. The past haunts the present.
Your bedroom floor doesn't stop being dirty just coz you stopped dropping food all over the carpet. Creating equality is like staying clean: it takes work. And it's always a work in progress.
3. Demand diversity near you.
If small biases created the mess we're in, small anti-biases might fix it. Look around you. Your friends, your colleagues, that conference you're attending. If you're all triangles, you're missing out on some amazing squares in your life - that's unfair to everyone. Reach out, beyond your immediate neighbors.
2018/09/18: They stopped cars crossing the city and got rid of street parking, as people looking for a place to park is what causes the most congestion. They closed all surface car parks in the city centre and opened underground ones and others on the periphery, with 1,686 free places. They got rid of traffic lights in favour of roundabouts, extended the car-free zone from the old city to the 18th-century area, and used traffic calming in the outer zones to bring the speed limit down to 30km/h.
The benefits are numerous. On the same streets where 30 people died in traffic accidents from 1996 to 2006, only three died in the subsequent 10 years, and none since 2009. CO2 emissions are down 70%, nearly three-quarters of what were car journeys are now made on foot or by bicycle, and, while other towns in the region are shrinking, central Pontevedra has gained 12,000 new inhabitants. Also, withholding planning permission for big shopping centres has meant that small businesses – which elsewhere have been unable to withstand Spain’s prolonged economic crisis – have managed to stay afloat.
2018/09/15: data from sensors located in vehicles have an important advantage over traditional data-gathering systems:
Currently, city managers and planners are faced with the challenge of relying on incomplete or out of date information.
A less obvious application of Geotab’s dataset is the ability to spot problems like potholes. Aggregated vertical axis accelerometer data from vehicles can be analyzed in near real-time to indicate areas in need of road maintenance. Other aspects of urban life that can be monitored in this way include areas where cars idle, thus wasting fuel and increasing air pollution, and roads where drivers are searching for parking places. Gathering this kind of data would be expensive using other approaches, but emerges naturally from aggregated traffic flows.
Huge datasets generated by sensors on connected vehicles offer interesting new opportunities for urban analytics. But there are naturally privacy concerns, too. Connected vehicles inevitably track the people who drive them. Analyzing the habits of drivers as revealed by their journeys can expose extremely sensitive information - think of repeated visits to a hospital, or unexpected overnight stays at private houses.
2018/07/10: Widely accepted numbers on how much of the world's population lives in cities are incorrect, with major implications for development aid and the provision of public services for billions of people, researchers say.
2009/09/11: the problem of too much screen-time in a household is really a parental problem.
we have lost much of the community that made it easier to raise children. It’s well-documented elsewhere (see Robert Putnam’s work) and I won’t rant, but without safe neighborhoods and at-home parents around, our kids’ lives are quite attenuated, and they rightly expect us to entertain them within these limitations.
2018-07-29: In the 1930s, New York building commissioner Robert Moses built one highway and bridge after another, with the aim of relieving congestion in America's biggest city. But each time, the result was the same: worse traffic.
Today, Uber and Lyft are making traffic in major cities even worse because people tend to take them instead of walking, biking or taking mass transit, say multiple studies. Net effect is 5.7 *billion* additional miles of driving in 9 major U.S. cities
2018/07/03: “There is this false narrative, this dangerous lie, that people on bikes are somehow getting away with something, that they’re not paying their way,” Toderian explains. “This isn’t just a little wrong, it’s a lot wrong. We know factually that walking and biking are the two ways of getting around that actually save society money for each kilometre travelled. And that’s even before we consider all the many benefits that aren’t just about money.”
the main issue was not the technology change: it was the decline in transit service
At the turn of the 20th century, when transit companies' only competition were the legs of a person or a horse, they worked reasonably well, even if they faced challenges. Once cars arrived, nearly every U.S. transit agency slashed service to cut costs, instead of improving service to stay competitive. This drove even more riders away, producing a vicious cycle that led to the point where today, few Americans with a viable alternative ride buses or trains.
Now, when the federal government steps in to provide funding, it is limited to big capital projects. (Under the Trump administration, even those funds are in question.) Operations -- the actual running of buses and trains frequently enough to appeal to people with an alternative -- are perpetually starved for cash. Even transit advocates have internalized the idea that transit cannot be successful outside the highest-density urban centers. And it very rarely is.
There are now twice as many people as 50 years ago. But, as EO Wilson has argued, they can all survive - in cities
The implications of autonomous vehicles are vast, complex and difficult to predict. One thing is certain - their impact will be broad and significant.
Joe Stevens is overwhelmed by the intense, sometimes tearful support he receives from churches, schools and service groups for his plan to use little structures to help homeless.
Size matters. Just not when it comes to your yard. Indeed, "the size of new homes has been growing for decades now, but it's coming at the expense of yard...
California is about to become the only state in the nation mandating that virtually every new home have solar panels by 2020.
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Ride-hailing apps and robot cars promise to change how we get around and the effects are already being felt.
That's why more and more towns are deciding to wrest control of their streets from the tyranny of the automobile.