In the latest UrbanCincy podcast we talked about tech companies such as Google and Microsoft investing in private buses to transport their employees from the center city to their suburban office campuses. But what if local zoning allowed these tech companies to build housing for their employees on-site? A recent post via the Atlantic Cities takes a look into an alternative future:
In a series of new 3D visualizations, Berkeley designer Alfred Twu imagined what Silicon Valley would look like if tech giants replaced the parking around their headquarters with on-site housing. In order to accommodate all of the workers, Twu filled the campuses of Apple, Google, and Facebook with 20 to 50-floor towers, all filled with 800-square foot apartments.
I met Jonathan Geeting in Salt Lake City during the Congress for the New Urbanism annual conference. We were roommates during which we both participated in a training session led by Streetsblog, for which UrbanCincy is a long-time partner, and studied the city’s transportation while also taking part in the conference. During that conference Jon also filed daily reports for Next City, and has become an increasingly popular writer there.
Jon’s latest piece, which is quite excellent, is this week’s feature story, and it examines what a not-so-distant world might be like for cities when driverless cars are the norm. What might it mean for jobs, parking supply, sprawl or mobility, and when might it all come to fruition? Some of the possibilities may surprise you. More from Next City:
The driverless, or more accurately, self-driving car is widely predicted to revolutionize mobility by knocking humans out of the driver’s seat as soon as 2030. The technology offers the possibility of infinitely safer travel. Human error — a mistimed turn, a heavy foot on the gas pedal or any one of countless other driver mishaps — caused or contributed to more than 90 percent of car collisions, according to a landmark study done by Indiana University. With automated acceleration, braking technologies and crash-avoidance technology, driverless cars could make highways exponentially less deadly.
Yet there is another opportunity at stake: The chance to dramatically reshape the relationship between public space and the car. For the last 100 years, urban planners have designed cities to accommodate personal vehicles. Every home comes with a driveway or curb for your car. Asphalt seas of parking spaces or costly multistory garages surround schools, shops and office buildings like carbon-spewing moats. What if instead of driving our own cars, we relied on 21st-century carpools — sharable autonomous vehicles?
We’ve see Art Deco, Modernism, Post-Modernism, Queen Anne Style, Italianate and many other periods of architectural expression, style and function. We are now currently in a period of Sustainable/Ecological architecture, but some Ohio politicians would prefer the state not participate in the most widely used and accepted rating system for such design and construction practices. More from Columbus Business First:
Ohio Concurrent Senate Resolution 25 was introduced last year by Joe Uecker, R-Loveland, and Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, to stop state government from using the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building practices. Instead, the resolution advocates using American National Standards Institute practices because, it says, they’re more grounded in science.
The resolution got its first hearing earlier this week and chemical and manufacturing boosters laid out their case against some of the Green Building Council’s credits. Specifically, chemical trade groups say, LEED rules are not transparent and don’t conform with environmental industry consensus.
A building project still can achieve LEED Platinum, the highest rating available, without obtaining these credits. But that didn’t stop the chemical industry from voicing its concerns. The council has exhibited “discriminatory and disparaging treatment of vinyl in LEED credits,” testified Allen Blakey, vice president of industry and government affairs of the Washington, D.C. Vinyl Institute.
Cincinnati has seen its ups and downs with coworking spaces, including our favorite but now closed Cincy Coworks in Walnut Hills. The idea was and still is great – especially for the growing number of freelance or independent professionals who would like a space to work that isn’t either their living room couch or a congested coffee shop. Well this new company out of Russian has a slight twist on the traditional coworking space, if you can call coworking spaces traditional. What they do is operate a bit like a coworking space and a bit like a café, but instead of charging monthly memberships or for the latte; they charge users for occupying the space. More from Grist:
Ziferblat, a Russian company that just opened its first branch in London, works on an unusual premise: It charges you for the time you spend in its space, rather than what you consume there…The charge for the space is 3 pence (about 5 cents) per minute, and it works out to about the same rate you’d pay in a coffee shop, if you bought a small item for every hour to 90 minutes you linger. But it’s your choice — do you actually need a fancy latte? Do you want a sandwich? If you’re not hungry or caffeine-deprived and you just want a space to work or hang out — well, that’s all that’s required here. It’s sort of like a private park, but inside and with couches and free coffee.
As any frequent Cincinnati Metro rider knows, it seems like the bus stops at almost every block in the city. Would reducing the number of bus stops help make bus transit more efficient? A recent study released done by researchers at George Mason University looks at a hypothetical 43% reduction in bus stops in Fairfax, Virginia. Their results are worth checking into. More from Governing:
When bus stops are frequent, not only do buses have to stop more often to pick up and drop off passengers, they also use value time accelerating and decelerating. Those two factors alone can take up to 26 percent of total bus travel times. All that stopping and starting can also increase emissions.
Nationally, most bus riders — about 75 percent to 80 percent of them — walk less than a quarter mile to bus stops. But Zolnik’s study assumed that, in this case, most passengers could walk half a mile to stop, since many of the riders are young, healthy students.
On the campaign trail last year, we were repeatedly told about all the problems facing Cincinnati. Much of it was hyperbole, but some of it was in fact true. Our pension system needs to be reformed, our budget structurally balanced, infant mortality rates and childhood poverty improved, we need more diverse transportation options for everyone, fix our combined sewer overflow disaster and reduce blight in our neighborhoods. And yes, there are certainly other issues needing to be addressed, but how does the new mayor and council intend on tackling all of these issues? It might be a good idea to bring in some outside help from sharp young minds from around the country. More from Governing Magazine:
With low turnover and few new workers, cities are in a quandary when it comes to stoking the innovation process. To address this challenge, cities are increasingly using fellowships to import talent from outside the public sector to support particular projects and initiatives. We’re beginning to see the results.
The infusion of outside talent into a city provides an important addition to under-resourced teams and initiatives. Local governments are eager for these opportunities. But as Anastasoff notes, fellowships like Fuse Corps are not just simply expanding capacity; they seek to interrupt the existing modes of work and provide the energy and ideas needed to redirect projects for better outcomes. “This isn’t just a question of more hands — the champions within city government who are working with our fellows recognize and value that they are here to help change culture,” she says.
But city governments wouldn’t be signing up in significant numbers for opportunities like this if the results were limited to intangible culture shifts; public sector culture can be resistant to change, and without seeing real tangible impact, the “interruption” provided by a fellow would likely remain just that.
The U.K. opened its first “social supermarket” in December. South Yorkshire’s Community Shop combines social services with a discount grocery store by offering heavily discounted groceries as well as classes on cooking, budgeting, and job skills. The obvious benefit is that less usable food goes into landfills and more food goes to the people who need it. However, social supermarkets’ real strength is in its ability to shift control and dignity back to the individual. More from NPR:
Part discount grocer, part social service agency, the supermarkets are for members only. Membership is free, but it is limited to those who can prove they receive some form of welfare benefits. Members can save up to 70 percent on food that has been rejected by grocers because it might be mislabeled, have damaged packaging or be nearing an expiration date. That food is still edible, though, so instead of getting thrown away, it’s donated with a waiver of liability.