Weekend Links! Befuddled Robocars, Misunderstood Sunbelt Cities, and Airport Design

Every day at The Direct Transfer we collect news about cities and send the links to our email list.  At the end of the week we take some of the most popular stories and post them to Greater Greater Washington, a group blog similar to streets.mn that focuses on urban issues in the DC region.  They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Robocars are befuddled: As roads age, their lane markings fade and signs become harder to read. Most humans can adjust alright, but nationwide, roads in disrepair are confusing self-driving cars. (Reuters)

Phoenix is just misunderstood: Phoenix gets a bad rap among urbanists because it’s not very dense and virtually everyone there drives. But is that what it deserves? It’s true that Phoenix, and similar places like Houston and Las Vegas, have sprawling designs. But maybe we should evaluate them based on how effective today’s decision makers are while working within those parameters. (Urban Edge)

Airport agony Do designs for airports accommodate passengers? The New York Times’ Chris Holbrook argues that changes in building priorities, from security concerns to more specialists who need to sign off on small details, has made airports feel more like prisons than places of comfort and service. (New York Times)

The US is lagging behind: When compared to airports in Seoul or trains in Switzerland, America’s infrastructure falls short. Possible explanations include that we’re dependent on cars, that the private sector abandoned mass transit, that we won’t pay for maintenence, and that more people are focused on their own success but not that of society at large. (The Conversation US)

Housing hyperbole: Joel Kotkin is one of urban thinking’s most outspoken contrarians, and a review from the California Planning and Development Report says his recent book is so off-base that it’s questionable whether he has ever actually met a planner. Just because a city is getting denser doesn’t mean it will get as dense as humanly possible, and just because a lot young and wealthy people live in cities doesn’t mean there’s a “war against suburbia.” (CPDR)

Quote of the Week

“As we’ve grown in recent decades in our knowledge of urban economies, street-level planning, city design, the value of diversity, government finance and management, we’ve lost an essential leadership skill—the craft of city politics.” Otis White, a renowned writer on government and cities, on why planners should think like politicians.

Crossposted at Greater Greater Washington


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2 Responses to Weekend Links! Befuddled Robocars, Misunderstood Sunbelt Cities, and Airport Design

  1. Scott April 14, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    We in the Twin Cities are triple blessed with our airport.

    1. It’s not in Red Wing, or whatever horrible southeast metro location they originally intended to relocate it to;

    2. It remains a well served hub airport, with convenient non-stops to just about anywhere and quite a few international destinations; and

    3. It was well planned and designed from the start, consequently it’s been easy to upgrade and expand over the years.

    Compared to:

    the disaster that is Atlanta (overrun and awful, the ability for people to walk instead of take the train means that the taxiways between the terminals are too narrow and planes get backed up);

    the mess that is Denver (taxiways are wide enough, but now you can’t walk between concourses and have to take the nasty train);

    LaGuardia (nothing works well, but no worries because in 30 years it will be abandoned to the Atlantic, but not before we waste a couple billion dollars building a new terminal).

    Detroit is the shining example of airport functionality in the US. It’s the best airport we have, bar none, with a great terminal and fantastic runways and taxiways. Detroit is how a new airport should be. It doesn’t have a lot of flowing this and that, architectural ge-gaws and do-dads, just awesome functionality, plenty of seating, lots of electrical outlets, plenty of amenities, and intuitive wayfinding. Getting lost at DTW is almost impossible.

    • Adam Froehlig
      Adam Froehlig April 15, 2016 at 7:09 am #

      1) Rosemount/Empire area. That was the proposal that was studied in the 1990s, but the Legislature decided to keep the existing location instead.

      There was also a serious proposal for a new airport back in the 1970s that would have put it in the north Metro…somewhere Andover-ish.