National Links: Eminent Domain, Cafe Urbanism, and Company Towns

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 that focuses on urban issues in the DC region.  They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

Is Uber doomed? After a month of tough news including allegations of systemic sexual harassment and a dashboard video of the CEO being rude to a driver, there are some questions about whether Uber can survive as a company. The biggest problem isn’t the very public missteps but rather the current business model in which fares only cover 40% of ride costs, and the fact that Uber has quickly burned through two billion venture capital dollars in the last year. (Jalopnik)

Texas landowners vs. the bullet train: Last week Texas lawmakers filed 20 bills to kill a privately planned high speed rail line from Dallas to Houston; one of the bills stipulates that railroads with trains going faster than 120 miles an hour would not be allowed to use eminent domain. This is happening partly because constituents have said they’re worried about train companies taking their land for a rail system they won’t benefit from. (Dallas Morning News)

Census Bureau out, Google Streetview in?: Google street view vehicles already traverse the country, mapping and imaging every street. In the future it might be possible to use machine learning similar to what these vehicles use to conduct a census. By analyzing vehicles in images parked outside of houses, Google engineers were able to deduce income levels and voting patterns.  The machine learning process is not without limitations and probably won’t be able to replicate fine grained information gathering, but it’s a promising new tool in the world of big data. (The Economist)

Restaurants can be good for urbanism, but they’re not always good for urbanism: Many neighborhoods have seen a surge in higher end restaurants, changing what was considered a retail corridor into a food hot spot.  A lot of places have really revitalized as a result, but at the same time, “cafe urbanism” seems to have limits.  Many competing restaurants have actually gone out of business, and we might be seeing a trend in which we end up with a few high end spots and a couple of beer joints in an area that used to have a much wider range of options. (Governing)

When the company leaves a company town: As more big companies opt to move key operations from mid-sized cities to major cities, smaller places are trying to develop new identities.  This is especially true in Peoria and Decatur, Illinois, both of which have recently lost corporate jobs to Chicago. These towns are trying to come up with solutions, but they aren’t quite sure what the answers are yet. (Denver Post)

Quote of the Week

“You see clearly that we are on a street that is dying, there are whole buildings where there isn’t a soul.”

– French blogger Florian Jourdain in the New York Times on the plight of his slowly dying town of Albi.

Cross Posted at Greater Greater Washington

Jeff Wood

About Jeff Wood

Jeff Wood is an urban planner focused on transportation and land use issues living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jeff blogs at The Overhead Wire and tweets @theoverheadwire. He also shares news links daily from around the country on issues related to cities at The Direct Transfer