National Links: Behavioral Design Can Improve the City

Every day at The Overhead Wire 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.

Behavioral design can improve quality of life: A small nudge here and there via text message can drastically improve quality of life in a city. For example, the subway is crowded when the Cubs are playing, but a reminder and free ride voucher was able to reduce crowding 17% during those times. If more cities can employ behavioral design, the hope is that human services can function better and increase the well-being of their residents. (Fast Company)

Boring and debt ridden retail is dead: Right now, e-commerce is being blamed for the death of retail, but the pronouncement may be overly simplistic. Some sectors of the retail industry are growing, while others are being affected not just by Amazon but also by ballooning debt and an overbuilt retail market from the 1980s and 1990s. (Urbanism Next)

Calming the autonomous vehicle hype: For many reasons, autonomous vehicles are a hot new item. As transit agencies look to the future, they would do well to consider these four ideas: urban space is scarce, the timeline for AV adoption is uncertain, goals for the future and definitions for success should be clear, and transit agencies should start making themselves more competitive now instead of waiting. (TransitCenter)

Who is winning the self-driving car race?: Several companies are competing to be the first to launch autonomous ride-hailing services, yet only one (Waymo) has a big edge over the others. It’s a heated race because there’s a big prize at the end of the challenge: money. Operating margins for auto companies could double without drivers, so all of the money being spent on the race could be just a small investment in their future. (Bloomberg)

From steel mills to greenhouses: Steel mills long abandoned after their companies went bankrupt are now being repurposed as greenhouses. Gotham Greens uses the mills to grow produce with zero pesticides in less space using intelligent systems. The newest greenhouse in Baltimore employs 60 people, but could expand to 9,500 over time. (Fast Company)

Quote of the Week

“With the two decisions, the M.T.A. dealt the subway system a blow that may be felt well into the future. First, the agency decided to increase the amount of space required between trains. It installed or modified hundreds of signals, which regulate train spacing. In that process, signals throughout the system were misconfigured — set up in a way that slowed the trains down even more than officials intended. Second, the agency adopted new rules for track work that expanded safety zones and increased setup times.”

Adam Pierce in the New York Times discussing why the NYC Subway has slowed so much.

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