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.
The Invisible City Beneath Paris: Robert Macfarlane describes his journey into an invisible city in southern Paris containing more than two hundred miles of galleries, rooms, and chambers. The network comes from Paris’ history of underground stone quarrying, dating as far back as the thirteenth century. In the eighteenth century, when the unregulated tunneling caused sinkholes, the city began mapping its underground counterpart. Tunnels were named in relation to the streets above them, creating a mirror city. Exploring these tunnels and the catacombs is illegal, but community has formed for their restoration, preservation, and mapping. (Robert Macfarlane | The New Yorker)
Portland Quietly Launches ‘Replica’: Portland’s initial phase of employing mobility modeling software from Sidewalk Labs is underway. The software allows transportation and urban planners to query commuting and congestion data created to replicate real people. Doing so does not include cameras or sensors, but mobile location data that is then synthesized into simulated scenarios of how people move about the city. Residents are skeptical, however, of the transparency of data use by the city. City Council voted to use the software in December and may receive its first dataset from Sidewalk Labs by July. If satisfied, Portland will pay 12 cents per resident to access the software for a year with data refreshed every quarter. (Kate Kaye | GeekWire)
Building a Town from Scratch: Knight Kiplinger aims to build a city of 10,000 people on 1,000 acres of Florida farmland. The development, Pineland Prairie, will be built in some of the state’s most anti-development counties. Kiplinger persuaded local leaders to change the county’s official planning policy through years of generous giving and support, thereby allowing the development but also potentially changing residents’ way of life. The 1,000 acres is only 30% of what Kiplinger’s family owns; his argument that the other 70% will remain open space while the remaining 30% will become a compact, walkable, and sustainable town swayed local leadership. A family-oriented man, he hopes the development will provide an affordable housing alternative for families, teachers, or children returning from college. (Thomas Heath | Washington Post)
New York’s Brake-Pulling Subway Villain: Someone in New York has been pulling emergency brakes on New York City subway trains, only to be seen escaping onto the tracks and dashing down tunnels. Since March, 747 trains have been delayed or cancelled due to service disruptions attributed to this same behavior; these trains were either directly tampered with or behind the ones that were. Incident reports describe a spree where the suspect was able to delay more than 100 trains in a single spree. Current speculation that the suspect would have access to a key available to any train operator or conductor, though it is unknown how the suspect could have acquired it. (Aaron Gordon | Jalopnik)
The Town Choking on Online Shopping: San Bernardino County is ranked worst in the nation for ozone pollution. About an hour east of Los Angeles, the county is home to one of the nation’s hubs of warehousing and goods distribution as the logistics industry has been attracted to the region’s cheap land. Annually, tens of billions of dollars of imported goods pass through the Inland Empire, either by train, truck, or plane, increasing transportation emissions and pollution trapped by coastal winds. However, the county’s unemployment has steadily dropped as business infrastructure expanded. Grassroots coalitions and environmental activists, comprising especially of women and mothers, have been fighting the development, arguing that the economic boon is not worth children’s health and low wages. (Justine Calma | Grist)
Quote of the Week
“When we began this project four years ago, many of us wouldn’t have thought we’d be standing here today flying UAVs with advanced drone systems off high-rise buildings.”
Chris Walach in an AP article about how NASA is testing urban drone flight control in Reno Nevada.
This week on the podcast, Stephen Smyth of Coord discusses curb space and the future of cities.