National Links: Accidental Planners and Humiliating Grocery Bags

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

Design Transit Stations in ‘Overcrowd’ Game: A new simulation-style management game launched on June 6th for PC wherein you create the transit system of a London-like city called Lubdon. In an isometric space, ‘Overcrowd’ has players working around cost constraints and underground barriers to optimize metro stations. Once a station is in operation, players must manage menial tasks like garbage collection or fixing ticket kiosks. Impressed, the London Transport Museum is looking to preserve the game “in perpetuity.” Balancing fantastical absurdity and realistic simulation, the game emphasizes the details that go into efficient places like transit stations. (Nicole Carpenter | The Verge)

Vancouver’s Humiliating Plastic Bags: Independent grocery store East West Market on Main Street in Vancouver BC is handing out mortifying plastic bags in an effort to discourage the use of single-use plastics. The store’s owner, David Lee Kwen, notes that while many people own reusable bags, they still forget to bring them; this solution was a way to help customers “remember their reusable bags in a way that will really stick with them.” Some bag designs include “Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium” and “The Colon Care Co-Op.” Now, hopefully customers will remember to bring reusable bags or risk looking like they came from “Wart Ointment (Wholesale).” (Elana Shepert | Vancouver Is Awesome)

Traffic Jams Show Inequality: In researching for its 2018 congestion index, TomTom noticed that the German cities with the highest and fastest-growing apartment rents are also the most congested. From this, it may be worth building more housing and decentralizing business infrastructure to put people closer to their jobs. As cities use more policies and incentives (like congestion pricing) to discourage car use, poorer residents who are priced out of cities and move to suburbs suffer more from transportation inequity. While academia still debates on polycentric urban models, some recent research shows that it may work to cut commuting times and reduce congestion. (Leonid Bershidsky | Bloomberg)

Berlin’s Accidental Planners: Protests for Berlin’s lack of affordable housing turned into a serious plan, backed by 140 million euros in state funding, to save the abandoned Haus der Stastik office complex of mid-rise towers. Artists protesting evictions set up a fake construction banner on the space: “Room for Art, Culture, and Social Space”; the project did not exist, but what it proposed was realistic. The political prank earned a meeting with the city’s mayor, after which the artist-activists immediately sought out professional designers to develop the concept. Now, a coalition of architects, planners, artists, and other community members is coordinating to develop this “gentrification-proof island.” This bottom-up approach is already attractive prospective community groups as tenants, and provides a substantial alternative to the trend of master planning. (Nate Berg | Places Journal)

‘Missing Middle’ Cuts Carbon Impacts: Consider two blocks, each with 18 homes. On one, the 18 homes are replaced with 3 McMansions, something legal in many cities. On the other block, three of the old homes are replaced with a duplex, a triplex, and a fourplex, which would be illegal in most US cities. Both would roughly cost the same for demolition and rebuilding, but the block with ‘missing middle’ -plex housing housing would have 20% less carbon emissions. This exercise demonstrates that housing policy is indeed climate policy. Reforming single-family zoning is one of the best ways to achieve cities’ emissions reductions goals, so it is a wonder why such rezoning is currently considered illegal. However, efforts are underway, such as with Oregon’s House Bill 2001, which would re-legalize middle housing statewide, to remedy this. (Michael Andersen | Sightline)

Quote of the Week

“We know that they genuinely deter laundering of dirty money in the real estate market without impacting clean investment. The cost-benefit ratio for Americans is only positive.”

Zoe Reiter in Quartz discussing a pilot program that looked at money laundering in real estate.

This week on our weekly review show, Mondays at The Overhead Wire, Chrissy Mancini Nichols and I talk about drones, zero passenger vehicles, CAFE standards and more!

4 thoughts on “National Links: Accidental Planners and Humiliating Grocery Bags

  1. Andrew Evans

    For what it’s worth, a super easy way of getting rid of plastic bags is to not have them. Then if someone forgets to bring their reusable bag, an easy way to get them to remember is charge for them. Then if some still forget to bring them, they will be up to their ears in reusable bags that one will be in their car or bag, if for no other reason than the person is running out of space to put them.

    1. Monte Castleman

      I’m sure at places like IKEA where they don’t have disposable plastic bags, a lot of the “reusable” bags, that probably take thousands of times the resources to make, simply wind up spending years in a closet or basement before being trashed in a cleanup binge, if they’re not just trashed immediately. People forget every time r else just view the $1 charge as just a price of shopping there each time. Maybe that’s the thinking behind still offering plastic.

      Or else the fact that now we’re talking about this store way over in Minnesota now has something to do with it.

      1. Andrew Evans

        You know, a few thoughts on that, at a slower Friday here in the office.

        I’m starting to get more conscious of packaging in my older years. Not that I’m a diehard greenie or want to be a signatory on the green new deal (I’d rather print it and burn it), but it seems wasteful to throw things away at times. For instance we’re trying to buy bulk spices now rather than new containers. Sure we can afford it, that’s not the point, but why use another glass container if it’s not possible. We also remembered we’re up to our ears in growlers and finally reused some this last trip up north. Among other smaller steps we’re trying to take.

        So I get the point that these reusable bags can pile up, and that’s a valid point.

        Part of my view on bags is that we have enough of them. I’m using plastic bags as my lunch bag for work. Right now I have 6 of them in my laptop bag, we just don’t need any more. We have a few foot stack of paper bags, and although we use them to start fires, they really aren’t needed (the oily black construction paper home depot has works great to start fires). Personally I need to do a better job remembering to bring our reuseable bags along, we have a handful of them, and I have no love lost if we don’t get another home depot, fleet farm, or grocery bag again.

        That said, I don’t want to ban them, or really force people off of them. I’m no where near that militant on this issue, really not militant at all.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Banning or charging for disposable bags was militant a decade ago. Now it’s just another embarrassing thing we haven’t done yet.

          Is only started using reusable bags when DC started charging for disposable ones more than a decade ago. Even if it wasn’t “greener,” I wouldn’t switch back because the bags reusable ones are bigger, hold more and are a lot stronger. They’re just much better bags.

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