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National Links: The Problem with Lithium and a Future Street Grid

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 D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining and sometimes absurd, but hopefully useful.

The Plight of the Urban Planner: Nikil Saval explores the contemporary role of the urban planner, especially as America’s housing crisis worsens. Cities and states nationwide are mulling or have already approved removing single-family zoning, and as NIMBYs and YIMBYs duke it out online over property values and gentrification, Saval questions where the contemporary planner fits in the conversation. The United States has instituted a strong relationship between development and politics, putting planners in a position between residents, developers, and politicians. With all these points of contention in contemporary urban America, Saval argues that the planner has gone from inconsequential decades ago to one of great purpose today. (Nikil Saval | The New Yorker)

CurbFlow Reduces Double Parking: Washington, DC’s Department of Transportation (DDOT) and digital curb space management company curbFlow released some results of a three-month pilot project. The pilot removed curb parking at nine locations where commercial deliveries often block traffic or excessively take up parking, and allowed drivers to reserve spaces in advance. Because of the project, double parking went down 64%, commercial drivers reserved spaces more than 15,000 times, and over 6,350 drivers from more than 900 companies registered to use the service. CurbFlow will launch a second plan in Columbus, Ohio, next week. (Katie Pyzyk | Smart Cities Dive)

Texas City Adopts Forward Thinking Street Grid and Code: Bastrop, Texas, adopted new, ground breaking land use regulations this week that address flooding and establish a future street grid as a framework for growth. About 30 miles north of Austin, the city has been hit by 5 floods and three significant wildfires in the past decade, prompting a new plan that better considers climate resilience for the city. The city deemed its mainly suburban development as fiscally unsustainable, so the city plan also aims to make each parcel “revenue positive.” (Robert Steuteville | CNU Public Square)

Milwaukee City Workers Move Out in Droves: For 75 years, city employees were required to live within city boundaries as a condition of employment. The Wisconsin legislature approved an end to this residency requirement for city employees in 2013. The most recent Milwaukee data, from August 2019, shows that 28% of city employees now live outside the city. Alderman Mark Borkowski notes that while this has been a boon for suburbs, some Milwaukee neighborhoods have been losing their sense of identity, costing the city nearly 10,000 residents. (Mike Gousha | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Climate Change’s Great Lithium Problem: Amid Bolivia’s recent uprisings and political conflicts lies the contention over Bolivia’s lithium extraction. Over half of the world’s lithium reserves are held in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Left-leaning President Evo Morales combated these extractive dynamics, seizing mines and redistributing land. This sparked backlash from foreign companies, which forced several concessions and as much as $1.9B from Morales’ administration through lawsuits. Now, as the worldwide push to electrify virtually everything grows, the demand for lithium is set to skyrocket; a world operating fully on renewables by 2050 would entail 280% of the planet’s lithium reserves. This is all complicated by Morales’ stepping down and the political complexities in Bolivia. (Kate Aronoff | The New Republic)

Quote of the Week

Harb thought they would see people sending their cars out more than if they were driving themselves, something like a 20 or 30 percent increase in VMT with the chauffeurs. Nothing to sneeze at, of course, but towards the middle of the wide range of the results the surveys had suggested.He was wrong. The subjects increased how many miles their cars covered
by a collective 83 percent when they had the chauffeur versus the week prior.”

Aaron Gordon in Jalopnik discussing research that used chauffers as stand ins for future AVs.

This week on the podcast, Dr. Anne Goodchild of the University of Washington discusses The Urban Freight Lab.

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