Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to our email list. At the end of the week they 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 or absurd but often useful.
Los Angeles transit overwhelmed by drugs, homelessness: In LA, the transit system is suffering from low ridership; many are staying away in part because of worries about going into subway cars with people sleeping and using drugs like fentanyl. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but with fewer people overall on trains and buses post-pandemic, the visibility of problems is more pronounced. Officials want to make trains more inviting but are worried about the impacts of bringing more law enforcement to deal with social issues. (Rachel Uranga | Los Angeles Times)
Why didn’t Minneapolis gobble up its suburbs?: The Minneapolis metropolitan area is one of the largest in the country, but at about 430,000 people, the city itself is smaller than the center cities of many similar-sized metro areas. Added together with sister city St. Paul, the city would be bigger, but the way settlers divided the land 150 years ago, plus a lack of annexation over the past 70 years, have limited boundary growth. (Eric Roper and MaryJo Webster | Star Tribune)
Red states’ preemption of blue cities increasing: States with more Republican elected officials are clashing with cities that elect Democrats and support Democratic policies. Conservative-dominated statehouses across the country are seeking to limit cities’ power to set their own policies around rent stabilization, minimum wage, and school curricula. Many of these “preemption” bills involve politics and culture war issues; they could also have a corrosive effect on democracy if people feel their voices are being squashed by legislators at higher levels of government. (Monica Potts | FiveThirtyEight)
Mapping more sidewalks in cities: Using aerial photos and image-recognition software, researchers from multiple universities have created an open-source tool that maps sidewalks in cities. Most cities don’t have comprehensive data on sidewalks, so this could be a welcome addition for planners and city officials seeking to repair or bolster sidewalks or focus their climate change efforts on active transportation. (Peter Dizikes | MIT News)
Dead electric car batteries’ second lives powering cities: Once electric car batteries have exhausted their useful life in electric cars, they are still useful in other ways and can keep about 80% of their charge. This allows them to be used for other applications such as solar energy storage or powering streetlights and elevators. As more and more electric cars are manufactured, there’s a need to figure out what happens to their batteries after their usefulness to cars is up. (Peter Yeung | Reasons to be Cheerful)
Quote of the Week
“We’re really good at responding and arresting somebody for drugs or assaults or thefts or burglaries, but of course they get out of jail and recidivism happens. We think that through this process [of neighborhood design] we’ll be able to prevent crimes rather than just responding to crimes.”
— Delta County, Colorado Sheriff Mark Taylor in Rocky Mountain PBS talking about a new grant program funding city projects as a crime deterrent.
This week on the podcast, we’re joined by Dr. Diane Jones Allen, program director for Landscape Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Featured image: Aerial photo from the 1920s or 1930s, showing the part of Richfield that was annexed by Minneapolis in 1927. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library.