Aerial view of a fast-food restaurant with a drive-thru.

National Links: No New Drive-Thrus

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 that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.

The Midwestern downtown crisis: While news media focus a bright spotlight on coastal cities dealing with the pandemic and changing worker preferences, they have been giving less attention to other places around the country. In the Midwest, cities like Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis are having a hard time attracting residents and visitors to their downtowns, according to research from the University of Toronto, which used cell phone data to analyze activity before and after the worst years of the pandemic. (Eliza Relman | Business Insider)

Cities banning new drive-thrus: About 200,000 restaurants around the United States have drive-thru windows that make takeaway meals and drinks easier to access by car. But many cities are starting to ban new ones, since they cater to drivers, don’t support active transportation, and don’t facilitate people exploring neighboring businesses. Additionally, the lines of cars create more opportunities for collisions with other vehicles and injury to vulnerable road users. (Nathaniel Meyersohn | CNN)

AI makes the housing crisis worse: Landlords using artificial intelligence to screen tenants are making more mistakes and exacerbating discrimination. AI programs scour the web for information, but with so many errors online, including outdated and incorrect information, the results are often completely wrong. At least five tenant screening companies are currently facing 90 federal civil rights and consumer lawsuits, and the results are likely to set up coming battles over AI regulation. (Rebecca Burns | The Lever)

Here come the electric buses: The U.S. Department of Transportation has released $1.7 billion for bus acquisition, with more than half the money going toward zero-emission vehicles. The funding is expected to result in the procurement of 1,700 buses and upgrades to bus maintenance facilities to accommodate charging infrastructure. While it seems like a lot of new buses, there are currently about 60,000 buses on U.S. roads, so there’s still a long way to go. (Andrew J. Hawkins | The Verge)

Building based on a past climate: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) includes decades-old records in the models it uses for its precipitation estimates — estimates that many agencies use to plan and build infrastructure projects. While NOAA agrees that these predictions are out of date, the next update funded by the infrastructure bill won’t come until 2027, well after much of the money from the infrastructure bill is spent. (Thomas Frank | Scientific American, reprinted from E&E News)

Quote of the Week

“ODOT is clearly walking away from phase two of I-205. They have no idea how they’re going to pay for it [and the Rose Quarter project]. It shows that what the critics have been saying about these projects has been absolutely right.”

— No More Freeways co-founder Joe Cortright in the Portland Mercury on the Oregon Department of Transportation’s proposal to pause two highway projects in Portland.

This week on the podcast, author Ben Wilson joins the show to talk about his new book, “Urban Jungle: The History and Future of Nature in the City.”

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