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.
Business groups go in on bike lanes: Business improvement districts (BIDs) were formed in the 1970s as a response to downtown struggles in the United States. BIDs prioritized car access and attracting white collar businesses. Now under a new threat of changed post-pandemic employee schedules and work-from-home, they are embracing car-free streets and bike infrastructure in an attempt to create more people-friendly spaces. (John Surico | Bloomberg CityLab)
Activity centers reduce driving: Researchers at the Brookings Institution found that households’ vehicle miles traveled could be reduced by 14,500 miles per year if they were located closer to downtowns and main streets in their communities. Looking at 110 metro areas, they found that people living in proximity to activity centers reliably travel shorter distances before and even after the pandemic. The results of these shorter trips are reduced transportation costs and lowered emissions. (Adie Tomer & Caroline George | Brookings)
Week of the cone: A group of anti-AV (autonomous vehicle) activists in San Francisco has found a way to incapacitate driverless test cars by placing traffic cones on the hood, angering vehicle companies Cruise and Waymo. The activism comes right before an important California Public Utilities Commission hearing, which has been pushed back twice in light of complaints from activists and officials in San Francisco. The approval of 24-hour operations for these vehicles was initially seen as a done deal. (Joe Kukura | SFist)
Did PPP loans lead to housing inflation? New research from the University of Texas shows that Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds given to struggling businesses during the pandemic were often used fraudulently and may have created home price inflation. The researchers believe that windfalls from fraudulent loans were likely to be stashed in real estate in areas that might otherwise have seen home prices fall. (Alexandra Hart | Texas Standard)
Shade is important as heat increases: Bus stops and playgrounds get really hot in the summer, and shade is often hard to come by. Some measurements in Phoenix show temperatures getting as high as 160 degrees at bus stops in the direct sun. But addressing the issue means that cities and government agencies need to get more serious about providing shade and deal with the gauntlet of rules and regulations that makes providing cool spaces difficult. (Rebecca Leber | Vox)
Quote of the Week
“The city should focus less on policies of willful denial — landowners imagining high rents and Amazon execs mandating against reality — and focus more on attracting eager small businesses. The city can do this by passing zoning regulations that favor or even mandate smaller square footage spaces. Let the weirdos, not the bros, take the lead in reviving downtown.”
— Josh Feit in PubliCola talking about how downtown Seattle can thrive going forward
This week on the podcast we’re joined by Yale Law professor David Schleicher to talk about his new book, In a Bad State: Responding to State and Local Budget Crises.