A pedestrian walks by a vacant storefront in SoMa, San Francisco.

National Links: Empty Storefronts and New Delivery Vans

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.

Teaming up on delivery truck design: General Motors’ Wade Bryant was in New York when he was struck by the huge amount of work delivery workers do to get people their packages every day. His team then focused on designing a zero-emissions delivery vehicle from the perspective of the delivery worker, from handling packages to the number of times workers have to get themselves in and out of the driver’s seat. The result was the Zevo delivery van. (Nate Berg | Fast Company)

Depaving cities: With extreme weather events, including huge rain events and heat waves, communities are starting to reconsider asphalt paving. Removing asphalt from schoolyards and back yards can have huge benefits, including reduced runoff and decreased heat absorption, resulting in lower temperatures. Now a group called Depave Chicago is trying to bring more attention to the benefits of reducing impervious cover in the city. (Lucy Sherriff | Nexus Media News)

Birmingham bankruptcy: Birmingham, England’s second largest city after London, has stopped all spending for nonessential services — effectively declaring itself bankrupt — after having difficulties paying $954 million in equal pay claims. Historically, female workers for the city had been paid less than men for doing the same work, and the city has had to pay for past injustices. A perfect storm of lower revenues, inflation, and adult social care has impacted other cities around the country, but Birmingham is the first to suspend all nonessential services due to financial hardship. (Rob Picheta and Catherine Nicholls | CNN)

Brussels reduces driving in the city: One year after the implementation of Brussels, Belgium’s new traffic circulation plan, car traffic is down 25% and bike ridership up 36%. While the pandemic had some impact on the uptick in cycling, the transportation plan owes much of its success to business outreach and continued relationship-building. Additionally, some of the predicted traffic that opponents were worried about, including ring-road jams, never materialized. (Michiel Modijefsky | Eltis)

Vacant storefronts are key: The pandemic and subsequent trends toward office workers working from home have led to reduced activity in many downtowns. What makes the decline more stark and challenging to reverse, argues Emily Badger, is the vacant storefronts on the ground floors of downtown office buildings. If filling empty storefronts is needed to restore activity, then cities need to rethink how to get people downtown, and building owners should reconsider their business models. (Emily Badger | New York Times)

Quote of the Week

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap, understanding the theory and evidence about how transport infrastructure reshapes the world in a positive feedback way (more access → more development, more development → more infrastructure and more access), while recognising the randomness of life and unknowns of the world.”

University of Sydney professor David M. Levinson in Transportist, discussing the fantasy of transportation modeling.

This week on the podcast, Dr. Robert Blaine of the National League of Cities joins us to chat about getting federal infrastructure funds for small cities.

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