National Links: Generative AI and Cities

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.

AirBnB feels different now: When the short-term rental company AirBnB started, it was a way to create a personalized travel experience with local hosts and a good experience. Now it’s moved towards something else, a massive platform where hosts rent out houses they’ve bought to treat as hotel rooms. 30 percent of listings are by people or companies that own 21 properties or more, and while you can still get a place to stay for cheap, the host of other issues gets bigger. (Kate Lindsay | The Atlantic)

Changing geography of work from home: While there’s a perception that working from home is leading to people moving to rural areas and open spaces, most of those homes are in large metropolitan areas where a lot of jobs already could be done remotely. In places where people already tend to live closer to work, like Manhattan, work from home has waned. Bloomberg’s Justin Fox goes into the data on these changes, and speculates as to which will stick. (Justin Fox | Bloomberg/Washington Post)

Rethinking transportation outside commutes: Researchers at Brookings took a deep dive into transportation data to see what the pandemic-era restructure of transportation looks like in real time. They found that with reduced commuting, there’s no main thread holding metro areas together under one transportation narrative with stories varying based on region. This finding, of course, has pros and cons, but ultimately each place has a chance to write a new future or get stuck in inertia. (Adie Tomer & Caroline George | Brookings)

Copenhagen’s sponge city investments: To make sure extreme rain events don’t cause damage to the City of Copenhagen in Denmark, the city has invested 1.8B euros by 2035 in green infrastructure, including catchment ponds, green spaces and adapted roads. Most of the funding is coming from revenue collected from the water utility and much less in taxes. After an extreme weather event that cost the city 800m euros in 2011, the city has vowed to invest in ways to absorb the water.  (Jan Petter | Spiegel International)

AI invades urban planning with mixed results: There’s a wave of interest in using generative AI in architecture and urban planning. While some believe that generative AI is about creating compelling messaging, others wish to use it to create detailed designs the technology is perhaps not quite ready to produce. To be useful, bigger datasets are needed, but there’s also a worry about too many boring and bland urban spaces and designs being sampled into the models, and risks of the imagery being used for political purposes. (Patrick Sisson | Bloomberg CityLab)

Quote of the Week

“Freedom is hard to take away from people once they’ve had a taste of it. Now requiring people to work in the office can lead to lower levels of engagement, higher burnout and a lot of resentment.”

—Jim Harter, psychologist and chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing for analytics and consulting firm Gallup, discussing new work-from-home dynamics in Newsweek.

This week on the podcast, we’re joined by Zack Subin of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley and Ben Holland of the Rocky Mountain Institute for a conversation about their report on the importance of land use in reducing travel and emissions.

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