Cars on a boulevard lined with palm trees

National Links: Of Wealth and Traffic Speeds

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.

Traffic speeds around the world: A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at 1,200 large cities in 152 countries and discovered that travel time in cities around the world isn’t just about traffic or congestion. Layout, geographic features and the quality of roads are also factors. But the biggest predictor of travel time was the wealth of the country in which the city was located. (Oliver Staley | Time Magazine)

Houston amends residential development requirements: New building code regulations in Houston will prohibit front loaded “snout house” garages in some neighborhoods to increase pedestrian safety and allow more missing-middle housing to be built. That could include more three- to eight-unit buildings as well as accessory dwelling units (ADUs) up to 1,500 square feet. Parking requirements will be reduced or disappear, making it easier to build some of the units. (Adam Zuvanich | Houston Public Media)

Abandoned lands a hidden resource: Abandoned farmland has been increasing all over the world. In Bulgaria, which has lost 28% of its population, rewilded land gives researchers an opportunity to study the biodiversity benefits of ceding former farmland to nature. Scientists measure the benefits of this rewilding at 40 million tons of carbon annually, but dangers could include increased wildfires and invasive species movement. (Fred Pearce  | Yale e360)

California highway building exposed: Jeanie Ward-Waller was removed from her post at Caltrans last month for speaking up about how the agency was allegedly using state money earmarked for paving projects to expand highways instead — all the while splitting up those projects into sections to avoid environmental reviews. She was initially brought on to the California Department of Transportation to head new sustainability programs, but now Ward-Waller is considering how to move forward with a whistleblower complaint. (Debra Khan | Politico)

Follow Tokyo’s lead: After World War II Tokyo faced a growing population and a huge housing shortage. So the national government created a simple zoning regime and permitting system that allowed developers to build a lot more housing. From the 1960s, Tokyo has tripled its housing supply while New York has increased its supply by only a third. That has led to lower rental prices in Tokyo, where the median rent is just 20% of disposable income. (Eliza Relman | Business Insider)

Quote of the Week

“It’s the same feeling as the one I had when I was younger, with my parents driving their car, and it was like traffic jams all over the place. So now it’s really a bike traffic jam. But it’s kind of a good difficulty to have. Especially when we think about what Paris used to be.”

Thibault Quéré, a spokesperson for the Federation of Bicycle Users in the Associated Press discussing Paris’ bike traffic jams.

This week on the podcast, Bob Searns joins us to talk about his new book, Beyond Greenways: The Next Step for City Trails and Walking Routes.

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