Cyclists lined up to board Caltrain.

National Links: Pandemic-Induced Car Commuting

Every day, The Overhead Wire collects news about cities and sends the links to their 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.

Stanford hospitals miss mode share targets: Under the terms of the deal with Palo Alto that allowed Stanford University to expand its hospitals, more than a third of the trips to and from the hospital complex would be via non-single occupancy vehicle (SOV) modes, with the percentage inching up yearly until buildout was complete. But since the pandemic, the share of “alternative” (non-SOV) modes has actually dropped; from 2012 to 2019, the non-SOV mode share ranged from 33.4% to 38.1%; it has since fallen below 30%. Stanford is likely to argue extenuating circumstances due to the pandemic in order to avoid fines for missed targets. (Gennady Sheyner | The Almanac)

Can cities foster serendipity with workers at home? Chance encounters and collisions between people with different ideas, dubbed “knowledge spillovers” by economists, are seen as a key product of cities. The sharing of information and innovation that happens when people bump into each other at random is important, but what happens when many of the workers who used to work in urban centers now work from home? We may not know for some time the impact of the pandemic, but clusters of AI jobs popping up in San Francisco could give us a clue. (Emily Badger | New York Times)

U.S. most vulnerable at the ZIP code level: People living in the United States are suffering from a number of major social problems, from family disintegration to shootings to “deaths of despair.” And while overall wealth is increasing, social ties and organically grown local organizations are disappearing, replaced by professional advocacy groups. The disintegration of social ties, Seth Kaplan argues, is the worst he’s seen anywhere in the world, impacting our moral authority and overall well-being. (Seth D. Kaplan | Bloomberg CityLab

Cruise license revoked by California DMV: The California Department of Motor Vehicles has told Cruise (which is owned by GM) that they are not to operate fully autonomous taxis in the state, effective immediately. The news comes after the DMV accused the company of initially hiding footage from an investigation; the video shows a Cruise vehicle dragging a pedestrian who was trapped underneath it. Cruise has denied the allegation. (Aaron Gordon | Motherboard)  

Weaponizing environmental law: When they were enacted, pollution control laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) were not intended to block residential or transit development. But that’s exactly how they are being used today; most recently, MERA was invoked to block a wide ranging pro-environment urban plan called Minneapolis 2040. In these rather loosely written statutes, perhaps judges should seriously consider the “original intent.” (Alan Ehrenhalt | Governing)

Quote of the Week

“Walking down the road, you see truck after truck after truck going into these facilities. Those neighborhoods live with day-to-day air pollution. It doesn’t take Canada being on fire for them to suffer.”

— Nedra Sims Fears, leader of the Greater Chatham Initiative, discussing pollution sources with NASA Science.

This week on the podcast we’re joined by Abby Thorne-Lyman, former director of Real Estate and Property Development at BART, to talk about the transit agency’s development projects and priorities, and the importance of real estate to its future.

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