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 Streets.mn that focuses on urban issues in the D.C. region. They are national links, sometimes entertaining or absurd but often useful.
Wawa’s modernization makes it worse: As more and more companies tweak their brand and store design to be more generic and globally acceptable, they are losing the quirks and individuality that makes them stand out. The most recent example of this “AirSpace” design trend is Wawa, a locally-beloved Philadelphia convenience store chain that now boasts more touch screen ordering mechanisms and bland sans-serif type faces. (Nadira Goffe | Slate)
Austin ditches parking minimums citywide: Austin recently became the largest city in the country to drop required parking minimums in all development projects. It is hoped that the move will give developers more flexibility to build more housing. Neighborhood groups believe it will cause parking spillover into residential areas, but the law wouldn’t eliminate parking construction; developers are allowed to build as much as they think is needed, not what is required of them. (Joshua Fechter | Texas Tribune)
Nashville planners set to modernize car-centric city: Nashville’s Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure will soon share its Connect Downtown plan focused on figuring out downtown’s transportation black box. While large projects such as bus rapid transit and street closures are long, slow processes, a bike network could be a visible deliverable and sign of multi-modal progress in a city that Forbes ranked first in its “worst commute” rankings. (Eli Motycka | Nashville Scene)
Germany’s “ugly duckling” city cleans up: In the center of Western Germany’s industrial heart, the City of Essen has been slowly cleaning up its industrial past to become one of the greenest cities in the country. The city has turned its largest coal production facility into an eco-park and the slag heaps into concert venues and ski hills. A bike superhighway’s first segment has already reduced emissions by 16,600 tons a year. The transformation is a good example of how cities can move into a green future. (Norman Miller | BBC Travel)
Can seawalls save us?: Parts of Pacifica, a city just south of San Francisco on the California coast, have been sloughing into the ocean over time. The city has created a seawall and put loose rock known as riprap along the shoreline to reduce impact, but seen few tangible results. The experience begs the question of whether seawalls and defensive interventions will be useful precautions against rising sea levels, or a waste of resources that could be better spent on managed retreat. (Daniel A. Gross | The New Yorker)
Quote of the Week
“Half of Cruise’s 400 cars were in San Francisco when the driverless operations were stopped. Those vehicles were supported by a vast operations staff, with 1.5 workers per vehicle. The workers intervened to assist the company’s vehicles every 2.5 to five miles, according to two people familiar with its operations. In other words, they frequently had to do something to remotely control a car after receiving a cellular signal that it was having problems.”
Tripp Mickle, Cade Metz and Yiwen Lu in the New York Times discussing Cruise’s self driving car operations before the company took its cars off the road.
This week on the podcast, we’re chatting with University College Cork professor Des Fitzgerald about his new book The Living City: Why Cities Don’t Need to Be Green to Be Great.