Cities

Rail gets a $2 billion shot in the arm from Rick Scott’s rejected funds

Remember when Florida's governor turned up his nose at $2 billion in federal funds for rail projects? Now his loss is everyone else's gain. The Department of Transportation today announced the redistribution of Florida's rejected wealth today, and it looks like Scott's tantrum will mean improved speed and performance in the Northeast Corridor, a high-speed line between Detroit and Chicago, better train cars throughout California and the Midwest, and forward movement on the planned L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed line. Thanks, sucker! Here's what Scott's $2 billion will buy: $795 million to upgrade the heavily-trafficked Northeast Corridor, running between D.C. and Boston. This …

Awesome concept design makes buildings into bike racks

Floor space is at a premium in cities — everyone wants to walk, bike, drive, and park their various human- and gas-powered vehicles on the same precious real estate. Vertical space, on the other hand, is available in abundance. And while the obvious use for this space is crazy-ass trompe l'oeil murals, the second-best option is doing something useful and innovative to take some of the space burden off the ground. Voila: The bike hanger. These aren't reality, yet, but the concept is brilliant. These vertical bike racks work something like a Ferris wheel or the motorized rack at a …

Transportation

Rep. Earl Blumenauer wants better tax benefits for bike, transit commuters

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)Photo: Thomas Le NgoWhat is a sensible political reaction to rising gas prices? Standing around shouting “Drill, baby, drill”? Or offering material support to commuters who increasingly opt for public transportation or biking to work? Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who often sports a bike pin in his lapel (and rides a bike to work himself), is taking the second approach. This week he is introducing legislation that would help people who want to drive less — without costing the government any more money. His proposal is the Commuter Relief Act. It would expand tax credits “for individuals …

New app lets you identify the few remaining trees

Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know trees while they’re still around? Leafsnap can help. The new app, developed by a team of researchers at Columbia, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, contains a database of beautiful photos of leaves, barks, flowers, and fruits. All the lazy naturalist has to do to identify a tree is take a picture of one little leaf. It turns out, however, that you can't just point your iPhone camera at a tree, snap a picture, and find out what in the world it is. After gathering a leaf, fruit, flower or other …

Airships may be the key to a greener, steampunkier future

Steampunk enthusiasts rejoice: The skies may soon be full of airships. Dirigibles are the low-carbon way of shipping goods long distances, according to a recent article in Scientific American. No word on whether it's greener to wear aviator goggles, petticoats, and button boots while flying them, but let's just go ahead and assume the answer is yes. Several companies, including Lockheed Martin, are developing freight dirigibles for cargo transport. They're especially valuable in areas without a lot of transport infrastructure — they don't require runways or roads, like existing freight options do. That means that having a viable airship cargo fleet …

Biking

How employers can encourage happy, healthy bike commuters

This is the sixth column in a series focusing on the economics of bicycling. Miles Craig of Portland, Oregon applied for an hourly call center job at movie rental by mail empire Netflix last January. “My phone interview went incredibly well,” he said. “And the lady said, ‘Well, let’s get you in for a face-to-face interview. What time can you come in?'” Craig mentioned casually that he’d be using a combination of bicycle and transit to get to the interview and, if he got the job, to work. That was when things started to go downhill. “She got very subdued …