Cities

Innovation ≠ technology

Why Bill Gates is wrong

Bill Gates is sad that David Roberts thinks he’s wrong.Photo: redmaxwell via FlickrBill Gates, the Microsoft founder and philanthropist, made waves last week when, at the much-celebrated tech conference TED, he proclaimed that climate change is the most important problem facing the planet. Wo0t! Obviously having someone of Gates’ stature supporting the clean energy race is an unqualified good. (See Alex Steffen on Gates’ talk.) That said, Gates has burst on to the energy scene with some rather ill-considered thinking. To get a flavor, see his blog post, “Why We Need Innovation, Not Just Insulation.” The idea is that “conservation …

getting out of the gridlock

Smarter grids, appliances, and consumers

More and more utilities are beginning to realize that building large power plants just to handle peak daily and seasonal demand is a very costly way of managing an electricity system. Existing electricity grids are typically a patchwork of local grids that are simultaneously inefficient, wasteful, and dysfunctional in that they often are unable, for example, to move electricity surpluses to areas of shortages. The U.S. electricity grid today resembles the roads and highways of the mid-twentieth century before the interstate highway system was built. What is needed today is the electricity equivalent of the interstate highway system. The inability …

Better safety than sorry

Is public transportation scary for women?

This article is part of a collaboration with Planetizen, the web’s leading resource for the urban planning, design, and development community. Transit agencies are failing to bring women into the planning process, according to a new report from the Mineta Transportation Institute. I talked with UCLA’s Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, author of the study, about what she uncovered in her research and strategies for improving the perception of safety on transit for women. Loukaitou-Sideris is no stranger to the issue of safety and transit. In 1998, she authored a study with her colleague Robin Liggett looking at 120 bus stops around Los …

Transportation today and tomorrow

Two books that blew my mind

I have a piece in the latest issue of the American Prospect called “This Is How You’ll Get There.” It’s a review of two books: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), by journalist Tom Vanderbilt, and Reinventing the Automobile: Personal Urban Mobility for the 21st Century, by three brilliant supergeeks (two from GM’s advanced auto division; one from MIT’s Smart Cities program). I know book reviews aren’t the most exciting genre in the world, but I quite like this one, mainly because the books kind of blew my mind. The first is …

Take this show off the road

Want to green the Olympics? Stop moving them around

Photo courtesy BinoCanada via FlickrFor all the efforts to minimize the impact of the Olympics, one big solution never gets taken seriously. So much of the environmental and financial cost of the games comes from cities trying to build facilities that suit both a massive, two-week influx of athletes and spectators and also the long-term needs of locals. So you get things like Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, built for the 1976 summer games and not paid off in full until 2006. Or the “spookily quiet, deserted” Olympic village Tom Philpott saw in Turin, Italy, two years after the games there. The …

If only they had snow

The 10 greenest and brownest things about Vancouver

Courtesy Ecstaticist via FlickrAll eyes are on are Vancouver this month — not just on the Olympics, but on the city itself.  Is the world’s biggest athletic circus making the city a better place to live in the long term?  A worse one?  Or is it just putting the global spotlight on strengths and weaknesses that will persist long after the games?  The David Suzuki Foundation, a prominent Canadian environmental group based in Vancouver, has a mildly optimistic take. It gives the games a “bronze” medal for green efforts, praising the smartly designed venues, fairly compact layout of the games, …

Unnatural Habitat

What do coyotes want in Manhattan? Real estate

Early Sunday morning, a campus security officer at Columbia University saw three unusual animals hanging out in front of Lewisohn Hall, one of the school’s classroom buildings. The officer called NYPD, and according to a memo from the school’s public safety chief, the responding officers spotted one of the animals before it slinked away. They recognized it as a coyote. A second sighting was also reported by school employees on Sunday, the memo said, although police couldn’t confirm that one. I’m a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school (just two buildings south of Lewisohn Hall) and an adjunct professor there, so …

Picking up the PACE

San Francisco commits $150 million to green homes

Monday night I was having drinks in downtown San Francisco with some seriously smart people — top-level IBM scientists and strategists involved in Big Blue’s Smarter Planet initiative.  Given the room’s collective interest in creating smart electrical grids, smart water systems, advanced electric car batteries and other green technologies, the talk naturally turned to how to create sustainable cities. Solar panel installation in San Francisco.Photo courtesy bkusler via FlickrThe technology largely exists, the IBMers agreed, but what’s really needed is a great leap forward in financial engineering to allow cities to finance all the cool stuff being developed in labs …

what it looks like

Smart Growth even makes snowstorms better

Mixed land use is a tenet of Smart Growth development that has a lot of virtues. But the name is boring and not very descriptive. Here’s Matt Yglesias describing what it’s like to live in a mixed-use D.C. neighborhood: The building where I live turns out to be a really good place to pass a prolonged snow emergency. The complex includes a supermarket, a gym, a delicious sandwich place, and a coffee shop so you can easily meet all your key needs without leaving for days at a time. The downside is that I’m now realizing it’s been almost 48 …

Welcome to the new Grist. Tell us what you think, or if it's your first time learn about us. Grist is celebrating 15 years. ×