Cities

Screwing the goose that lays the golden eggs

Better cities, better growth

The Overhead Wire directs us to a Christian Science Monitor write-up of a new Brookings report on how we might want to support metropolitan economies: “If you’re going to get serious about the economy, then you’ve got to get specific about how you’re going to leverage metropolitan economies,” says Bruce Katz, director of the metropolitan policy program at Brookings. Even though America’s 100 largest cities generate two-thirds of U.S. jobs and three-quarters of domestic economic output, much of the policy coming from Washington — and from the presidential candidates — is still rooted in a Jeffersonian ideal of hamlets and …

Sax and the City

Found poetry on walkable cities

This blog often addresses the importance of walkable cities and towns, localities that are really there -- that have a sense of place. A friendly acquaintance of mine, Jacqueline Smay (wife of popular music guru David Smay, who authored SwordfishTrombones) tossed off this charming note that is more powerful than any statistic: ... it was cold but not bitter out, Union Square was glittering with lights and ringing with the sounds of competing street musicians, and the sidewalks were crowded with a mix of very late theatergoers, tourists, street people, street performers, local chi-chi store staff closing up for the night, dejected Giants fans, and elated A's fans. Everything felt very shiny and bustling and wide awake. Outside a smoke shop on the corner of Powell a couple blocks up from Market, a two-man band composed of two young white guys, one with guitar and one with drums, was playing an improbably terrific version of "No Woman No Cry." Really, they had no right to be as good as they were. The streetcorner was crowded with tourists and miscellaneous wanderers, including a grandma out and about with her two six to eight-ish granddaughters; the girls were dancing deliriously in their teeny girl-power t-shirts and pastel Crocs while their grandmother beamed. And right in front of the musicians, a middle-aged homeless black man was dancing with a middle-aged Asian woman all done-up for a big night out in a black, crepe dress with white lace and a long, swoopy duster and loads of makeup. They danced together a bit and then she spun out on her own, and he turned to the crowd, flung his arms out, and shouted, "She's beautiful! She's alive! She's alive and she knows it!"

Segway sales at an all-time high

With gas prices rising, more people are busing, scooting, biking — and riding the electric scooter we all love to mock. Yes, sales of the nerdarific Segway have risen to an all-time high, as more folks deny transportation fashion in the interest of gas-saving comfort. The two-wheeled, electric scooters get up to 25 miles per charge, have a top speed of about 12.5 miles per hour, and have, just once, caused the Leader of the Free World to take a tumble. Of course, the Segway-owning segment of the population is still extremely small, and with the scooters selling at $5,000 …

Honda produces new fuel-cell car

Honda Motor Co.’s hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity rolled off the line Monday and will be leased to high rollers in California. The Clarity — an update of Honda’s original FCX, a handful of which were leased in 2005 — runs on hydrogen and electricity, emits only water, and is twice as fuel-efficient as a gas-electric hybrid. Actresses Laura Harris and Jamie Lee Curtis, filmmaker Christopher Guest, and Little Miss Sunshine producer Ron Yerxa will be among those leasing the Clarity this year; Honda hopes to lease 200 of the cars within three years and, if all goes well, have them mass-produced …

Google plugs in

Notes from a plug-in hybrid conference

Silicon Valley came to Washington this week to talk about plug-in hybrids at a great conference organized by Google.org with Brookings. The combination of tech visionaries, electric cars on display, Washington heavy hitters such as John Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and even a couple of film stars, Peter Horton and Anne Sexton of Who Killed the Electric Car?, made for a great meeting. Here are my notes from the standing room only event ...

Notable quotable

Toyota and Honda could sure learn something from Chevy!

“I don’t have to tell you how sexy the [Chevy] Volt is. The Japanese and Chinese couldn’t possibly put out something that appealing to middle America.” – Andy Karsner, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy

The Daley show

Hot plans rile the Chicago waterfront

Two curious things going on along the waterfront in Chicago, which Mayor Richard Daley envisions as the “greenest city in America”: a brouhaha over plans to relocate the children’s museum to Grant Park, and a billion-dollar dream of a semicircular Eco-Bridge in the same area. A mock-up of the Eco-Bridge. Photo: Chicago Tribune. The $100 million museum plan was handily passed yesterday by the city council in what sounds like a stereotypical example of Chicago’s sausage-making politics. The plan’s foes have argued that Grant Park is intended to remain “forever open, clear and free,” while museum supporters say the facility …

Keeping tabs on Tampa

Florida city takes another smart(ish) step

Yesterday, the Tampa city council gave preliminary approval to a plan that offers incentives for green building; they’re expected to formally approve it later this month. We mentioned in our rockin’ Smart(ish) Cities series that this was in the works — nice to see it pursued, and heartening to see such places taking green(ish) steps.

A radiant documentary

Radiant City is a mesmerizing documentary on sprawl

Radiant City is as described in the trailer -- oddly disturbing, strangely amusing, and sadly illuminating: A terrific movie. It features planning guru/God Andres Duany and dyspeptic sprawlhater James Howard Kunstler (in a strange and hilarious tie that looks like he slept in it for a couple days) intoning, in a reasonable tone, some of their most on-target slams on sprawl and the suburban paradigm. It includes lots of "fun facts" about the suburbs, including one or two from Alan Durning's book The Car and the City. Not quite up to Errol Morris standards, but really, really good documentary.

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