Cities

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.

Eco-celebrity, design, and social justice coalesce in a new Brooklyn green space

Sun, open space, and celebrity — the opening of Brooklyn’s “Garden of Hope” had them all. On an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon last month, Bette Midler was in high spirits as she celebrated the transformation of a slice of land between two century-old brownstones from a paved walkway with a few trees into a park-like oasis. “I hope anyone who wants to be married will come and be married here,” said Midler with a supernova smile to the neighborhood residents, nonprofit types, local officials, and other invited (and lightly sweating) guests. “I hope that everyone on the block uses …

Converting a Yaris into a plug-in hybrid

Toyota may have something up its sleeve

The first car I ever owned didn't have power anything. Today you will be hard pressed to find a car without power brakes and steering. But those features also consume energy. This explains how the first wave of economy cars from Japan got such notoriously high mileage (they didn't have power anything either). One reason I chose a Yaris for my next car is that it has electric power steering and power brakes. In theory, you should be able to turn the engine off without losing power boost. I asked a mechanic at the dealership before I bought the Yaris if the power steering and brakes would continue to function with the engine turned off. "No, no," he said definitively. "It's just like any other car." Surprise! The mechanic didn't know what he was talking about. I've turned the Yaris engine off several times now while going downhill and the power boost systems continue to function just fine. Don't try this at home. [update] Seriously, don't try this at home. The mechanic was partially right. I've discovered that, given enough time, the brake boost system will eventually depressurize leaving you with insufficient braking at the bottom of a long hill. The Toyota engineers left power boost running just long enough to get you out of a pickle in the event of inadvertent engine shutdown.

San Francisco approves giant solar incentive program

San Francisco has become the proud owner of the largest municipal solar program in the United States. The Solar Energy Incentive Program, approved by the city board of supervisors on Tuesday, will provide rebates to home- and business owners who install solar panels on their buildings. Individuals can receive up to $6,000; businesses can be granted $10,000. Supervisors also approved a one-year pilot program that will provide funding for solar installations at low-income housing and buildings owned by nonprofits. The program should soon be signed by the willing pen of Mayor Gavin Newsom, and could be ready as early as …

Notable quotable

Even green space can’t get us off our lazy you-know-whats

“This study shows you don’t really need green space.” – Dutch researcher Jolanda Maas, commenting on a new study showing that living near green space doesn’t correlate to exercising more

High-speed train to victory?

Swing states need green manufacturing

Suppose you just became the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic party, and suppose you really could use some of those Midwestern swing states in order to win the general election. Suppose, further, that you have mentioned how it would be a good thing to have high-speed rail coming out of Chicago, and that "the fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America's future." And further, suppose that there is a Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission that has plans in place to construct just such a network. Well, whaddaya know, all of those things have actually happened! In fact, according to an excellent study I found called "High-speed Rail Projects in the United States," coming out of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, there are a whole basket full of such proposals, some further along than others, spread all over the United States -- and many plans are in swing states. Consider the pathetic level of rail funding that the report highlights -- and transit isn't much better:

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