Cities

Something good grows around Ground Zero

Rebuilding the NYC financial district has resulted in a walkable residential community

On this anniversary of that horrible morning six years ago, perhaps we are starting to see some good rising from the ashes. The southern part of the island of Manhattan, which used to turn into a ghost town after work, is starting to take on some of the characteristics of many of the other neighborhoods in New York City -- what University of Michigan architecture and urban design professor Christopher B. Leinberger calls "walkable urbanism": From an urban planning point of view it means a place where, within a quarter- to half-mile radius, you can get pretty much everything you need and maybe even walk to work. According to the New York Times, the financial district is becoming home to a considerable residential population -- albeit tilted toward the wealthy -- but this permanent population enriches many other aspects of the area: Optimism abounds now among developers and merchants, who are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into real estate along the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan. They are counting on the district, in its next incarnation, to be not just a collection of office towers and trading floors, but also a self-sustaining residential neighborhood that will appeal to families. Back before the World Trade Center was built starting in the late 1960s, the area where it stood was known as an electronics district -- my dad used to go there in the 1930s to find parts for radios. The first retail television set was sold there.

Wal-Mart’s eco-initiatives turning Arkansas into sustainability hotspot

Attention shoppers: we bring you news of the latest sustainability hotspot, none other than Fayetteville, Ark. Green start-ups are flocking to town, the University of Arkansas has established an Applied Sustainability Center, and the mayor rides an electric bike to work. Why? Because of a certain retail giant whose headquarters lies half an hour away. Say it with us now: Wal-Mart. The mega-store’s recent efforts to be green are apparently luring like-minded (and hungry) companies to the area, including ventures that are experimenting with non-petroleum plastic and fuel-efficient shipping. As a result, Fayetteville has begun to market itself as an …

Vehicles sold in the U.S. will be outfitted with fuel-economy stickers

This is spiffy: all U.S.-sold cars, trucks, and SUVs manufactured after Sept. 1 will feature a window sticker that announces the vehicle’s expected miles per gallon, estimated annual fuel cost, and fuel economy compared to similar vehicles. Which will just make it all the more apparent that performance always trumps size.

Startup says new technology will make gasoline obsolete

A battery-replacing invention that allows you to plug in your car for five minutes, then drive 500 miles without using gasoline? It sounds too good to be true, but Austin-based startup EEStor says they’ve done it. While the doubters are many, we’d have to agree with Georgia Tech researcher Joseph Perry: “I am skeptical, but I’d be very happy to be proved wrong.”

Nerd on nerd communiqué

The real deal on hybrid bike technology

Got an email yesterday from fellow hybrid bike enthusiast, Larry Blakely. He built a front-wheel drive version of my bike -- and just for kicks, a solar charger to go with it:

Schwarzengreener, or Transit Terminator?

How green is California?

The State of California just passed a budget that, thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in the Assembly, removes $1.3 billion from the public transit budget. Yes, this is the same state and governor that passed a cap-and-trade bill that seeks to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020. But so far, the only thing being cut is the one way to get cars off of the roads. But let me tell you about this car-pool lane ... Photo: house.gov You know all of those ways we could allegedly do the equivalent of removing cars from the road, like buying compact fluorescent light bulbs? Trains and buses actually replace cars. In addition, more public transit leads to absolute and certain reduction in emissions. Even mandating greater efficiency of cars does not eliminate the possibility of greater emissions. More efficient cars might simply delay an increase in carbon emissions, since miles traveled keeps going upward -- unless there are trains or buses. With peak oil looming, the situation is getting more critical, both for drivers who have to pay more for their gas, and might therefore prefer to take public transit if it was available, and for nonelectrified buses and trains, since their fuel costs increase. So, the logical thing to do would be to increase public transit funding. Enter the convoluted state of budgets in most states, particularly California:

Post-Labor Day link dump, the second

Exploring the tubes so you don’t have to

Mo’ links! Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland Ohio recently passed a renewable portfolio standard that falls prey to the worst pitfalls of that particular policy mechanism: Gov. Ted Strickland wants to require that 25 percent of the electricity sold in Ohio by 2025 come from alternative energies, such as fuel cells, solar panels, windmills, nuclear and hydroplants. Half of that would have to come from renewable energy while the other half would come from nuclear, fuel cells or clean coal sources. The point of RPSs should be to boost renewable energy technology. If the point of this jerry-rigged contraption is to …

A win for buses in L.A.

Los Angeles City Council OKs a peak-hour bus-only lane

An update from me and my colleague Francisca Porchas of the Labor/Community Strategy Center: For the first time in L.A., the car capital of the world, a bus-centered public-transportation system has been given priority over the auto -- a big victory for environmental justice and the reduction of auto-based air toxins and greenhouse gases. On Aug. 15, the Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union secured an important environmental and public-health victory at the Los Angeles City Council: the approval of a $27 million project to implement peak-hour bus-only lanes on Wilshire Boulevard. The Wilshire bus-only lane would run from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica and would operate during rush hour, 7-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Wilshire Boulevard has the largest transit ridership in the county with over 90,000 boardings a day. The bus-only lane is expected to reduce travel time by 20 percent for current transit users and would attract new riders to public transportation.

The perfect dorm

College residence halls trending toward green … and not-so-green

I’m excited about this new trend toward green dorm design and decor, such as the Green Campus Program in California wherein new students can tour a dorm room pimped out with, for example, "hemp towels, organic cotton sheets, a reusable elephant grass shopping basket, and bed frames made of recycled train tracks." But I’m bummed that it’s basically negated by another "trend" in college dorms these days: deluxe consumerism of the not-so-eco kind. Said one UCLA resident director, "The newest trend is the bigger-screen TV, the plasma — I’ve seen some big ones, 40- and 50-inchers." In either case, however, …

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