Infrastructure

Bloomberg wants to cover New York City’s landfills with solar panels

New York City's mayor Michael Bloomberg puts birds on things, if by "birds" you mean solar panels and "things" you mean the city’s myriad defunct landfills. The so-called greening of brownfields is a nationwide trend, since landfills and other plots of ruined land close to or even within cities are often not suitable for other applications. You can't build houses on a capped landfill, and short of turning them into parks — an expensive and, to some people, kinda gross proposition — they have few applications. Solar panel installations, however, tend to be light-weight and require nothing more than open …

Cities

Suburbs and cities: Stop the name-calling, already

What’s in a name?Photo: Ryan BowmanWhat is the difference between a city and a suburb, anyway? It’s an important question because so many times, the debate about the allocation of resources in our country is framed this way, as if there were some kind of obvious dichotomy between suburbs and cities, some bright line that separates them. Not only that, the cities/suburbs polarization often takes on the nasty flavor of a culture war. Here’s the thing, though: There is no bright line. That’s the point Christopher Leinberger makes as he tries to reposition the question, with a post at The …

Biking

Resilient Tokyo: commuters learn to love the bike

There’s more of this in Tokyo these days.Photo: Byron Kidd Shortly after last month’s disastrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan, we posted a dispatch from Tokyo by Bike blogger Byron Kidd (@tokyobybike) about how more people were biking to work in the quake’s aftermath. Today, The New York Times has a story about how the uptick in bicycle commuting seems to be persisting in the weeks following the tragedy: [Shigeki] Kobayashi, director of [a] bicycle advocacy group, regularly counts the number of bikers passing by a busy boulevard that leads to downtown Tokyo. On a day last November, he counted …

Sprawl

The EPA chooses sprawl over urban sustainability

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. In defiance of the environmental values it supposedly stands for, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is moving its regional headquarters from a walkable, transit-rich, downtown Kansas City (Kan.) neighborhood to one of the worst examples of suburban sprawl it could have possibly found, some 20 miles from downtown. The result could nearly triple transportation carbon emissions associated with the facility. In addition, around 600 federal and associated civilian employees will abandon a central city at a time when the agency’s own staff is writing reports suggesting that central cities in the U.S. are making a comeback. Kansas …

Los Angeles to slather its rooftops with solar panels

Here's a crazy idea: apply the same incentives that have made Germany the world leader in rooftop solar power to a place that is actually sunny. Also, use the power generated from these panels to zero out the electricity costs of people in low-income housing, so the city has more money for education. Those are the suggestions of a new study from the Los Angeles Business Council, which argues that just sticking solar panels on commercial buildings and multi-family dwellings could generate enough power for 30,000 homes. Extending the program to individual homeowners, the study’s authors estimate, could easily double …

Urbanism

Walk this way: How to get a crosswalk on your street

Too many American streets and roads are missing something.Photo: Nicholas_TCreating an environment where people can get across the street without being killed by a driver should be a top priority for the people who design our streets and roads, don’t you think? Sad to say, it isn’t always so. You only have to take a look at Charles Marohn’s enlightening “Confessions of a recovering engineer” to learn that. Here’s what Marohn wrote: [T]he engineer first assumes that all traffic must travel at speed. Given that speed, all roads and streets are then designed to handle a projected volume. Once those …

Biking

Hundreds ride to support Brooklyn bike lane [VIDEO]

Well, if supporters of the Prospect Park West bike lane in Brooklyn are a bunch of terrorists (as some bike-lane opponents might have it), they are very effectively disguised as cute little kids and their parents. Streetfilms has the evidence. Yesterday, hundreds of bike lane supporters showed up to ride the controversial lane, which has become the target of a lawsuit filed by neighbors seeking to have it removed. (Full disclosure: some of the material filed as part of the suit consists of nasty comments from Streetsblog, a website where I used to work.) The lane’s opponents say it is …

Transportation

Bus Rapid Transit: a transit fast track without the track

As Dave Roberts pointed out in his post earlier today, if this country has any hope of getting serious about energy security, we’re going to have to get serious about transit. But what form should that transit take, exactly? If you look around the world, you’ll see a lot of cities embracing Bus Rapid Transit. BRT systems have dedicated bus lanes and prepaid boarding, and they have been a key part of the transportation scene in Latin American cities like Curitiba, Brazil, and Bogotà, Colombia, for many years. Advocates say they can provide many of the benefits associated with rail …

Cities

The missing piece of Obama’s energy security plan: cities

Dude, you forgot the cities — like Denver.I had plenty of complaints about Obama’s big energy security speech last week — see here and here. Most of them centered on his crassly political decision to put supply-side solutions first, despite the fact that supply is a red herring; all the serious solutions are demand-based. There’s one complaint I didn’t say much about, which I wanted to amplify: In the speech and in the accompanying materials, short shrift is given to land-use change, urban density, and transit. For a gentle version of that critique, here’s urbanist champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): …

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