Exclusives

Blog post
Yesterday
Walkable cities with strong downtowns are closing the economic gap with suburbia, while sprawling cities—even those with high population growth—are not doing as well.
Michael Lewyn
Blog post
February 28, 2005, 7pm PST
An article in Computerworld, Political Animals offers an interesting glimpse into how senior IT professionals see urban governance and the battle for wireless zones in cities.


Chris Steins
Feature
February 21, 2005, 12am PST

Critical Mass, a monthly gathering of cyclists originally founded in San Francisco, has quickly become a worldwide phenomenon.

Rocco Pendola
Blog post
February 17, 2005, 2pm PST
I appreciate Charlie's post on Wifi. Can't we believe that cities are still capable of providing public services? There are a number of problematic examples of private companies taking over public utilities such as water and electricity. The experience from these experiments illustrates a number of useful lessons in who gets left out and how and where the money is spent.

That said, I also believe that broadband is a fundamentally different kind of service than water and sewer. We no longer live in an age when cities provided all services as well as funding for revitalization activities.
Scott Page
Blog post
February 16, 2005, 10am PST
I came across this image created by the Philadelphia Daily News some time ago. It depicts all of the potential problems one might encounter in living within Philadelphia and the associated number to call. Many neighborhood organizations have copies of this image as it was difficult to immediately figure out whom to call for different problems until this information was gathered in one location. The graphic has some particularly interesting graphic depictions of urban issues. In the end, its an amazing contrast to initiatives like the 311 service implemented in New York City.
Scott Page
Blog post
February 10, 2005, 11am PST
Interesting assessment on Slate today (here) of the Disney-developed planned community Celebration. It's from their architecture critic, the always-readable Witold Rybczynski, who likes the town more than a cynic might expect (though he does go for the inevitable Main-Street-at-Disneyland lead). His main complaint: it's too damn popular:

Like all American real-estate ventures since colonial days, it's a mixture of vision, business, and blarney. The design and planning are an order of magnitude better than what is usual in planned communities. If there is a trickle-down effect—and the financial success of Celebration has not gone unnoticed by commercial homebuilders—Celebration may push developers in the direction of denser, more varied, and better designed suburban communities, which will be a good thing. But Celebration is hardly the model for the future that Disney intended. A four-bedroom house on a small lot—like the relatively modest Craftsman-style Bungalow pictured here, hardly a McMansion—now sells for $450,000. This is more than three times the average selling price of houses in metropolitan areas nationwide, which is currently $140,000, making Celebration the residential equivalent of a Lexus. The truth is that despite its best efforts, the populist Disney Co. has produced an elitist product.
Blog post
February 9, 2005, 2pm PST
An article by Shane Petersen in the publication Government Technology
provides an update on how government agencies are using Open Source Software (OSS).

OSS has finally achieved an aura of legitimacy, paving the way for government agencies to pursue higher levels of OSS integration...OSS has moved from fringe applications to core business functions because more enterprises now trust its stability.
Abhijeet Chavan
Blog post
February 4, 2005, 10am PST
Thanks to Larry Segal (former editor of The Planning Report, now at KBHome) for pointing me at an interesting observation from LA Observed about open source:

Eric Garcetti: The blogging councilman and colleagues Wendy Greuel and Jack Weiss offered a motion to push the city toward using more open source computer programs and re-routing the money saved on software to hiring more cops.
Chris Steins
Blog post
January 30, 2005, 11am PST
When I was living in Boston the first time, in 1993, I had a conversation with my cousin, a longtime resident, about the then just-starting Big Dig project, putting the Central Artery highways underground (and increasing their capacity). Boston has terrible traffic (and terrible drivers -- I have never been closer to a stress-induced stroke than trying to drive around the Hub in rush hour) and I told my cousin, Jeff, that the Big Dig was a good thing, since it would certainly reduce congestion in the city.
Blog post
January 25, 2005, 4pm PST
So I'm reading the January 7 issue of the journal Science the other day -- because that's the kind of fun I have -- and I noticed two stories that looked related to me, though apparently not to the editors, who separated them. Science is subscription only on the Web, but I'll put links to the citations, at least.

The first was from the journal's NetWatch page, where they highlight cool stuff around the Web.
Blog post
January 24, 2005, 2pm PST
The United States has a wicked high infant mortality rate compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Possible reasons: better reporting in the US, a more diverse population in the US, and a lack of universal health care. All those things are true.

Another possible reason is that we have a lot of poor people in the States, relative to comparable nations. So a couple of researchers at NYU and Boston University decided to put that last assertion to the test. In the January issue of the American Journal of Public Health (subscription req'd; here's the abstract
Blog post
January 24, 2005, 8am PST
Another city experimenting with another wireless network: this time it's Las Vegas, and according to this article in the always-educational IEEE Spectrum they're building not WiFi but a mesh network, and it's for municipal services, not bloggers drunk on the Strip.

A mesh network, as almost everyone reading this will know better than I do, is nodeless -- that is, instead of having a hub that directs traffic to and from spokes, mesh networks treat every user as a place to route data.
Feature
January 18, 2005, 12am PST

The current tsunami disaster should cause serious rethinking of seaside development for all coastal locations, but there is little evidence that it will.

Joel S. Hirschhorn
Blog post
January 14, 2005, 9pm PST
In advance of a conference on natural disasters this week in Kobe, the United Nations is warning city-makers to...beware what lies beneath! Okay, so they're probably not flacking the kind of eldritch horrors that our friends in the Fantastic Four dealt with in their very first issue, but according to this article from the BBC they are concerned about concentrations of subterranean development in the same places that get hit with tsunamis and earthquakes.
Blog post
January 11, 2005, 7pm PST
What happens in a city where the rule of law and public health fall apart, but capitalism and technology do not? It's a different kind of post-apocalyptic town -- Los Angeles without the Blade Runners, or maybe just present-day Johannesburg. Here's an article from the Naval War College Review from a couple years back that sketches the map of such a city. All the problems of a megacity and none of the fun, it sounds like.
Feature
January 10, 2005, 12am PST
Jeff Speck offers advice -- in the form ten City Design Resolutions -- for city mayors who want to build better places.
Jeff Speck
Blog post
January 9, 2005, 3pm PST
Take a planning challenge, add some technology and a pinch of public process, mix them just the right, and you have a recipe for good decision making. Orlando County Florida is cooking up such an event- and planners, practitioners, academics and members from all communities will be interested in watching their progress.



Orlando Florida is embarking on a year-long initiative to address economic, environmental, land use, and transportation needs for a 90,000-acre study area in southeast Orange County.
Ken Snyder
Blog post
January 5, 2005, 11am PST
I wanted to offer this picture as a New Year's gift for those interested in the sometimes strange mix of technology and space. I took this a couple years back in Chang Mai, Thailand.

Scott Page
Blog post
January 3, 2005, 2pm PST
Because I can: here's another Wired story I can flack. Writer David Goldenberg collects half a dozen examples of supercool, high-tech bridges in the latest issue. When Chris or Abhijeet teach me how to upload pics with our new software, I'll put a couple here. Meanwhile, the story's online. Salient bits:

Today, an explosion of new designs and materials is creating a third golden age of bridge building. Cable-stays transfer the load on the roadway to towers via radiating wires. Electromagnetic dampers and giant underwater shock absorbers resist the kinetic energy of wind, quakes, and collisions. Sensors - fiber-optic cables, digital cameras, and accelerometers - let engineers know how bridges are holding up in real time. And higher-performing steel, concrete, and carbon fiber-reinforced polymers are making spans lighter, stronger, longer, and taller.
Blog post
December 21, 2004, 12pm PST
Exciting improvements in planning are possible when GIS tools are used in combination with public participation tools such as keypad polling. During a comprehensive plan update meeting in Hayden Colorado, flip charts were replaced with computerized systems and keypad voting tools to gather resident input on a proposed development and future growth. CommunityViz and GIS were used to analyze the impacts of growth and to create a visualization of what the proposed development would look like in the landscape.
Ken Snyder
Blog post
December 19, 2004, 7pm PST
Because I'm kind of a dumbass, I forgot to post the link to this really interesting story from the December issue of Wired, the magazine for which I work. Does it still count as flacking my mag if I didn't write or edit the story?

Anyway, the point of the piece is that you can control traffic by not controlling it -- let chaos reign, and people naturally slow down and find their own order. Wisdom of crowds, or something like that.