Teaching Kids How to Build Smart Cities

SMARTstudents2_920_609_80 (1)Some New York middle-schoolers spent their summer vacation building models of smart cities, complete with futuristic cars and clean energy infrastructure. The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Science of Smart Cities program held its fourth annual expo, where the children showed off their designs. During their four-week training with NYU engineering students, participants learned about engineering aspects of sustainable and resilient cities.

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Tracing the Urban Transportation Revolution

Over the last 30 to 40 years, a tectonic shift has occurred in the way Americans think about urban transportation networks, especially the streets and roads that are their backbone. After decades of designing streets as low-grade highways designed to move cars as quickly as practicable, officials in a growing list of cities across the U.S. have changed course and implemented policies and design standards that emphasize the movement of people, not just cars. Bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, ciclovias and more have proven popular where implemented, delivered significant public benefits, and generated momentum for further changes that reclaim city streets for everyone’s use.

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These officials couldn’t have done what they did without support from above — the citizens to whom they report and who advocate for change — and below — the city transportation officials charged with developing the policies and strategies for their implementation and the public works bureaucracies whose job it is to do the implementing.

A report released by TransitCenter, a research and advocacy organization devoted to promoting urban vitality through better transit and transportation options, documents the role all three groups play in producing innovative urban mobility systems.

“A People’s History of Recent Urban Transportation Innovations” looks at how the virtuous cycle of innovation works by examining the role all of the actors played in six cities: Charlotte, Chicago, Denver, New York, Pittsburgh and Portland.

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Next Stop: Zero-Emission Buses

toyota-fuel-cell-busToyota’s drive to a hydrogen future continues with upcoming real-world testing in Tokyo for its fuel-cell bus.

The public transport people-carrier is based on a Hino bus with a standard hybrid system refitted with a hydrogen fuel-cell setup derived from the one in the Toyota Mirai. Hino is a subsidiary of Toyota

Eight hydrogen tanks supply two fuel cell stacks that juice up a nickel-metal hydride battery. That battery powers two AC synchronous motors, each one good for 147 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. Toyota focused on upping the output of the powertrain for the 77-person-capacity bus.

There will be two phases to the testing, the first being hauling folks on established bus routes around central Tokyo and the waterfront area from July 24-30. For one of those days the bus will be used for the second phase, a vehicle-to-home test that will gauge the stack’s viability as an external power source when the municipal power grid goes down.

Look for it if you’re in Tokyo and grab a ride on one of our possible futures. There’s a press release below with more info.

Original article can found here.

Is Atlanta Taking Advantage Of Its Walkable Areas?

[BLOG}: Curbed Atlanta has a good run down of the changes in Atlanta’s neighborhood WalkScore rankings over the last couple of years – read it here.

I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast…but three of the top five most walkable areas of the city, according to the ranking system, are part of Downtown. The areas are: GSU, Peachtree Center and SoNo.

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We need to take all of this with a large grain of salt because WalkScore rankings are significantly flawed. They’re based on criteria that does not include reports of the actual experience of walking the streets of these neighborhoods. You can only judge walkability so well from electronically collected data; real experience matters.

The SoNo district (see a map here), which is “South of North Avenue,” shows the difficulty of WalkScore’s methods. It is certainly easy to walk through here, and there are some key destinations and services – Shakespeare Tavern, Gladys Knights & Ron’s Chicken and Waffles, Emory Midtown hospital, Peachtree-Pine shelter, some apartments and the Bank of America tower. But a quick look at a Google map (along with my own many experiences passing through on foot) shows that a lot of the district’s land use is made up of parking facilities, empty lots, abandoned buildings and interstate infrastructure. It’s a place that needs some added development before I would recommend a visitor take a stroll there.

Read full article here.

Rainbow Art Work Unites a Community

Germen Crew just completed what could be one of the world’s largest murals in a small Mexican pueblo. The colorful mural was Commissioned by the Las Palmitas, Pachuca District municipality in the state of Sinaloa, long known for its role as the “Drug Capital of Mexico.” The Nuevo Muralisimos of Mexico spent five hard months working with the community to realize this ambitious urban revitalization program. A massive public art project comprising 209 homes and over 215,000 square feet, the Macro Mural reveals a hybrid style that leans heavily on the group’s graffiti background, deftly coaxing the country’s most recognizable art form into the 21st century.

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The impressive but still limited translation of Planisferio’s interview with the Germen Crew group suggests the people living in Palmitas weren’t necessarily sold on the project right away, so it was necessary to nurture a trusting relationship with residents, and also with the children; it was their houses that were being painted all sorts of colors, after all. The artists think of themselves as providing the Germ of an idea, but much of the design and execution was ultimately a group effort that united a friendly and vibrant community plagued by poverty and mistrust.

All told, 452 families or 1808 people are said to have been touched by Germen Crew, which consists of 10 artists, and their radiant mural visible from afar. They used the highest quality paint to ensure durability and longevity and engaged the community at every juncture. It’s really something for the people to be proud of, and reactivates Mexico’s deeply-layered street culture. And of course, the government deserves serious kudos for recognizing the role that art plays in a healthy urban environment.

Read more here.

Video: A South Korea’s Solar Bike Highway

South Korea’s solar bike highway is both incredible and exasperating. The road, which runs between Daejon and Sejong, is covered for its entire 20-mile-length with a roof of solar panels. Those panels not only generate lots of electricity but also shield cyclists from the sun.

But the highway is just that, a two-way bike lane that runs between cities, and is stranded in the middle of the regular highway, with three lanes of traffic on either side. This is mitigated somewhat by the side barriers, which visually block the view of the surrounding road, but you’re still marooned in the median strip. And like a regular highway, it’s fine for getting from one place to another as quickly as possible, but the views aren’t up to much.

Access is via underground tunnels. If you watch the video, you’ll see spots where the panels and the path seem to disappear. These are the underground access points, so you can get on and of the bikeway without crossing traffic. The best part of this scheme seems to be the solar panels which, according to América Economía, provide more than enough electricity to power the highway’s lighting system, as well as charging points for electric cars.

The Daejon-Sejong bike path isn’t the first solar road, although it is the most ambitious we’ve seen to date. Last year we took a look at the SolaRoad in the Netherlands, where the road itself has been replaced by solar panels. That cost $3.75 million dollars for a 230-foot stretch, though, so we probably won’t be seeing a 20-mile long version any time soon.

Original article published here.

Images: 7 Proven Principles for Designing a Safer City

Original article was published here.

Traffic accidents kill more than 1.2 million people every year, nearly the same amount that die from HIV/AIDS. But there’s an undervalued approach to making the world’s roads safer—good urban design.

While most traffic safety initiatives tend to focus on behavioral approaches—such as helmet- and seatbelt-wearing campaigns—a new publication from the EMBARQ sustainable mobility initiative of WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities finds that seven design principles can help cities dramatically reduce road deaths. Here’s a visual look at how local officials and planners can design safer and more sustainable urban environments:

1. Avoid urban sprawl.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-01
Cities that are connected and compact are generally safer than cities that are spread out over a large area. Compact Stockholm and Tokyo have the lowest traffic fatality rates in the world—fewer than 1.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. Sprawling Atlanta, on the other hand, has a death rate six times that, at 9 fatalities per 100,000 residents.

Cities should aim for smaller block sizes, pedestrian-oriented streets, and dense housing that allows for convenient, walkable access to transport, entertainment and public spaces. Doing so reduces the need for car travel and ensures a safe space for walking and cycling.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-022.  Slow down road traffic.

Lower automobile speeds, particularly below 25-31 miles per hour (40-50 kilometers per hour) drastically reduce the risk of fatalities.

Cities can implement low-speed zones and “area-wide traffic calming,” including speed humps, curves in the road called chicanes, curb extensions and raised pedestrian crossings. Research shows that speed humps can reduce vehicle speeds from more than 22 mph (36 kph) to less than 15 mph (25 kph). Paris, for example, has been using this kind of tool to design roads citywide to meet 30 kph (19 mph) speed limits.

3.  Ensure main streets are safe for everyone, not just cars.

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Avenida Eduardo Molina in Mexico City—an arterial with dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, rebuilt sidewalks, and a green central median at some segments—accommodates mass transport, mixed vehicular traffic,bicycling, and walking.

Ensuring safety is particularly important for main roads, where pedestrians and motorists often mix. A growing movement for “complete streets” means that all types of users have safe crossings and dedicated road space.

For example, refuge islands and medians give pedestrians a safe place when crossing the road. Mexico City found that for every one meter increase in unprotected road width, pedestrian crashes increased by 3 percent.  The city recently rebuilt its Avenida Eduardo Molina as a complete street, featuring dedicated transit, bike lanes and a green central median for pedestrians. Similar but less dramatic changes in street design in the city have resulted in a nearly 40 percent drop in fatalities.

WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-04-box-5.24.  Create dedicated space for pedestrians.

More than 270,000 pedestrians lose their lives each year on the world’s roads. If pedestrians lack quality space, they are exposed to greater risk. Basic sidewalk space is necessary, but pedestrian-only streets and street plazas can also be effective tools for protecting walkers.

In the past few years, New York City has led a global shift toward eliminating street spaces for cars and turning them into “street plazas,” improved sidewalks and car-free areas. For example, a large section of Times Square is now only accessible to walkers and cyclists.  The city saw a 16 percent decrease in speeding and a 26 percent reduction in crashes with injuries along streets with pedestrian plazas.

5.  Provide a safe, connected network for cyclists.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-05-6.1

Studies from several cities find that injury rates go down and more people bike when there is dedicated infrastructure like off-street trails and dedicated bike lanes.  These cycling networks should also connect residential areas to business and retail, schools, parks and mass transport.

Bogota, Colombia found that adding more than 100 km (62 miles) of bikeways helped reduce bicyclist deaths by 47.2 percent between 2003 and 2013 , and increased bicycle use from just over 3 percent of all daily trips to over 6 percent.

6.  Ensure safe access to high-quality public transport.

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Pedestrian access to a median BRT station.

High quality public transport carries more people, and experiences fewer crashes than private vehicle travel. Research shows that a bus rapid transit (BRT) system can reduce traffic deaths and severe injuries by 50 percent.

It’s not enough to just provide this public transit, though—city planners must also ensure safe access for commuters. Belo Horizonte, Brazil recently launched MOVE BRT, carrying an estimated 700,000 passengers per day. The city rebuilt streets in its center and created dedicated bus lanes with clearly marked crossings and easy pedestrian access. This system makes it safe for commuters to ride the bus, as well as to wait for and get onto the bus.

7.  Use data to detect problem areas.WRI15_Cities_Safer_graphic-07-fig-1.3

For example, London used data analysis and mapping to analyze its crash data and learned that a rise in cyclist deaths came from crashes with large trucks delivering goods into the city center. The city has since developed a pilot program to reschedule deliveries for low-cyclist hours.

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world, with cities expected to hold 70% of the global population by 2030. Designing safe cities now can protect current residents as well as those to come.

Cities can use data analysis to identify key streets where all the above solutions can be integrated. This means having good traffic crash data that can be mapped and analyzed, seen here using the PTV Visum Safety software to create heat maps of crash locations.

Major MARTA Expansion Could Transform the Atlanta Region

MARTA officials have proposed new, high-capacity service into North Fulton County and east into DeKalb County that could link important job centers by rail for the first time. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it could “change the face of Atlanta.”MARTARailMapPropExpansionProjects_071715-01

The new rail service would finally connect residential areas to the rapidly growing area encompassing Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control, just east of the city limits. It would also extend all the way north to Alpharetta, a booming business center 25 miles north of Atlanta in Fulton County.

Officials from Cobb County, just west of Fulton, have long resisted and even ridiculed the idea of bringing transit access there, and Gwinnett County to the east is too low-slung and suburban to consider rail service at this point. But Fulton’s charge ahead into a more urban future could cause its neighbors to reconsider their ways.

MARTA Board Chair Robbie Ashe says the transit expansion could propel a new model of growth in the region. “Corporations are increasingly demanding immediate proximity to transit stations,” Ashe told the AJC. “State Farm did it when they came here. Mercedes did it. Worldpay did it when it relocated. Kaiser is going to be located two blocks from here because of the Arts Center Station.”

Best of all, according to Darin Givens who blogs at ATL Urbanist, these new stations, even the ones far out in the suburbs, are likely to be surrounded by transit-oriented development rather than park-n-rides.

“MARTA has now accepted that it’s time to undo its park-n-rides,” Givens said. “They’re trying to turn all these park-n-ride lots around MARTA stations — around a lot of them — into transit-oriented development.”
The agency hasn’t released any proposals for developing the areas near the new stations, but Givens is hopeful that they’ll be surrounded by walkable, mixed-use development. “MARTA leadership understands that the way of the future for MARTA, and for Atlanta, is to build in a new way around these MARTA stations that allows people to walk to them,” he said.

The agency would need Fulton, DeKalb, and Clayton counties to agree to a half-penny sales tax to fund the expansion. The counties already have state permission to ask residents to tax themselves, but only for five years. MARTA is petitioning the state to allow a much longer sunset of 42 years. They’ll also need special permission for the revenues to be directed to the transit agency.

It’s unclear why Clayton would be taxed. The county doesn’t get any new service in the most recent proposal and it just approved a full-penny sales tax last fall to be included in the MARTA network for the first time.

Inspiring Urban World Toward a Future Without Oil.

Read Full article here.

In a future world without oil, we’d end up with thousands of unusable massive oil tankers, some as long as 40-story buildings. Instead of sending them to scrapyards, a team of architects wants to turn them into floating neighborhoods.

3046359-slide-s-2-these-beautiful-floatingThe supply of ships isn’t hypothetical: Every year, as old tankers wear out, they’re already being scrapped. Most end up in shipyards in places like India and Bangladesh, where workers are paid a few rupees a day to attack steel hulls with blowtorches. It’s dangerous—hundreds of workers have died from falling steel or explosions over the last decade in India alone—and the ships themselves are considered toxic waste. But by giving the hulls new value in development, the architects hope to change the disposal process.

3046359-slide-s-6-these-beautiful-floatingAfter carving out the internal structure of a megatanker, the designers propose turning it into an airy public space for events, a museum, shops, and even housing, with a park-like area on the top deck. At over 1,300 feet long, some tankers could easily accommodate an entire neighborhood.

Where and Why Walking or Biking to Work Makes a Difference

It’s been more than seven years since Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett put his entire city on a diet and invested in wider sidewalks, better bike routes, and a larger park to encourage fitness. For politicians and urbanists alike, the connection between the shape of our cities and the shape of our bodies is clear. Those of us who live in sprawling suburbs and commute to work by car are less likely to be healthy, while those of us who live in dense urban neighborhoods end up healthier because we’re more likely to bike or walk to work.

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Unless, that is, people in compact urban areas don’t actually walk or bike to work a great deal more, even though it’s a readily available option.

A new study by Timothy Wojan and Karen Hamrick from the U.S. Department of Agriculture takes a close look at the connections between urban form—especially compact cities and metros—and the level at which people walk or bike to their jobs. To get at this, the researchers use detailed data from the American Time Use Survey that collects information on how Americans spend their time, including the kinds of activities in which people engage and what they eat.

Read full article here.